UPDATE: A week later, Caltrans changed its tune. On June 26, the agency wrote another letter stating that it no longer supports the proposed federal restrictions.
Remember the proposed change in federal transportation rules that could make it illegal for AC Transit and other bus agencies to provide special routes to schools? A change apparently designed to benefit private, “yellow school bus” companies?
Our transportation reporter, Erik Nelson, has learned that the California Department of Transportation thinks it’s a good idea. Caltrans submitted this comment yesterday, to the dismay of local public transit and school officials.
Why would Caltrans take such a position, when so many school districts rely on public transit agencies to schlep their students to and from school? I don’t believe Nelson got a response from Caltrans today, so we don’t have an official explanation, aside from the comment submitted to the feds.
But local transit officials suspect it’s because, as a state agency, Caltrans is expected to back the governor’s transportation policies. They note that Schwarzenegger wants to put tax proceeds earmarked for public transportation into a fund for “home-to-school transportation” — a.k.a. yellow bus service.
Read the full story, by Nelson, in tomorrow’s paper.
On a community empowerment note: The chief counsel for the American Public Transportation Association, which represents AC Transit, told Nelson today that an unusually high number of public comments on the issue were submitted by ordinary citizens — many, from Oakland.
(Here is the letter the Oakland school district submitted today to the Federal Transit Administration, arguing against the proposal.)
The public comment period for this issue officially expired Wednesday, but (since Caltrans and OUSD wrote in after the deadline) I believe you can still submit your position online with the Federal Transit Administration at: http://www.regulations.gov, or fax it to: 202-493-2251. The proposal is listed under Docket No. FTA-2008-0015.
photo by Alex Molloy, Tribune staff