Like other industries, community transit has a language of its own, one that is often thick with acronyms and terms that are not easily understood. This summary provides commonly used definitions for these terms, as well as related programs and services. From AAA (Area Agency on Aging) to Vanpool, you'll not only understand what each term means but how it relates to community transit.
AAA: Area Agency on Aging. The local entity that plans senior services and advocates for the elderly within their communities, administering provisions of the Older Americans Act (see OAA).
Access Board: Common name for the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board, an independent Federal agency whose mission is to develop guidelines for accessible facilities and services and to provide technical assistance to help public and private entities understand and comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Access to Jobs: Federal funding for programs to increase work-related transportation available to low-income individuals. Authorized in TEA-21. Non-profit organizations and municipalities can apply to FTA for funding.
Accessibility: The extent to which facilities, including transit vehicles, are barrier-free and can be used by people who have disabilities, including wheelchair users.
Alternative Fuels: Vehicle engine fuels other than standard gasoline or diesel. Typically, alternative fuels burn cleaner than gasoline or diesel and produce reduced emissions. Common alternative fuels include methanol, ethanol, compressed natural gas (CNG), liquefied natural gas (LNG), clean diesel fuels and reformulated gasoline.
ADA: Americans with Disabilities Act: Passed by the Congress in 1990, this act mandates equal opportunities for persons with disabilities in the areas of employment, transportation, communications and public accommodations. Under this Act, most transportation providers are obliged to purchase lift-equipped vehicles for their fixed-route services and must assure system-wide accessibility of their demand-responsive services to persons with disabilities. Public transit providers also must supplement their fixed-route services with paratransit services for those persons unable to use fixed-route service because of their disability.
AoA: Administration on Aging. The agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that oversees the implementation of the Older Americans Act, including senior nutrition programs, senior centers and supportive services for elders. See www.aoa.gov for more information.
Bond: A three-party agreement providing legal assurance of contract. A transit provider may request/require prospective contractors to provide a bid bond - a guarantee that the bidding party will fulfill the terms of the bid, and if not, that a third party (usually an insurance company) will pay any cost difference bond that ensures restitution should the winning contractor fail to perform in accordance with specific contract terms.
Brokerage: A method of providing transportation where riders are matched with appropriate transportation providers through a central trip-request and administrative facility. The transportation broker may centralize vehicle dispatch, record keeping, vehicle maintenance and other functions under contractual arrangements with agencies, municipalities and other organizations. Actual trips are provided by a number of different vendors.
Bus Testing: Originally drafted in 1989, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Bus Testing regulations mandate that all transit vehicle models purchased with FTA money must undergo testing at FTA's Altoona, Pa. bus testing site.
Buy America: Federal transportation law which requires that all purchases of vehicles, equipment or any other manufactured item be of US-made and assembled components, unless the purchase price is less than $100,000 or the DOT has given the purchaser a Buy America waiver.
Capital Costs: Refers to the costs of long-term assets of a public transit system such as property, buildings and vehicles. Under TEA-21, FTA has broadened its definition of capital costs to include bus overhauls, preventive maintenance and even a share of transit providers= ADA paratransit expenses.
Clean Air Act: Federal regulations which detail acceptable levels of airborne pollution and spell out the role of state and local governments in maintaining clean air.
CDL: Commercial Drivers License: The standardized driver's license required of bus and heavy truck drivers in every state. Covers drivers of any vehicle manufactured to seat 15 or more passengers (plus driver) or over 13 tons gross vehicle weight. The CDL is mandated by the Federal government in the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986.
Community Transportation: Transportation services that address the transit needs of an entire community, including the needs of both the general public and special populations.
Complementary Paratransit: Paratransit service that is required as part of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which complements, or is in addition to, already available fixed-route transit service. ADA complementary paratransit services must meet a series of criteria designed to ensure they are indeed complementary.
CMAQ: Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Project: A flexible funding program administered by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) which funds projects and programs to reduce harmful vehicle emissions and improve traffic conditions. CMAQ funds may be used flexibly for transit projects, rideshare projects, high-occupancy vehicle lanes or other purposes.
