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109 Introduction The case studies presented in the Chapter 4 were selected to provide a wide variety of rural regional examples, varying in organizational structure, funding source, target markets, and ser- vice characteristics. However, a number of common themes emerged. These are presented in this chapter to assist those who are considering how to address needs for rural regional transit services. The lessons learned can be summarized in seven themes: 1. Lesson One: State Policies Can Make a Difference 2. Lesson Two: Different Organizational Approaches Can Work 3. Lesson Three: Local Champions Are Required 4. Lesson Four: Needs of Multiple Markets Should Be Addressed 5. Lesson Five: An Appropriate Service Design Will Attract More Riders 6. Lesson Six: Connectivity and Providing Service Information Are Important 7. Lesson Seven: Creative Funding May Be Needed Lesson One: State Policies Can Make a Difference The case studies involved services in a number of states with different approaches to regional transit, suggesting that it is possible to develop rural regional services regardless of whether or not a state transit program has any specific policy or support for regional efforts. A number of projects appeared to benefit from an environment in which state transit programs specifically addressed the need for regional transportation or supported the development of regional transit organizations. Supportive state policies included the following: â¢ Direct state provision of regional services. In these cases, the state transit program became the direct provider of regional services designed to address needs identified as having a state- wide significance. The state program contracts directly for operation on specific routes and schedules, with specified stops and connectivity. In some cases, these services might also be considered rural intercity services. The Colorado case study provides an example of direct state operation. BustangâDirect State Operation of Regional Service in Colorado The Colorado case study identified the current development of the Bustang commuter bus network and its planned expansion to more rural areas (under the Bustang Outrider brand name) as an example of a DOT that conducted a planning C H A P T E R 5 Lessons LearnedâToolkit
110 Best Practices in Rural Regional Mobility process identifying intercity and regional needs, and subsequently began imple- mentation of services. The Bustang service is designed, branded, and marketed as a CDOT service, using buses purchased by the state, although the actual operation is contracted out. The Bustang Outrider services use state funded vehicles, but the operation may be either contracted or provided by local transit providers. â¢ State programs providing demonstration or incentive funding. In several instances, states supported the development of regional services by providing a separate pool of funding avail- able to local transit providers seeking to develop regional services, often as part of a regional organization. The Kansas and Minnesota case studies provide examples of state funding pro- grams supportive of regional transit. KDOT Funding for Regional Transit KDOT provided a separate funding category for Regional Transit Approaches as part of its 2010 T-WORKS Transit Program, allowing this funding to be used for a variety of operating, administrative, and capital purposes in support of regional services. Subsequently, the Kansas Regional Transit Business Model Implementation allocation of increased state funding provided for a higher state/federal share for intercity services, and 100% non-local funding for capital (for the first year), leading to implementation of new regional services. Minnesota Transit for Our Future Initiative In Minnesota, the Transit for Our Future Initiative provided a policy structure supporting the development of regional providers and services, and a separate special funding program providing funding for restructuring studies. An addi- tional separate funding program under this initiative provides funding that can be used for service modifications that include regional routes. â¢ State legislation allowing local revenues. The New Mexico case study presented an example of state legislation permitting localities to collect a particular tax (the gross receipts tax) to provide support for RTDs. The districts are then in a position to implement regional services, as documented in the case study of the NCRTD. This district provides funding to local pro- viders in its region, but also operates rural regional routes that connect the local systems, and connect to the state operated Rail Runner Express rail passenger service and regional com- muter bus services operated under the New Mexico park and ride network. â¢ Section 5311(f). In a number of states, the FTA Section 5311(f) program has been used to provide support for services that meet the intercity bus criteria of the program (making mean- ingful connections with the national intercity network), and also meet regional needs. In a number of cases, the private intercity carriers have provided the in-kind match allowed under this program, further reducing the cost of these regional services. Examples from the case studies include Lake Transit in California and the ShuttleBus-Zoom in Maine.
Lessons LearnedâToolkit 111 â¢ Case-by-case support. If the state program is designed to fund projects (which may be regional) rather than simply sub-allocate funding to local operators on a formula basis, state transit programs can also offer support for rural regional services on a case-by-case basis, providing funding for feasibility studies, service operation, or vehicle capital as part of the normal program management. For example, a local operator may be under political constraints to address local needs with a funding allocation, but would apply for additional funding for a regional project. States can support the development of regional services using demonstration or other funding not tied to regional organizational structures. An example is Vermontâs use of CMAQ program funding for new services, particularly regional connections. Lesson Two: Different Organizational Approaches Can Work Among the case studies, the study team found no single organizational model that is more appropriate for regional services. The common thread among the various organizational struc- tures used to develop rural regional services is the inclusion of regional stakeholders in the development and oversight of the project, whether or not they are an advisory committee, board members of a transit provider or regional planning organization, members of a legally consti- tuted authority, coordination committee members, or otherwise constituted. The case studies identified the organizational structures summarized in Table 5â1. Which organizational approach to use is determined in part by the following factors: â¢ Legal Authority. Groups seeking to develop rural regional services have been helped by having a legal framework that can be used to create a policy board with the authority needed to apply for grant funding, and contract and operating services. â¢ Role of Regional Planning Agencies. Regional planning agencies play an important role in identifying the need for service, planning, and oversight of ongoing regional service. â¢ Need for Regional Input and Oversight. Ongoing input from other organizations served by regional transit services can be