Traverse City Record-Eagle

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July 19, 2013

Busing battle continues

TRAVERSE CITY — An association of private school bus contractors renewed its offensive against the Bay Area Transportation Authority.

The National School Transportation Association this year successfully petitioned federal officials to end several BATA bus routes used by Suttons Bay Public Schools students to get to and from school. NSTA officials contended the routes violated federal regulations intended to prevent unfair competition between federally funded transit agencies and private school bus operators.

But BATA officials have since reorganized their organization’s business model and routes, and Suttons Bay’s Board of Education voted this month to continue buying bus passes in bulk for $124,000 a year so students can ride BATA buses come September.

Jim Seal, a California-based consultant for the NSTA, wants to know specifically how that arrangement will work.

“They haven’t disclosed, to our knowledge, what the parents, the school district and the agency have agreed to for $124,000.”

Seal sent a public records request to BATA this month that sought, among other things, copies of all correspondence between BATA and the Federal Transit Administration, and between BATA and Suttons Bay school officials. Seal also sent a copy of the request to FTA officials.

BATA Executive Director Tom Menzel said Seal’s written request included “many inaccuracies,” including an assertion that BATA and Suttons Bay entered into a contractual agreement.

Menzel said there is no contact and said any organization can buy bus passes in bulk from BATA.

Menzel said BATA officials will respond to the records request and correct the NSTA’s misunderstandings.



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