CAPE TRANSIT OFFICIALS SEES WAY TO TURN RIDER DATA INTO $$$
By Andy Metzger
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, MAY 21, 2018.....The head of Cape Cod's public transit service has found a way to tap into additional federal funds and now he says he needs cooperation from lawmakers as well as private transportation operators to access it.
The Federal Transit Administration provides formula funding for transit in areas around the country, and the more ridership data provided to the federal government, the more federal funds the area receives, according to Thomas Cahir, administrator of the Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority (CCRTA).
Cahir wants to incentivize private ferries to share data with his organization so that the ridership figures can be sent to the federal government. Under his proposal, around 25 percent of the increase in federal funding would be sent to those private transportation operators with the other federal funds paying for public transit. Lawmakers would need to pass a bill to facilitate that arrangement, Cahir told the Transportation Committee on Monday.
Under a bill filed by Provincetown Rep. Sarah Peake, CCRTA and the Southeastern Regional Transit Authority (SRTA) could launch pilot programs aimed at generating more federal dollars by providing more ridership data from private bus and ferry companies.
"I'm trying to anticipate anybody who would be opposed to this," Cahir told the committee. He estimated the arrangement would generate at least $1.5 million on the Cape.
The bill (H 4468) would create a federal transit funding maximization fund, and Peake said the federal money would be routed through the Commonwealth Transportation Fund before reaching the private companies.
CCRTA has a budget of around $26 million, with the federal government paying for about half of that, according to Cahir. Local assessments and fares also help make up the regional transit authority's budget and the state contributes about $4 million, according to Cahir.
Some supporters of RTAs have warned that financial assistance to the transit agencies is lacking. The House's fiscal 2019 budget would provide $82 million to the RTAs around the state.
"This is a new revenue source," said Cahir.
The money generated for the RTAs could be used on improvements that would also benefit the private transportation operators such as more reliable bus service that meets ferries pulling into Provincetown Harbor, Peake suggested.
"That's good for the ferry company because it makes it more attractive for people to ride it. It's great for people on the Cape because it makes the bus transportation system more robust, and it's great for these guys because they're able to offer options," Peake told the News Service.
Rep. William Straus, a Mattapoisett Democrat who is House chairman of the Transportation Committee, said Cahir's proposal is an example of why the state supports independent regional transit authorities.
"We have these little laboratories out there running public transit services," said Straus, whose district is served by SRTA.
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