The TAPS Public Transit board of directors got positive news Monday when the organization received the results of a final report from the Federal Transit Administration. The report, part of the organization’s triennial review that covers 17 criteria, found only three deficiencies with no issues related to its financing, record keeping or its federal and state grant processes.
This comes nearly three years after the organization received a laundry list of issues within the organization ranging from excess cash problems and insufficient control within the agency to late preventive maintenance for TAPS vehicles and an insufficient vehicle maintenance program.
“I think it shows TAPS has taken strides to move forward,” Transdev General Manager Josh Walker said Monday during the meeting. “With only three findings, I think it shows we are going in the right direction.”
Monday’s update comes following a draft report that found four deficiencies earlier this year. Since the initial report, TAPS resolved one of these issues when it signed a formal agreement of participation and partnership with the Sherman-Denison Metropolitan Planning Organization for regional planning and transit projects. This is the first time the transit agency has held such an agreement in more than a decade, officials said previously.
Despite the three notes in the triennial review, Walker said that all three represented issues that TAPS can or is working to resolve. The first of the issues involves TAPS documents and resolutions regarding Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VI prohibits discrimination “on the basis of race, color and national origin” for programs that receive federal funding.
Walker said this document has since been updated and now includes information for drivers related to clients with limited English proficiency. Under this change, Walker said TAPS added a complaint process for those with limited English skills.
Another note related to the agency’s complaint policy under the Americans with Disabilities Act and TAPS public information regarding these policies. Walker said he will also be working with partner communities to ensure that the information is available to the public.
Walker noted that while both of these problems have been resolved, these two notes cannot be removed by the local regional office for FTA and instead must be moved up to a higher level in order to be removed.
In the final note, the FTA recommended that TAPS reduce its fleet to match its current operations and service levels. TAPS first started reducing its service levels in late 2015 following a financing crisis that resulted in the suspension of fixed-route services and the exit of McKinney and Collin County from the TAPS service area.
Since early 2016, TAPS has worked to reduce its fleet down to a more manageable size by transferring out excess vehicles, returning others to former partner agencies, and retiring some vehicles that were beyond their useful life span.
By Monday’s meeting, Walker said the agency was down to 60 vehicles, but noted not all of these are in road condition. The board of directors also finalized the transfer of 12 other Titan buses to the Denton County Transit Authority. Walker noted that these vehicles were designed for urban transportation, and were not suited for the rural roads that make up the majority of TAPS service area.
Despite the three findings in the report, Walker said he is happy with the findings and sees it as a sign that the agency is on its way to recovery. Walker noted that the three issues were relatively simple to fix and do not involve the financial aspects or technical capacity of TAPS, which was not the case in 2014.
“It goes back to the comment that it didn’t get broken overnight and it won’t be fixed overnight either,” he said.
Moving forward, Walker said he planned to continue the improvements. While he said some notes are always going to happen, he does not want a repeat of issues from previous years.
Members of the board spoke favorably of the report, noting that it is sign of TAPS progress over the last two years.
“It shows we have come a long way, but we are not out of the woods quite yet,” TAPS board Secretary Terrence Steele said.