beneficial. Input could be obtained through a regional governing board or advisory committee. For some regional services, ongoing communications between connecting transit operators may suffice. â¢ Who Operates the Service? Regional transit needs could be met by a single local transit operator, joint operations by multiple operators, or a private transit contractor. Legal Authority Aside from the fact that there are a number of organizational models, one factor that stands out is that a number of states have enacted state legislation that makes the creation of multi- jurisdictional regional services easier to implement by providing the legal and administrative framework. In some cases, this legislation is the general statute that allows governmental entities to enter into agreements with other governments for a specific set of purposes, for example, the California statutes that govern JPAs. Most states have similar statutes, sometimes described as inter-local agreements, but some state statutes limit the purposes of joint agreement entities, and not all include public transportation as an eligible purpose. Other states have specific legislation that provides a general authority for the creation of regional transit entities, whether they are authorities or districts. For example, Michiganâs Act 196 was used to create the ALTRAN. New Mexicoâs Regional Transit District Act of 2003 provides both the legal framework for regional transit entities and the potential for dedicated
112 Best Practices in Rural Regional Mobility taxing authority. In Kansas, state funding is tied to the coordinated transit districts created by the T-WORKS legislation. In all these states, the groups seeking to develop rural regional services have been helped by having a legal framework that can be used to create a policy board with the authority needed to apply for grant funding, and contract and operating services. Role of Regional Planning Agencies The case studies include a number of rural regional services that are provided under the auspices of regional COGs. Examples include the Region XII COG in Iowa and SCCOG in Colorado. A full read of the case studies reveals an important role for regional planning agencies in identifying the need for service, planning, and oversight of ongoing regional service. For example, the MRRPC in southwest Wisconsin was a key participant in the work of the Crawford County TCC where the need for regional transit was identified as a priority. MRRPC staff played a key role in the feasibility study that led to the creation of the SMRT system. State Case Study Site Type of Organization California Lake Transit JPA between two cities and a county Colorado Bustang State Agency South Central Council of Governments Regional Council of Governments Iowa Dennison to Harlan Commuter, Western Iowa Transit Council of Governments Kansas Flint Hills Coordinated Transit District Coordinated transit district (under state transit legislation) Flint Hills ATA Maine ShuttleBus-Zoom Inter-local agreement between cities and towns, with joint oversight committee Michigan Alger County Transit (ALTRAN) Transit authority under state transit legislation Minnesota Central Community Transit JPA agreement between cities and counties Montana Flathead Transit Department of Tribal Government North Central Montana Transit Private non-profit with board composed of tribal, service, and educational institutions New Mexico North Central Regional Transit District Transit district organized under state enabling legislation Oregon Northwest Oregon Transit Alliance Five separate transit agencies operating under an intergovernmental agreement. Vermont Southeast Vermont Transit, Inc., and Green Mountain Community Network, Inc. Handshake agreement between two private non-profit agencies Wisconsin Scenic Mississippi Regional Transit Regional advisory committee, lead agency (city government) is grant applicant and fiscal agent Table 5â1. Organizational structures found in the case studies.
Lessons LearnedâToolkit 113 Need for Regional Input and Oversight If the organizational structure does not provide for representation from the different jurisdic- tions being served by the regional service (as in the case of a COG or regional planning agency), there is a need to consider whether or not such input is needed on an ongoing basis, and how to solicit this input. If the governing board is not regional by definition, a regional advisory com- mittee (perhaps under the auspices of a regional planning agency) is a strategy used to ensure that the service meets regional needs or at least to ensure communication. There may be cases where regional services operated by a single entity for the benefit of its own residents do not require regional oversight; instead, communication between transit operators suffices. Examples are the coordinated services jointly operated by GMCN and DVTA/SEVT in southern Vermont and ALTRAN into Marquette. Who Operates the Service? Another aspect of rural regional service organization is the question who operates the services. A local transit operator may be able to expand service to meet a regional need (as in the case of ALTRAN), but several examples demonstrate that if multiple operators are involved, a service can be jointly operated and run buses through to destinations or to connecting points on alter- nating schedules so that riders do not have to change buses at the county line. Good examples include a number of regional services in Vermont, which have a combined schedule with differ- ent trips operated by the participating transit agencies, and the North by Northwest Connector network in Oregon. In other cases, in the absence of existing transit operators with capability, the regional service is operated under contract by a private transit contractor, as in the case of the Bustang service in Colorado or the SMRT service in southwest Wisconsin. Lesson Three: Local Champions Are Required The process of gathering information for the case studies reinforced the importance of local champions in creating and maintaining rural regional transit services. There were clearly iden- tifiable persons that had taken on this role for a regional project. It may be that this role is even more crucial for regional projects because these services are still outside the norm for rural public transportation; they often involve coordination with more agencies, jurisdictions, and operators; and they are likely to require innovative approaches to a multitude of issues such as funding and operations. What Do We Mean By a Local Champion? The general meaning of a âlocal championâ is a person or persons who take on the responsi- bility for the following: â¢ Realizing the need for a rural regional solution and helping to define the vision; â¢ Creating a team that includes representatives of all key stakeholders, helping them identify shared goals and objectives, and maintaining focus and action; â¢ Working with that team to develop feasible options, assess them, and select solutions; â¢ Bringing best practices and resources to the project; â¢ Identifying problems or barriers, finding solutions, and maintaining momentum toward service implementation; â¢ Communicating the vision, goal, recommended solutions, and resource needs to both the stake- holder team and the broader community to obtain and then maintain community support; and â¢ Taking and keeping ownership of the project as it is implemented to meet user needs, over- come problems, and improve or expand the service.