Coordination: A cooperative arrangement between transportation providers and organizations needing transportation services. Coordination models can range in scope from shared use of facilities, training or maintenance to integrated brokerages or consolidated transportation service providers.
Curb-to-Curb Service: A common designation for paratransit services. The transit vehicle picks up and discharges passengers at the curb or driveway in front of their home or destination. In curb-to-curb service the driver does not assist the passenger along walks or steps to the door of the home or other destination.
CTAA: Community Transportation Association of America. A national professional association of those involved in community transportation, including operators, vendors, consultants and federal, state and local officials.
CTAP: Community Transportation Assistance Project. This program of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers training materials, technical assistance and other support services for community transportation providers across the country. CTAP services are currently delivered by CTAA through the National Transit Resource Center.
Demand-Response Service: The type of transit service where individual passengers can request transportation from a specific location to another specific location at a certain time. Transit vehicles providing demand-response service do not follow a fixed route, but travel throughout the community transporting passengers according to their specific requests. Can also be called "dial-a-ride." These services usually, but not always, require advance reservations.
Deviated Fixed Route: This type of transit is a hybrid of fixed-route and demand-response services. While a bus or van passes along fixed stops and keeps to a timetable, the bus or van can deviate its course between two stops to go to a specific location for a pre-scheduled request. Often used to provide accessibility to persons with disabilities.
Disabled: Any person who by reason of illness, injury, age, congenital malfunction or other permanent or temporary incapacity or disability is unable, without special facilities, to use local transit facilities and services as effectively as persons who are not so affected.
Door-to-Door Service: A form of paratransit service which includes passenger assistance between the vehicle and the door of his or her home or other destination. A higher level of service than curb-to-curb, yet not as specialized as "door-through-door" service (where the driver actually provides assistance within the origin or destination).
Drug and Alcohol Testing Regulations: DOT implemented the Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act in December 1992. The act requires drug and alcohol tests for all safety-sensitive employees of agencies receiving Section 5307, 5309 or 5311 funding (Section 5310 agencies are not included), including drivers, maintenance workers, dispatchers and supervisors.
Economic Development: The improvement of an area's employment, production or industrial well being. The availability of public transit can play an important role in economic development.
Employment Transportation: Transportation specifically designed to take passengers to and from work or work-related activities.
EZ/EC: Empowerment Zones/Enterprise Communities: These areas, so designated by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Department of Agriculture (USDA), are eligible for preferences and flexibility in many federal grant programs. EZ/ECs are chosen competitively based on community poverty characteristics and local strategic planning processes.
Fare Box Revenue: A public transportation term for the monies or tickets collected as payments for rides. Can be cash, tickets, tokens, transfers and pass receipts. Fare box revenues rarely cover even half of a transit system's operating expenses.
FHWA: Federal Highway Administration. A component of the U.S. Department of Transportation, provides funding to state and local governments for highway construction and improvements, including funds must be used for transit. FHWA also regulates the safety of commercial motor vehicle operations (vehicles which require a CDL to drive). FWHA is the lead agency in federal intelligent transportation activities and regulated interstate transportation.
Fixed-route: Transit services where vehicles run on regular, pre-designated, pre-scheduled routes, with no deviation. Typically, fixed-route service is characterized by printed schedules or timetables, designated bus stops where passengers board and alight and the use of larger transit vehicles.
FTA: Federal Transit Administration (before 1991, Urban Mass Transportation Administration). A component of the U.S. Department of Transportation that regulates and helps fund public transportation. FTA provides financial assistance for capital and operating costs and also sponsors research, training, technical assistance and demonstration programs. FTA was created by the passage of the Urban Mass Transportation Act of 1964.
Grant: The award of government funds to an entity. Federal funds are typically awarded either as formula (or "block") grants, where a predetermined legislative process establishes the level of funding available to an entity, or discretionary grants, where the funding agency is free to determine how much (if any) funding an entity will be given based on the relative merits of the proposal. Private foundations also give grants based on their own criteria.
