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Rep. Cartwright Introduces Bill to Lower Costs for Local Public Transit Agencies

Feb 13, 2020
Press Release

Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Representative Matt Cartwright (PA-08) introduced the Transit Bus Procurement Act to make it easier and more cost-effective for small local public transit operators to purchase new buses through the federal General Services Administration (GSA).

“Buses are often the only form of public transportation for people in small towns. They’re also vital to connecting people to jobs and senior citizens to vital services, which means it’s essential for local transit operators to keep their fleets up to date. But the overly complex and bureaucratic federal procurement process isn’t doing them any favors,” said Rep. Cartwright. “It doesn’t have to be that hard. This legislation streamlines the process for small transit operators to maintain a modern bus fleet, enabling them to keep people moving safely and efficiently. It’s kind of like an easy button for federal bus procurement.”

“Small urban transit properties have limited financial and staff resources. Often, they cannot afford dedicated personnel to navigate current federal procurement regulations, which can be daunting,” said Peggy Howarth, Executive Director of the Monroe County Transportation Authority. “Thankfully, Congressman Cartwright has a solution. By having the GSA handle the legwork of federal bus procurement, this bill takes a significant burden off of smaller local operators and saves them time and money in the process.”

“Counties support 78 percent of the nation’s public transit systems that connect people, businesses and economies. We applaud Congressman Cartwright’s legislation that would help facilitate the ability of small and rural counties to pursue more affordable transit options and maximize the access of all citizens to public transit,” said Matthew Chase, Executive Director of the National Association of Counties.

According to the Federal Transit Authority (FTA), buses carry more passengers than commuter rail, light rail and ferries combined. Buses also play a critical role in providing transit services to individuals with disabilities and special needs. To meet this demand, transit agencies must constantly replace existing fleets and expand service. In 2017, local and regional transit agencies used more than $1.5 billion in federal funding to purchase buses.

Currently, transit agencies procuring buses from the federal government must adhere to cumbersome processes to comply with FTA requirements. Larger agencies have dedicated procurement specialists that understand FTA’s rules. Rural, small- and medium-sized transit agencies — which account for 95 percent of all transit agencies — tend to struggle through the steps required to procure buses with FTA funds and do not have the resources to hire dedicated acquisition specialists. This can delay access to reliable and accessible transportation for local communities.

The GSA negotiates purchases on behalf of federal entities. By extending this opportunity to transit operators, they could take advantage of substantial savings because of volume discounts. The Government Accountability Office noted in a 2015 report that GSA purchases vehicles on average 17 percent below the invoice price.

The Transit Bus Procurement Act would direct GSA to provide a source of supply for small and medium-sized transit agencies to procure buses. This simple change will reduce the regulatory burden on small- and medium-sized and rural transit agencies, allowing for a more efficient and cost-effective way to procure transit buses while complying with federal procurement regulations.