State DOT Assistance

RLS & Associates, Inc. (RLS) has built a strong reputation for providing individualized training and technical assistance on a broad range of topics. A hallmark of RLS’ work is providing specialized technical support to state DOTs to assist with complex administrative and operating issues and comply with ever-changing federal and state program rules, regulations, and requirements. Examples of projects include the development of the following:

  • Federal Transit Administration (FTA) required State Management Plans for Sections 5310, 5311, 5316, and 5317.
  • Program Field Guides detailing the state’s oversight requirements for all FTA programs.
  • Program Manuals to assist grantees with local implementation and compliance.
  • State Compliance Guides for complex Federal requirements such as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration requirements and the FTA Charter regulations.

In addition, RLS maintains a close working relationship with officials at the FTA and other industry experts who can provide additional insight and clarification on regulatory compliance and other issues that may arise during the conduct of the project, as well as benchmarks for establishing project recommendations and alternatives.

Capital Planning

RLS has extensive experience working with State DOTs and their subrecipients throughout the country to assist with the development and/or revision of capital plans.

State DOT proposed construction projects may be eligible for FTA funding for transit capital investments under the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST), enacted on December 4, 2015. RLS has the knowledge and content expertise to assist state DOTs with the multi-year, multi-step process required to receive Capital Investment Grant (CIG) funding, Whether the project is New Starts, Small Stars or Core Capacity, RLS provides guidance to State DOTs on the development and implementation of their capital plans.

As a part of the Ohio Technical Assistance Program (OTAP) for the Ohio DOT, RLS has assisted in the development a of several transportation development plans (TDP).  An example of this work is Huron County’s TDP, which included an assessment of existing conditions within the county and development of several organizational and operational alternatives that included a capital plan with budget estimates for each alternative.   RLS refined the selected alternative and provided an implementation plan. A few examples of other RLS-conducted TDPs include, but are not limited to Lancaster/Fairfield County, the Stark Area Regional Transit Authority, both in Ohio, as well as Gwinnet County, Georgia.

Circuit Rider Services

RLS has provided Circuit Rider services for over 20 years to support State DOT Transit offices and their subrecipients in the successful implementation and continuation of transit services. Like the clergy that travelled a circuit from church to church in a defined geographical area from where the term is taken, the transit Circuit Rider travels from transit system to transit system providing technical assistance on behalf of a State DOT.

Over the years, the role of the Circuit Rider has been expanded to address day-to-day transit system needs, which heretofore had been met through the direct provision of technical assistance by State DOT staff. However, limited staff combined with additional Federal and State requirements and the development of significant issues at the local level have required not only the Circuit Rider’s expertise, but also extended periods of time on-site, which is not feasible for State DOT staff. In some instances, the Circuit Rider has been assigned as the “interim transit manager” until a permanent, local manager could be hired. The Circuit Rider’s major focus, however remains in addressing and resolving high priority issues. The Circuit Rider is also helpful in identifying specialized needs and issues that may require a variety of expertise and skill sets. To address these needs, RLS, in addition to the assigned Circuit Rider, draws from its experienced professional staff, subcontractors, and independent contractors to ensure that assignments are addressed timely and appropriately and with the required expertise, for example, audit services, procurement, etc. RLS’ circuit rider services have been provided in Ohio, North Carolina, New Hampshire, and Indiana.

Drug and Alcohol Program Management/Oversight

RLS is the leading compliance review consulting firm in the nation, having conducted comprehensive compliance reviews for the majority of states across the nation. RLS is highly experienced at developing and overseeing Drug and Alcohol policies and procedures that comply with FTA regulation 49 CFR Part 655 (Prevention of Alcohol Misuses and Prohibited Drug Use in Transit Operations) and Part 40 (Procedures for Transportation Workplace Drug and Alcohol Testing Programs). RLS staff members provide over 19 State DOTs with Drug and Alcohol program technical assistance and training, Federal audit support, Fitness for Duty & Rx/OTC program implementation, service agent monitoring, and reporting reviews.