114 Best Practices in Rural Regional Mobility Where Can They Be Found? In the case studies, it was apparent that virtually every project had one or more local champi- ons in the following organizations: â¢ Local coordination committees, â¢ Regional planning agencies, â¢ Mobility management programs, â¢ State transit programs, â¢ Tribal organizations, â¢ Economic development organizations, and â¢ Transit systems. This person may be the director of a transit provider, a planner with a regional planning agency, or a person who is aware of the needs of human service or economic development agencies. The key factor is that they went above and beyond their normal duties to innovate and problem solve to create rural regional services. Lesson Four: Needs of Multiple Markets Should Be Addressed Many rural transit systems provide regional trips on a demand response basis, and these services are designed to serve one specific client group or trip purposeâwhich limits the potential rider- ship, and makes fixed route, fixed schedule service infeasible. Many of the case study rural regional routes make schedule service feasible by trying to address the needs of multiple user groups to increase ridership. Markets for services include the following: â¢ Employment, â¢ Medical appointments, â¢ Community college or high school, â¢ Intercity or commuter bus and train connections, â¢ Shopping and personal business, and â¢ Social and recreational needs. Planning efforts and information sources that can be used to identify the transit needs of specific target markets include the following: â¢ Planning for rural regional services; â¢ Coordination planning process; â¢ Statewide planning studies; and â¢ Other sources (such as major employer requests, strategic surveys, and transit user requests). These sources and approaches are described below, followed by approaches for estimating demand for specific user groups and the use of consulting services. Planning for Rural Regional Services Assessing the feasibility of regional service begins with the identification of needs and poten- tial markets. In some of the case study sites, local transit planning efforts resulted in identifying potential markets for rural regional services. These studies often addressed the specific require- ments of different market groups, for example, scheduling to permit work trips or medical trips or to make connections to intercity bus and rail services. Often the planning process included an estimation of potential ridership by market segment. The case studies included several examples of how this process took place.
Lessons LearnedâToolkit 115 Coordination Planning Process In some cases, a project began as part of the work of the local coordination committees formed as part of the SAFETEA-LU transportation authorization planning requirements for JARC, New Freedom, and the Elderly and Disabled (Section 5310) program. The purpose of this planning process was to identify and prioritize strategies to address key transportation needs. In some cases, the need for regional transportation was identified as a local priority. As part of the process, the initial identification of potential market(s) included gathering information about populations involved and characteristics of need. For example, SMRT service in southwestern Wisconsin grew out of the coordination committee work in the affected counties. Statewide Planning Studies Some projects resulted from statewide transit studies or initiatives that identified a need. For example, the Bustang program grew out of a statewide regional and intercity bus plan that pro- vided a classification of services and identified regional gaps in the statewide network. In Kansas, the statewide process that was part of the KDOT Regional Transit Business Model Implemen- tation included a needs analysis for development of regional services. In some cases, statewide intercity bus plans identified routes or gaps that are regional in nature. In Minnesota, the Greater Minnesota Transit Investment Plan set the stage for the Transit for Our Future Initiative, which included regional services. Often such planning studies identify the types of markets needing service, and whether the need is for medical services, employment trips, or intercity connections. Other Sources Some of the case studies identified sources of information that helped to define the market. In Iowa, the closure of a local meatpacking plant led the Region XII COG to identify a regional commuter service to address the needs of displaced workers. Similarly, a business retention and expansion survey in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, was a factor in determining that the regional transit concept had to include commuters as well as medical and human service trips. In Alger County, Michigan, the initial impetus for regional service into Marquette came from user requests for a commuter route, which the transit system was then able to expand with addi- tional services focused on education and medical trips. Estimating Demand for Individual Markets Demand for rural regional services can be estimated by looking at data sources that are appro- priate for each market identified, and then summing the likely ridership. Individual markets include the following: â¢ Employment trips: Sources include the following: â Census data. The Census Bureauâs Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics (LEHD) data source provides annual employment statistics (LEHD Origin Destination Employment Statistics [LODES]) linking home and work locations all the way to the Census Block level, which can be accessed through the Census Bureauâs OnTheMap interface. If there is no exist- ing regional transit, this information will not reflect any transit mode share, but a reasonable, conservative potential transit mode share can be applied to develop a range of estimated work trips for a regional service. â Employer-provided data. Commuter trips focused on a particular employer might be esti- mated by obtaining data from that employer on the zip code of residence of existing employees, and applying a conservative transit mode share estimate. Another potential option is to work through the human resources offices at particular employers to identify needs or demand.
116 Best Practices in Rural Regional Mobility â Survey data. Surveys aimed at general public commuters can be used, including surveys left on vehicles, at park and ride lots, well-publicized open online surveys through planning agency websites, or surveys distributed to employees at particular employers thought to have potential need for regional transit commuter services. â¢ Medical trips. For human service or medical trips, information on specific groups may be obtained from agencies that fund or contract for these services, such as appropriate agencies that fund Medicaid NEMT transportation or the Veterans Transportation Service mobility manager at the regional Veteranâs Administration medical centers. â¢ Educational trips. Community colleges, colleges, and universities can provide data on the resi- dence of commuting students, providing numbers of students by zip code of residence. For schools with a resident population, data on numbers of students by home residence location can be used with an estimate of trip frequency (e.g., every weekend, only at holidays) to estimate ridership. In some cases, potential ridership from an educational institution includes students, staff, and faculty. â¢ Intercity trips. Demand for trips making intercity connections can be estimated using the TCRP Report 147: Rural Intercity Bus Demand Model. â¢ Other trips. There may be trip purposes that are related to local market conditions that would add ridership to a local route. Examples include trips for retail purposes if local retail is no longer available, or trips to recreational destinations such as parks, cycling routes, or ski areas. Some case study providers (e.g., Northwest Connector and Flathead Transit) make visitors one of their key ridership groups. Consulting Assistance A number of the case study projects used consultant assistance to assess the feasibility of regional services and to help design or refine services. For example, the City of Prairie du Chien contracted with a consulting firm to conduct a feasibility study. In Minnesota, the state transit program pro- vides funding for consulting assistance to identify trip demand and regional providers as part of the Transit for Our Future Initiative. The Northwest Connector has used consulting assistance as part of its planning process. Often state transit programs can provide funding for studies to determine all potential markets, and help design services with the most feasible options. Lesson Five: An Appropriate Service Design Will Attract More Riders Designing services that can attract riders with a wide variety of trip purposes is a difficult task, because each market has its own specific requirements in terms of route coverage, schedule, frequency, and span of service. Themes identified through the case studies for effective regional service planning included the following: â¢ Schedule service to meet the needs of multiple markets, â¢ Minimize transfers with through-routing, and â¢ Provide vehicle amenities. Schedule Service to Meet the Needs of Multiple Markets Regional service should be scheduled to meet the needs of multiple user groups to make the most effective use of limited resources and attract ridership from multiple markets. The follow- ing transit needs are good candidates upon which to build a schedule for regional service: â¢ Employment trips require morning and evening peak hour serviceâall weekdays at a minimum. â¢ Medical appointments may require early morning trips, and multiple mid-day return tripsâ with even more specific schedule needs for dialysis. â¢ Trips to and from educational institutions can require morning peak service, with afternoon and evening return trips.
