NRoute returns to charter service

Published 1:59 am Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Vicksburg transit system will start offering charter bus service again.

The Vicksburg Post reports the Federal Transportation Administration will require NRoute to notify every private charter service in the country registered with the FTA about all prospective charters before they can accept the business.

The new rule applies to any transportation entity that receives federal funds. NRoute receives its funding through Mississippi Department of Transportation, the city and Warren County.

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About 10 percent of its revenue is generated through fares.

“We can lease our vehicles out for a lot less than they (commercial companies) typically can,” NRoute Executive Director Evelyn Bumpers said.

Any group can hire NRoute for a private charter. A charter is considered a prearranged route for a set number of people with no stops for outside service. NRoute charges $50 per hour, per bus, with groups required to book each bus for a minimum of two hours.

NRoute had offered charter service from its inception in June 2006 through April of this year, when its charter certification with MDOT expired. Officials say MDOT no longer certifies charter companies, leaving NRoute no choice but to comply with FTA regulations.

About 200 private charter companies across the country are registered with FTA. Any of the registered private charter companies will have the option of taking the charter contract before NRoute if they can offer an equal or better price.

Bumpers said there are only a few such companies in the state and none in Vicksburg. Private charter companies currently operate in McComb, Oxford, Ridgeland, Corinth, Ocean Springs and New Albany.

Bumpers said NRoute has historically done very little charter business — sometimes not even getting one charter per month — but the company would like to offer the service.

FTA rules will require NRoute to send a letter of notice to the list of private charter companies at least 30 days before the bus is to run. In turn, Bumpers said NRoute will now require a 30-day notice from groups who wish to charter a bus.

A federal grant of $1 million was used to start the transportation system as an official department of the City of Vicksburg and purchase a fleet of six vehicles. NRoute has since become an independent entity, and has expanded to include 11 buses and nine routes. It has averaged about 4,800 riders per month over the past year.