Guaranteed Ride Home: Program that encourages employees to carpool, use transit, bike or walk to work by guaranteeing them a ride home in case they cannot take the same mode home (e.g., if they need to work late or if an emergency occurs).
Head Start: A program of comprehensive services for economically disadvantaged preschool-age children. Services, including transportation, are provided by local Head Start agencies and are funded by the Administration for Children and Families, part of U.S. DHHS.
Human Services Transportation: Transportation related to the provision of human or social services. Includes transportation for the elderly and people with disabilities when the transportation is provided by an arrangement other than the public service available to all.
Intercity Transportation: Transportation service between two urban areas. Under FTA's Section 5311 (f), intercity transportation service must receive no less than 15 percent of each state's total Section 5311 funding, unless a state's governor certifies that these needs are already being met.
Jitney: A privately-owned small vehicle that is operated on a fixed route but not on a fixed schedule.
Match: State or local funds required by various federal or state programs to complement funds for a project. A match may also be required by states in funding projects which are joint state/local efforts. Some funding sources allow services, such as the work of volunteers, to be counted as an in-kind funding match. Federal programs normally require that match funds come from other than federal sources.
Medicaid: Also known as Medical Assistance, this is a health care program for low-income and other "medically needy" persons. It is jointly funded by state and federal governments. The Medicaid program pays for transportation to non-emergency medical appointments if the recipient has no other means to travel to the appointment.
MPO: Metropolitan Planning Organization. The local bodies that set coordination standards and select projects in urban areas to be funded by TEA-21
MRO: Medical Review Officer. An accredited physician who can review the results of drug and alcohol tests for transit employees. A MRO is mandatory for certain transit agencies under the DOT Drug and Alcohol Regulations. The definition and qualifications for a MRO are included in 49 C.F.R. Part 40.
National Transit Database Reports: Annual reports formerly known as "Section 15", report financial and operating data, required of almost all recipients of transportation funds under Section 5307.
NTRC: National Transit Resource Center: Provides technical assistance, information and support to the community transportation industry. Most services and materials are available at no charge. Funded in part by the U.S. Department of Transportation, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the people and members of the Community Transportation Association of America.
No Show: A passenger scheduled for a demand-responsive trip does not appear at the designated pick-up point and time and does not cancel the trip in advance. Frequent no-shows can hurt the efficiency and effectiveness of the service.
OAA: Older Americans Act. Federal law first passed in 1965. The act established a network of services and programs for older people. This network provides supportive services, including transportation and nutrition services, and works with public and private agencies that serve the needs of older individuals.
Operating costs: Non-capital costs associated with operating and maintaining a transit system, including labor, fuel, administration and maintenance.
Paratransit: Types of passenger transportation that are more flexible than conventional fixed-route transit but more structured than the use of private automobiles. Paratransit includes demand-response transportation services, subscription bus services, shared-ride taxis, carpooling and vanpooling, jitney services and so on. Most often refers to wheelchair-accessible, demand-response van service.
PIC: Private Industry Council. See Workforce Investment Board.
Pre-Award/Post-Delivery Audit Requirements: Since 1991, FTA has required recipients of Sections 5307, 5309, 5310 and 5311 funds to carry out audits of vehicles and other rolling stock purchased with FTA money. These audits are to ensure that vehicles are manufactured according to specification and comply with applicable Buy America and Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.
Reverse Commute: Commuting against the main directions of traffic. Often refers to the central-city-to-suburb commute.
Rideshare/Ridematch Program: A rideshare program facilitates the formation of carpools and vanpools, usually for work trips. A database is maintained for the ride times, origins, destinations and driver/rider preferences of users and potential users. Those requesting to join an existing pool or looking for riders are matched by program staff with other appropriate persons. In rural areas, a rideshare program is often used to coordinate Medicaid or volunteer transportation.
Risk Management: An element of a transit system's safety management program. Includes identification and evaluation of potential safety hazards for employees, passengers and the public.
