Article 29


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)


Status

Originator Senior Center
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.

Backup Data


Greater Derry-Salem Regional Transit Initiative

 

Background

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.

Table 1 - Projected Funding Mix for Regional Brokerage and Service Expansion

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Year 1

Year 2

Year 3

 

 

 

2006

2007

2008

Federal Transit Administration

 

 

 $135,000

 $141,000

 $148,000

Endowment for Health

 

 

 $  96,000

 $  47,000

 $           -

Municipalities

 

 

 $  38,000

 $  94,000

 $148,000

Total

 

 

 $269,000

 $282,000

 $296,000

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every $1.00 from Municipalities Leverages an Additional

 $     5.00

 $     2.00

 $     1.00

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.


GREATER DERRY-SALEM REGIONAL TRANSIT INITIATIVE

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. Passage of HB568 Establishing Greater Derry-Salem CART

  2. Amending regional Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) to add project

  3. Securing MVRTA as Interim FTA funding recipient

  4. Working with MVRTA to develop FTA Grant Application

  5. Developing RFP for Broker Procurement Process

  6. Meeting with Provider agencies

  7. Securing remaining pilot funding from the Endowment for Health

1. Greater Derry-Salem Cooperative Alliance for Regional Transportation (CART)

Enabling legislation providing for the establishment of the Cooperative Alliance for Regional Transportation (CART) (HB568) was passed by the NH General Court in June 2005. The language of HB568, and the structure of CART, are adapted from legislation passed in 1985 establishing COAST, the transit agency serving the Seacoast region. The bill was cosponsored by Representatives Cooney (Salem) and Rausch (Derry); and Senators Morse (District 22, including Salem) and Letourneau (District 19, including Derry).

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 the transit coordination initiative and the development of a new regional public transportation system.

2. Amendment of Transportation Improvement Program (TIP)

Before an application for federal funding can be filed with FTA, the project needs to appear on the NH State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP). This is accomplished by amending one or more of the regional Transportation Improvement Programs (TIPs) maintained by the Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) representing communities in the region.

The TIP for the Salem-Plaistow-Windham MPO was formally amended as of September 16, 2005, following a 30 day public comment period during which information on the proposed addition of the transit project was included in the Eagle Tribune, Town Halls of all the communities in the MPO region, and Public Libraries in Salem and Plaistow. The SNHPC/Manchester MPO TIP was formally amended on November 22.

3. Securing Interim FTA Recipient

The Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority (MVRTA) has agreed to take on the role of interim FTA recipient. Difficulty securing an agency willing to take on this role has been the major delaying factor in moving forward with the brokerage for more than a year. Approaches were made to several in-state FTA recipient agencies, including Manchester Transit Authority, Nashua Transit System, COAST, and NHDOT, and none of those agencies felt they had the capacity to take on the role. Donna Tighe, Kit Morgan, and Scott Bogle met with Joe Costanzo, General Manager of MVRTA, in June, at which point he agreed to serve as interim recipient.

4. FTA Grant Application Process

Donna Tighe, Scott Bogle, and Cliff Sinnott met with Joe Costanzo from the Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority (MVRTA) in September to discuss the development of the FTA funding application, as well as how the CART Board will interact with Joe and MVRTA staff. The grant application has been submitted to FTA Region I in draft form initially for their comment. If FTA has questions on the project the responses to these will be incorporated into the application and re-filed in final form. From the filing of the final application the approval process takes approximately 60 days.

Based on conversations with MVRTA and NHDOT, one of the more cumbersome elements of this process can be securing a Labor Certification from the Department of Labor. Under federal law, if an FTA funded project causes a worker to lose his or her job, that worker is eligible for compensation. Essentially this process involves identifying any unionized transit workers in the region who could be adversely impacted by the project. If any unionized workers are identified, their unions are given a 15 day period to comment on a standard worker protection agreement used by FTA. Should the union contest the agreement, a more lengthy negotiation process can ensue, but the word we have received from initial consultations with FTA and Department of Labor staff is that the process should be relatively straightforward in this case.

