US: Transit Program Not Being Used Optimally By Local Governments, Report Indicates

WASHINGTON, May 31 -- The local governments getting funding through the Job Access and Reverse Commute Program have allowed tens of millions in funding to lapse without being used, the Government Accountability Office revealed.

In a report titled, "Job Access and Reverse Commute Program: Progress Made in Using Funds and Stakeholder Views on Proposed Program Changes" (Report No. GAO-11-518) the GAO said since 2008, more than $27 million in funding has lapsed. The GAO also indicated that many entities were beginning to spend funding more efficiently, which could lead to a more effective program in the long run. The program has been used in providing transportation to help low-income people access jobs.

The funding that lapsed went from 12 percent in 2008 to 6.5 percent in 2010. Part of that has been due to the Federal Transit Administration's efforts to make sure the program was implemented.

Despite the progress, the GAO said some challenges have remained. First, some funds have lapsed because of difficulty in obtaining local matches required. Second, some have not been able to adequately coordinate effort with various human services agencies. Also, some of the funding allowances do not correspond with local demands.

Although no formal recommendations were made, the GAO said there could be several options available for making improvements. One option included working with local transit programs designed to help the elderly or those with disabilities, which could then provide more flexibility to use dollars where they have been most needed.

The U.S. Department of Transportation did not provide any official feedback, other than working with the GAO to provide technical corrections to the report.

A full copy of the report is available at: http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d11518.pdf

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Ken Black is a Targeted News Service writer based in Marshalltown, Iowa.

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