Archives for National Bus Trader

Expanding the Mode Split Dividing Line, Part 1: Exponential Airline Industry Corruption

Modal competition has ebbed and flowed over the past 100 years. Until the recent incursion of transit network companies (TNCs), each mode managed to find its own niche, some overlaps notwithstanding. At its best, this mix sorted each mode into a role where it had its own defined ridership, and where the hierarchy of modes provided rational choices for many or most non-automobile travelers. Some modes (e.g., motorcoach, taxi and limousine service) required no subsidies, others (e.g., schoolbus service, NEMT service) operated completely with subsidies 1, and still others (e.g. transit and paratransit) operated mostly with subsidies. At the margins,

Defending Contractors, Part 6: Contracting Fixed Route Transit

The first five installments of this series prepared National Bus Trader readers for a large part of their future. Paying even marginal attention to national and global trends, the forces shaping this future should be clear: The rich are getting richer and the poor, poorer. Most of Today’s drivers — in all public transportation modes, public and private — are earning perhaps a fourth of what they did 40 years ago, in Today’s dollars. Transit ridership had been declining by roughly 10 percent nationally two years before the emergence of COVID-19. Studies show it has recovered to reach 35 percent

Defending Contractors, Part 4: Beware the Selection Process

As installments #1 through 3 of this series illustrated, contractors are often blamed for incidents where all or most of the negligence was committed by the parties which hired them. Where government subsidies support all or most transportation costs — like those for schoolbus, transit, paratransit, non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) or other non-emergency services — these funds can only flow to (or through) a public agency — usually referred to as the “lead agency.” That agency has three choices for providing the service: It can provide the service itself. It can engage a private contractor (or multiple contractors) to provide

Defending Contractors, Part 5: Lawyers and Carriers

Attorneys defending private contractors are stuck with many challenges. So too are their carriers. But both also have ample opportunities. Otherwise, contractors face numerous challenges — including the failures of their carriers and their attorneys: Half of all public transportation accidents are the result of vehicles running behind schedule – usually because the schedules are too tight. Yet contractors rarely make the schedules. Lead agencies (or in some sectors, brokers) do. (See https://transalt.com/article/tight-schedules-part-1-the-other-achilles-heel/ ; https://transalt.com/article/tight-schedules-part-3-fixed-route-transit-service-2/; https://transalt.com/article/tight-schedules-part-4-complementary-paratransit-service/, and https://transalt.com/article/tight-schedules-part-6-schoolbus-service/ among a sextet of installments in National Bus Trader (February – July, 2019). Contractors must sign operating agreements with their “lead” (or

Defending Contractors, Part 3: The Whistleblower’s Song

A few months ago, 85% of the nation’s motorcoach fleet lay around collecting dust. As noted in a former installment of National Bus Trader (see Motorcoach survival in the age of covid: the end of charter and tour service for now), the fat charter and tour sectors of yesteryear are gone – at least for some time. If ridership on the mode (transit) transporting our tired, poor and huddled masses has shrunk by 10 percent in each of the two years preceding COVID-19, one can expect far fewer motorcoach joyrides. As we struggle to bounce back, limited stimulus funds notwithstanding,

Defending Contractors, Part 2: The History of Contracting and Brokerage

In Part 1 of this series, I explained the relationships among operating companies, lead agencies and brokers. I began the discussion about how operating companies are victimized by lead agencies and brokers, whose ignorance and impunity often create operating environments which make it impossible to provide service safely or profitably. And I introduced the core goal of this series: How to defend operating companies from liability exposure related to incidents caused largely or solely by negligence committed by the lead agencies or brokers who “make the rules.” The rules matter. Most “lead” agencies (those public agencies which receive the funding)

What’s in Store for the Post-COVID Era Motorcoach Industry

As disturbing as recent USDOT appointments have been, I almost did not write this column. When the FMCSA administrator was nominated, I felt I had to. This is because the FMCSA regulates, governs and largely influences both the troubled motorcoach industry and vaccine distribution (at least those vaccines delivered by trucks). Given even the most conservative budgets currently being discussed (as of February 2, 2021), the potential waste in vaccine distribution is disturbing since it greatly exceeds what is needed to completely restore the motorcoach industry – including subsidies it may need for several years to get back on its tires. This article is not a partisan political criticism. I voted for neither recent candidate. I am

Defending Contractors, Part 1: Lead Agencies and Brokers

For decades, motorcoach providers have provided commuter-express service, under contract, to transit agencies (and, occasionally, to municipalities which do not even have formal transit agencies). Particularly in the past 20 years, this role has expanded: Motorcoach providers are increasingly providing service on local and regional routes, often with regular buses – not even motorcoaches. Similarly, many motorcoach companies also own schoolbuses, and provide schoolbus service, under contract, to school districts. For decades, roughly a third of all schoolbus service has been contracted out, and this percentage had remained surprisingly consistent. For the same reasons that contracted transit service has been

Motorcoach Survival in the Age of Covid-19, Part 3: The End of Charter and Tour Service – For Now

Over the years, I have predicted countless things in the pages of National Bus Trader. No reader will ever find me to have been wrong. Nor am I wrong about this: Some day, charter and tour service will come back stronger than ever. But that day is a long way off. The challenge is what to do in the meantime. Particularly from the Pandemic, America is in far deeper collapse than most people would have thought possible. Recent estimates have suggested that renters (and their families) of 20 million households could be evicted after the short-term bans on evictions expire.

Tight Schedules, Part 3: Fixed Route Transit Service

For reasons different than those of other modes, transit schedules are often tight. In many urban systems, all or most schedules are tight. When schedules are tight, drivers compromise passenger, pedestrian and motorist safety to comply with them. A number of common safety compromises are summarized below. A deeper treatment of those compromises typical of fixed route transit service may be found on safetycompromises.com., and in the 12 National Bus Trader articles published on this subject in September through December, 2017 and April through December, 2018 issues. That series was organized by type of safety compromise. This series, organized mode