Section 5307: The section of the Federal Transit Act that authorizes grants to public transit systems in all urban areas. Funds authorized through Section 5307 are awarded to states to provide capital and operating assistance to transit systems in urban areas with populations between 50,000 and 200,000. Transit systems in urban areas with populations greater than 200,000 receive their funds directly from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). For more information, go to https://www.transit.dot.gov/funding/grants/urbanized-area-formula-grants-5307.
Section 5309: The section of the Federal Transit Act that authorizes discretionary grants to public transit agencies for capital projects such as buses, bus facilities and rail projects. See https://www.transit.dot.gov/funding/grants/urbanized-area-formula-grants-5307for more information.
Section 5310: The section of the Federal Transit Act that authorizes capital assistance to states for transportation programs that serve the elderly and people with disabilities. States distribute Section 5310 funds to local operators in both rural and urban settings, who are either nonprofit organizations or the lead agencies in coordinated transportation programs. See www.fta.dot.gov/funding/grants_financing_263.html
Section 5311: The section of the federal transit act that authorizes capital and operating assistance grants to public transit systems in areas with populations of less than 50,000. see www.fta.dot.gov/funding/grants_financing_263.htmlfor more information.
Service Route: Another hybrid between fixed-route and demand-response service. Service routes are established between targeted neighborhoods and service areas riders want to reach. Similar to deviated fixed routes, service routes are characterized by flexibility and deviation from fixed-route intervals. However, while deviated fixed routes require advanced reservations, service routes do not. A service route can include both regular, predetermined bus stops and/or allow riders to hail the vehicle and request a drop-off anywhere along the route.
TANF: Temporary Aid to Needy Families. Created by the 1996 welfare reform law, TANF is a program of block grants to states to help them meet the needs poor of families. It replaces AFDC, JOBS, Emergency Assistance and some other preceding federal welfare programs. Because of TANF-imposed time limits, states trying to place TANF recipients in jobs as quickly as possible, often using program funds to pay for transportation, child care and other barriers to workforce participation.
TEA-21: Transportation Equity Act for the Twenty-first Century. This 1998 legislation authorizes approximately $217 billion for highways, highway safety and mass transportation until Fiscal Year 2003.
Trip: A one-way movement of a person or vehicle between two points. Many transit statistics are based on "unlinked passenger trips," which refer to individual one-way trips made by individual riders in individual vehicles. A person who leaves home in one vehicle, transfers to a second vehicle to arrive at a destination, leaves the destination in a third vehicle and has to transfer to yet another vehicle to complete the journey home has made four unlinked passenger trips.
USDA: United States Department of Agriculture. Among its many other functions, USDA is the federal government's primary agency for rural economic and community development. See www.usda.gov for more information.
U.S. DHHS: United States Department of Health and Human Services. Funds a variety of human services transportation through AOA, Head Start, Medicaid and other programs. See www.dhhs.gov for more information.
U.S. DOL: United States Department of Labor. See www.dol.gov for more information.
U.S. DOT: United States Department of Transportation. See www.dot.gov for more information.
User-Side Subsidy: A transportation funding structure in which qualified users (usually economically disadvantaged persons) are able to purchase vouchers for transportation services at a portion of their worth. The users then may use the vouchers to purchase transportation from any participating provider. The vouchers are redeemed by the provider at full value and the provider is reimbursed by the funding agency for the full value.
Vanpool: A prearranged ridesharing service in which a number of people travel together on a regular basis in a van. Vanpools may be publicly operated, employer operated, individually owned or leased.
Workforce Investment Act: This 1998 legislation consolidates the former Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA) and many other federal job training programs into state-managed block grants. This law also replaces Private Industry Councils (PICs) with Workforce Investment Boards.
Workforce Investment Board: Formerly known as the Private Industry Council (PIC). Workforce Investment Boards are concerned with training and developing workers to meet the needs of local businesses. They are responsible for most local job training programs and related welfare-to-work efforts.