|Federal Court to FTA: Continue Enforcing Charter Rule|
|Tuesday, 13 July 2010 00:00|
The federal charter rule is back on after several attempts by Sen. Patty Murray to gain an a potentially precedence-setting exemption for King County Metro in Seattle.
A federal appellate court directed the Federal Transit Administration to immediately continue administering the regulation designed to protect private bus operators from unfair competition by transit agencies that receive federal funding. The ruling overturned a brief administrative stay granted on June 30 to allow attorneys for the Justice Department time to prepare arguments for an appeal.
In a statement, Murray said would continue to fight for a change in the rule that "forces local fans and event goers to use overpriced and inefficient private charter buses."
Earlier in June, a federal judge ruled unconstitutional the so-called "Murray Amendment," language added last year by Murray to the Department of Transportation appropriations bill. The amendment prohibited the FTA from enforcing the charter bus rule against Seattle-based King County Metro Transit. The United Motorcoach Association, a strategic partner of the National School Transportation Association, argued that the rule violated Starline Luxury Coaches' First and Fifth Amendment rights. UMA recently requested a cease-and-desist order against King County Metro Transit.
Public transit agencies that use federally-funded buses to operate charters when a private carrier is available and capable of performing the same work violates the existing federal charter rule. NSTA representatives have previously said that an exemption in the Seattle area could set precedence allowing other communities and states to seek similar provisions allowing for what could amount to a transit monopoly on charter services.
Following the federal court ruling, the Department of Justice requested a stay on behalf of FTA while the case was appealed, but that was denied. Within hours, according to the UMA, the Department of Justice then filed an appeal with the appellate court challenging the lower court's decision denying the stay, which was ordered into effect from the evening of June 29 until the evening of July 8 to allow legal counsel adequate time to prepare arguments.
Vic Parra, president and CEO of UMA, said the industry was dissapointed at the ruling but expresssed confidence that the stay would be reversed. And with the appellate court directive, private bus operators have won the latest round.
Sen. Murray had inserted the exemption language as a direct response to numerous complaints that she said were logged by area baseball and football fans, constituents and event-goers who used the transit services, according to Matt McAlvanah, the senator's press secretary. After losing the first round of legal battles, she announced in a statement that she would continue to fight the charter rule that in her opinion "forces local fans and event goers to use overpriced and inefficient private charter buses." She said her original amendment was in direct response to complaints logged by fans about private charter operators. However, UMA has said that King County Metro was the entity that brought the issue to Murray.
"It's clear the government is overreaching here," said Ken Presley, vice president of industry relations. "It is imperative that our members know the position of their Congressional and Senate Representatives, make their wishes known, and vote accordingly. Senator Murray did not pass this legislation alone.
|Last Updated on Tuesday, 13 July 2010 12:09|