Lessons LearnedâToolkit 117 â¢ Connections to intercity bus or rail services can require very particular schedules at any hour of the day to provide connections within a limited window of time around the intercity sched- ule, and also allowing for late services. The busiest intercity trip times are typically afternoons and evenings on Fridays and Sundays. In addition to being important for effective service design (and passenger convenience), mean- ingful connections are a federal requirement for Section 5311(f) funding. Greyhound (the source of most in-kind match used for the local/state share of Section 5311(f) rural intercity and regional services) provides in-kind match only for services that make a connection with their schedules at a common terminal within a 2-hour window on either side of the Greyhound schedule. Providing services that meet the requirements of these varied markets, yet are financially feasible, is a key aspect of creating a viable rural regional transit service. Otherwise the ridership of one or two groups may not be enough to make the service feasible. The case studies from Wisconsin, California, Colorado, Iowa, and Michigan provide examples of effective scheduling to meet the needs of specific user groups. SMRT Multiple Markets SMRT services are designed to provide three daily round trips on each route: a morning commute time run, a mid-day trip, and a late afternoon/evening return trip, with routings designed to be inbound to the main regional employment center (La Crosse) over several different routings serving different rural towns. Stops are located at major employers, medical facilities, educational campuses, major shopping destinations, Amtrak stops, and intercity bus stops. Shared stop locations with local transit facilitate connections. Lake Transit Educational, Intercity, and Medical Trips on the Same Route Lake Transitâs Route 7 operates four times per day between Lakeport and Ukiah. In Ukiah, there are connections to Greyhound (at the airport), Amtrak, and Mendocino Transit Authority. Other stops include Mendocino College and the Veterans Clinic in Ukiah. Routes are designed to accommodate intercity connec- tions and college schedules. Other regional and intercity routes include more frequency to better serve employment trips, and provide connections to routes serving a casino and a major regional hospital. These services do not need to be scheduled around intercity schedules to make connections. SCCOG Transit Medical Trips SCCOG Transit in Colorado operates a long regional route from Trinidad to Pueblo. Services operate 3 days per week, and schedules are designed for arrival in Pueblo around 10:45 a.m. and a return leaving Pueblo around 3:30 p.m., with drop-off and pick-up at key medical facilities. Though the primary market is medical trips, the service is open to the general public, and there are passengers who travel for other trip purposes.
118 Best Practices in Rural Regional Mobility Iowa Region XII COG Work Trips Service This regional service is designed for work trips to a particular employer, with schedules accommodating shifts. Services leave Denison at 5:00 a.m., 6:00 a.m., and 2:30 p.m., and return at 3:45 p.m. and 12:45 a.m. Although the service is open to the general public, it has schedules at shift changes, including the early morning trip home after the late shift. ALTRAN Schedules to Serve Commuters, Students, Medical Appointments, and Dialysis Trips ALTRANâS Munising to Marquette Connection makes three round trips per day with inbound trips at 6:15 a.m., 11:15 a.m., and 3:15 p.m.; and outbound trips at 8:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m., and 5:00 p.m. This allows workers and students to arrive early at Marquette destinations, and dialysis patients to return home at 1:00 p.m. after treatment. Minimize Transfers with Through-Routing Another aspect of service design found in several of the case studies is a focus on minimizing transfers, limiting them to the connections with intercity or local services in the destination city. Examples are provided in the Vermont and Oregon case studies. Vermont Joint Schedules Several of the Vermont regional connections have avoided transfers by having transit providers share operation of the route, with each providing trips over the full length of the route. On the Route 2 Commuter between Montpelier and St. Johnsbury, some trips are operated by RCT and some by GMTA. Shared service between Wilmington and Bennington includes one daily trip operated by GMCN and two by The Moover. Northwest Connector Through Service The Northwest Connectorâs Tillamook to Lincoln City service presents a regional service designed to minimize transfers. Formerly, making this connection required a transfer between a TCTD bus and an LCT bus at Otis, on the county line. Now, the TCTD bus runs all the way through to Lincoln, with LCT sharing in the cost. Elimination of the transfer allows passengers to reach a casino in Lincoln County for both work and recreation. Following the change, ridership on this route doubled, and has continued to increase.
