Shall the Town vote to raise and appropriate the sum of $3,500 as a one year trial where Pelham contributes to the Greater Derry- Salem Regional Transit Initiative, a ten-town regional pilot program which will expand and coordinate transit service to provide rides for senior citizens, people with disabilities, and the general public? (Recommended by Selectmen) (Not Recommended by Budget Committee)
|Board of Selectmen||5-0-0|
|Budget Committee||1-6-0 (Gleason -yes)|
|Town Meeting||no changes made during the Deliberative session|
Voter's Guide Explanation
|This warrant proposes to join the Greater Derry-Salem Regional Transit initiative (HB568). The Year 1 contribution is $3,500 that will allow Pelham to participate in the pilot initiative to provide additional service to Pelham Senior Citizens, people with disabilities, and general public. There is no obligation to continue participation after Year 1 if the initiative is found to be under utilized. If the program is found to be beneficial, the Town has the option to continue at an increased contribution that would scale to approximately $11,600 in Year 3.|
Improved access to public transportation has repeatedly been identified in regional needs assessments as a critical need for the Greater Derry-Salem area, but the region remains the only urbanized area in New Hampshire that lacks regular bus service. Public transportation provides access to health care and basic life needs for many of the state's seniors, and can be the difference between living independently and moving into a nursing home. Transit also provides access to employment for many in the working population, and can mean the difference between gainful employment and needing welfare assistance.
Ten towns in the region already support the van operated by the Greater Derry Greater Salem Regional Transportation Council (RTC) as a means of beginning to address this need, but the RTC van is just that - a beginning. The Greater Derry-Salem Regional Transit Study, conducted in 2002 by three Regional Planning Commissions with participation from more than 30 health and human service agencies and municipal representatives, found that the approximately 20 human service agencies that operate vehicles in the region together still meet less than half of the need for elderly and disabled transportation - and this doesn't account for employment transportation.
The Regional Transit Plan called for a two part approach to improving transit service in the region, through a combination of coordination and expansion of existing demand response transportation services; and development of standard fixed route public transportation service in areas with adequate population to support it. The entire Greater Derry-Salem Regional Transit Plan can be viewed at: http://www.rpc-nh.org/gdgs-Transit.htm
Coordinate Existing Service through a Regional Transit Brokerage
Regional transit brokerages are one of the solutions being implemented around the country to improve access to transportation services for elderly, disabled, and other transit dependent citizens. In a brokerage system, the broker serves as the single point of contact where individuals needing rides can call. The broker coordinates scheduling for multiple agency vehicles that operate in the region, and assigns the ride to the most appropriate vehicle based on cost, geography, and other factors. Brokerage systems eliminate duplication of administration while maximizing productivity, allowing expansion of service to meet a critical need while holding the line on costs. Coordination also helps to ensure a consistently high level of service and safety among the various agencies serving the region. For this reason, the Bush Administration's United We Ride initiative is promoting the use of coordination as a way to meet increasing need for transportation services for elderly and disabled residents.
In addition to establishing a brokerage, the Regional Transit Study identified other ways in which existing resources can be used more effectively to serve the residents of the region. One of these approaches is to secure funding for driver time to fully utilize vehicles already owned by agencies in the region, but which sit idle much of the time for lack of staff time to drive them.
Establish Fixed Route Bus Service
The Regional Transit Plan also called for eventual establishment of fixed route bus service in parts of the region where there is adequate population density to support it. The analysis conducted as part of the planning process identified a regular bus route between Derry and Salem, with in-town circulator service in each town, as the most promising route. This service could eventually be extended north to Manchester (via Londonderry), and south to Methuen. The Town of Salem recently received federal Congestion Mitigation Air Quality (CMAQ) funding to establish the first phase of the service between Derry and Salem, though actual start of service remains at least a year away. This bus service will be targeted to employment transportation.
Form a Regional Transit Alliance to Receive Federal Transit Funds
One of the keys to funding improved public transportation services is securing Federal Transit Administration (FTA) dollars to augment existing funds. Currently much of the FTA funding received by the state of NH based on need in this region is going unused in the region for lack of a regional entity that can serve as the recipient of those funds. Up to $500,000 in FTA funding is potentially available to the region annually, but cannot be accessed because we have no designated recipient for these funds. Up to this point the region has also lacked the non-federal matching funding necessary to access the federal dollars.