Grants Management

RLS provides program support to state DOTs to assist with managing federal grants and ensure compliance with FTA requirements.  RLS has provided grant management support for Section 5310, 5311, and 5339 awards as well as FTA discretionary awards such as TIGER. In addition to providing this assistance to state DOTs, RLS also has experience providing grants management training and program guidance to subrecipients to help ensure subrecipients are familiar with grant requirements and understand how to comply with state and federal requirements. As a “value added” component, RLS provides tools, templates, and best-practice references to assist with the challenges of becoming and remaining compliant. Training topics include, introduction to transit management: administration, oversight, service operations, and planning; financial management principles; and procurement and third party contracting.

Grant Program Criteria and Applications

Often a State DOT will request RLS’ assistance in the review and update of program criteria and applications required as part of the DOT’s administration and oversight of FTA programs, including but not limited to Sections 5310, 5311, and 5339. In this capacity, RLS staff has researched other States’ application processes and developed best practices to update and revise another state’s application process.

RLS provided staff support to the Illinois Department of Transportation/Division of Public and Intermodal Transportation (IDOT/DPIT) to assess how downstate rural and small urbanized grantees comply with Federal and State program requirements under FTA programs—Section 5311, “Nonurbanized Area Formula Program;” Section 5316, “Job Access and Reverse Commute (JARC) Program;” Section 5317, “New Freedom Program;” Section 5310, “Elderly and Persons with Disabilities Program;” Illinois Downstate Operating Assistance Program; Illinois DOT transit capital grant program—and other Federal or State programs that may be authorized by Congress or the Illinois Legislature to support public, specialized, or human services transportation in downstate Illinois.

Additionally, RLS provided assistance to ALDOT in the organizing, administering, and carrying out of a special grant application round for existing Section 5311 recipients.  RLS served as an extension to the ALDOT staff, assisting the Department in all aspect of soliciting grant applications, processing applications, making recommendations for funding consistent with policies articulated in the State Management Plan, and developing recommendations for the State’s program of projects.  RLS also provided procurement training, one-on one assistance

Performance Measurement and Risk Assessment

Performance measurements are used to evaluate performance in all aspects of a system, from financial management to day to day transportation operations. For some system aspects, such as programs funded under the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST) and the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), the FTA has required Departments of Transportation (DOT) to establish performance measures in various areas, including traffic congestion and freight movement on the Interstate System. Other aspects of a system may not require FTA specific performance measurements but still provide useful information, such as service effectiveness, cost effectiveness, and cost efficiency measures.

RLS uses a number of methods to measure performance so that its clients can evaluate their progress toward transportation goals and objectives; make sound, data-driven decisions; allocate resources appropriately; diagnose and resolve performance problems; assess policy, procedure, and service implications; etc. Some of these methods used include developing a Public Transit Index (PTI) System and gathering data such as service area population, service area socio-economic conditions, transit service characteristics (i.e., fixed route and paratransit), trip characteristics, current fare structures, methods of payment, fare collection technology and media, revenue sources for the transit system operations, and multi-year ridership levels and trends.

Risk is a huge cost for public transit systems and can be a tremendous drain on transit system budgets if potential risks are not assessed, monitored and controlled. If constructed and implemented properly, a risk management program can be a highly successful tool in lowering overall transit system risk as well as operating costs. Identification of risk exposure is the first step of any good risk management process. All other risk management elements hinge upon not only the completeness, but also the accuracy of this portion of the process. RLS can assist the State and its subrecipients in developing a systematic, uniform approach to analyzing risk exposure.

Policy and Procedure Development

RLS’ seeks to contribute to the betterment of its clients’ communities. As such, RLS devotes itself to ensuring its clients develop policies and procedures that not only comply with FTA regulations but improve a client’s effectiveness and efficiency. Such policies and procedures also help meet and protect the needs and rights of the community. RLS assists in the development of policies and procedures by reviewing the clients’ current practices; determining public opinion, demographics, and need; documenting their findings and suggestions; creating potential action plans; and providing support through the development process. RLS maintains a library of model policies and procedures as well that can be provided to its clients upon request.