5. Broker Contractor Procurement Process

While FTA and Department of Labor are processing the application, MVRTA and representatives of the CART Board will work in parallel in developing a Request for Proposals (RFP) for broker services, advertising, and selecting a contractor to provide the brokerage service. MVRTA has provided the RTC with a sample RFP for contracted services.

This template RFP is being amended with specifics on the Derry-Salem project, including the scope of services to be provided by the broker, the relationships among the Broker, MVRTA, and the CART Board, selection criteria, etc.

6. Meetings with Providers & Revising MOUs

Staff from the RTC and in some cases the RPC have met with most of the likely provider agencies over the past several months. At this point the Center for Life Management, Lamprey Health Care, the Rockingham Nutrition Meals on Wheels Program, and Granite State Independent Living continue to express a commitment to participate, in addition to the RTC. A number of other agencies have expressed renewed interest in participation, whether in allowing use of vehicles during otherwise idle periods, or picking up individual trips as schedules allow.

7. Balance of Endowment for Health Pilot Funding Secured

The two remaining years of start-up funding from the Endowment for Health were secured through a successful grant application during the Spring of 2005. RTC and RPC have been working on the interim progress report for the Endowment. This includes developing progress statements on each of the relevant tasks within the work plan, narrative responses to a number of questions on how the project is progressing, and a financial progress report.

NEXT STEPS

A number of key steps remain in order to implement the proposed transit service. These include:

     Formalize representation on the CART Board (November-December 2005) - Each community committing funds to the initiative is entitled to one or more representatives on the CART Board of Directors, which will work with the MVRTA and the broker contractor to steer the project and develop the regional system. Municipal representatives should both represent their community to ensure that its needs are met through the system, and take an active role in helping to build support for the system. Formal letters of request to boards of selectmen and town councils asking that representatives be appointed were distributed in early November.

An organizational meeting of the full Board, with all municipal representatives as well as representatives from NHDOT, regional planning commissions, and participating provider agencies will be held in mid December. The process of electing officers, formalizing executive committee, and adopting bylaws will continue at the January meeting.

       Municipal meetings (November-December 2005) - Presentations and/or informal meetings are being scheduled over the coming weeks for those municipalities that did not commit funds for 2005. Either formal presentations to selectmen and town councils, or meetings with town staff (or both) also need to be scheduled for communities that did commit funding, to update them on progress with the project and current implementation timeline.

       Procurement process to secure Broker Contractor (December 2005-February 2006) - Development of the Request for Proposals (RFP) is underway in November and early December, such that the RFP may be released in mid December. There will be an opportunity for pre-bid meetings with potential bidders. Given the somewhat unusual structure of the proposed system, and the fact that the holidays fall in the middle of the advertising period, some additional time will need to be allowed in the solicitation process. We would anticipate a due date for proposals of late January or possibly early February. A contract cannot be signed until FTA funds are formally approved, likely in that same timeframe.

       Encumber FTA funding (January-February 2006) - Given the minimum 60 day turnaround on FTA funding, approval of the FTA grant will likely not happen until late January or perhaps February. The timeline for grant approval will depend on whether labor certifications take longer than expected, though the feedback we have received from FTA and DOL is that given the details of this project it should be a straightforward process. While the grant application has been submitted by MVRTA to FTA for pre-review, the formal review period (including the Labor Certification process), as we understand it, does not start until a transportation appropriations bill for FY 2006 has been passed and signed. Congress passed an appropriations bill on November 18, which was signed by the President on November 30.

       Finalize Operating Agreements with provider agencies (December 2005-February 2006) - A formal Memorandum of Understanding will need to be completed between each participating provider agency, the broker contractor, and CART. A draft of this MOU has been developed and shared with provider agencies, but details regarding the terms of participation for each agency will need to be added and formalized once the broker contractor is on board. A second MOU needs to be developed formalizing the relationship between CART and MVRTA.

       Begin operations of Brokerage Call Center (Likely Late March 2006)