ROCHESTER, N.Y. — On July 30, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) notified the Rochester-Genesee Regional Transportation Authority (RGRTA) that the agency must discontinue its routes that serve the Rochester City School District (RCSD) before the beginning of the 2007-08 school year.
The notification reaffirms the FTA’s original decision — which was made in January 2007 — that the RGRTA was illegally engaged in school bus operations, which stemmed from a complaint against the RGRTA last year.
In June 2006, the United Food & Commercial Workers District Local One alleged that the agency’s provision of service pursuant to a subsidy agreement with the Rochester City School District was a violation of the FTA’s school bus regulations, which seek to prevent federally funded transit bus operations from competing with private school bus operations.
In April 2007, the FTA reopened the case. The National School Transportation Association (NSTA) brought the matter to the attention of several congressmen, who wrote to FTA Administrator James Simpson expressing their concern with the agency’s action.
In addition to issuing the cease-and-desist order, the FTA notified the RGRTA that as a penalty it would withhold federal funding in an amount related to the subsidies that RGRTA received from the school district.
In her decision, FTA Regional Administrator Brigid Hynes-Cherin said the RGRTA operated more than 100 routes that constituted illegal school bus service and caused “a massive displacement” of the local contractor’s business. She estimated that the transit agency would have received more than $7 million in subsidy from the school district for the upcoming school year.
Hynes-Cherin said the routes in question were designed for school district students and only incidentally served the general public. She cited one purported tripper route that “starts in a neighborhood, joins a regular public transportation route for a brief period but then goes without stops to the school destination for the last 10 to 15 minutes.” Typical RGRTA routes, Hynes-Cherin said, have bus stops every two or three minutes.
The FTA also pointed to the fact that the RGRTA admitted creating three of its routes at the behest of the school district.
“RGRTA further explained that this service would be discontinued [as] soon as RCSD no longer desired it and that RCSD would not be receiving a state subsidy for these routes because the routes serve children that live under 1.5 miles from their school,” Hynes-Cherin wrote in her decision.
“We hope that this decision is going to help us going forward when other violations occur,” said Robin Leeds, NSTA’s government relations liaison.