Public Participation Facilitation

Under 23 CFR 450.316, metropolitan planning organizations must engage in planning processes that create involvement and consultation opportunities for the public. This requirement specifies that the public must be allowed adequate notice of public participation activities; the opportunity to review and comment at key decision points in the development of Metropolitan Transportation Plans (MTPs) and Transportation Improvement Programs (TIPs); and multiple participation formats, such as electronic and in-person surveys. RLS has developed a comprehensive public participation process that it has successfully conducted for projects in Ohio, West Virginia, Indiana, New Hampshire, and Nevada.

RTAP Program Management

State Rural Transit Assistance Programs (RTAP) are the counterpart to National RTAP, whose mission is to “make grants and contracts for transportation research, technical assistance, training, and related services in rural areas” (US Code 49 Section 5311). Program objectives include promoting delivery of transportation services, offering technical assistance and training, disseminating training and technical assistance materials, providing peer-to-peer networks and connections, coordinating public, private, specialized and human service transportation, and maintaining the Rural National Transit Database, objectives which are passed down in some part to each state RTAP program. At the state level, DOTs have the ability to implement the program in a way that best meets the state’s and its subrecipients’ needs. Some states choose to administer and operate their RTAP program directly with DOT staff. Others choose to competitively contract out the total RTAP administration and operation to a third party. Still others choose to administer a portion of the RTAP services, while contracting out for the remainder of the service. It is for those states in the second and third categories, that RLS provides assistance. For over thirty years, RLS has provided all or a portion of RTAP services on behalf of state DOTS, including overseeing/providing the state’s RTAP training and scholarship programs, providing technical assistance, and producing an RTAP newsletter. For some states, they have also included assistance with drug and alcohol compliance, transit asset management, compliance review services, and more. RLS currently provides RTAP-related services to eight state DOTs.

Safety and Security Plans/Safety Management System (SMS)

Unmistakably, 9/11 heightened every person’s need to feel safe and secure to an unequaled level. These tragic events changed how this country travels and continues to drive safety and security decisions today. In addition to domestic or international terrorism, there are still workplace violence concerns, the spillover of domestic violence, and the destruction and devastation from natural disasters. RLS’ experienced and professional staff assist public transit systems with safety and security in a number of ways, including the provision of safety and security plan templates; assisting in the development and/or review of agency safety and security plans; safety and security audits; accident investigation; facilitating a public transit system’s role in community emergency response; and a variety of safety and security training topics, including safety and security train-the-trainer, evacuation, maintenance safety, and operator safety. RLS is well versed in the safety and security requirements, which were first introduced in MAP-21. In fact, RLS staff have provided input into FTA’s safety and security guidelines development process and have completed CTAA Safety and Security Officer Program training. While final decisions are made on FTA SMS requirements, RLS continues to assess the unique operating environment and opportunities of several transit systems and communities and develop practical, implementable solutions to address safety and security concerns. RLS also developed the Transit Bus System Safety Course for the Federal Transit Administration, Transportation Safety Institute. This course, which incorporated research from the Transportation Research Board Project A-18, includes best practices in prevention of passenger incidents and vehicle crashes, behavioral safety concepts, safety awareness and management, safety audits and checklists, operator selection and employee training, accident data tracking and trend analysis, hazard analysis and resolution, facility design, routing and scheduling, vehicle maintenance, facility and operations security and vehicle design and technology.

Staff Support

RLS provides on-site staff support to state DOTs on an as-needed basis to assist in grants management, compliance, data collection, and required reporting for FTA-funded programs, RLS has provided this assistance for the Ohio DOT for more than a decade, and has conducted similar assignments for the Nevada and Illinois DOTs.

State Management Plans (SMPs)

RLS assists state DOTs with the development, reviews, and updates of FTA-required State Management Plans, which set forth each state’s plan for administering FTA transit assistance programs. RLS has provided this assistance in Indiana, Illinois, Nevada, and Ohio.

