NSBA comments on public transit and school bus routes
NSBA has joined with the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), the American Association of School Administrators (AASA), the Council of the Great City Schools (CGCS), and the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) in submitting a letter commenting on a Federal Transit Administration (FTA) proposed policy statement on public transit system “tripper service.” Tripper service is mass transportation open to the public that also accommodates students. Federal funding is available for “tripper service” but not for public transportation operations that provide exclusive school bus transportation to students. FTA’s statement was prompted by its fear that a recent federal district court ruling from New York, Rochester-Genesee Regional Transportation Authority v. Hynes-Cherin, 531 F.Supp.2d 494 (W.D.N.Y. 2008), which allowed a transit system to add 240 new express school bus routes that would not exclusively serve school children, would allow a transit system to “restructure its public transportation operation dramatically to accommodate the needs of a local school district and its students, thereby displacing private school bus operators and their employees, provided the system keeps the service technically open to the public.” The FTA’s policy statement therefore would narrowly interpret “tripper service” and would interpret “school bus operations” to be any service that a reasonable person would conclude primarily (not exclusively) was designed to accommodate students and school personnel, and only incidentally to serve the general public.
The joint letter raises three concerns. First, the groups contend “FTA’s proposal to redefine the term ‘exclusive’ and depart from the common meaning of the word flies in the face of the clear meaning of the statute.” They dispute FTA’s claim that the statutory language is “ambiguous” and charge that FTA’s interpretation “amounts a revision of the statute itself and is far beyond FTA’s authority,” contradicting both Congressional intent and FTA’s own long history of decisions interpreting this very regulation. Second, “even if the proposed action were within FTA’s discretion, it would be inappropriate to effect the change through a policy statement, without reference to economic impact or other requirements of the full regulatory process.” Third, the proposed policy would have serious consequences and would impose “unplanned costs to local school districts budgets and disrupt schedules for high schools and some middle schools based on planned bus schedules so late in the summer that school districts would be hard pressed to make alternative transportation plans.”
APTA et al. comments on FTA proposed policy statement
NSBA School Law pages on FTA proposed policy statement