WASHINGTON — Last week, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) issued a final policy statement on school bus operations regulations, clarifying its policy on “tripper service” in light of recent cases involving federally funded transit agencies transporting students to school.
The proposal to revise its policy was issued in May after a federal judge struck down an earlier FTA decision, paving the way for the Rochester-Genesee (N.Y.) Regional Transportation Authority to create new bus routes for the purpose of transporting students.
At issue in that decision was the judge’s interpretation of FTA’s definitions of “school bus operations” and “tripper service,” with the FTA arguing that the court’s interpretation could lead a transit agency to “conclude that it would be permitted 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.”
In the policy statement, the FTA interprets the definition of “tripper service,” as it has historically, as “to allow a grantee to utilize various fare collections or subsidy systems, modify the frequency of service, and make de minimis route alterations from route paths in the immediate vicinity of schools to stops located at or in close proximity to the schools.”
Additionally, the agency states that it will interpret the term “exclusively” in the definition of “school bus operations” to “encompass any service that a reasonable person would conclude was primarily designed to accommodate students and school personnel, and only incidentally to serve the non-student general public. Additionally, grantees may create new routes to serve school students and personnel if a reasonable person would conclude that the grantees designed the routes to serve some segment of the non-student general public.”
The FTA said that it believes this clarification will allow the agency to implement the express intent of Congress to prevent unfair competition between federally funded grantees and private school bus operators.
In the statement, the FTA also responded to the 510 comments from the public collected after the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking was issued in May 2008, addressing safety, environmental, regional and other concerns.
The FTA still plans to also issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to provide clearer definitions of “tripper service” and “school bus operations” as well as to generally update its existing school bus regulations.
To read the full statement, visit http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2008/E8-21601.htm.