Charter Bus Service:

Local Factors Determine Effectiveness of Federal Regulation

RCED-93-162: Published: Sep 7, 1993. Publicly Released: Sep 7, 1993.

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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO reviewed the impact of federal charter service regulation on public transit operators providing local charter bus service, focusing on: (1) whether the regulation allows communities to cost-effectively and efficiently meet local transportation needs; (2) the extent to which public transit operators and private charter operators have entered into charter service agreements; and (3) whether private operators profit from joint public-private charter service contracts.

GAO found that: (1) local conditions and demographics determine the extent that the federal charter regulation meets local charter transportation needs; (2) although some public operators are satisfied with charter regulation exceptions that allow them to provide charter bus service through private contracts, most public charter operators believe that the exceptions are too strict, difficult to obtain, and not widely used; (3) private operators believe that the current exceptions allow bus operators to adequately meet community needs; (4) there is a lack of data showing that charter service regulations cannot meet community needs; (5) dissatisfied charter bus customers believe that private charter rates are too high, charter vehicles are not accessible to the elderly and disabled, and charter services do not accommodate local conventions and economic development activities; (6) increased Federal Transit Administration (FTA) subsidies and greater cooperation between public and private operators could increase charter bus services; and (7) private operators do not extensively profit from public-private charter service contracts and often charge surcharges to cover administrative and licensing expenses.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FTA concurred with the recommendation to more clearly communicate to grant recipients the charter bus services they may provide. During FY 1994 and 1995, FTA is providing workshops to public transit authorities that receive FTA grants. The sessions provide information on how to use the exceptions to the regulations to meet the charter bus needs of their communities. In FY 1994, FTA held 4 regional workshops and it plans to continue the workshops in the remaining regions in FY 1994. FTA is also developing a workbook to explain charter regulation requirements--it plans to distribute the workbook to grant recipients in FY 1995.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, FTA, should seek ways to more clearly communicate to grant recipients the services that they may provide under the charter regulation. Specifically, FTA should communicate the processes for obtaining exceptions under the existing regulation directly to public operators, particularly those in rural areas.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation: Federal Transit Administration

 

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