ROCHESTER, N.Y. — On Jan. 18, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) ruled that the Rochester-Genesee Regional Transportation Authority (RGRTA) has illegally engaged in school bus operations.
The FTA ordered the RGRTA to cease certain routes that serve the Rochester City School District (RCSD) as soon as it is feasible.
A complaint against the RGRTA was filed by the United Food & Commercial Workers District Local One on June 15, 2006. The complaint alleged that RGRTA’s provision of service pursuant to a subsidy agreement with the RCSD was a violation of the FTA’s school bus regulations, which seek to prevent federally funded transit bus operators from competing with private school bus operators. The union said that RGRTA’s service would displace approximately 70 routes operated by Laidlaw Education Services.
The RGRTA routes in contention were approximately 109 new routes, which the union complaint contended were designed specifically to accommodate students. These routes did not appear on the RGTRA’s map of regularly scheduled mass transportation services. Additionally, the routes either began or ended at schools and only operated one way in the morning and one way in the afternoon.
RGRTA contended that it had entered into a valid “tripper service agreement” with the RCSD. By the FTA’s definition, tripper services are intended to make ordinary transit bus transportation available to schoolchildren without replacing or becoming a substitute for school bus transportation. This sort of arrangement would not violate the FTA’s school bus regulations.
Upon examination of the complaint and information provided from both sides, however, the FTA concluded that the RGRTA routes were designed specifically for school transportation, not regular public transportation, thereby violating the FTA regulations.