Public Policy

On February 26th the Maine Transit Association held its Legislative Breakfast at the Cross State Office Building in Augusta. We were joined by many Legislators and had the opportunity to talk with them about the work we do and the challenges we face. We appreciate the strong turnout of Legislators. We had the opportunity to talk with them about the importance of transit services to Maine people and the issues that will arise during this session. Below are a number of photos from the breakfast.

Marcia Larkin of Penquis talks with Rep. Terry Hays (back to camera), while Jim Wood of KVCAP, Connie Garber of YCCAC, and Sandy Buchanan of WMTS discuss legislation with Senator Lachowicz and Senator Craven.

Al Schultz of Shuttle Bus Zoom with Rep. Nadeau and House Majority Whip Jeff McCabe.

Rep. Lance Harvell, Senator Pat Flood, Rep. Catherine Nadeau, Senator Margaret Craven, and Senator Colleen Lachowicz talk with MTA officials.

Download the MTA Legislative Agenda 2013 (MS Word Doc) here.

The Maine Transit Association advocates for public policies that support transit and allow MTA members to better meet the needs of Maine people. Transit operations are supported by a combination of federal, state, and fare revenues. In recent years, federal and state revenue has been reduced, creating challenges for MTA members.

MTA Goals and Accomplishments – 2012

  • Obtain State Match for Federal Transit Capital Funding (9/1 Leveraging). $1 million included in Transportation Bond going before the voters in November.
  • Dedicate a portion of the STAR Account for Transit. $600,000 dedicated for transit, with additional funding possible.
  • Retain Existing Transit and MaineCare Transportation Services. There were no direct cuts to MaineCare Transportation, but cuts in MaineCare eligibility will limit our ability to help some low-income residents.
  • Develop New Programs and Funding for Veterans and Seniors. Ongoing.

Our Challenges

The members of the Maine Transit Association continue their efforts to address a series of significant and ongoing challenges.

In the face of increased demand, funding for public transportation services has been reduced. We have seen reductions in state social service funding, in MaineCare reimbursement rates, and Transportation Providers have reduced staff, cut office hours, cut hours of service and increased fares to address these cuts while minimizing the impact on riders.
The tables below clearly demonstrate the scope of cuts:

MaineCare Non-Emergency Medical Transportation (NEMT)

SFY 10 NEMT funding: $45.85 M
SFY 11 NEMT funding: $40.12M = ($5.73M)

A majority of the decrease was due to cuts in reimbursement to regional transportation providers.

DHHS Cuts non-MaineCare

State Purchased Social Services ($358,866)
Commissioner’s Savings Initiative
Adult MH & MR service cut
Contract Disencumbrance
TOTAL ($1,025,060)

Maine was one of 5 states (including New Hampshire) that reported over a 33% decrease in state funding for Transit from 2008 to 2009. (Survey of State Funding for Public Transportation 2011, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials) This was due to a lack of any State capital investment in transit vehicles, equipment or facilities in 2009, as well as 2010 and 2011. (Bond funds were allocated for transit capital match in 2005 and 2008, approximately $1 million each year.) For the same time period, 20 states reported increased total funding for transit (including Vermont and Rhode Island).

Encouragingly, $1 million for transit capital is included in the Transportation Bond approved by the Legislature in May and going to the voters in November 2012

Non-Emergency MaineCare Transportation (NEMT) Changes

Most members of the MTA provide transportation services to MaineCare members. These services have been provided on a “fee for service” basis since the creation of the regional transportation provider system in the 1970s. In response to new federal regulations, Maine DHHS has committed to move from the “fee for service” system to a “brokerage” system. Under the brokerage system, a single agency within each of the 8 regions will be responsible for providing all Non-Emergency MaineCare Transportation (NEMT) for a set rate per person, called a capitated rate. In summer 2012, Maine DHHS plans to issue an RFP to solicit bids to serve as the broker in each of the 8 regions. The new system is expected to be in place in early 2013.

The members of MTA are very concerned about this change. Maine has an outstanding regional transportation system that serves Maine residents well. Each of the providers has developed a network of vehicles and volunteer drivers that efficiently provides literally millions of miles of transportation to MaineCare recipients. Moving to a brokerage system threatens to upset that system and could cause a significant reduction in the quality of service provided to Maine residents.

Some other states have moved to for profit brokers that have different incentives than the non-profit agencies that had been providing services. The for profit brokers typically hire other companies to provide transportation services. Problems have arisen with coordination and reliability. For example, when several counties in Michigan transitioned to a private broker there were repeated failures to pick-up riders for scheduled trips, including for dialysis and other essential medical services.

MTA members are concerned that the new brokerage system could have a negative impact on services provided to all members of the public. The current providers combine MaineCare and other revenue streams to provide coordinated transportation services utilizing buses, vans, and volunteer drivers. Separating out MaineCare funding and trip scheduling will hamper the ability of providers to achieve economies of scale which reduce per ride cost and improve efficiency.

Despite these concerns, MTA members remain committed to providing the best possible service to Maine people. Some agencies may bid to become regional brokers. All providers will seek to work with whomever does become the broker for their regions.

A related issue is the reimbursement of MaineCare recipients for driving themselves to medical appointments. Maine’s regional transportation providers currently coordinate this travel reimbursement. MaineCare members are only eligible for reimbursement if they do not have other travel options and cannot afford the cost of providing their own transportation. These member include persons who travel to methadone clinics to receive medication. Transportation providers and methadone clinics have established procedures designed to prevent fraud. DHHS is currently doing a review of MaineCare transportation policies to reduce fraud (pursuant to 2011 Resolve 142) and MTA members look forward to participating.

