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CATS offers to provide DNC buses if needed

Transit service wants to run charters if private firms can’t meet the need

Charlotte Area Transit System officials have filed a second notification with federal regulators, offering to provide charter bus service for the Democratic National Convention if private companies can’t do it.

CATS first notified the Federal Transit Administration in June about the convention’s unmet transportation needs. City officials followed that with a letter in August that said CATS could meet those needs if given a waiver from federal rules that bar public agencies from competing with private companies for charter bus contracts.

That sparked a complaint from the American Bus Association, which said CATS was trying to provide charters for the DNC that the private firms should supply.

In the second filing on Monday, submitted after CATS officials conferred with the FTA, local authorities said the work at issue involves as many as 52 charter buses – and potentially more – needed to ferry as many as 10,000 passengers between local hotels and DNC activities in uptown Charlotte.

“We want the private sector to have every opportunity to have this business,” said Olaf Kinard, director of marketing and communications for CATS. “If the private sector can’t fulfill an unmet need, we’d like to fulfill that. ...We’re not looking to grab this business away from anybody.”

CATS would charge $92 per hour for any charter service it provides, a fee that includes operating and administrative costs, Kinard said.

Bus association spokesman Dan Ronan said most private motorcoach companies would charge a minimum of about $120 per hour. “CATS is offering a number that most coach operators would lose money on,” he said.

Private charters had 72 hours from when the notice was filed Monday to reach out to the Democratic National Convention organizers with their own transportation plans, Kinard said.

The bus association sent an alert to its full database of over 1,000 private charter and tour companies to get the word out about the CATS notification, Ronan said. He hoped some of the companies would be able to get contracts for the DNC.

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