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November 2011 NATIONAL COOPERATIVE HIGHWAY RESEARCH PROGRAM Responsible Senior Program Officer: Gwen Chisholm-Smith Research Results Digest 356 ANALYSIS OF STATE RURAL INTERCITY BUS STRATEGIES: REQUIREMENTS FOR UTILIZATION OF S.5311(F) FUNDING This digest presents the results of NCHRP Project 20-65, Task 20, "Analysis of Rural Intercity Bus Strategy," and Task 25, "Evaluate Requirements for the Utilization of Section 5311(f) Funds for Intercity Bus Service." The research was conducted by KFH Group, Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, under subcontract to Cambridge Systematics, Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts. Frederic D. Fravel, KFH Group, Inc., was the Principal Investigator. The other author of this report was Reyes Barboza, Jr., of KFH Group, Inc. CHAPTER 1 PROJECT BACKGROUND Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Trans- portation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users INTRODUCTION (SAFETEA-LU) added a requirement that a This report documents the research and state seeking to certify must conduct a findings conducted under two NCHRP 20- consultation process involving the inter- 65 task order projects: Task 20--Analysis city bus operators and other stakeholders of Rural Intercity Bus Strategy, and Task to determine unmet need. 25--Evaluate Requirements for the Utiliza- States have a great deal of flexibility tion of Section 5311(f) Funds for Intercity in how they administer their Section Bus Service. Both projects focus on state- 5311(f) programs, as long as they satisfy level implementation of the Federal Transit certain federal requirements. Recent addi- C O N T E N T S Administration's (FTA) Section 5311(f) tions to the FTA oversight of state program Chapter 1--Project funding program. The objectives of the management have focused new attention on Background, 1 Task 25 research complemented and ex- state Section 5311(f) program implementa- Chapter 2--Section 5311(f) panded the work that was under way for tion, including the consultation/certification Program Description, 5 Task 20, and thus the research results have process for states certifying no unmet needs Chapter 3--Methodology, 10 been combined into a single report. The for the program. The research documented Chapter 4--Existing Conditions: outcomes of these two NCHRP task proj- in this report found that, while an increasing Intercity Services Identified by States, 13 ects provide a snapshot of the current sta- number of states are implementing Section Chapter 5--Status of the National tus of the program across the nation, and 5311(f) programs, the success of a program Network, 22 also provide states with examples and in meeting federal requirements and in Chapter 6--State Program recommendations for successful program terms of the state's own perception of their Implementation Status, 28 implementation. program is influenced by a state's program Chapter 7--State Program Section 5311(f) funds intercity bus ser- goals, their approach to soliciting and eval- Approaches, 34 vice in rural areas, and is a component of the uating funding applications, staffing con- Chapter 8--Program Evaluation, 54 Section 5311 Rural and Small Urban Areas siderations, the availability of state funding, Program. A full 15% of a state's Section how local match is approached, meaningful Chapter 9--Examples of "Successful" State Programs, 61 5311 program allocation is set aside for rural consultation with private carriers, needs Chapter 10--Conclusions and intercity service, unless the state certifies assessment efforts, and the other factors Future Considerations, 87 that there is no unmet rural intercity need. which contribute to a "model" program.

