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Transit Leaders Meet for Steering Committee Meeting at NDSU

Posted: Sep 29, 2004

A who's who of transit officials from the national and regional level praised progress of NDSU's Small Urban & Rural Transit Center (SURTC) at its third annual steering committee meeting Sept. 15 at the NDSU Alumni Center.

"We would like to see SURTC replicated and adopted as a national model," said Pam Boswell, a member of the committee representing the American Public Transit Association in Washington, D.C. She said the association is addressing issues such as increased transit demand from an aging population and in university communities as well as a need for improved technical standards for equipment and operating procedures. "A large segment of our membership is rural and small urban transit operators."

SURTC is part of NDSU's Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute and was created three years ago to provide transit stakeholders, users, providers, suppliers and agencies information and training on technology and improved management and operations to increase the mobility of small urban and rural residents through improved public transportation.

"The steering committee continues to provide important input to shape our program and make its programs relevant to transit agencies and to those who depend on transit," noted Jill Hough, SURTC director.

Dale Marsico, committee member representing the Community Transportation Association of America, also in Washington, D.C. noted that rural transportation issues were among the largest issues for rural lawmakers in terms of constituent calls.

The Federal Transit Administration is represented on the committee by Barbara Sisson, associate administrator for research, demonstration and innovation. She noted that more than 60 federal agencies fund mobility programs across the country. "Consolidating or coordinating those efforts has the potential to allow us to provide $700 million of added mobility to citizens annually," she says.

The committee also includes representatives from transit organizations and state departments of transportation in North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana

Committee members discussed issues facing rural transit organizations and suggested potential research areas for the center. Issues include consolidating efforts such as dispatching and record-keeping among transit agencies, reducing insurance costs, improving service to elderly and special-needs riders, finding and retaining qualified employees, finding affordable resources such as scheduling software and equipment, and a lack of funding.

"For many of our agencies, savings doesn't have to be big to be significant," said Bruce Lindholm of the South Dakota DOT. "Our agencies are in the $100 business not the $1 million business."

"There is lots and lots of need out there and lots of ideas to meet that need, but no money," observed Bruce Fuchs of the North Dakota DOT.

"We need to change the thinking of people and decision-makers," noted Gene Griffin, director of the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute and parent organization of SURTC. "We need to think of transit, not as transportation, but of mobility. And we need to think of mobility as systemic. What is health care, what is education, what is business, without mobility? We need to think of mobility as an integral part of the overall system."

Published in NDSU's staff newsletter
It's Happening at State
Sept. 29, 2004

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