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Why, That Sounds Like a Terrible Idea

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This sounds like an incredibly bad idea:

People who normally use Metro Transit’s [the Seattle bus system-ed] special service to get to ball games, community festivals, and other special events should be aware that new Federal Transit Administration (FTA) rules could significantly restrict Metro’s ability to provide this service.

These changes in federal regulations limit Metro’s ability to offer the special event service as it has in the past. Since these rules are so new, the effect they have on each of the events Metro has been serving is not yet known.

This new federal rule redefines “charter service” to potentially include the service that Metro has been offering to sports venues – such as Emerald Downs, Husky Stadium, Safeco Field and Qwest Field. It could also affect special service to local community fairs and events. This includes large-scale events such as the Folklife Festival, Seafair hydro races, Bumbershoot, and the Northwest Flower and Garden Show; and smaller celebrations such as the Bellevue Strawberry Festival and Redmond Derby Days.

If Metro service for an event falls under the new definition of charter service, the agency must first contact private charter firms registered with the FTA to see if any are interested in providing the service. If any firms indicate they are interested, Metro will be precluded from providing the service and the private operators will be given the opportunity to negotiate with the event sponsor for the transportation service.

If no private company is willing and able to provide the transportation service, Metro may be able to continue its special service to the venue.

Metro has been working closely with the FTA and event organizers to understand and clarify the rule requirements, and has received an exemption from the FTA to continue operating service to Mariners games at Safeco until June 30. More information about these rules and the impact on Metro service will be provided as it becomes available.

This is the first time I’ve heard of this; since it’s a new FTA policy, I assume that it has to affect cities other than Seattle. Unless I’m missing something important, the idiocy of this policy is matched only by its chutzpah; the FTA is so certain that government can’t compete with private industry that it will prohibit government from competing with private industry.

Does anyone have a better idea of what’s going on here, or examples from other cities?

…and this is reassuring:

While FTA accepts submissions from private charter operators and qualified human service organizations, FTA does not verify the accuracy of the information submitted. Members of the public using this site should contact the private charter operators directly for more information regarding their services.

Ah! So at least the FTA is explicit about its inability to verify anything that private charter companies tell it; that’s terribly comforting. So if I understand this correctly, “Big Steve’s Big Charters” can register, and thereby preclude Metro from providing service, without anyone knowing or asking whether Big Steve is operating anything more than a 1975 Chevy Scottsdale.

This, dear readers, is what we call a victory for federalism. Thank God that localities can no longer make decisions on how to allocate their transit service.

…ooh, and here’s the registration form. I’m sure they’ll check to make sure that I actually have sixty vans…

…and here’s a Washington Post story on the effects of the policy in DC. HT Woodrowfan.

Via DMZ.

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