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The report is organized into the following Chapter 8--Program Evaluation: documents sections: state perceptions of successful aspects of the Section 5311(f) program, areas for program Chapter 1--Project Background: provides improvement, implementation issues, operat- background on the development of the Section ing program outcomes, how service gaps are 5311(f) program and the questions that gener- filled, and ridership reports. ated this research, and summarizes the scope Chapter 9--Examples of "Successful" State of work for the two NCHRP task projects. Programs: describes the Section 5311(f) pro- Chapter 2--Section 5311(f) Program Descrip- grams of selected states that were identified as tion: describes the Section 5311(f) program, having successful programs. including eligible expenses and services, Chapter 10--Conclusions and Future Consid- matching requirements, an in-kind approach erations: identifies desirable characteristics for to meeting local match requirements to pro- a model Section 5311(f) program and trends vide recent funding history, and certification in state program development, summarizes requirements for states to be excused from the survey responses related to state outlet on the requirement to spend 15% of their overall Sec- 15% set-aside requirement, and identifies con- tion 5311 funding on Section 5311(f) projects. siderations for the program's future. Chapter 3--Methodology: describes the sur- veys, interviews, and secondary research con- ducted to identify how states are implementing BACKGROUND Section 5311(f). The national intercity bus network has been con- Chapter 4--Existing Conditions: Intercity tracting in coverage for many years, but a substan- Services Identified by States: documents the tial shift away from services in rural areas began findings related to funding recipients/operators with the passage of the Bus Regulatory Reform Act and services and facilities that are being (BRRA) in 1982. Following the loss of substantial funded by Section 5311(f) across the nation. amounts of rural intercity bus service subsequent to An overview is also provided of national-level regulatory reform, there were a number of proposals events leading up to and influencing current and policy studies addressing rural intercity bus ser- conditions. vice, and a number of states began their own state Chapter 5--Status of the National Network: funded intercity bus programs. describes the current state of the intercity Subsequently, the Intermodal Surface Transporta- industry and services across the United States tion Efficiency Act (ISTEA), passed by Congress as a whole, including Greyhound Lines, re- in 1991, created the Section 18(i) program of as- gional private carriers, and long-distance air- sistance for rural intercity services, offering oper- port providers. ating, capital, and administrative funding to the Chapter 6--State Program Implementation states for use in maintaining or developing rural in- Status: documents the findings related to which tercity services. This program was codified as Sec- states administer the Section 5311(f) program tion 5311(f) in the next transportation reauthoriza- and which states certify that there is no rural tion bill, the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st intercity transit need. Century (TEA-21). The program has continued in Chapter 7--State Program Approaches: de- subsequent reauthorization bills, including the most scribes how Section 5311(f) programs are recent, SAFETEA-LU. implemented in those states with active pro- The Section 5311(f) program has always been grams, including staffing, program goals, provided as a requirement that the states spend 15% project solicitation, evaluation and selection, of their overall Section 5311 funding allocation on funding eligibility requirements, types of proj- rural intercity projects unless the governor or de- ects funded, federal requirements passed on signee certified that there were no unmet rural inter- to subrecipients, supplemental state funding, city transportation needs. Funds not spent on intercity utilization of in-kind match, consultation with projects could then be used for other Section 5311 private intercity carriers, and needs assess- projects. A partial certification is permitted for states ment approaches. that seek to spend less than the full set-aside. Prior 2

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to SAFETEA-LU each year approximately one-half tinue to seek direct Section 5311(f) funding, but the of the states certified and shifted the funds to their Sec- industry generally supports this approach of part- tion 5311 programs. SAFETEA-LU included statu- nering with the rural transit providers. The National tory requirements that FTA require that states engage Bus Traffic Association (NBTA), the national inter- in a consultation process with intercity bus carriers line ticket clearinghouse, developed new procedures prior to any such certification, and this requirement to provide for low-cost participation in interline tick- has been included in the revised FTA Section 5311 eting by rural transit providers, and Greyhound has Circular C 9040.1F. Several requirements now direct developed a manual and procedures to facilitate the the states to identify the intercity carriers serving the development of interline ticket and service agree- state, consult with them about unmet needs, and ments with the transit providers. potentially document the needs (or lack of them) From the rural transit provider point of view, a through studies or other actions--prior to certifying major issue continued to be the need for local oper- that there are no unmet needs. ating match for the intercity connections. However, As noted, there are a number of states that have FTA has allowed an innovative funding approach consistently certified that there are no unmet rural in- that counts the value of the capital used by the un- tercity needs, and then utilized the set-aside for other subsidized private intercity carrier as an in-kind rural transit purposes. The consultation requirements match (at 50% of the total fully allocated cost of the of SAFETEA-LU potentially make it much more service), thus allowing for feeder services with no difficult to follow this strategy, and for those states local cash contribution. The cooperating private car- that do seek to spend their entire Section 5311 allo- rier is required to document their willingness to sup- cation on local rural public transit, a question is ply the in-kind match for the local feeder service, whether or not reauthorization could address this and in general the carriers seek to make sure that the issue by eliminating the set-aside, and allowing the connection is meaningful in terms of schedule and states that wish to fund intercity projects to do so in shared stops, so that feed traffic could actually uti- the absence of the set-aside. Related to consideration lize the connecting service to make intercity trips. of such a change are questions about the types of Another