Special Assistant for Public Transportation Alfreda P. Camacho noted that the Commonwealth Office of Transit Authority has been making significant strides as it continues its goal of bringing a full-fledged public transporation system to the Commonwealth.
“The procurement of two additional buses for our fixed-flex route program is currently in the bidding process with an extension of the bidding period pending. We also have been working closely with Jon Nouichi from the Hawaii State and County Department of Transportation for a joint procurement for buses,” Camacho said.
Special Assistant Camacho added that several federal grant applications have been completed and submitted with several more being prepared.
“Our application for the discretionary grant for $6.3 million dollars from the Federal Transit Authority (FTA) has been prepared and submitted to FTA last August. The funding request will cover all new bus stop infrastructure and hugs throughout the island of Saipan, 14 medium-built low floor ADA-accessible buses, and funding for our new maintenance and administrative building. FY 2017 Apportionment grant had been submitted into FTA Region IX for approximately $825,000 in September to maintain operations of the demand response service and the program administrative functions of COTA. We are currently in the process of applying for the Department of Transportation TIGER grant with a submission slated for this month,” Camacho said.
Bus stop infrastructure for the fixed-flex route has been planned out accordingly and is currently going through the permitting process. Databases and tracking systems are in the process of implementation.
“COTA has successfully identified all bus stops and transfer hubs for the fixed routes. Funding has been allocated for two of the routes, but there is still a need for funding for the last three routes. The National Transit Database reporting has been accepted and approved by the FTA earlier this quarter. Current data for 2017 has been collected and will be shared with the public in December. The data captured includes: on time performance, cancellations, no shows, destination points, and ridership for the demand response service. The Transportation Software Tracking System contractor RouteMatch Software will be on Saipan this month to perform training for this system. COTA is projected to go “live” by mid- November 2017,” Camacho noted.
Governor Ralph DLG. Torres noted that the progress COTA has made has been a deliberative one that will pay off once the bus fleet gets fully implemented.
“Access to transportation is the one of the most important factors in an individual’s ability to escape poverty and seek out more economic opportunities like finding a job or attending a class. Alfreda and her very hardworking team—from the drivers to the dispatch operators, who get up early everyday—have dedicated themselves to ensuring we have this service. And with the new buses coming in, more public outreach, and sticking to the vision, we will have a transportation system that our whole community will be proud of,” Govenror Torres said.