Veterans and Seniors
MTA members struggle to serve two vulnerable populations – veterans and seniors. This is particularly difficult in rural areas where distances to shopping, medical care and other services are that much further. Maine is the oldest state in the US, with a median age of 42.7 and is third in the share of residents over 65 at 15.9% (Source: 2010 US Census), yet funding for seniors has decreased over the years, making efforts to meet their needs much more difficult.

Maine is second in the share of veterans in its population at over 12% (Source: US Census Bureau). Veterans, especially injured veterans, require assistance as they seek to transition back to civilian life. For example, many injured veterans have no means to travel to vocational rehabilitation appointments, training or potential work sites.

KVCAP, one of MTA’s member agencies, provides bus service for veterans to the Togus VA Hospital in Augusta. This is a valuable service, but it is only operating because KVCAP and the VA manage to piece together funding from a number of sources. The service is geographically limited, serving only veterans in Kennebec County. Long term, our veterans statewide deserve a transportation system that allows them to reach necessary health care, training and work.

MTA members continue to work with others in government to address these needs. In May 2012, the Interagency Transportation Coordinating Committee (ITCC), which brings together the Departments of Transportation, Labor, and Health and Human Services with regional transportation providers, discussed the needs of veterans. The group will be reaching out to the Veterans Administration to identify and seek to address the unmet needs of veterans.

We will be seeking to build on existing efforts such as United We Ride (UWR) and the Veterans Transportation Community Living Initiative (VTCLI). Information on these efforts in New England can be found at MTA continues to seek ways to better serve the needs of both these vulnerable populations.

MTA’s Goals and Accomplishments

MTA had a number of goals for the Second Regular Session of the125th Maine Legislature in 2012, and we made progress on several of them.

1. Obtain State Match for Federal Transit Capital Funding (9:1 Leveraging)
The federal government provides funding for new transit vehicles, but a 20% state and local match is required. Maine DOT estimates Maine will be eligible to order more than $10 million in vehicles this year.

Currently, Maine’s Regional Transit Providers operate 433 vehicles. Of those vehicles, DOT classifies 131 as being in scrap condition, meaning they have exceeded 100% of their expected lifespan, with an estimated replacement cost of $11.3 million. In addition, there are 51 more vehicles that are in critical condition, which are vehicles between 75 and 100% of their useful life. They have an estimated replacement cost of $6.4 million. Total replacement cost for these vehicles is estimated at $17.6 million.

Current Fleet Capacity:
193 Small Cutaways and vans
167 Mid Size Buses
73 Large Buses
433 Total

Percent of Vehicles by Useful Life:
25% over 100% of Useful Life
11% Between 75 – 100% of Useful Life
(from Annual Report of the Governor’s Interagency Transportation Coordinating Committee, April 2011)

These aging vehicles are becoming increasingly expensive to operate and maintain. MTA members requested funding for transit vehicles in this year’s Transportation Bond. We are extremely pleased that there is $1 million for state match in the Bond going before voters this November.

2. Dedicate a portion of the STAR Account for Transit
In 2011, Legislature approved the transfer of all of the auto rental tax to the State Transit, Aviation and Rail (STAR) Account, which was established to support a variety of non-highway uses including transit. This represents a $3 million a year increase.

Transit should receive its fair share of this expanded revenue. These funds could be used to provide capital match for vehicles, equipment or facilities, to provider operating assistance for local providers, or to match municipal transit expenditures through the Transit Bonus Program. All of these uses would leverage the STAR account with other resources and expand or improve the delivery of services to the public.

MTA is pleased that this year’s Highway Fund Supplemental Budget (2011 Public Law 649) made several positive changes to the STAR Account. First, it established the account as a separate stand-alone fund and renamed it the Multi-Modal Fund. Second, it allocated $600,000 for transit as part of the Multi-Modal Transit account. Finally, it reserved $2.3 million in the Fund for future allocation. MTA will be working with DOT to dedicate a portion of those resources to transit services.

3. Retain Existing Transit and MaineCare Transportation Services
The results in this area were mixed. There were no direct cuts to MaineCare Transportation, but there were significant cuts in MaineCare eligibility. Changes made this year will force over 20,000 members off of MaineCare. This will limit their access to necessary health care and will limit the ability of regional transportation providers to serve these low-income residents.

The issuance of the NEMT RFP later this year and the movement to a regional brokerage system in 2013 will create additional uncertainty relative to our ability to serve the MaineCare population.

4. New Programs/Funding for Veterans/Seniors
MTA recommends policy changes to increase awareness of the transportation needs of veterans and seniors. Maine’s population of veterans has expanded dramatically in recent years. Maine has the second highest rate of veterans in its population among all 50 states, but our policies have not caught up with the needs of veterans.

At a minimum, a veteran’s representative should be added to the Interagency Transportation Coordinating Committee (ITCC) that brings together the Departments of Transportation, Health and Human Services, and Labor . In the long-term, Maine should provide support to assure that veterans can reach the vocational rehabilitation and health care services they need.

Maine’s median age makes this state the oldest state in the nation and we have among the highest percentage of residents over age 65. Despite this, we do not have a thoughtful, coordinated policy for meeting the transportation needs of older residents.

Because of budget shortfalls and a focus on cutting existing services, little progress was made in addressing either of these issues during the 2012 Legislative Session. MTA members will continue to work with the ITCC and other interested groups to develop state policies that address the unmet needs of veterans and seniors.

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