New Federal Rule on Public Transit Leaves School Kids at the Curb

<p>A new Federal regulation will deny funding to public transit services for routes oriented to meeting the needs of public schools, with the aim of encouraging school boards to contract with private bus operators instead.</p>
July 21, 2008, 6am PDT | Michael Dudley
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"The Federal Transit Administration['s] regulation will cut off federal funding for bus routes that it believes primarily exist to get children to and from school. Under the new rules, a school system could subsidize a child's bus ride on public transit, but a public bus system could not significantly order its routes or schedules for the convenience of these children.

The regulations are a response to a federal court ruling in January that allowed the regional transportation authority in Rochester, N.Y., to do just that. The authority, at the urging of the school board, had created a network of new bus routes after the board changed the class times for its high schools and after the private bus service that the board had contracted with said it could not provide service during the new times. The FTA's regional administrator, Brigid Hynes-Cherin, said the authority's actions violated regulations governing federal mass transit funding because even though the routes could be used by general public, they weren't primarily for the general public. Plus, she added-and here is where we get to the real nub of the issue-public bus systems can't use federal money to provide services that compete with, or crowd out, private sector bus companies.

The rewrite, according to administrators of several large school districts and educational organizations, needlessly disrupts well-functioning and cost-efficient arrangements for getting students to and from school using existing public transportation systems. The Council of the Great City Schools, representing some of the nation's largest urban school districts, said in comments to the FTA that the regulations 'would prevent public transit systems from ... adapting transportation routings and timetables to reflect the dynamic changes required to meet the needs of urban demographics, urban education reform, and federal education mandates.'"

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Published on Friday, July 18, 2008 in Campaign for America's Future
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