For many decades, whenever public transit managers or boards talked about their “partners,” it was almost always in reference to their state Department of Transportation and the federal government. After all, those two partners provided the majority of capital funds necessary to purchase new vehicles, build new facilities, and often, helped to pay for the operating costs of the transit system. State and federal agencies continue to be the most prominent partners of most local transit agencies. However, the list of entities that help support local transit systems has exploded over the past 10 years.
As funding from state and federal agencies continues to be more difficult to secure, local transit systems have found a variety of new partners that not only help pay for new hours of service, but can also provide opportunities for transit agencies to restructure service in parts of the community. These partnerships can also result in improving the transit agency’s image and relevance in a community, and result in improved quality of service for passengers.
Military, city agreements
There are many examples of public sector partners. For example, the Presidio military training facility, in Monterey, Calif., has an agreement for transit service with the Monterey-Salinas Transit agency (MTS). This service is intended to meet the transportation needs of students, faculty and staff of the Presidio to commute to work from the communities on the Monterey Peninsula, Salinas and San Jose on weekdays. The service, which includes 12 new or redesigned commuter routes, is fully integrated with existing bus service, operates on fixed schedules and utilizes established bus stops. The military base was becoming overwhelmed with private vehicles, and with security concerns becoming more prominent, the Presidio leaders wanted to find transportation alternatives for those who worked at the base. While the transit service funded through the agreement is intended to primarily address the needs of the personnel on the military training base, it is open to the public as well. The Presidio pays the full hourly costs associated with this service, which amounts to over $1.5 million annually. The new military commuter services are fully paid for by the Federal Transit Benefit/Transportation Incentive Program established by Executive Order 13150 through the U.S. Department of Transportation, which is being used by approximately 1,000 military base personnel.
Florida’s Broward County Transit (BCT) has reached agreements with 20 of the 30 cities in the county, which has resulted in BCT being able to minimize meandering routes that serve condominiums and other facilities that are off the transit system’s grid network. BCT leases (for $1 a year) minibuses to the cities and provides technical assistance in terms of scheduling, while the cities operate the minibuses with their own personnel or through contracts that the cities manage. This has allowed BCT routes to stay on the major roads, providing faster and more direct service throughout the county that helps to build ridership. The cities pro-vide more customized services in their communities that allow people to go to the front door of shopping centers or condominiums. BCT also provides approximately half the operating cost for the city circulators, which ends up being 75% less than the amount it would cost BCT to provide the service itself. All city circulators are required to connect with BCT routes at the nearest transfer center. Hence, the city circulators also serve as feeders to, and distributors from, the county system, thereby increasing mobility and transit ridership and minimizing the first mile-last mile challenge many transit passengers face. The city circulators also help reduce the cost of paratransit service since the circulators can often accommodate the needs of people with disabilities.