RLS & Associates, Inc. (RLS) has developed a strong reputation for assessing, monitoring, and assisting transit systems and governmental entities in achieving regulatory compliance with Federal Transit Administration (FTA) requirements. RLS performs these activities in three basic areas: 1) performing compliance audits, 2) assisting organizations in achieving regulatory compliance following a state and/or Federal audit, and 3) developing user friendly, regulatory compliance guidebooks.
In the first area, RLS provides a thorough audit of an entity’s processes and procedures to determine its compliance with various Federal regulations, including but not limited to Americans with Disabilities Act, Title VI, Equal Employment Opportunity, Disadvantaged Business Enterprise, and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations. These audits have been performed for state DOTs across the country as well as for the FTA, and can focus on one particular area, or multiple compliance areas. Following the audit, RLS produces a compliance report with findings and recommendations. In the second area, RLS assists the entity with achieving compliance following a state or Federal compliance audit. In these cases, RLS works one-on-one with the transit system, providing sample forms, best practices, training, etc. to assist the entity with achieving complete compliance. Finally, RLS develops guidebooks both for whole programs (Section 5311, Section 5310, etc.) as well as for specific topic areas to assist states and their subrecipients with regulatory compliance.
RLS has conducted more than 2,000 comprehensive or single topic compliance reviews since 1990, including more than 350 compliance reviews of nonurbanized grant recipients across the States of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Oregon, and Tennessee; and specialized compliance reviews in specific topics, including Drug and Alcohol reviews, financial management or indirect cost allocation reviews, Title VI reviews, charter service reviews, and ADA reviews.
The FTA’s Buy America requirement prevents recipients of FTA funding from obligating an amount to a program project unless “the steel, iron, and manufactured goods used in the project are produced in the United States.” 49 U.S.C. § 5323(j)(1). Specifications for procurement of steel, iron, or manufactured goods must be provided by the grantee in its bid solicitation or request for proposals. In return, the bidder or offeror must complete and submit a Buy America certificate. In certain circumstances, FTA may waive Buy America requirements. RLS ensures its clients are in compliance with Buy America and that any non-compliance is reviewed and corrected.
Charter and School Bus
According to the U.S. 49 CFR 604, charter service is defined as “transportation provided by a [Federally funded] recipient at the request of a third party for the exclusive use of a bus or van for a negotiated price” or, “transportation provided by a recipient to the public for events or functions that occur on an irregular basis or for a limited duration.” RLS has developed manuals to assist its clients’ understanding of and compliance with the Federal Charter Service regulations. RLS has also developed and conducted charter compliance trainings for rural and small urbanized transit systems.
Additionally, Federal regulations prohibit grant recipients from “providing school bus service in competition with private school bus operators unless the service qualifies and is approved by the [FTA].” The regulation provides for three possible exemptions. RLS’ school bus service compliance review involves determining if the recipient meets one of the FTA exemptions, has FTA approval, and uses only locally-funded assets; as well as ensures that subrecipients, contractors, and lessees who operate the service comply with FTA regulations.
Civil Rights: ADA, Title VI, EEO
RLS is highly experienced in reviewing compliance with civil rights regulations, specifically the regulations set forth under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Act (EEO) of 1972. RLS staff members are prepared to examine clients’ policies, procedures, and practices, document any areas of non-compliance, and implement actions to bring the organization into compliance.
Under the ADA, public and private transportation providers are required to operate services in a way that does not discriminate against persons with disabilities. The regulations include general nondiscrimination provisions that apply to all types of agencies and services, and provisions that apply to certain types of agencies and services. For example, public fixed route operators are required to make on-board stop announcements to keep riders oriented to their location. They are also required to have a system in place at stops served by multiple routes that allows riders to identify the bus they need to catch, or drivers to identify which riders are waiting to catch their bus. Public fixed route operators also must provide ADA complementary paratransit service to individuals who cannot use the fixed route due to their disability.
Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in programs and activities receiving Federal financial assistance. Funding is subject to termination if a recipient is found to have discriminatory practices, and the recipient will be referred to the Department of Justice for the appropriate legal action. RLS is highly experienced in Title VI reviews and related guidance, such as the U.S. Department of Justice’ Title VI Legal Manual, which sets out Title VI legal principles and standards.
In accordance with the Equal Employment Opportunity Act (EEO), recipients of Federal funding must not discriminate in hiring practices on the basis of race, color, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, creed, or religion. Additionally, FTA recipients must develop an EEO Program if they employ 50 or more transit-related individuals (including temporary, full-time, or part-time employees), AND 1) requested or received more than $1 million in capital and/or operating assistance in the previous Federal fiscal year OR 2) requested or received more than $250,000 in planning assistance in the previous Federal fiscal year. RLS assists its clients in developing and implementing fully compliant EEO Programs, which must contain at least a statement of policy, dissemination plan, designation of personnel, assessment of employment practices, and a monitoring and reporting system.