issue is that this procedure utilizes the Sec- grantees receiving the funds (Are they going to private tion 5311(f) funding at twice the rate of the conven- intercity carriers or rural public transit providers?), tional match method, due to the lack of local cash how the funds are used, the requirements imposed match--so from a state perspective it could poten- on grantees, and the desire of the states not certify- tially fund fewer projects. ing to continue their programs in the absence of the As states engage in additional consultation with set-aside. the intercity bus providers (and their own transit Over the years the traditional private for-profit operators), they also must consider that the FTA intercity bus carriers have responded to the availabil- regulations cite as a primary goal of the program the ity of this program in different ways. For a number provision of meaningful connections to the national of years carriers applied for Section 5311(f) funding network of intercity bus services, specifically focus- assistance for operations or capital, and a number of ing on the need for Section 5311(f) funded services rural routes operated by private carriers were funded. to connect at the same stops and with schedules that However, the requirement for local operating match allow connections to be made. FTA is also quite spe- meant that on a fully-allocated cost basis, any carrier cific in forbidding the use of Section 5311(f) fund- providing the local match would always be losing ing for commuter services. money on such routes, and following the drop in rev- States involved in studies or other policy efforts enues after September 11, 2001, Greyhound manage- are faced with issues in program design that arise ment in particular withdrew from such contracts. At from difficulties faced by local rural transit providers the same time it restructured its services, it dropped in developing projects that are successful, have local service to hundreds of smaller communities across support, and at the same time meet the goals of the the country. The corporate policy regarding Section Section 5311(f) program. At the local level, rural 5311(f) changed to favor provision of the subsidies transit needs for longer distance services often in- to rural transit systems to provide integrated feeder clude a number of trip purposes, including medical services that would connect with the remaining main- trips, employment, personal business, social services line services. Other private intercity carriers con- and shopping--in addition to making connections to 3

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intercity bus services. Often the schedules that best mine the relationship between the demographic, serve these other trip purposes provide for poor geographic, and funding context of those programs, connections to intercity services, because the opti- the current state of the non-subsidized intercity bus mal morning-in evening-out schedule for regional services, and the program policies and implementa- needs may not mesh with long-distance services tions associated with these successful outcomes. that are infrequent and scheduled for connections This project was conducted in two phases. in distant places. First, in order to identify successful strategies, States attempting to focus Section 5311(f) funds a survey of the state intercity bus programs was on the intercity connection may find that rural transit conducted to collect data on the context, the operators do not see the need for intercity connections programs, and the outcomes of each state inter- as a high priority, because they may perceive more city bus program. The survey responses were demand for other trip purposes. The issue is then how compiled to provide a detailed picture of exist- to address these contradictions in a policy sense. Are ing conditions regarding state Section 5311(f) the riders making intercity connections the same demographically as the rural transit riders? What programs at the time of the survey, including are the relative sizes of these markets? What is the state program approaches, local match sources, frequency of the different trip types? What is the and program outcomes, including routes funded typical trip length? Should Section 5311(f) services and ridership. This survey was supplemented be designed to serve long-distance passengers, or with information gathered through telephone regional ones, or both? It is important to address these interviews in Task 25, as well as through sec- issues in the development of state Section 5311(f) ondary information sources, as described in policy as it affects local project designs. Chapter 3 of the report. The two research projects documented in this In the second phase, the survey results were report sought to determine the following: analyzed and "successful" approaches for the different contexts were identified and described How changes in the intercity network have to provide state program managers and policy- affected mobility in the different states; makers with guidance to help them in develop- How states are addressing the issues in utiliz- ing appropriate and successful programs. ing Section 5311(f) to address these markets; Whether or not information is available on the potential market for these services (for exam- Task 25--Evaluate Requirements ple, statewide needs assessments); for the Utilization of Section 5311(f) What is the best investment strategy for states Funds for Intercity Bus Service to follow with funding intended to address rural The objective of Task 25 was to document the intercity mobility needs; policies and procedures currently used by the states What types of grantees are receiving the funds for the Section 5311(f) program of assistance for rural (are they going to private intercity carriers or intercity bus service. Through this inventory and rural public transit providers?); process, an additional objective was to identify and How are the funds used; describe best practices in administering this program. What are the requirements imposed on These objectives complemented and expanded upon grantees; and the work conducted under Task 20. What is the desire of the states not certifying In order to document the policies and procedures to continue their programs in the absence of used by the states, and to identify administrative best the set-aside. practices, the survey effort of the Task 20 project was expanded to ask additional questions and receive input RESEARCH SCOPE regarding the usage of Section 5311(f) funding, crite- ria for determining the eligibility of grantees, program Task 20--Analysis of Rural Intercity requirements, and state willingness to fund such pro- Bus Strategy jects and grantees absent the 15% set-aside require- The objective of the Task 20 project was to iden- ment of the Section 5311(f) program. This information tify the most successful rural intercity bus program was compiled in a large matrix (expanding upon, and strategies that have been implemented, and to deter- in some cases filling in the gaps of, the matrix created 4