Lessons LearnedâToolkit 119 Provide Vehicle Amenities A number of the case studies mentioned that vehicles used included amenities such as on- board Wi-Fi with electrical plug-ins, more comfortable seating, and bike racksâin addition to meeting ADA requirements for wheelchair access and positions. User surveys reveal that because regional services require a longer ride, passengers appreciate being able to access the internet, whether for work or pleasure, making use of their travel time. Comfortable seating for longer trips is obvious. Bike racks on the front of the bus offer the possibility of making first-mile, last-mile connections on their own bikes. Another aspect of vehicle selection is the need to consider space for baggage. If the project will be utilizing Section 5311(f) rural intercity funding, it needs to offer passengers the capability to carry baggage for overnight trips. While large over-the-road coaches typically offer baggage space under the package deck, the smaller body-on-chassis vehicles used for rural regional connections are most likely to require a rear door with baggage space in the rear of the bus, or internal baggage racks like those found on rental-car shuttles. Some vehicles of this type can be specified with an under-floor luggage locker, but the space is limited. Both the under-floor locker and the baggage space at the rear will require the driver to provide access and to load and unload baggage. At least one of the case studies found that bus package express (freight) is another potential source of revenue. In Montana, the Flathead Transit buses tow a 12-foot trailer to carry express freight from their intercity connection, meeting additional local needs and providing additional revenue. Lesson Six: Connectivity and Providing Service Information Are Important Many of the case study operations have designed services and schedules to provide a high level of connectivity between the regional service, other local transit services, available Amtrak ser- vice, and Greyhound or other intercity bus services. If the regional service is funded in part with Section 5311(f) rural intercity funding, connectivity with Greyhound is required if the project uses the value of in-kind miles from Greyhound for match. Lessons learned about connectivity and providing service information can be grouped into the following categories: â¢ Spatial connections: shared stops, park and ride lots, and first-mile/last-mile deviations; â¢ Interline ticketing: single ticket to ride local transit connecting with intercity service; and â¢ Marketing and service information: cross-marketing of connecting services, Google Transit maps. Spatial Connections: Shared Stops, Park and Ride Lots, and First-Mile/Last-Mile Deviations Depending on the service design, a rural regional service will likely originate in a small town and terminate in a larger activity center that offers more regional destinations. At the origin end, riders may need to be picked up at their homes or at key stops such as a senior center. Opportu- nities for passengers to park their own vehicles and ride the regional service should be provided, whether by using official state park and ride lots, arranging for the use of parking at public facilities (e.g., a downtown lot, a senior center), or at private facilities (e.g., a church parking lot, or excess parking at a retail or business location). At stop locations on the route, connectivity is facilitated by serving park and ride locations. In destination cities passengers may need multiple stops at various locations, but mobility can be enhanced if the regional service shares stops with local public transit. Connections with more local routes can be made if the rural regional service uses the same main transfer point as the local transit service. If there are multiple regional routes, scheduling and shared stops can increase access and ridership by connecting more destinations. The Wisconsin and California case studies provide examples.
120 Best Practices in Rural Regional Mobility SMRT Connectivity at Stop Locations In La Crosse, SMRT shares stops with the local urban transit system (Municipal Transit Utility [MTU]) at locations that are served by both. In addition, SMRT will serve the Amtrak station in La Crosse on request. The Jefferson Lines intercity service is located in the MTUâs La Crosse Downtown Transit Center, which is two blocks from the SMRT stop in downtown La Crosse. Lake Transit Interlined Regional Routes with Local Transit Connections Lake Transitâs Route 7 connects with Mendocino Transit Authority and Amtrak Thruway buses at the Pear Tree Center in Ukiah, and with Greyhound at the Ukiah Airport. At the other end of the route, it is interlined with Lake Transit Route 4 to Clearlake. In Clearlake, there is a scheduled connection with Lake Transit Route 3 which provides a connection to Napa County and the VINE Route 10 Calistoga and the St. Helena Shuttles. Interline Ticketing Some regional services are designed to make connections with intercity services, bus, and rail. If Section 5311(f) funding is used, the regional service should make a meaningful connec- tion with the national intercity bus network, meaning that it serves the intercity bus stop and is scheduled to provide a convenient connection. A higher level of connectivity with intercity services is provided if the regional service offers interline ticketing with the intercity service. Greyhound provides the value of its connecting unsubsidized service, which can be used as match under the Section 5311(f) program, but it requires that the regional feeder service serve the same stop as the unsubsidized service, be scheduled within a 2-hour window around the intercity service, and offer interline ticketing. Through interline ticketing agreements, the rural regional provider can receive a proportion- ate share of the ticket revenue for intercity trips that originate or terminate on its service. The rural regional schedules appear in the Greyhound national website and Greyhound can sell tickets that include the rural regional service, providing for increased ridership (and revenue) from inbound passengers who would otherwise not be aware of the service. The Maine and Montana case studies provide examples of interline ticketing arrangements. ShuttleBus-Zoom Portland Intercity Service/Greyhound Interline Ticketing A customer in Boston (or anywhere on the Greyhound network) traveling to Biddeford, Maine, can obtain schedule information and purchase a ticket for the entire trip (including the ShuttleBus-Zoom portion) on the Greyhound website. In Portland, Maine, the passenger transfers from the Greyhound bus to the ShuttleBus-Zoom vehicle at the Greyhound station, which is served by both carri- ers. The transfer wait time is between 10 and 50 minutes, depending on the trip.
Lessons LearnedâToolkit 121 Flathead Transit Greyhound Interline Connection The Flathead Transit connection between Missoula and Whitefish, Montana, offers interline ticketing with Greyhound lines. Inbound passengers can get schedule information and tickets from Greyhound. Rural regional providers should be aware that interlining with intercity bus carriers triggers some administrative requirements including registration as an interstate carrier with the Federal Motor Carrier Administration (FMCSA).9 Another opportunity for rural regional providers able to connect with Amtrak rail passenger service is joining with Amtrak as an Amtrak Thruway bus feeder connector. Under a thruway agreement, the providerâs connecting schedules are included in Amtrak timetables, and Amtrak can sell tickets that include the regional carrierâs services; however, there must be a rail compo- nent to the combined trip. None of the case study sites are currently listed as Amtrak Thruway carriers, though a number offer pick-up and drop-off at Amtrak stations. Marketing and Service Information For the most part, the case studiesâ sites offer standard websites that provide information about service, routes, schedules, fares, and stop locations. A number of them also mentioned the importance of marketing through organizations with direct links to potential user groupsâfor example, (a) making presentations and providing information at senior centers or through senior networks, at hospitals, and at clinics that are destinations, or (b) working with key employers to inform staff about the availability of service. Because ridership on rural regional services is likely to be higher with increased connectivity, better schedule information (especially if combined with interline ticketing) about how to make connections is likely to be a benefit to users and providers alike. One way to do this is through interline ticketing with intercity carriers.10 Another way is for the rural regional operator to work with the connecting regional and urban transit systems to provide publicly available GTFS data on routes and schedules so that Google Transit and other applications can provide information on trips involving more than one carrier.11 Figure 5â1 provides an example of a regional transit route map available through Google Transit. The Vermont and Oregon case studies provide examples of marketing and service informa- tion indicative of regional connectivity. Go! Vermont Bus Information VTrans provides statewide information on bus services, car- and vanpooling, car share services, bicycles, ferries, and trains. This includes a direct link to Google Transit, where Vermontâs local, regional, and intercity bus and rail service information is provided to facilitate multimodal trip planning.