Comprehensive Technical Assistance and Training
RLS’ hallmark continues to be providing industry-leading technical assistance and training to its clients. RLS’ staff of compliance experts and trainers have extensive experience developing programs, materials, and courses in numerous regulatory areas that are designed to strengthen administrative and operating practices, as well as evaluate and improve services. RLS’ assistance comes in many forms, including templates, handbooks, sample policies and procedures, informational brochures, on-site visits, reports with findings and recommendations, and action plans. In addition to RLS’ expansive training catalog, RLS often develops customized training to meet specific client needs.
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is an agency with the U.S. Department of Transportation that regulates van and bus travel across state lines. FMCSA fulfills its mission of preventing vehicle-related injuries through enforcement of safety regulations, improvement of safety systems and vehicle technologies, and the spread of safety awareness. RLS has researched and developed compliance manuals for meeting FMCSA interstate transportation requirements, which involved extensive collaboration with Federal officials and operators. Additionally, RLS has developed easy to follow, step-by-step guides to assist transit systems with achieving FMCSA compliance.
RLS was the primary author of the original Multi-State Technical Assistance Program (MTAP) Financial Management Guidelines almost 15 years ago, and has taught this course across the country in 16 states and several national transit conferences to over 500 participants. States where this comprehensive and extremely important course has been taught include Pennsylvania, Texas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Delaware, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, Oregon, West Virginia, Alabama, Ohio, South Carolina, Indiana, and North Carolina. Major topic areas of the original course included development of goals and objectives, performance evaluation, budgeting, and reporting. RLS also developed webinar presentations to introduce key concepts related to financial management.
Substantial changes in the financial landscape since the original course was developed; multiple re-authorizations of the enabling legislation for Section 5311 (including SAFETEA-LU, MAP-21, and the FAST Act); and major changes in cost principles, grant management procedures, and audits articulated in 2 CFR Part 200 (the “Super Circular”) have dramatically raised the need to have current and timely, yet understandable guidance for Section 5311 program managers. In response to this need, the National RTAP program issued a request for proposals for the update of the Financial Management Guidelines, and once again, RLS was chosen to author this important training. While the previous work plan was centered on a participant manual, PowerPoint presentation, and in-person instruction, in today’s technology-based, on-demand learning environment, a range of new options will be used to communicate key elements of this course. Although there is no substitute for classroom learning, it has been RLS’ experience that a combination of classroom and computer-based and/or on-line training is the best strategy for ensuring that all participants successfully receive, retain, and can apply the concepts presented. The forthcoming update will also include exercises, examples, and assessments to ensure the best educational experience for individual participants.
On-Site Compliance Reviews
RLS has emerged as the nation’s leading FTA nonurbanized area compliance review consulting firm. Over the past decade alone, RLS’ staff of compliance experts has conducted more than 400 reviews of nonurbanized grant recipients across the States of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Oregon, Tennessee, and Illinois. Additionally, more than 2,000 comprehensive or single topic compliance reviews (ADA, Title VI, Charter, Drug and Alcohol, etc.) have been conducted since 1990. The tool that RLS employs to complete these reviews allows state DOTs to both monitor compliance of their subrecipients as well as provide technical assistance. RLS has been performing compliance reviews for more than 30 years and has developed a successful process for providing a comprehensive assessment of each grantee’s compliance with Federal and state regulations. Reviews typically last one or two days and are documented in a detailed report of findings and recommendations, including an implementation schedule for corrective actions. RLS incorporates a technical assistance component into the reviews, which allows states to share best practices among its Section 5311 systems to improve management and operations.
RLS assists its clients with everyday operations management that enhances compliance, effectiveness, and efficiency. This can be achieved through grant planning and management support, policy and procedure revision or development, comprehensive manual development for the system and other stakeholders, and allocated cost and resource evaluations.
Preventive Maintenance (PM)
RLS has developed vehicle preventive maintenance (PM) programs to be used by subrecipients under the oversight of state DOTs. These comprehensive programs enable systems to create individual plans that reflect their unique fleet makeup. A successfully implemented PM plan will ensure that state and Federal vehicle assets have the best chance of meeting and/or exceeding useful life standards. This is particularly important in enabling subrecipients to achieve effective program management and satisfactory continuing control. To ensure system program success, RLS has created extensive training, follow-up materials, and methods and/or tools for implementation.