The long-term goal identified in the Regional Transit Plan is to establish a new regional transit alliance similar to COAST, the transit agency that serves the Seacoast. Enabling legislation providing for the establishment of such an agency, the Cooperative Alliance for Regional Transportation (CART) (HB568) was passed by the NH General Court in June 2005. Once fully certified by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), CART will become eligible to directly receive federal transit funding, and will become the regional transit agency for the 11-town Greater Derry-Salem region. While the process of certification with the FTA is underway, initial steps to form CART as an organization are underway, beginning with development of a Board of Directors. During this interim period of 24 months, the Regional Transit Coordination Initiative is being launched through a cooperative agreement with the Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority (MVRTA). The CART Board will work with MVRTA to guide the transit coordination initiative and the development of a new regional public transportation system.
Secure Municipal Support to Ensure Long Term Stability of Transit System
The RTC secured a pilot grant of $90,000 from the Endowment for Health to establish a pilot regional brokerage project. The project includes operation of the brokerage itself, and additional operation funding to activate approximately 90 hours/week of idle van time identified through the Transit Study. The $90,000 forms only part of the project budget, and must be matched dollar for dollar with funds from FTA, municipalities, and other sources to cover the total project cost of approximately $269,000/year in Year 1, increasing to a projected $296,000 by year three. A supplemental grant from the Endowment was secured in 2005 to allow a three year ramp-up period for municipal funding for the project, but the end of which municipal dollars can provide the full non-federal match for FTA dollars needed to underwrite the cost of the brokerage call center and operating expenses to activate the 90 hours/week of idle vehicle time. This transition is shown in Table 1.
A formula has been developed to equitably distribute the non-FTA costs of the system among the municipalities that will benefit from it. The formula is based on five factors: 1) total population; 2) elderly (65+) population; 3) disabled population; 4) low-income population; and 5) municipal tax base. This approach aims to ensure that town contributions reflect the level of service received. Under this formula Pelham's share of total municipal matching dollars would be approximately 7.8%. This would mean an initial funding request of approximately $3,500 for 2006, increasing to $11,600 by the third year of the pilot project once municipal funding has fully replaced Endowment startup funding.
While municipal budgets are always tight, it is only with ongoing municipal commitment that the region can build a stable public transportation system meeting the needs of residents. We fully expect that this regional public transportation brokerage will ultimately save more money than it costs in several ways, including making more efficient use of existing public investments in transportation; leveraging additional federal dollars; and offsetting growing costs for health care and other services.
In addition to meeting critical needs and improving quality of life for the senior populations in our communities, funds spent on transit offset the need down the road to spend greater amounts of public funding on emergency medical treatment, long term nursing home care, welfare services, and other programs.
Municipal dollar can be used to match FTA funds. Some non-federal funding currently invested in transportation by other transportation service providers in the region is now also eligible as match to leverage additional FTA dollars to expand service in Pelham and the broader the region under a coordinated system.
In the absence of municipal support, the region leaves hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal funding on the table when it could be meeting critical needs for transit dependent populations. While the proposed project is only a first step, support for the coordination effort sets the stage for an effective regional system by improving efficiency in scheduling rides, fully utilizing the existing vehicles in the region, and gaining access to currently untapped sources of funding.
Project Update & Next Steps - November 2005
The Greater Derry-Salem Regional Transit Initiative is designed to expand access to transportation in the eleven town Greater Derry-Salem region. The two key elements of the project are to: 1) coordinate the efforts of a range of existing agencies providing van service to senior citizens, people with disabilities, and others in need of transportation in the region; and 2) expand the level of service available by leveraging federal transit funds available to the region which have not been tapped previously. The proposed coordination will happen through a regional brokerage system that will improve the efficiency of existing transportation services by centralizing scheduling and dispatching of vehicles.
Work on the Greater Derry-Salem Regional Transit Initiative since passage of municipal funding measures in Spring 2005:
1. Greater Derry-Salem Cooperative Alliance for Regional Transportation (CART)
2. Amendment of Transportation Improvement Program (TIP)
3. Securing Interim FTA Recipient
4. FTA Grant Application Process
5. Broker Contractor Procurement Process
6. Meetings with Providers & Revising MOUs
7. Balance of Endowment for Health Pilot Funding Secured
A number of key steps remain in order to implement the proposed transit service. These include: