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75–400 PS











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SEPTEMBER 26, 2001

Printed for the use of the

Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure


DON YOUNG, Alaska, Chairman

THOMAS E. PETRI, Wisconsin, Vice-Chair
HOWARD COBLE, North Carolina
JOHN J. DUNCAN, Jr., Tennessee
STEPHEN HORN, California
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JOHN L. MICA, Florida
SUE W. KELLY, New York
JOHN R. THUNE, South Dakota
RICHARD W. POMBO, California
JIM DeMINT, South Carolina
ROBIN HAYES, North Carolina
ROB SIMMONS, Connecticut
HENRY E. BROWN, Jr., South Carolina
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SAM GRAVES, Missouri
MARK R. KENNEDY, Minnesota
BILL SHUSTER, Pennsylvania

NICK J. RAHALL II, West Virginia
ROBERT A. BORSKI, Pennsylvania
BOB CLEMENT, Tennessee
ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON, District of Columbia
BOB FILNER, California
FRANK MASCARA, Pennsylvania
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GENE TAYLOR, Mississippi
BILL PASCRELL, Jr., New Jersey
JAMES P. McGOVERN, Massachusetts
TIM HOLDEN, Pennsylvania
BRIAN BAIRD, Washington
MICHAEL M. HONDA, California
RICK LARSEN, Washington



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Subcommittee on Highways and Transit

THOMAS E. PETRI, Wisconsin, Chairman

HOWARD COBLE, North Carolina
JOHN J. DUNCAN, Jr., Tennessee
JOHN L. MICA, Florida
SUE W. KELLY, New York
JOHN R. THUNE, South Dakota
RICHARD W. POMBO, California
JIM DeMINT, South Carolina
ROBIN HAYES, North Carolina
ROB SIMMONS, Connecticut
HENRY E. BROWN, Jr., South Carolina
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SAM GRAVES, Missouri
BILL SHUSTER, Pennsylvania
  (ex officio)

ROBERT A. BORSKI, Pennsylvania
NICK J. RAHALL II, West Virginia
BOB FILNER, California
FRANK MASCARA, Pennsylvania
BILL PASCRELL, Jr., New Jersey
TIM HOLDEN, Pennsylvania
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MICHAEL M. HONDA, California
RICK LARSEN, Washington
BOB CLEMENT, Tennessee
JAMES P.McGOVERN, Massachusetts
BRIAN BAIRD, Washington
  (ex officio)



     Dorn, Hon. Jennifer L., Administrator, Federal Transit Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation
    Feasel, Darrel, Small Urban and Rural Section Manager, Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation

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     Marsico, Dale, Executive Director, Community Transportation Association of America
     Millar, William, President, American Public Transportation Association


    Larsen, Hon. Rick, of Washington
    Oberstar, Hon. James L., of Minnesota


     Dorn, Hon. Jennifer L
    Feasel, Darrel

     Marsico, Dale
     Millar, William


Dorn, Hon. Jennifer L., Administrator, Federal Transit Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation:

Responses to questions
Program requirements for FTA grantees

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     Millar, William, President, American Public Transportation Association, responses to questions


Wednesday, September 26, 2001
House of Representatives, Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, Washington, D.C.

    The subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 10:00 a.m. in room 2167, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Thomas E. Petri [chairman of the subcommittee] presiding.

    Mr. PETRI. The Subcommittee will come to order.
    The topic of this morning's hearing may seem, in light of the all too recent terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon, to be mundane. But I cannot argue that on a list of national priorities, easing regulations, burdens that inhibit the delivery of transit services to passengers is a matter of the highest national priority at this particular time.
    However, I can assure that security is very much on the minds of this Subcommittee. I have asked our staff to look closely at possible vulnerabilities in the Nation's transportation infrastructure system that falls under our jurisdiction. In fact, Subcommittee staff are meeting over the next week with transit security officials in order to prepare a member level briefing on the issue of security in transit systems.
    However, as we remain watchful, and as we do all that we can do to ensure the safety of the traveling public, we must also move forward to regular business. To do otherwise would obviously be to cede victory to those who want nothing more than to immobilize us with fear and dread. This Committee is committed to pursuing and implementing improved delivery of transportation projects and services to American travelers across all the modes, transit, highway and airports. Today's hearing will assist in this effort by exploring potential solutions to widely perceived problem areas in transit grant processing and program delivery.
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    To do this, we'll identify both legal and regulatory requirements that may in some instances unnecessarily complicate and delay the delivery of transit services to communities and to the passengers in those communities who depend upon transit. After we identify problem areas, we'll hopefully develop potential solutions and we'll determine whether those solutions can be implemented administratively or whether they will require legislation.
    This is our first hearing with the new Federal Transit Administrator, Ms. Jenna Dorn. And she is no stranger to the Department of Transportation, having worked in the Office of the Secretary in the previous Bush Administration. She's bringing a strong professional background and high degree of enthusiasm to her leadership role in the Department, and I know that we welcome her and look forward to working with her over the coming years. Welcome
    Our second panel of witnesses represents transit providers of all types and services. Bill Millar, President of the American Public Transportation Association; Dale Marsico, President of Community Transportation Association of America, which represents small and medium size transit systems; and our final witness is with the Virginia Department of Transportation, Darrel Feasel, and he heads up that State's Small Urban and Rural Transit Programs.
    This is the Highway and Transit Subcommittee's first hearing this year to focus specifically on transit. I'm sure that there will be many more in preparation for reauthorization of TEA-21. Specifically, I'm interested in reviewing the structure and policies of Federal transit programs in exploring promising new developments in intelligent transportation systems as they apply to transportation services and in hearing how the guaranteed transit funding provided in TEA-21 has contributed to our country's economic vitality.
    In talking to FTA, transit organizations and agencies, and State DOT officials, it's become evident that rural transit providers encounter more difficulties meeting the myriad regulatory requirements that are placed on Federal transit funds. We must ask ourselves if it really makes sense for all transit providers, regardless of size, to have to face the same paperwork burdens and regulatory hurdles.
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    The Subcommittee's Ranking Member, Mr. Borski, was unable to stay in Washington this morning to attend this hearing and he has arranged for a colleague from California, Mr. Robert Filner, to serve as ranking member. And I would now turn to you for your opening statement.
    Mr. FILNER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank you for scheduling this hearing to improve delivery of transit services.
    I know my colleague, Mr. Oberstar, has some questions about the title of the hearing, but I'll let him speak for himself on that. He raises an important issue that we need to get to.
    There may be many opportunities to improve implementation and administration of transit programs to enhance and expedite delivery of our transit services. One example, in fact, was exhibited through a series of seminars on the Job Access program conducted by the FTA. The seminars provided technical assistance to grant recipients as to how to satisfy those grant requirements.
    There are also legislative requirements that may impede the delivery of transit services. The Department of HHS, for example, and the Department of Labor both provide transportation services for welfare to work recipients and low income individuals. But the legislative requirements for implementing them vary considerably. So our task today is to improve the delivery of transit services through a review of the impediments to many programs.
    As the economy slows, certainly the challenge to improve the delivery of these services becomes even more critical. The efficient movement of passengers in the most energy efficient and cost effective manner will help maintain our economic stability.
    When we had the national crisis on September 11th, transit was very important. Here in Washington, for example, transit services provided the means for thousands of workers to evacuate the city within a very short time period. We note, of course, in recent days, how the ridership has increased in both commuter rail and local transit systems.
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    So Mr. Chairman, as the Subcommittee considers ways to improve the delivery of transit services, let us consider the elimination of any unnecessary impediments, but let us not sacrifice important policy objectives in that process.
    So I look forward to the panels and their recommendations today.
    Mr. PETRI. Thank you.
    A statement by the Chairman of the full Committee, Mr. Young of Alaska, will be made a part of the record and submitted.
    I now turn to the dean of the Subcommittee, Mr. Oberstar.
    Mr. OBERSTAR. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you for calling the hearing, recognizing the need of the Subcommittee and the full Committee to address matters of concern for transit. I also want to welcome Jenna Dorn to the position of Administrator of FTA. Thank you for the visit the other day. She brings extraordinary energy and enthusiasm and vigor to the position. It's good to see someone who promises to be a real advocate, an enthusiastic one, for transit.
    But I'm concerned, and I have to say this, I'm really sorry that I have to raise this issue once again in this Committee, the title chosen is Improving the Delivery of Transit Services by Easing Regulatory Burdens. In the past, we've always had neutral titles for Committee hearings, to at least suggest the neutrality of the hearing and the purpose of receiving information and evaluating it and applying it to the subject at hand.
    The use of the term regulatory burden suggests that regulations do nothing but slow down process, impose costs, get in the way. Regulations do a whole lot more. There are some that are troublesome. But they ensure that workers are treated fairly. They prevent or at least protect against racial discrimination. Other regulations protect our environment.
    Others, still, improve the delivery of transit services. Drug and alcohol testing, required by regulation, are intended to ensure that the public gets safe service.
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    In other cases, regulations may indeed be poorly designed. They don't meet the objective. And it's our role and our responsibility as guardian of the public trust to hold hearings, point those issues up, get the agencies to fix the problem after we've heard the evidence. We should not in advance conclude that regulations as such are burdens.
    Now, we did, at a staff level when this matter was first brought to my attention, raise that concern. And our suggestions for changing the slogan were rejected. I just want to point out that in my view, labeling that becomes one-sided tends to prejudice the outcome.
    We had this issue, and we confronted this issue the first time in 1995, the first year of the Republican majority, in a hearing in the Aviation Subcommittee. The title of the hearing was, Denver Airport: What Went Wrong? In fact, as the hearing showed, not a hell of a lot. Most of the issues that tended to be raised turned out be red herrings.
    And I pointed out to the Subcommittee and the full Committee Chairman that we ought not to be labeling hearings, because you might wind up with a hearing on your face. And that was the case. I hope you go back to the bipartisan approach that has accomplished so much for this full Committee and its subcommittees in the future.
    Now, the issues raised in the briefing memorandum sent to members, and I spent some time last night reading it, I agree that companies and properties generally should not have to comply with more than one set of regulations. That's frustrating, especially regulations that address the same purpose but from different jurisdictions.
    The policy question for us is, which regulations should apply. Some rationalization of requirements may indeed well be warranted. The hearing, I hope, will shed some light on that issue. In the case of safety regulations, applicants have to be prepared to accept solutions that do not diminish the level of safety.
    DOT has set requirements for random drug and alcohol testing that apply to all DOT agencies. They're based on average compliance rates for industry sectors as a whole, not upon performance of individual companies or properties, though may sectors would like to have waivers for drugs and alcohol, and I've seen their lobbyists come through my door. And I've sent them back out with the same message, don't talk to me about that issue. We should be very cautious about waiving standards that relate to safety that are so important as these.
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    I'm also concerned about suggestions that would give FTA broad authority to waive statutory requirements, statutory requirements, in granting exemptions to regulations. Why should Congress pass a law if the agency can simply waive it? If you want the law changed, you come back to Congress to change it. We should never abdicate that responsibility.
    There have also been suggestions to change conditions that apply to discretionary bus grants based upon who the recipient is, rather than what program the funds come from. We have to be careful that requirements that serve important public policy objectives set by the Congress not be set aside. We do have to have a full accounting.
    Now, I do appreciate, Mr. Chairman, your action in recognizing the need to improve coordination between transit services funded through FTA and Human services transportation through the Department of Health and Human Services. They often do not complement each other or work together with one another because there is no coordination.
    And this disturbs me greatly, because back in 1985 and 1986, 1987, first Newt Gingrich and then our former colleague, Bill Clinger, and I held hearings on this very subject. And we found there were 135 Federal Government agencies that had transportation funding authority, and they weren't coordinating with each other, they weren't talking to each other, HHS, DOT, Labor, simply were going off and doing different things. They were all providing $800 million in Federal funds to move people for various purposes, but they weren't talking to each other.
    The outcome of our hearing was that the three departments came and said, we are proposing a coordinating council. We will meet weekly at first and monthly later, and eliminate this duplication, overlapping and lack of coordination. Now, if that's still the case, if you're still having a lack of coordination, then this hearing should ferret that out.
    The GAO report says that Health and Human Services spent $2 billion to $3 billion in 1998 on transportation programs. They're not even a transportation agency, but they do engage in a lot of activities that provide transportation services. Now, that's $2 billion to $3 billion on top of the nearly $6 billion that FTA spent. There ought to be coordination. There ought to be communication among the agencies. That goes back to the previous Administration, the Clinton Administration. They did something wrong, we ought to fix it to get back to this coordination.
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    So with those cautionary statements, I welcome this hearing. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I know under your judicious leadership, we'll have a very good hearing.
    Mr. PETRI. Thank you, and I appreciate your frank explanation of your concerns about this. The difference really was that we think regulations may be a burden and many burdens are justified. It's not to prejudge that, but just to say that there is a cost in regulation and we should be looking forward to making it as user friendly as possible, while getting the purpose of the regulation accomplished. We did, in surveying transit and so on, determined that many of them are concerned about duplicative regulation, as one example. This might be an opportunity where we can do something, as you yourself indicated.
    In any event, let's see, Mr. Baird, any comment?
    Mr. BAIRD. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
    Just very briefly, I would like to associate myself with the remarks of Mr. Oberstar. I appreciate the point that regulations need not be foolish, and Lord knows there are plenty of foolish regulations. But there is also a tendency to just denigrate regulations across the board with a broad brush. And I can think of a few very simple regulations that might have saved a heck of a lot of American lives in the last few weeks.
    And there is a tendency in the last six or seven years in this Congress to say that all regulations are bad and to attack Government itself too often. I think what we need to do is be a little more discerning and say that some regulations may waste money, some may be burdensome and some may be foolish. But there are also some that save an awful lot of lives, and some small, minor things that would have been small, minor added costs that could have saved even more lives.
    So I would associate myself with the remarks of Mr. Oberstar, and look forward to your comments.
    Mr. PETRI. Thank you.
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    Mr. Larsen?
    Mr. LARSEN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thanks for holding the hearing today.
    I want to just provide a few comments on a few experiences of transit agencies in my district. And I speak as a former board member of one of those transit agencies as well, that of Community Transit. My district is home to several transit agencies, Community Transit, Everett Transit, Island Transit, just to name a few. Because the Everett-Seattle corridor experiences the third worst traffic congestion in the country, safe, efficient and user friendly transit systems are a very high priority as we seek to find ways to reduce traffic as much as possible.
    All of these agencies struggle every day trying to strike a balance between maintaining quality service and meeting regulatory requirements. Community Transit serves most of Snohomish County and operates express bus service into King County, where Seattle is located, all within the Everett-Seattle urbanized area. They had some good news recently, the voting public passed a .3 cent sales tax increase for transit services in Snohomish County to just maintain the current operating budget of Community Transit.
    Since it operates in a major metropolitan area, Community Transit is subject to some of the more stringent regulations imposed on transit agencies. It struggles specifically with restrictions on charter bus services. While current Federal regulations do not prohibit publicly supported transit agencies from operating charter services, the process to qualify to operate such services is onerous and nearly impossible to satisfy.
    Because Community Transit cannot provide charter type services to major public events, as a result they cannot provide charter type services to major public events despite strong community interest. For instance, they find it difficult to provide services to either Seattle Mariners or Seahawk sporting events, as well as other sporting events in the Seattle area. Without provision of such services, the result is many of our cars are needlessly put on the road, thereby exacerbating traffic snarls in our already heavily congested Seattle area.
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    In contrast, Island Transit provides ride share services in rural Island County. They worked very hard earning their reputation as an effective and efficient, dedicated and safe public transportation provider. The biggest barriers they face are related to insurance issues.
    For example, they are currently trying to figure out how they can make it easier to coordinate with local, private non-profit providers, insurance carriers will only cover the people that Island Transit is tasked to transport, so Island Transit buses cannot pick up additional people along the way, because they don't meet those folks don't meet the very specific criteria for certain service delivery. This is a difficult situation which often results in unnecessary duplication of services a good deal of the time.
    So with that, Mr. Chairman, I want to thank you again for holding this hearing and allowing me to briefly express some of the issues facing transit agencies in my district on a daily basis, and with your consent, would like to offer the written comments as part of the record.
    Mr. PETRI. They will be made a part of the record, and we look forward to working with you, especially because you obviously have hands-on experience in this area of responsibility of the Committee.
    Now, we turn to the Honorable Jenna Dorn, Administrator, Federal Transmit Administration. Ma'am, welcome.


    Ms. DORN. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
    As you had mentioned in your opening statement, there's really no more important priority, particularly at this time, than for transit agencies across the country to help ensure that communities are safe and moving. Security is a piece of that, and certainly the Secretary has charged every mode at the Department of Transportation to be very aggressive about looking ahead in this new era of vulnerability.
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    Another way, however, that we can also be proactive in order to accomplish that purpose of keeping communities safe and moving is by the very subject that you have chosen to have as your hearing today, and thank you for giving me the opportunity. I ask that my full statement be made a part of the record, and I'll try to summarize my comments.
    This subject is an incredibly important one. It is complex and frankly, as witnessed by the comments today, it can stir lots of emotion among many of us, all who have the same goal, and that is to seek to improve transit in America, while at the same time, ensuring that other public purposes are accomplished in full. This can be a delicate balance, and I think that we've probably not reached the balance in all cases.
    We should be proud, however, of the public transportation system in America. And that is due in no small part to the leadership of this Committee and TEA-21, that provide landmark legislation in order to give a superb foundation and a fundamentally sound approach to our mission. Ridership has increased by 20 percent, agencies across the country, large, small, public, private, are providing better service, more strategic planning, and as a result, better stewardship of the Federal dollar as a result of that fine piece of legislation.
    We have learned some things, and I am eager to talk with you and to hear from my colleagues in the industry, in various parts of the industry, about how we can make even more improvements. We need to grow in order to accommodate increased users and customers of public transportation. For that growth to occur, we need to streamline some requirements, simplify some programs, take a look holistically at the system to make sure that what we are trying to achieve we're in actuality achieving.
    We must recognize the tremendous diversity of public transportation across America. One size does not fit all, even though we may agree on the public policy import of various provisions. We need to have some flexibility, and the industry does. And we must recognize the diversity of transportation providers. There are 600 urban providers in major cities across the country, and thousands of rural providers. One size, in fact, does not fit all.
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    Sometimes, as has been discussed by distinguished members of this Committee, Federal requirements are viewed as problems or barriers to improvements. And in fact, they can be sometimes burdensome for smaller transit operators. Sometimes that burden is appropriate for a higher public good and we must, and will, I know, recognize that.
    At the same time, these requirements are intended to support important goals and rights, as Mr. Oberstar so articulately pointed out. So we must tread carefully when we consider changing how these Federal requirements are legislated and administered.
    However, saying that, individual requirements, which taken individually appear to make sense, need to be examined for their cumulative impact. And while specific requirements for some grantees make practical sense and help ensure a national purpose, for others, they might not do the same thing. There are indeed costs and there are indeed benefits, and we need to weigh them, as the Chairman has mentioned.
    Flexibility, on the one hand, accountability on the other, and we need to look at the system holistically. Recognizing that not all communities have the same needs, we must ensure that these differences are factored in appropriately. Are there ways that the requirement can be better tailored to meet the needs of diverse communities? I think so.
    FTA has tried to be sensitive to these issues as Federal requirements have been developed. Although I know that in some cases unintended consequences have emerged, in other cases, we have not gotten the equation right. We are working on it, and we will continue to be vigilant on that, because we know how important it is to ensure that we can meet both of these goals as we increase public transportation across the country.
    Because a picture is worth a thousand words, or maybe many thousand words, I have brought a chart indicating kind of the general structure of the programmatic requirements that are imposed, and I don't say that in a negative way, it's a fact, imposed on our grantees in the numerous public transportation programs of FTA. My staff and I worked on this together, and we got all the program experts into the room to try to sort it out, to simplify it, to look at it from the grantees' perspective, and then to see what it is that we have in fact accomplished. If I was a rural provider and I wanted to provide something under one category, what kind of changes in requirements would occur? Do I still have the same oversight authority, etc? Just to get a holistic picture.
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    I'm still not sure that we've captured all the nuances, and as you can see by your handout, we've tried to footnote each of those as well. In short, the situation is complex. Does that mean that is fundamentally flawed, fundamentally broken? I don't think so, and I don't believe the Committee think so.
    I do think, though, that there needs to be some type of flexibility as we look at the diversity of what we're trying to do and to providers who are trying to do it. So for a moment, let's stand in the grantees' position. You will note from the chart that some of the requirements are triggered by dollar amounts, some by the type of program providing the funding, and still others come into play because of the status of the applicant.
    And again, often not any single requirement is going to break the bank or disallow a person or an agency from providing the service. But it can be the cumulative effect. And I think it's our job in the Administration to help point out to the Congress where that might be happening, so that if there is a statutory change that we believe is necessary, we can have a conversation about it, and we can understand that by prescribing in specificity in statute for a highly diverse industry may not do what the Congress intends.
    So we are eager to work with you as we move forward in the reauthorization piece, and I am so pleased that the Chairman would call a hearing at this early date because we have lots of work to do.
    And I should note that we did not put on this list something that the Chairman and Mr. Oberstar and several others mentioned, and that is the important complexity facing operators who seek to coordinate with other Federal agencies, such as the Department of Labor or Health and Human Services. That's an important piece, because most of these providers do not provide transportation as their major mission, but rather to support their major mission, which may be education or health. And when you have a series of duplicative requirements, it's difficult.
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    Now, there are a lot of reasons for this. Some is an administrative burden that we need to correct in our own agencies, we don't talk to each other like we should, thus the HHS Coordinating Council. Some relate to the fact that States have their own sets of regulations. We don't necessarily talk to the States, nor do they talk to us in the way that we should.
    And third, there may be statutory provisions for each of these programs created by different committees that are so specific as to disallow the kind of coordination we want. This is an incredibly thorny problem that I think every Administration for the past three or four and every Congress has been concerned about. I'm very pleased to report that Secretary Thompson and Secretary Mineta both believe this is something, it's a nut we have to crack if we are going to be able to make efficient and effective use of our transportation capabilities out there. So it's something I'm personally committed to as well, and would look forward to working with you on that.
    I think that one other piece that I'd like to mention, regarding the chart, if I'm a small operator who receives grants from a number of FTA programs, or I'm new to the FTA programs, there may be some very difficult burdens. It can be confusing, complicated, and it's a problem perhaps for a larger transit system as well. But in the main, they have become accustomed to the requirements, because they have very specialized staff to deal with them. And it's easier to occur. I'm not suggesting that we have a carte blanche waiver in any respect. I am saying we have to be creative problem solvers, and we look forward to working with the Congress in doing that.
    We must broaden the participation of our rural providers and our non-traditional providers so that we can serve more people. And that's the fundamental mission which I think we're all about, not to deny safety, not to deny the protection of workers' rights, not to deny environmental issues. So all of those are very important.
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    And very briefly, I think that the most important concept I'd like to bring forward is that the system is not broken, but I think there needs to be some simplification of it and more flexibility. The FTA has already taken some actions to improve the situation with the drug and alcohol testing regulation and a number of others that we may want to get into during the course of the hearing.
    In the area of competitive procurement requirements, that is a very difficult arena that I know all of our grantees are facing, and under the leadership of APTA and CTAA, they, too, are trying to make sense of a very cumbersome system that can have such an impact on our ability to give service.
    I'm committed to continuing to work with the Congress and with America's public transportation providers to accomplish our mission, and I look forward to a cooperative working relationship in that regard. Many thanks for the opportunity today, Mr. Chairman.
    Mr. PETRI. Thank you, and thank you for the energy and enthusiasm you bring to the task before you.
    Mr. Filner, any questions?
    Mr. FILNER. Thank you for your testimony. Your written statement goes into a lot of additional things, and I appreciate that.
    One thing I wonder, just given the current thinking that we're spending a lot of time on airport security and airplanes, we're going to have all kinds of legislation. Clearly, the safety of the rest of the transportation system is also an issue. I wonder if you might just let us know what FTA is doing to deal with security on our transit systems.
    Ms. DORN. Certainly. Certainly the most important piece of this is, we are being proactive, that is a given. But I would also like to give credit to transit agencies across the country, particularly in major cities, who do have their plans and programs in place and are in a high state of alert. There are, however, additional things that need to be done, and I think that we are about that.
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    Probably the most fundamental piece of making sure that communities can move safely and can keep moving is the recognition of the importance of training and awareness. The security audit is an additional piece, and having adequate drills are probably the three most fundamental pieces. The FTA is working with the Office of Management and Budget to try to establish necessary resources to really turn up the juice, so to speak, in this very important endeavor.
    There may well be capital needs out there as well, and we're evaluating those. So this is a full time occupation, I know, of many of our transit operators, and we are seeking to provide any kind of assistance we can with regard to technical assistance, increased training, security audits, etc., that would allow us to make sure that we are up to date in the security threat of the hour. And it's a difficult task. We're in a new reality, and we recognize that.
    Mr. FILNER. Thank you.
    I suspect that every different place has different abilities and different ways. I think your job of trying to provide technical assistance and information so everybody can get up to date as quickly as possible would be most helpful to all of us.
    Ms. DORN. I think it is important as well, with the recognition that unlike the regulatory authority that is in place for the Federal Aviation Administration, we have a very different foundation. Our public transportation options are so locally based and so unique and so diverse geographically that a cookie cutter approach will not work. We pride ourselves throughout America on having an open system and many points of egress. That is not necessary conducive to the kinds of protection that are more available in the Federal Aviation system.
    So we have a challenge, and I think we're blessed by having communities that are learning at a high rate of speed how to work with their mayors, their municipalities, their emergency operations folks, etc.
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    Mr. FILNER. Mr. Chairman, I hope the next panel also will address that, and see what help they need to deal with these issues.
    Mr. PETRI. Thank you.
    Mr. Baird, any questions?
    Mr. BAIRD. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate the testimony.
    Mr. Oberstar raised an issue that I think was an important one, and just briefly, I'd like your comments on it. He mentioned a proposal, a potential proposal to allow FTA to somehow waive or override statutory requirements. What are your thoughts on that? Do you have any concerns about Congress putting into place some laws, that FTA should just be able to override those?
    Ms. DORN. I would certainly not characterize it in that way. I don't believe that this Administration would support a broad waiver authority for statutes. I think more importantly, the most important thing, really, is that the statute expressed the will of Congress and the broad outlines of what is sought to be achieved. If it goes into any more specificity in a system that is so diverse, it can be counter-productive.
    So I would believe that waiver authority, as is the authority in several other modes of transportation, should be targeted. By the same token, it should have some flexibility. I think there needs to be a level of trust between the executive branch and the legislative branch. And this will prompt better regulation of the system in terms of important public purposes.
    But by the same token, I know that it is critical that we meet a diversity of public needs.
    Mr. BAIRD. I appreciate that, and I respect the need for flexibility. I think too often we're rigid, and we have sort of a one size fits all approach. And in many areas of regulation, that actually is counter-productive to the aims which the legislation is designed to meet.
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    But I would urge that there be consultation and that there be some—it's too easy, I guess I'd be a little less concerned if there wasn't this sort of, let's waive all regulations, let's act as if regulations are the enemy. And if that wasn't the climate, I'd be a little less concerned. I'm not saying that's your position.
    Ms. DORN. No, it is not.
    Mr. BAIRD. But I personally want to be on record to say that, oftentimes regulations, although they're often easy to attack, are often in response to a shortcoming in the past. It's not always as if everything was working fine, and then for no reason at all, the Congress came in and opposed a bunch of nonsensical regulations. Often there are significant problems that are not being addressed. Congress recognizes the need to address those and addresses them.
    And so I want to recognize that there is not this utopian de-regulated world out there, and that if Congress passes laws with the intent of trying to improve a situation that needs improvement, that we don't just have agencies free to say, well, Congress passed that, but we actually execute the laws here, and so we don't have to pay attention. I think the Constitution has some concerns about that, and I would share those. So I just want to be on record as saying that, and I appreciate your response.
    Ms. DORN. Thank you.
    Mr. PETRI. Thank you.
    Mr. Kirk?
    Mr. KIRK. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
    I just want to thank you for coming to the Committee, and very much appreciate what you've done for the commuters in Chicagoland with the METRA full funding agreements.
    Ms. DORN. It was rough going for a while, but we got it.
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    Mr. KIRK. I very much appreciate what you did.
    Ms. DORN. Thank you.
    Mr. KIRK. Because in my district, and in the surrounding districts, especially Ms. Biggert's and the Speaker's district, we have a growing gridlock here. We see transit, particularly METRA, as part of our salvation, not just on gridlock, but on meeting our obligations under the Clean Air Act. I think that's very important.
    Not to mention the topic of the last two weeks, which is reducing our dependence on foreign oil. I think you're also part of that.
    I'm wondering, for my own projects, etc., what you see as the number one regulatory hurdle with regard to working with local communities that you would want to deal with as opposed to keep. In the case of our projects, I think we're all done. But for the future and for the extension of these projects, which we'll be coming back to in a few years' time, we may face some of these issues.
    Ms. DORN. That's a difficult question. It is often dependent on the project. But I think one of the more significant difficulties is when a community does not plan together in terms of their projects. We have seen that in major projects as they move through the pipeline. I think that can make a significant difference.
    I think there are a number of requirements that we may impose too rigidly, that we need to look at the spirit of the law rather than the technical piece of the regulation. If we can think outside the box and still be within the law and solve those problems on a project by project basis, I believe the Nation will be better served in terms of providing transportation services to more people.
    Sometimes we try to wring out all of the risks in a project. When you're doing complicated projects, that have a high degree of complexity--both technologically, environmentally, etc.--there are going to be risks. We have to put our heads together to figure out how to resolve the risks in other than a ''gotcha'' approach.
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    The FTA has done yeoman's work in the past to provide technical assistance, so that the local agencies are not overwhelmed. I don't think that we are operating in a ''gotcha'' environment, particularly at this point. And our guarantees are particularly helped by the TEA-21 legislation, which provides a very important foundation for constructive oversight.
    Mr. KIRK. This is what I hope, Mr. Chairman, I don't know how it is in Wisconsin, but in a previous life, I was stationed in San Diego, in Mr. Filner's district. Boy, did I see a good transit system, at least from a guy who didn't have the rank to get a rent-a-car yet, so I had to use it.
    In northern Illinois, we do not have an overarching local planning body that has the ability to oppose a time line and a set of decisions. And for TEA-22, it might be a way for the Federal Government to convene such a body that has decision making authority. Because as of yet, in my northern communities, we don't have that decision making capability to force, for example, Lake Forest and Gurney to talk to each other and come to a decision.
    And yet, in the future, I expect that we'll be expanding the METRA lines north and west of Chicago. So we'll need that. And I think that's where the Federal Government can be a convening and enabling authority.
    Ms. DORN. I hope so. I had the privilege of visiting a number of systems in my brief tenure, many of which have really refined that art of working together. And it's painful, but it is so productive.
    I also had the opportunity, although it was a sad opportunity, to visit New York yesterday. In terms of their metropolitan planning authority, that isn't all together in the way they would like it as well. Nothing is more important in order to bring back that community, the New York, New Jersey metropolitan community and the Nation's economic health than having a priority setting body that can help them resolve those things.
    I really hesitate for the Federal Government to take a new stance in this. We've always viewed that local priorities should guide the kind of projects that a community wants. And I hope there are ways that we can influence, that they will make those priorities and support each other in broader than just a single transit agency.
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    Mr. KIRK. Right. You're right up my alley. I'm just so glad you're in office now, and thank you very much for all your help.
    Ms. DORN. Thank you, Mr. Kirk.
    Mr. PETRI. Mr. Larsen.
    Mr. LARSEN. I just want to make a comment with regard to the answer you gave in part to Mr. Kirk's question about being wary of trying to wring out all of the risks in any one project, otherwise you end up with possibly no project. You at some point need to make a decision to move forward.
    I want to just highlight for you in the Pacific Northwest the Sound Transit, which has gone through a very troublesome time over the last year and a half, much of it deserved. However, they are making many changes as well, and I would certainly encourage you to, as FTA Administrator, to revisit Sound Transit in the Pacific Northwest, take a look at the changes they have made and the steps that they are moving forward on.
    Because this is one project that extends over three counties, many municipal jurisdictions. And the coordination effort to make this happen has been an incredible effort by local elected officials over the last several years. We absolutely need to continue to move forward on it, for the sake of our economy in the northwest, to keep people and freight moving.
    So again, taking your response to Mr. Kirk's question about maybe not taking the ''gotcha'' approach, but trying to work with local communities and being supportive of what they want to do, I hope you as well take that to heart as you consider Sound Transit's future in the full funding grant agreement that we'll likely be returning to very soon.
    Ms. DORN. Thank you, Mr. Larsen. If I could just briefly comment on that. I agree with you, there is a tremendous need for a project of that type or whatever type is eventually settled upon in that congested area of the northwest. It is definitely on our radar screen and we seek to be able to provide assistance. We want this to work.
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    And by the same token, one of the issues that I have learned with respect to Sound Transit is that the community consensus was not really there, and that points to Mr. Kirk's comments about the imperative nature of having the community on board, understanding and aggressive about the particular project.
    Now, there are other issues as well, but I wholeheartedly hope and believe that Seattle is now on that path. We look forward to being helpful in any way that we can.
    Mr. LARSEN. You're talking to a guy who won with 50.000009 percent, and yet I get the luxury of at least two years in Congress and maybe more with my mandate. So obviously, the public did vote to support that project. And yes, there were problems in the community, no question about it.
    I tell people, 30 years ago in the northwest, we had an opportunity with Senator Magnuson ready to write the check for 80 percent of the cost of a regional transit system. Those days are over. However, when I'm 65, I don't want to say, 30 years ago we had a chance to do this right again. And I think for the most part, that's the attitude in the northwest.
    So I appreciate what you're saying, it's on your radar screen, and I appreciate your saying that. I assume that's a good thing, to be on the radar screen of the FTA.
    Mr. LARSEN. And I certainly look forward to working with the FTA in the future and get this project moving forward.
    Ms. DORN. Great, thank you.
    Mr. LARSEN. Thank you.
    Mr. PETRI. Thank you.
    Mr. Rogers, any questions?
    Mr. ROGERS. No, thank you, Mr. Chairman.
    Mr. PETRI. I just thought I might give you a chance to address one area that the Committee staff identified in the course of preparing for this hearing and working with transit agencies around the country, and that is that while we strongly support, quite clearly, we've passed a number of approaches to this, drug and alcohol testing programs, they are in some instances duplicative. Because different agencies have come up with their own twist on it, and sometimes a particular transit agency falls under the jurisdiction of several of these different mandates which may conflict. Even within the Department of Transportation, there evidently are different requirements in different agencies.
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    Is there any possibility that the Secretary, or we could help to designate a lead agency in this area, so that we can get the job done, but not—I still don't agree that regulation is a good, in and of itself. It's for a purpose. To do three sets of different conflicting regulations as opposed to one strikes me as idiotic. People say it's not a burden, but I think it can be a burden if it's done stupidly.
    Ms. DORN. Right.
    Mr. PETRI. So can we just have a lead agency, or figure out a way of increasing, doing a better job, focusing on people not using alcohol while driving rather than filling out forms over and over again?
    Ms. DORN. Yes, I think. The point that I would like to make is that we have made some significant progress in rationalizing the drug and alcohol rule. Because what you raise is absolutely true. In a couple of ways, we have yet to figure them out, particularly with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, with an issue in Coast Guard. These are issues that we have to resolve, and I've spoken to the Commandant of the Coast Guard to see how we can resolve that, and I'm eager to talk with our new designee, Mr. Klapp, once he is confirmed.
    Part of the problem is, if we were to do a single rule, because every regulated agency is so different in nature and type and regulatory authority, it would be a 100-page rule. So that's not the resolution that we seek. I think what we seek is to rationalize the process, so that for example, if you are in an entity that is regulated in other ways by two different authorities that you can choose one or the other, or we choose for them, under which regulation you should come. So no one has to keep track in their own agency, oh, well, this is Federal Motor Carrier Safety, but if I'm driving here, it's some other authority. We must rationalize that. And frankly, it's not an easy task, but we are talking to each other.
    I'm very proud that before I got to the Department, there were a couple of very significant progress points made with respect to Federal Motor Carriers Administration to clarify when one is subject to FTA and another to Federal Maritime, Federal MCSA. They only have to follow the FTA rule, and that's progress. We're working on the Coast Guard, because the ferry operators are under the jurisdiction of the Coast Guard as well as FTA. So we're trying to figure out how it is that we can rationalize that process so they go to one.
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    And there are a number of other areas where I think we can make some improvements in that regard. I don't think we need to have a lead agency in total. I don't think that's the way we want to solve it, but I agree that it cannot be a burden in an unrealistic way. We know how important a drug and alcohol rule is, and we want it to be effective.
    Mr. PETRI. Thank you. We will submit in writing the remainder of the questions that we have, and if you could respond in the same way.
    Ms. DORN. Absolutely.
    Mr. PETRI. We look forward to working with you and those in your agency as we go forward through the reauthorization process.
    Ms. DORN. Thank you very much.
    Mr. PETRI. Thank you.
    The next panel consists of Mr. William Millar, President of the American Public Transportation Association; Mr. Dale Marsico, who's the President of the Community Transportation Association of America; and Mr. Darrel Feasel, Small Urban and Rural Section Manager, Department of Rail and Public Transportation, Virginia Department of Transportation.
    We look forward to your summarizing your prepared statements and responding to questions. We'll begin with Mr. Millar.

    Mr. MILLAR. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. We're very pleased to be with you today, and appreciate the invitation.
    Let me start by just passing some compliments back to you and all the members of Congress. I know I speak for everyone in our association, in the very difficult days that our country has been through since September 11th, we are really in awe and admiration of the way the Congress has responded to the national emergency, with the immediate steps you took to recognize some of the financial hurt as well as the obvious human suffering, and the bipartisanship that's been displayed. We just think it's a great piece of leadership and we thank you for it.
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    Let me say secondly, before I get into the main body of my testimony, you have seen this morning why we are so pleased that Jenna Dorn has been named and confirmed as the Federal Transit Administrator. All of you have mentioned her enthusiasm and qualities for the job, and I think you saw an example. We've found she doesn't duck a problem. She tries to understand what the problem is first, and then let's work together to solve it. While we could spend a lot of time on the chart and get into the details, that's not appropriate today. But that's what we've seen already with Jenna Dorn, and we are very, very pleased.
    The third thing I would say, you mentioned that you wanted each of us perhaps to comment on our members' preparedness for terrorist issues. I am prepared to comment, but I think you'd rather have that during question and answer, and I have brought some material which I'd be glad to review orally and then go into whatever depth time and interest would allow.
    So with that, let me get on with the testimony here today. Let me thank the Committee again not only for the hearing but for the strong support you've given public transit over the years, and the American public continues to respond. Over the last five years, we've seen a growth of about 21 percent in the use of the Nation's transit systems, and I'm very pleased to report, at least for the statistics I have up until September 11th, we saw another 3 percent growth in the use of public transit this year. So over the last five and a half years, we've seen about a 24 percent increase.
    And I think that increase has come about for several reasons, obviously congestion, the good economy that had existed. But the investment strategy that this Committee has promoted has been essential. Because when we look behind these numbers and see where the growth is the largest, it's in the communities that have taken advantage of the Federal money, that have coordinated good local plans and implemented good services for the public. So again, I think your strategy has worked out well.
    And I know over the next two years we'll be talking a lot about reauthorization, so I won't spend much time on that today, other than to tell you that we have formed a task force inside our association and while that task force won't have its recommendations ready for you until next spring, I can tell you that maintaining the funding guarantees, growing the investment levels and streamlining program delivery are clearly themes that are emerging from that industry-wide approach.
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    Today obviously we're talking about streamlining the program delivery, and I want to spend time, the remainder of my time on that. First, you should know that transit systems are working to look at their own regulations and their own ways that they do business. Sometimes we're our own worst enemies. Sometimes we think things are in somebody else's regulations, but really it's our own way of looking at them, so we're trying to work on that.
    Second, we're trying to find ways to operate in a more businesslike fashion, to attract private capital to our industry, and frankly, the scrutiny that private capital brings from businessmen and women who want to make sure they're making a good investment. And in the last decade, we saw over a billion dollars of new private capital come in, twice as much as we'd seen in the previous 10 years, for example.
    Let me turn to some specific areas, though, where we think we need to make improvements. And let me emphasize, consistent with my opening comments about Jenna Dorn, we believe that a lot of what our concerns are can be resolved administratively, and we believe that applying the kind of spirit you saw here this morning can make a difference.
    On the other hand, as has been correctly pointed out by several of the members, regulations often carry a very important public purpose. So we want to make sure that in implementing these regulations and interpreting these regulations, that we carry out the public purpose that's set by the Congress. In some cases, though, we can do things that will work better on our own without the help of FDA or the Congress.
    For example, in the area of procurement, I don't think there's any other area that receives so much criticism by everyone, whether it is Federal officials who have to administer the program, whether it's transit agencies that have to live with it, or whether it is suppliers who wish to sell to the industry who feel that oftentimes the procurement system doesn't work. We in APTA have created a procurement task force that brings all those groups together, and we are trying to examine it, every aspect of procurement, to see how much of it is a regulatory problem, how much of it is a legal problem, and frankly, how much of it is just our own procedures inside our own agencies are getting in our way.
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    One of the things we've seen is, we need to take better advantage of new technologies. So I'm very pleased to inform you that APTA has joined hands with the firm of Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc., to create an e-commerce marketplace called Transport Max. It's currently in its pilot phase, and if it passes all the tests during that several month phase, we expect this is a way that we can make a fairer, more open, less costly procurement system under the existing regulations. So there are things that we can do ourselves and we are trying to do.
    Next let me talk about cooperative rule making. From time to time in the past, we have been subject, we think, to rulemaking that hasn't been as open as it should be. And we're very pleased that Administrator Dorn has indicated she wants the full input of the industry. We think this kind of cooperative rulemaking can make all the difference in the world. We think, for example, before guidance and policy statements and significant interpretations are put into effect, they should be subject to at least a 90 day consultation period to get effective comment from the people who would be affected.
    Once they are put into effect, then, they ought to be published and easily available to the American public, not only in the offices of the agency involved, but also, let's take advantage of the internet, let's make sure that the web sites have that information, so the transit systems, regardless of size, so that suppliers who want to sell to the industry, can have easy and quick access to the appropriate rules.
    We think another area where more needs to be done, many years ago, the Congress passed something called the Single Audit Act. Many of us stood up and applauded, we thought, wow, this is great. Yes, we need to be audited, and it will happen only once. Well, that ain't true. We get audited, we get reviewed, we get questioned, we get, we get, we get.
    Now, again, many times, I understand, different laws require different things and you need all that. But we would encourage a comprehensive effort to see how we can get some of that done perhaps all at the same time.
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    Many of you know, I used to run a transit system, and it was not uncommon at any given time to have two, three, four different groups of reviewers, auditors, what have you, in from different parts of the Government, all looking at various things we worked on. One time I thought I might issue a blue hat for this group and a red hat for that group. You get the picture.
    So I think there is opportunity for coordination there, and again, that is something we intend to take up with the Administrator, see how we might do it.
    Third, and this may sound odd, you may not have this testimony very often, but we at APTA believe that the FTA needs more staff. This is a program that under your leadership has grown dramatically and is of more value to the American public than ever. We have essentially the same number of staff at FTA today as when it was a $3 billion program, and today, including the transfer program, it's an $8 billion program.
    We have seen an increasing tendency to just hire more and more consultants to do work that we think properly should be done by staff. So we think more and making sure that staff is appropriately trained could help in a lot of the administration and move things along.
    You talked a lot this morning about drug and alcohol testing, I know, I won't get into that here. It's in my written testimony for the record. But again, we think there we need to—the principle needs to be, what's the risk to the public, what's the risk to the agency. And in so many regulations, we think size does matter. We think you have to realize that smaller systems and particularly systems in rural areas or small systems in major metropolitan areas face different opportunities, different problems than the larger systems. So we think there needs to be some recognition of that.
    You've also spoken of coordination of HHS funds, an issue we've dealt with for years and years. We just want to say amen to the things that have been expressed here this morning.
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    We have already demonstrated to the HHS that by using public transit they are going to be able to improve the quality of service delivery to their clients and in the process save hundreds of millions of dollars, and in the process make sure the investment that FTA is making gets an even higher return.
    Then finally, it seems like time passes quickly, it was about a year ago I had the privilege to appear in front of you when you were talking about planning simplification in project development. Although that isn't the subject of today's hearing, I want to remind you of that testimony we gave last year. As far as we can tell, nothing's changed in a year, and the same recommendations we made to you last year apply here.
    So there's a few thoughts, more expanded upon in my testimony. Mr. Chairman, we thank you for your leadership, and I'll look forward to your questions at the appropriate time.
    Mr. PETRI. Thank you.
    Mr. Marsico?

    Mr. MARSICO. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
    I want to thank you and the Committee staff today for holding this hearing on regulatory concerns. My prepared testimony deals with some specific issues on specific regulations and requirements that are longstanding areas of disagreement between the kinds of members we have in rural and small urban areas and the Federal Transit Administration.
    But nothing in our testimony calls for the abolition of all regulations or statutes that protect the American people. Rather than give you again the laundry list that we've included, I would instead say that our research and our experience tells us that the disagreements we have on these regulations with the Federal Transit Administration are in a large measure caused by the changing conditions of the transit industry over the last 20 years, and the unchanging perspective of the older regulations that are cited in my testimony. It does not appear that many of the current regulations we mentioned were developed in the kind of public transit environment we have in our country today.
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    As Congress has expanded the concept and definition of public transportation by extending it to rural areas and smaller communities, specialized services for people with special needs, responding to issues like welfare reform, the traditional dimensions of these regulations have brought us into conflict over some of the issues that we detailed.
    We agree with what we've heard before in other Administrations and in this one that not one size fits all. We think that some of the flexibility that this Committee worked so hard to establish needs to be brought into the administrative process at FTA and DOT and we think that the word partnership, which is outlined in TEA-21, needs to take the place of the traditional dialogue that exists in the Department of Transportation about grantees and grantors. We're all in this together.
    With some trepidation, based on what we heard this morning, our testimony did call for the construction of waivers. The waivers that we called for were on the specific areas that we outlined in our testimony and again, are not a blanket kind of approach that all Federal and statutory requirements ought to be waived. The ones that we speak to are those that concern the one size fits all approach.
    In our testimony, we included a copy of a circular from the Clinton Administration that dealt with federalism. I would remind you that in his discussion of waivers, the president approached that dealing only with those that were not statutorily created. We think that Congress ought to take a look at some of the rules and regulations that are being applied to smaller transit systems and see if some kind of waiver approach ought not to be part of a solution to removing those problems that we addressed.
    Additionally, we think that there ought to be an aggressive administrative procedure within the Federal Transit Administration for people who have specific concerns to address them in an administrative way, like they are often done in other Federal agencies. We also agree with the comments of our colleagues and others that in the terms of rulemaking, we think that people in the industry, people who provide the service, ought to be involved in the development of regulations before they appear as drafts and before they appear as rules for comment.
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    We think that basically, to make the partnership that was envisioned in TEA-21 a living reality, there must be good communications between those who provide the service and those who pay for it. There should be the greatest flexibility between those who deliver the service at the local level to respond to changing conditions. We think that there should be a way that public transportation rules and regulations and statutes can be changed to reflect the kind of transportation systems you have created in TEA-21.
    I want to thank you again for our opportunity to present our testimony. Like our colleagues, I want to thank you for all you have done for changing the way public transportation has been perceived in our country over the last several years since the passage of TEA-21. We have gone from an industry that has been perceived as going out of business to one that is vital to the Nation's future.
    The events of the last few weeks should convince many Americans that the investment in public transportation, in moving people out of crisis areas, in helping to reinvigorate what was once called civil defense, cannot be diminished. If anything, among the many lessons that we take out of this series of events, the partnership in TEA-21, the work between the Government and local communities that you established in our legislation, does work. And we will work with you to do what we can to improve that.
    So we stand ready to answer any comments or questions that you have. Again, I am sorry that people would perceive that a request for waivers is one that we would waive all Federal laws. That isn't what we're asking for. We're saying that we need a process that can affect the one size fits all.
    Thank you very much.
    Mr. PETRI. Thank you.
    Mr. Feasel?

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    Mr. FEASEL. Thank you. Good morning, my name is Darrel Feasel and I am the Small Urban and Rural Section Manager with the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, not the Virginia Department of Transportation. We're a separate agency. My boss would like to make certain I made that clear.
    Mr. FEASEL. I would like to thank you for this opportunity to speak to the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit. It is truly an honor to be here today in our Nation's capital. In light of the recent terrorist attacks on America, I find it somewhat difficult to focus on or complain about legal and regulatory requirements that affect transit services in rural areas. However, there are some issues I would like to present to the Subcommittee.
    One of the main obstacles faced by rural transit providers is to identify what Federal regulations apply to rural public transit systems. This can be an overwhelming task if you are new to the rural transit industry. It can sometimes be an overwhelming task if you've been in the industry for a long time. I'm still learning after 20 years of dealing with Federal regulations.
    Determining what Federal regulations apply to a rural transit system has been further complicated with the rural systems receiving Job Access Reverse Commute Grants and FTA Section 5309 Bus Capital grants. These grants require that rural transit systems meet the same level of regulations as large urban transit systems.
    I would recommend that the Federal Transit Administration consider publishing a technical assistance brief that identifies what regulatory requirements are applicable to rural systems, small urban systems and large urban systems. This document would greatly assist rural systems and States in determining what regulatory requirements are required for all grant projects.
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    One of the most difficult regulations to understand and implement has been the Federal Transit Administration's drug and alcohol testing regulation. When this regulation first appeared a number of years ago, the Department of Rail and Public Transportation set up numerous training workshops to train Virginia's FTA Section 5311 transit systems. To date, I estimate that DRPT has spent well over $300,000 to train and assist Virginia's rural transit systems in meeting the FTA drug and alcohol testing regulations.
    On April 30th, 2001, the FTA found DRPT to be in compliance with the federally mandated drug and alcohol testing program. My staff and I were particularly pleased that the DRPT and FTA Section 5311 program sub recipients were found in compliance.
    However, this substance abuse management oversight audit was done with nine consultants and one FTA staff visiting six rural transit systems. The consultants were polite and very thorough, but none of them to my knowledge had ever worked in or managed a small transit system, and it seemed to me that they were holding our Virginia systems to a standard set by large urban transit systems.
    In addition, DRPT's role was redefined during the oversight audit. I was made aware that the FTA wants DRPT to be responsive for ensuring that all Virginia's FTA Section 5311 sub recipients are in compliance with the drug and alcohol testing requirements. DRPT's role has changed dramatically from collecting and mailing annual MIS forms to the FTA to assignment of a full time staff person overseeing the sub recipients' compliance with the regulations.
    In addition to the FTA drug and alcohol testing regulations, a number of Virginia rural transit systems also had to be in compliance with the Federal Highway Administration's drug and alcohol testing regulations as well. So they are implementing two different regulations to the same people, but because of funding issues, the employees fall under two different rules.
    I do not have any specific recommendations to the Subcommittee, other than to say that the drug and alcohol testing regulations have been very expensive and time consuming to implement, and I'm not sure that the regulations have done anything except to reduce the amount of transportation services available in rural areas of Virginia. Having said that, I do need to add that Mark Snider, with FTA headquarters staff, has been extremely helpful in assisting Virginia in meeting these regulations, as well as listening to our concerns while implementing these regulations.
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    The Job Access Reverse Commute and the FTA Section 5309 Bus Capital grant projects have also created some problems for DRPT and our sub recipients. These grant applications have taken a very long time to be approved by FTA, and thus created problems with starting and continuing transportation services. One rural transit system had to shut down Job Access funded transportation services because they ran out of funding prior to the second year application being approved by FTA. This caused a considerable amount of embarrassment for the rural transit system as well as considerable interruption in transportation services.
    I would strongly encourage the FTA to move the decision making process for the Job Access Reverse Grant applications from FTA headquarters in Washington, D.C. to the regional offices. The regional offices' personnel are knowledgeable and are used to dealing with State agency staff.
    In regard to the FTA Section 5309 Bus Capital grant projects, sub recipients also had to meet many additional regulatory requirements which are not required under the Section 5311 program. I would recommend to the Subcommittee that grant recipients receiving FTA Section 5309 capital funding be held only to the FTA Section 53 regulations that they normally fall under. If a 5311 sub recipient received 5309 funds through a Congressional earmark, then those funds would follow the same regulatory requirements as 5311 funds, those systems with fewer than 50,000 in population.
    The new regulations published by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regarding transportation services that cross State lines have also become a concern to rural transit services in Virginia. The FMCSA has been slow to acknowledge or provide information on what is required of rural agencies in order to meet the new regulations. The result has been that transportation services have been curtailed because one Virginia rural transit agency did not want to be in violation of the Federal regulations that they couldn't understand or determine if they were covered under the regulation. If this regulation is necessary, then make the FTA responsible for implementing it. At least they are familiar with the rural transit industry.
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    In closing, I would like to again thank the Subcommittee for allowing me this time. I would also like to thank the FTA staff over the last 20 years in assisting me with guidance in dealing with these regulatory requirements.
    And in ending, I'd like to ask that God bless all of you in the coming weeks as you deal with the future of our country and the tragedy that we witnessed. I thank you.
    Mr. PETRI. Thank you. Thank you all for your testimony. We appreciate the work that went into preparing the statements, and it's very helpful to the Committee and its staff as we go forward.
    Mr. Feasel, we're especially appreciative of you and look forward to working with you and your colleagues in other States. We have a lot of organizations out there that are able to hire people to come here to Washington and help us work on things, but some of the smaller operations aren't able to do that very effectively. The result is that programs that are designed to help everyone don't really reach out into many parts of our country with much consistency or effectiveness or cost effectiveness. So how to do that and help people have access to the services in their areas that they need is very important for us.
    One other thing, Mr. Millar, we're working here to perhaps have a briefing or, more of a private briefing for members and staff who are interested in some of the things we can do or anticipate in the area of public safety on transit. We're not interested in hyping it and getting people nervous, but we feel as part of our obligation, we probably should get a briefing from different agencies and be aware of that. If there's some input you or other people interested in the transportation area would have as we prepare for that, we'd appreciate getting that.
    Mr. MILLAR. Yes, sir, we would very much like that opportunity to assist you. Thank you.
    Mr. PETRI. We're counting a number of Federal agencies and other people. I think we will be probably organizing some sort of a, not a media event, but a participatory event for the Committee and staff, so we can have that as background as we move forward.
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    I do have a couple of quick questions. One has to do with, as was mentioned in several of your testimony, the Buy America provisions. I guess there is a requirement that transit people have to try to certify. It gets very complicated. I've heard it from my own constituents, because these things aren't, if a piece, if a part of it is compliant and then something else might not be and they're optional things, it gets—it isn't as easy as it looks.
    Do you have any ideas about how that could be structured so it's more user friendly, so that maybe equipment is focused on the manufacturer or the provider or something, that they get their things certified in advance, so that the individual agency doesn't have to worry about trying to figure it all out? They have to then ask the manufacturer, and it just seems to me it's an extra step that may not be required. Perhaps you could help us with that.
    Mr. FEASEL. I think in our State, in Virginia, there's many small transit systems that buy only two or three vehicles a year. And they have to have Buy America certifications, pre-aware and post-award audits done and signed. I think it would be a very simple step that if it was done, for example, that the manufacturer was required to do it whenever they produce a particular vehicle, and for that model year that they would sign a Buy America, that would be sent into the FTA headquarters or wherever, certifying that that vehicle in fact had passed the Buy America, and then just leave us out of having to recertify it.
    Right now, when we do the pre-award audit and post-award audit, part of the Buy America certification, we have the manufacturer sign it, we then have to have a copy for the rural transit system to keep a signed copy in their agency files, I require, if I'm the recipient, if it's State that is the actual applicant, and the transit system or sub recipient has to have another copy of it.
    And it's basically, you could do this for 50 or 60 vehicles that were all made by the same manufacturer and the same model year, where I think that just one time, by the manufacturer to the FTA would solve that problem. It would certainly keep us from cutting down a lot more trees to make paper. That would be my recommendation, anyway.
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    Mr. PETRI. Thank you, sir.
    I have mixed feelings, Wisconsin is number one in paper production.
    Mr. PETRI. But in any event—
    Mr. FEASEL. I also own some timber property, too.
    Mr. PETRI. All right, well, the area of drug and alcohol testing has also been mentioned. And I wonder if each of you could just very briefly, from the point of view of your members or your own work, tell us what the most problematic drug and alcohol testing issue seems to be and any solution that you might have in mind to that.
    Mr. FEASEL. I think the number one thing, at least from a rural transit or small urban transit perspective, it's just understanding the regulations. As new people come into the industry, it's kind of like, we've got to do what? And it's a very, very difficult regulation to understand, and it kind of depends on what the particular situation is at the time, when you do something. Like determining after there's an accident, should you test the person or should you not test the person? Is there property damage or is there not property damage?
    Somebody at the supervisory level has to make a decision as to whether or not that person is going to be drug and alcohol tested. We've kind of just make a blank law that if you're involved in an accident go get the person tested.
    But there's a lot of those very intricate type things that you have to understand that takes thought process. It's great to be able to step back when you have a lawyer to tell you that, this is what we need to do, and you're right. But when you're out there at an accident scene determining what needs to be done, that I think is very difficult.
    In Virginia, we have spent a lot of time on drug and alcohol. It's understanding those nuances of the regulation and how they work. Once you understand that, again, it is not that difficult. But it's a time consuming thing, and you're always wondering whether or not you're doing the right thing. If, for example, you have an accident and you fail to test the person because you think you don't need to, and then that person is sued later on and the first thing that happens in court is, well, did you test that person, well, no, because according to our interpretation we didn't have to. Well, why didn't you do that? Obviously you were hiding something, and you weren't. You just don't know.
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    So I think the legal issues and those types of things make it very, very difficult. The other part of it is, you do a tremendous amount of testing, and you get new people in the industry that, for example, get confused about, now, are you doing an FHWA test or are you doing an FTA test or are you doing this test on your own authority? And actually, people that are handling the urine specimens and that type of stuff, we have to make certain that they know what they're doing, that they're in compliance as well. So that can make things a little bit difficult.
    I think the other problem is that we have spent, and the money is not the issue, but we have spent a lot of time and effort, and I think we've only had, in my time, in 14 years at the department, we've had two positive tests in the rural transit community. One of them was dealing with the fact that the person had used their wife's codeine cough medicine, and they tested positive for that. The other one was in fact using a controlled substance and was fired after that.
    So we spend a lot of time and a lot of effort, and I'm not saying that's the wrong thing to do, but we really haven't had a lot of people that have had a problem with it.
    Mr. PETRI. Of course, you don't know if that's because they know they're going to be tested.
    Mr. FEASEL. Absolutely. The FTA, I think, would tell you the regulations are working very, very well.
    Mr. PETRI. Any other comments on that question?
    Mr. MILLAR. We think the program has been in place now, that we ought to learn from the experience so far. So rather than using industry averages, we think that operators ought to be able to show that their programs work well, that they have much lower incidence rates than the national averages, and that as result, they ought to at a minimum, ought to be able to test at a lower rate than the industry average would seem to indicate ought to happen.
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    I would second Mr. Feasel's point about the complexity. Again, you only have to look at the FTA chart given to you today. Here's six, seven different programs, sometimes yes, sometimes no, sometimes sometimes, and up to three footnotes under each one talking about drug and alcohol. It is no wonder that people have difficulty understanding when this is to be applied and how it's to be applied.
    So we think looking at where the risk really is, looking and learning from what we have done over the past decade of testing, and where incidence of positives are extremely low, apparently such as we just heard from rural Virginia, but testing rates ought to be much lower as well. We have other suggestions that we plan to share with the Federal Transit Administration.
    Mr. MARSICO. I would like to add that one of the things that we did here today that I think the Committee has heard before is the great confusion within the Department of Transportation itself over someone being in charge of national standards for all of the transportation systems.
    One of the things I think that we believe that would be useful is that part of that dialogue ought to include going back and talking to the providers of current transportation programs that are subject to the current different standards by the agencies, and trying to get from them a sense of what in their regulation could be used to provide safety but to cut out both the duplication and the confusion. I think that there's a need, in this regulation and others, for a dialogue with the Department of Transportation and the provider, so that these issues can be identified and we can get a standard that would be suitable for everyone.
    Mr. PETRI. Thank you.
    Any other questions?
    [No response.]
    Mr. PETRI. If not, Mr. Millar, we are going to be reviewing and calling to the new Administrator's attention your testimony of a year ago, too.
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    Mr. MILLAR. Thank you very much.
    Mr. PETRI. I appreciate your calling that to our attention.
    This hearing is adjourned.
    [Whereupon, at 11:30 a.m., the subcommittee was adjourned, to reconvene at the call of the Chair.]