RLS has assisted state DOTs in preparing for their FTA procurement reviews and audits by assessing, organizing, and assembling all documents in response to the FTA auditors’ requests. RLS then supports DOTs in developing responses to their draft review reports and implementing remedies, including the development of new oversight procedures, State Management Plan updates, new forms and checklists, and training for subrecipients. RLS has also updated and revised tools for subrecipient compliance reviews to ensure continued and routine oversight of procurement practices. To inform subrecipients of their responsibilities related to FTA-funded procurements, RLS developed procurement training for subrecipients to be administered by their State DOT. As part of this training, RLS developed model/best practice policies, procedures, forms, and checklists to facilitate the establishment of fully compliant programs.
FTA subrecipients must—as a condition of their Federal funding—show adequate program management. Program management is RLS’ first area of compliance to be addressed in compliance reviews, because if a subrecipient is not eligible to receive Federal funding, then continuing with the remainder of the review is moot. To support its claim of effective program management, a subrecipient must indicate its governance status (county, municipality, or other FTA-accepted authority); its relationship with, and authority over the transit system regarding budgets, finances, purchases, performance reviews and/or oversight, and audits; its regular receipt of transit reports and how often ‘transit’ is a discussion item on meeting agendas; and whether or not the governing board has delegated any of this responsibility.
Safety Management Systems (SMS)
On July 19, 2018, the FTA published a final rule governing Public Transportation Agency Safety Plans as authorized by the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), and reauthorized by the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act). This final rule requires States and certain public transportation systems that receive Federal financial assistance to develop safety plans based on the Safety Management System (SMS) approach. SMS is a flexible, scalable framework for collaboration between management and labor to control risk, detect and correct safety problems, share and analyze safety data, and measure safety performance. RLS has extensive experience developing practical, implemental safety solutions, and is committed to helping its clients achieve full compliance with the new SMS requirements.
Satisfactory Continuing Control
FTA subrecipients must, as a condition of their Federal funding, demonstrate satisfactory continuing control. Specifically, subrecipients must show evidence of maintaining and submitting to FTA all required reports and notifications; that the property continues to be used for its original authorized purpose; that disposition of any property was done so in accordance with 2 CFR 200; that appropriate insurance on the property is maintained; and that the subrecipient has and continues to have control over the FTA-funded property. RLS reviews the requirements surrounding satisfactory continuing control as part of its subrecipient compliance review monitoring projects for State DOTs. Documents reviewed include, but are not limited to, a complete property inventory; notations of any property that has incidental use, including the required incidental use agreements; any property owned or managed by third party contractors, including lease and other use agreements; and equipment and property disposition procedures.
Super Circular/Uniform Guidance
In the December 26, 2013 Federal Register, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) published new guidance which consolidated OMB’s previous circulars, A-87, A-21, A-122, A-102, A-110, and A-133, into one: the “Super Circular.” Not really a circular, this new guidance codifies at 2 CFR 200 the scopes of all of the aforementioned circulars: cost principles, administrative requirements, and audits.
To meet the needs of its State DOT clients, RLS developed two training programs—one for governmental bodies and one for nonprofit agencies—to introduce the new regulation and provide training on the compliance requirements for subrecipients and State DOT staff. This training has been taught in several states, including Ohio, West Virginia, Louisiana, New Hampshire, and North Carolina.
Transit Asset Management (TAM)
In 2012, with the passage of MAP-21, the Secretary of Transportation was required to establish and implement a National Transit Asset Management (TAM) System which defines State of Good Repair (SGR). The purpose of establishing this program is to determine the condition of Federal assets used for providing public transit. By creating a standard of SGR to assess these assets, the FTA is able to gain a better understanding of the need to replace assets that are not safe or reliable being used in the provision of service. The latest reauthorization, the FAST Act, and subsequent rule making provides guidance to transit providers, Metropolitan Planning Organizations and State DOTs on how to develop and implement TAM systems and defining SGR. The rule making was intended to be flexible to allow each entity to develop their own SGR definitions, benchmarks, condition assessments, and targets based on the way they operate.
Each system, MPO or State DOT representing smaller systems is required to develop a TAM Plan. RLS provides assistance in helping to develop a plan that includes:
- Assessing the current condition of its capital assets;
- Determining what the condition and performance of its assets should be (if they are not already in a state of good repair);
- Identifying the unacceptable risks, including safety risks, in continuing to use an asset that if not in a state of good repair; and
- Deciding how to best balance and prioritize reasonably anticipated funds (revenues from all sources) towards improving asset condition and achieving a sufficient level of performance within those means.
