FTA withdraws controversial proposed rule on bus routes, for now
The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has withdrawn its proposed rule on school bus operations because of a “public misperception” that FTA was attempting to restrict opportunities for grantees, when according to FTA, it was attempting to allow grantees to provide service historically allowed. The rule as proposed in November is at the second link below, and the previous history of the issue is available starting at the third link. FTA provides financial assistance to public transportation operations that do not provide exclusive school bus operations to students. FTA’s current regulations exclude from the definition of “exclusive school bus operations”—and therefore make eligible for funding—“tripper service,” which is mass transportation open to the public that also accommodates the needs of students. A 2008 New York federal district court decision set aside FTA’s interpretation of the tripper regulation and allowed a public transportation provider to operate an additional 240 school bus routes. The court reasoned that because members of the public could hypothetically ride a bus on the new routes, the new routes were not “exclusive school bus operations.” In its proposed rule, FTA stated that under this court case a public transportation operation may believe it could restructure its routes to accommodate the needs of a local school district, thereby displacing private school bus operators, provided it kept the service open to the public, even if members of the public were unlikely to use it. FTA proposed to define “exclusively” to mean “transportation that a reasonable person would conclude was designed primarily to accommodate students and school personnel, without regard to demand from the non-student general public.” NSBA and other groups protested protested FTA’s position. FTA indicates it will revisit this issue in the near future.
Withdrawal of proposed rule, 74 Fed. Reg. 30,499 (June 26, 2009)
Proposed rule, 73 Fed. Reg. 68,375 (Nov. 18, 2008)
NSBA School Law pages on tripper service regulations