122 Best Practices in Rural Regional Mobility Oregon Department of Transportation Support for GTFS Data As part of its goal to provide a statewide network of connected services, ODOT has contracted for a firm to work with transit and intercity providers statewide to develop and update GTFS data and make it publicly available to developers for use in information systems such as Google Transit. Three of the five local systems participating in the Northwest Connector have their GTFS data included in the statewide program. The NWOTA is currently conducting a website development project that includes trip planning functionality to present Northwest Connector routes as prioritized routes in Google Transit. Lesson Seven: Creative Funding May Be Needed One of the most significant things demonstrated by the case studies is that such services are likely to require a creative approach to funding. To some extent the case studies were selected to demonstrate a wide variety of funding, but the variety of sources and combinations is particu- larly noteworthy. Regional services often require a special approach because there is no federal source that is designated or set-aside for services with a particular âregionalâ classificationâthough there is nothing that prevents funds allocated to a particular jurisdiction from being used for regional services. Those proposing a regional service often encounter a major barrier in that local policy- makers providing match may insist that the match not be used to transport residents outside their jurisdiction, fearing that there will be a loss of economic activity or that local tax dollars (and associated state and federal funds) will benefit another jurisdiction. Figure 5â1. Google Transit information showing connections between rural regional and intercity service.
Lessons LearnedâToolkit 123 The following sources and approaches to funding regional services are described: â¢ Section 5311âformula grants for rural areas; â¢ Section 5311(f)âFTA Rural Intercity Bus Program; â¢ Section 5311(f) In-kind match; â¢ CMAQ program; â¢ State fundingâspecial programs supporting regional organizations or regional service; â¢ Special funding sources; â¢ Medicaid NEMT; â¢ Partnershipsâsponsorships from local businesses; and â¢ Combining sources. Section 5311âFormula Grants for Rural Areas Many of the case study sites rely on FTA Section 5311 funding for capital and operating funding (including JARC projects). This program provides funding for capital, planning, and operating assistance to support public transportation in non-urbanized areas (populations less than 50,000).12 Funding is provided to the state DOTs on a formula basis based on land area, population, revenue vehicle miles, and rural low-income population. Federally recognized Indian Tribes are also eligible recipients. Eligible subrecipients include state or local public bodies, non-profit organizations, and operators of public transportation or intercity bus service (including private for-profit operators of rural intercity bus service). There are limits on the federal share for different types of projects. The maximum federal share for capital projects (such as vehicle purchases) is 80 percent, with the remainder from local funds (provided by the state, locality, or carrier). The 80 percent maximum federal share also applies to the net operating cost of paratransit (demand responsive) services required by the ADA. On other operating projects, the maximum federal share is 50 percent of the net operat- ing deficit (costs less fare and other revenue). States are given a great deal of discretion in the distribution and allocation of Section 5311 funds, with a major requirement being that it is fair and equitable. There is no federal requirement that Section 5311 funds be used within a particular jurisdic- tionâs boundaries. Section 5311 funded services can operate from non-urbanized rural areas into and out of urbanized areas (populations of 50,000 or more) as long as the primary purpose is to provide access to rural residents. There is no requirement or set-aside in the overall Section 5311 program that favors regional services, but one could view the requirement that each state spend no less than 15 percent of the annual apportionment on rural intercity bus services (the Section 5311[f] program) as potential support for non-local rural transit. Section 5311(f)âFTA Rural Intercity Bus Program One element of the overall Section 5311 program is the Intercity Bus Program.13 A state is required to spend at least 15 percent of its overall Section 5311 apportionment on intercity bus projects, unless the Governor of the state certifies to the Secretary of Transportation that the intercity bus needs of the state are met. To make this certification, the state must conduct and document a consultation process that assesses the needsâwith input from the intercity service providers and other stakeholdersâand analysis of current services and needs. In a number of states this consultation process has helped to identify the need for rural regional services.
