COTA sustains efforts to bring public transportation to Saipan

The Commonwealth Office of Transit Authority continues to make strides in its goal to bring a full-fledged public transportation system to the Commonwealth, according to Alfreda P. Camacho, the Torres administration’s special assistant for Public Transportation.

“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.

Several federal grant applications have been completed and submitted with several more being prepared, she said.

“Our application for a discretionary grant for $6.3 million from the Federal Transit Authority has been prepared and submitted to FTA last August. The funding request will cover all new bus stop infrastructure and hubs throughout…Saipan, 14 medium-built low floor ADA-accessible buses, and funding for our new maintenance and administrative building,” Camacho said.

A grant application for $825,000 was submitted to FTA Region IX in September and COTA is currently applying for a Department of Transportation TIGER grant, to be submitted this month, she said.

Bus stop infrastructure for the fixed-flex route has been planned out and is currently going through the permitting process. Databases and tracking systems are in the process of implementation.

COTA has identified all bus stops and transfer hubs for the fixed routes, Camacho said. 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.

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 said.

Gov. Ralph DLG Torres noted that the progress COTA has made 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,” Torres said.

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