Metro and the Region Affected by New Federal Regulations Governing Charter Buses
Metro and the Region Affected by New
Federal Regulations Governing Charter Buses
Metro General Manager John Catoe told the Metro Board of Directors today, May 22, that new federal regulations governing charter buses was putting the transit agency out of the charter bus business.
Remarks given by Metro General Manager John Catoe to the Metro Board of Directors, May 22, 2008
This is as good a time as any to talk to you about the new charter bus rule that was implemented on May 1 and the impacts this will have on our customers and on Metro itself.
In 2005, President Bush signed the SAFETEA-LU into law. SAFETEA-LU stands for Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users. That’s a mouthful, and in short it authorizes the Federal surface transportation programs for highways, highway safety and transit through 2009.
One of the provisions in the act discourages transit agencies from providing charter service in competition with private charter companies, and if we did then we would lose part of our federal funding. Since 2005, the Federal Transit Administration has been developing the rule to enforce this provision, and it became final on May 1, as I mentioned.
This rule, quite effectively, takes Metro out of the business of providing charter bus service. In effect, without a waiver from the Federal Transportation Administration (FTA), Metro can not provide any charter service without first checking with dozens and dozens of charter bus companies registered to provide service in the region.
In FY2007, we chartered close to 2,500 buses and earned $1.6 million. The price we charged for this service covered all the direct costs, bus operators, mechanics as well as a surcharge to cover overhead costs. In the past we made a small profit on this service. However, not providing this service has little financial impact on Metro.
The real impact on Metro is that much of our charter service entails running buses from our Metrorail stations to other locations. For example, in FY2007 Metro chartered more than 1,300 buses to run from FedEx Field to the Morgan Boulevard Metrorail station for fans to get to the Redskins games.
Our concern is that in the future, we will have 1,300 buses that we don’t own, running through that station.
We have no oversight on the charter bus providers and that raises questions of safety for our operators, employees and customers.
Then, there’s the impact on customers. Without a waiver from the FTA, as I said, we won’t provide the Wolf Trap shuttle. We won’t provide the Redskins shuttle. We won’t support the Bay Bridge Walk the next time it is held and we won’t provide the Andrews Air Show shuttle.
More important than any of that, is the fact that we won’t be able to provide charter service to schools in the District of Columbia, Maryland or Virginia.
In FY2007, we provided more than 600 hours of charter bus service to our region’s schools, allowing students to expand their educational experience. Since the typical school year is 180 days, on average, a Metrobus was providing this valuable service to students in the region every day. With the new rule, these valuable experiences could still be offered to our children, but at a greater cost to the schools.
I bring this up for your information and to entertain your thoughts on the matter.
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