124 Best Practices in Rural Regional Mobility The definition of intercity service in the Section 5311 circular describes it as regularly scheduled bus service open to the general public that operates with limited stops on fixed routes connecting two or more urban areas not in close proximity, with the capacity to transport passenger baggage and make meaningful connections to the national network of intercity bus service. It specifically excludes commuter service, and the FTA guidance has language that excludes service providing extensive circulation within a region as opposed to regular but infrequent service to limited points in the destination community. Another provision allows for the provision of âfeeder service,â which does not need to have the same characteristics as intercity bus service, and may provide access to intercity connections to rail or air services. The need to prioritize a meaningful connec- tion with the national intercity bus network is apparent for both rural intercity and feeder services under the FTA guidance. The requirement for a meaningful connection never specifies what constitutes a meaningful connection, but language describing eligible services implies that it includes the use of common stop locations and facilities, and scheduling that facilitates connections to national intercity services. Lake Transit Use of Section 5311(f) Funding In California, Lake Transit uses Section 5311(f) funding to support operating expenses on services that make meaningful connections, and for vehicle capital. In the hierarchy of Lake Transit services, Routes 3, 4, and 7 are classified as inter- city routes, and are funded with FTA Section 5311(f) funding, matched with local and state funding. Under Californiaâs Section 5311(f) program, additional new services could use toll credits as local match. Section 5311(f) In-Kind Match One of the unique features of the FTA Section 5311(f) program is the ability to use the value of connecting unsubsidized intercity bus services as in-kind match for the intercity segment requiring assistance. This approach is seen in at least two of the case study sites. The project is redefined (when compared with conventional Section 5311 funding) as a combination of a route segment that requires subsidy and a connecting unsubsidized service. The connecting unsubsidized service is valued in terms of the operating cost per mile for the connecting sched- ules, and this value is counted as match for the federal funds needed to subsidize operations of the other segment that has an operating deficit. The approach is described in detail in the FTA Circular.14 By making sure the connecting unsubsidized segment is long enough to produce the amount of in-kind match (valued in terms of the fully allocated cost per revenue mile) that is equivalent to the net operating deficit of the subsidized segment, it is often possible to obtain enough Sec- tion 5311(f) funding to cover the entire operating deficit of the subsidized segment. One condi- tion of this funding approach is that the carrier operating the subsidized service must obtain an agreement from the carrier operating the unsubsidized segment, designating the connecting services and providing a valuation of the unsubsidized revenue miles to be used as match. While there are several private intercity bus companies that are willing to provide the value of in-kind match for connecting services requiring subsidy, Greyhound Lines is the operator
Lessons LearnedâToolkit 125 with the unsubsidized service in most cases. Greyhound has several requirements for operators seeking to obtain in-kind miles, most of which are designed to facilitate connections between the services and generate feed traffic for the national network. Greyhound requests that the con- nections be in their terminals or at their stops (this may require a bus terminal agreement with Greyhound), that the services be scheduled within a 2-hour window of the connecting Grey- hound schedule(s), that the service operates daily at least 5 days per week, and that the operator of the subsidized service agrees to interline ticketing. The ability to use the in-kind match depends a great deal on being able to develop routes and schedules that meet regional needs and also provide connectivity to intercity bus services, which may not be possible in all cases. Flathead Transit Use of In-Kind Match The Flathead Transit service runs between Missoula and Whitefish, Montana, on a daily (7 days per week) round trip schedule. In Missoula, the Flathead Transit service stops at the Missoula Bus Station, which is the Greyhound stop. Greyhound contributes the value of the miles it operates on its connecting schedules from Missoula to Moses Lake, Washington. The 11:30 a.m. arrival of Flathead Transit in Missoula picks up inbound passengers from the 11:15 a.m. Greyhound arrival. ShuttleBus-Zoom Portland Intercity Route Use of In-Kind Match In Maine, ShuttleBus-Zoom is funded with Section 5311(f) operating assistance through the Maine DOT, with the local match provided with the value of unsub- sidized Greyhound service. The ShuttleBus-Zoom route connects with Greyhound in Portland. No local cash match is required for this service as a result of using the in-kind match. The six local trips are timed to serve Greyhound to permit passen- gers to transfer to and from the four daily schedules. CMAQ Program Another federal funding program used in a case study site is the CMAQ program. Originally authorized in 1991 and administered by the FHWA, the program was designed to support sur- face transportation projects that contribute to air quality improvements, provide for reduced traffic congestion, or both. The funding is provided to areas in nonattainment status with regard to ozone, carbon monoxide, and particulates. Even states that have no nonattainment or main- tenance areas receive a minimum apportionment. Under the CMAQ program, all operating costs of new transportation services can be funded with the non-federal share requirements appropriate to the FTA program. Recent changes in the program allow a new start to utilize CMAQ funding for operations for up to 5 years (an increase from the 3-year limitation previously in place). The third year of funding can now be spread over years 4 and 5 to taper to a source of ongoing support.15
126 Best Practices in Rural Regional Mobility VTrans Use of Flexible Funding VTrans uses CMAQ program funding to support transit operations for new, primarily regional routes. Vermont is an attainment area under the CMAQ program, providing the state with greater flexibility in using CMAQ funds for transit. The CMAQ operating funds are used to support new starts, which then have 3 years to achieve performance goals required to obtain continued support in the baseline transit program. In addition VTrans flexes Surface Transportation Program funding into the transit program for capital, administrative, and main- tenance expenses. The flexed funding has been a significant factor supporting the statewide development of regional services. State FundingâSpecial Programs Supporting Regional Organizations or Regional Service Several of the case study sites made use of state funding, but there were also specific examples of state programs that provided funding on a competitive basis for projects that had a regional focus. These programs were described in Lesson One: State Policies Can Make a Difference. Such programs may include funding for feasibility studies, planning, and technical assistance in support of developing regional entities and services; capital for vehicles to provide regional service; or funding for technology and marketing. In many cases, the states already provide funding that can be used for such purposes, but the state has not set aside any particular amount to support the goal of regional service. In the case of Wisconsin, the state supported the SMRT service by funding a feasibility study, and later provided capital for vehicles and ongoing operat- ing assistance, although there is no particular program supporting regional service. Other state programs with a particular regional focus include the Kansas DOT funding available under T-WORKS used by the Flint Hills ATA for regional services, and the Minnesota Transit for Our Future Initiative which has funded studies and technical assistance supporting the development of regional systems such as CCT and feasibility studies addressing the need for and feasibility of regional routes. Special Funding Sources At least two of the case study sites initiated service using funding sources quite different from those usually used for transitâEECBG funding from the U.S. DOE and CDBG funding from the U.S. HUD. These sources may not be available for other projects, but their use demonstrates that rural regional services may benefit from or require funding innovation, at least for part of the funding mix. Region XII COG Use of CDBG Funding This CDBG funding is a grant provided to the state by HUD and administered by the Iowa IEDA. Crawford County, Iowa, was awarded a Career Link transportation grant by the IEDA to fund a portion of operating expenses for rural regional