Amy RastAssociateMs. Amy Rast works out of the RLS Lyndonville, Vermont office, having joined RLS & Associates, Inc. after a successful career with the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans). Ms. Rast has over 30 years of transportation experience including...
Jaime BlattiAssociateAs part of RLS’ growing compliance practice, Ms. Blatti works out of the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) headquarters in Chicago where she supports IDOT’s oversight of its subrecipients. As part of this role, Ms. Blatti is responsible...
Russ Parish Associate Mr. Russ Parish works out of the RLS Arkansas Office and manages State RTAP projects for New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Ohio, Tennessee, and Wisconsin. He is also a member of the RLS Drug and Alcohol Compliance Monitoring team. An...
Matt Bussey Associate Mr. Bussey works out of the Dayton headquarters and has over 10 years of experience practicing law, predominantly in the areas of corporate law and regulatory compliance. His primary focus at RLS is conducting FTA regulatory compliance reviews...
Debbie Green Associate Ms. Green works at the Ohio Department of Transportation in Columbus. She joined RLS after working nine years as budget coordinator for Rural Alaska Community Action Program, Inc. Over her time as budget coordinator, Ms. Green prepared grant and...
Robbie L. Sarles President Ms. Robbie Sarles, President, and founder of RLS & Associates, Inc., has worked over 37 years in the transit industry in progressively responsible positions, in both public and private sectors. Since founding RLS in 1987 in Dayton, Ohio,...
Mr. Ray BoylstonSenior AssociateMr. Ray Boylston works out of the RLS Raleigh, North Carolina office. He has over 30 years of experience in transit planning, management, operations, and finance at the state, county, and municipal levels, in both the...
Laura Brown Senior Associate Ms. Laura Brown works in Sumter, South Carolina and is the Senior Associate for RLS’ coordination and planning projects. Ms. Brown has a diverse background of transit planning and financial management and analysis experience as well as a...
Rich Garrity Senior Associate Mr. Rich Garrity is located in the RLS Wilmington, North Carolina office. He has over 40 years of experience in transit and paratransit planning, operations and management evaluation, coordinated transportation services,...
Charles Glover Senior Associate Mr. Charles Glover works out of the RLS Raleigh, North Carolina office and has over 39 years of public transportation experience, with extensive expertise in the planning and development of coordinated transportation services and...
Sean Oswald Senior Associate Mr. Sean Oswald is located in the Dayton Headquarters. He joined RLS in 2011, bringing over five years of GIS analysis, management, and training experience. Building on that experience, Mr. Oswald is now Project Manager for...
Julie Schafer Senior Associate Ms. Julie Schafer is located in the Dayton Headquarters. A former Section 5311 transit manager of a seven-county public transit system in rural Indiana, she has over 18 years of experience, 15 years of that in transit system operations...
Richard (Rich) Schultze Senior Associate Mr. Rich Schultze is located in the Dayton Headquarters. He has over 42 years of experience in a range of passenger transportation modes and settings, including route and service planning for the Washington...
Kelly Shawn Senior Associate Mr. Kelly Shawn is located in the RLS Alexandria, Virginia office. With over 31 years in the transit industry, Mr. Shawn is an experienced trainer, facilitator, and project manager with extensive expertise in small urban, rural, and tribal...
Linda De Herrera Senior Consultant Ms. Linda De Herrera has over 38 years of experience in the transit industry and is located in the RLS Colorado office. She is the Lead Senior Consultant for RLS’ Precision Compliance Inc. (PCI) subsidiary. Ms. De Herrera assists...
Christy Campoll Associate Ms. Campoll currently serves in project assignments as Lead Planner, Co-Project Manager and Researcher, as well as Reviewer for RLS’ planning and compliance team. A former transportation vice president, Ms. Campoll managed a...
Gregory (Greg) HarnettSenior Associate Mr. Greg Harnett works in the Dayton headquarters and serves as the leader of RLS’ compliance section. He is a key contributor to the Federal Transit Administration’s Comprehensive Oversight Review and Technical...
Zach Kincade Office Manager/GIS Specialist Mr. Zach Kincade is the Dayton Headquarters Office Manager, as well as over twelve years of experience as a project manager and Lead Analyst for RLS data collection and survey analysis projects. He also provides...
Lucy Bowman (Sherman)AssociateMs. Lucy Bowman (Sherman) is located in the Dayton Headquarters. She provides support for RLS’ survey and data collection projects and is a Lead Drug and Alcohol Reviewer. She is also a certified instructor for Passenger Assistance...
Rosamary Amiet Quality Assurance Editor Ms. Rosamary Amiet is a remote employee located near Columbus, Ohio who provides editing and quality assurance for RLS’ products and proposals. She retired in 2004 from the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) with over 31...
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