Lessons LearnedâToolkit 127 services linking Dennison, Iowa, to Harlan, Iowa, providing service to the Mono- gram Foods plant. The IEDA grant is paying 50% of the cost of service, Mono- gram Foods 37.5%, and fares are expected to cover 12.5%. There are eligibility requirements for this grant funding including income guidelines and residence in non-entitlement cities with populations under 50,000. Northwest Oregon Connector Alliance Use of EECBG Funding This consortium of five rural systems started the regional system with a grant from the U.S. DOEâs EECBG Program under the General Innovation Fund category. This provided funding for a consultant to assist in analysis of needs, service plan- ning, implementation of the regional concept, and development of a centralized website for public information and project coordination including development of a visitor pass program. The funding was also used for project management expenses, development of a brand, and marketing. The $3.5 million EECBG grant was supplemented by ODOT funding from the Section 5311(f) rural inter- city program for new routes and mobility management; Statewide Transporta- tion Improvement Program funding for improved stops, access, and shelters; and Section 5304 planning funds. The EECBG funding may represent a unique oppor- tunity because it was part of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and so is not an ongoing funding source. Medicaid NEMT At least one of the case studies, the SCCOG in Colorado, operates a regional service that is open to the general public but is using Medicaid NEMT funding for a substantial amount of support. In part, this is possible because the NEMT program in that location has a payment schedule for services for multiple riders on a multi-passenger vehicle that pays for client transportation on a multi-passenger vehicle by paying the full rate for the first client riding the longest distance, one- half of the rate for the client traveling the second farthest, and one-quarter of the rate for additional clients. The NEMT program benefits from having clients share the ride, and the transit provider has a major contribution to the expenses of the regional route. Long-distance medical transporta- tion needs are likely to be a major element of the need for rural regional services, whether or not funded by Medicaid. If Medicaid client trips are likely to be a significant part of the ridership, those designing the service should make an effort to work with the Medicaid program or broker to include them in the service design and funding mix. It is likely, however, that in many cases the Medicaid program will only pay the fares of clients who are using a general public service. PartnershipsâSponsorships from Local Businesses One part of the funding mix to consider is working with local business and community insti- tutions to obtain funding support as well as political support. It is unlikely that such sponsor- ships will generate enough funding to cover the entire local operating cost, or even the entire local share, but they have been used by at least one of the case study sites.
128 Best Practices in Rural Regional Mobility SMRT Local Sponsorships The SMRT service in southwestern Wisconsin has obtained support from a num- ber of local businesses and institutions, including the Organic Valley dairy com- pany, Dairyland Power Cooperative, Gundersen Health System, Vernon Memorial Healthcare, Crossing Rivers Health, and the Otto Bremer Foundation. In addition, the Ho-Chunk Nation tribal government provides funding through Vernon County. All of this sponsorship funding is combined with Section 5311 funding from the WisDOT and match from local governments to support the service. The system requests funding from each jurisdiction served; however, local contribu- tions are not required from each in order to obtain service. Combining Sources One last finding is that virtually all of the case studies involve a combination of funding sources, whether it be Section 5311 federal rural transit funding, Section 5311(f) rural intercity funding, private carrier in-kind match, CMAQ/Surface Transportation Program flexible fund- ing, economic development funding, energy funding, business and community sponsorships, local match, or dedicated tax revenue plus state/federal funding. In many cases, the role of the state transit program is crucial in making the federal funding available, assisting in finding other sources, or in providing state funds (or local taxing authority) in such a way that regional services can be implemented. Summary of Lessons Learned The following are the key takeaways from the lessons learned in this research: â¢ Lesson One: State Policies Can Make a Difference Effective approaches include the following: â Direct state provision of regional services â State programs providing demonstration or incentive funding â State legislation allowing local revenues â Section 5311(f) â Case-by-case support â¢ Lesson Two: Different Organizational Approaches Can Work Factors that determine appropriate approaches include the following: â Legal authority â Role of regional planning agencies â Need for regional input/oversight â Who operates the service â¢ Lesson Three: Local Champions Are Required They have an important multifaceted role and can be found in various organizations. â¢ Lesson Four: Needs of Multiple Markets Should Be Addressed â Sources of data can include the following: ï¿½ Planning for rural regional services ï¿½ Coordination planning process ï¿½ Statewide planning studies ï¿½ Other sources such as major employer requests, strategic surveys, and transit user requests â Consider the demand for individual markets
Lessons LearnedâToolkit 129 ï¿½ Employment trips ï¿½ Medical trips ï¿½ Education trips ï¿½ Intercity trips ï¿½ Other trips (e.g., retail, recreational) â Consider whether consulting assistance is appropriate â¢ Lesson Five: An Appropriate Service Design Will Attract More Riders â Schedule service to meet the needs of multiple markets. Core markets should include the following: ï¿½ Employment trips ï¿½ Medical trips ï¿½ Education trips ï¿½ Intercity trips â Minimize transfers with through-routing â Provide vehicle amenities (e.g., bike racks, baggage racks, Wi-Fi) â¢ Lesson Six: Connectivity and Providing Service Information Are Important These can be achieved through the following: â Spatial connections: shared stops, park and ride lots, and first-mile/last-mile deviations â Interline ticketing: single ticket to ride local transit connecting with intercity service â Marketing and service information: cross-marketing of connecting services, Google Transit maps â¢ Lesson Seven: Creative Funding May Be Needed Potential funding sources and approaches include the following: â Section 5311âformula grants for rural areas â Section 5311(f)âFTA Rural Intercity Bus Program â Section 5311(f) In-kind match â CMAQ program â State fundingâspecial programs supporting regional organizations or regional service â Special funding sources â Medicaid NEMT â Partnershipsâsponsorships from local businesses â Combining sources