Stakeholder Engagement

Stakeholder engagement is the process of involving a transit system’s diverse stakeholders, defined simply as “any person or group that has an interest or concern in the transit system and service it provides.” Encouraging public involvement and successfully engaging stakeholders is a critical component for not only the development of transit plans, but in the on-going, day to day transit operation to ensure that the transit service continues to meet the needs of the community. Stakeholder engagement takes many forms—public meetings and forums and surveys are the two, most significant tools of the stakeholder engagement process. To this end, RLS conducts in-depth analysis of existing public, private, and human service agency transportation resources in its clients’ communities. RLS facilitates meetings and surveys for stakeholders to voice their feedback on the agency’s effectiveness. RLS then documents all identified needs/gaps in transportation and existing transportation resources. Next, RLS works with local stakeholders to identify the coordinated transportation planning priorities to be implemented over the time period determined by the client. Finally, RLS documents the goals, priorities, and strategies into a final, locally developed plan ready approval and adopting by the local governing board(s). RLS has provided this type of assistance to State DOTs in West Virginia, New Hampshire, Nevada, Indiana, and Ohio.

Subrecipient Compliance Monitoring

The RLS Compliance Team under contract to State DOTs reviews subrecipients to ensure their compliance with FTA regulations—documenting the levels to which subrecipients comply with each regulation, providing suggestions for corrective measures, and helping subrecipients take corrective measures if they request assistance. These compliance reviews cover from 10 to 19 topic areas, depending on the type of grant funding received. Each compliance review consists of a desk review and an on-site review with one-on-one interviews conducted with applicable subrecipient staff. Each subrecipient is provided with an exit summary of the review’s general findings. Each State DOT and subrecipient are then provided with a written report of findings with a detailed action plan for achieving compliance. RLS also conducts topic specific reviews in the areas of civil rights, drug and alcohol, and procurement. RLS has assisted DOTs across the country with these types of reviews, including, but not limited to, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, North Carolina, Georgia, Colorado, South Dakota, New York, New Jersey, Wisconsin, and West Virginia.

Transit Asset Management (TAM) Planning and Process Guidance

Although the FTA has long required States and its subrecipients to maintain a comprehensive written inventory of FTA-funded assets, the National Transit Asset Management (TAM) System was implemented by Federal statute in 2012 by adding the State of Good Repair (SGR) requirement. The program purpose is to determine the condition of Federal assets used for providing public transit. By creating a standard or SGR to assess these assets, the Federal Transit Administration (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. FTA subrecipients are required to develop a TAM plan but have flexibility in developing their own SGR definitions, benchmarks, condition assessments and targets based on the way they operate.

RLS has provided TAM assistance across the country including but not limited to the Indiana, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, and West Virginia DOTs. This assistance ranges from assisting with the development of an entire TAM plan to 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.

Vehicle Inspections

As part of the FTA’s Satisfactory Continuing Control requirement, subrecipients must conduct regular vehicle inspections as part of maintaining a State of Good Repair and a Quality Assurance/Quality Control Program. According to the FTA, evaluating state of good repair requires supporting the asset management process, which includes: collecting inventory and condition data for rolling stock and infrastructure; establishing a life-cycle policy for asset preservation, including maintenance and repair; and developing funding scenarios to predict future conditions and maximize effectiveness of investments.

RLS has developed updated vehicle specifications and assisted state DOTs with the vehicle procurement process, including: facilitating the procurement process of identified high-priority, immediate need, vehicles from previous federal fiscal year requests; the development of specifications for identified transit vehicle types for future vehicle procurements; RFPs for the desired vehicles and options; selection criteria; pre-award audit; pre-delivery and post-delivery inspection training; and filing required documents with the FTA.

Staff Expertise

Robbie L. Sarles

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, she...

Pam Bentley

Pam Bentley Accounts Receivable Coordinator Ms. Pam Bentley is RLS' Accounts Receivable Coordinator for all client invoices. She is responsible for assembling all documentation to support client invoices generated by RLS' accounting system, coordinating as necessary...

Ray Boylston

Mr. Ray Boylston Senior Associate Mr. 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 public and...

Laura Brown

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...

Richard (Rich) Garrity

Richard (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, policy...

Charles Glover

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

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 all RLS drug...

Julie Schafer

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

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 Metropolitan Area...

Kelly Shawn

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

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

Christy Campoll Associate Ms. Christy Campoll is located in the RLS Indianapolis, Indiana office. As a former transit manager and transportation vice president, Ms. Campoll managed a successful rural, demand response transit system in central Indiana. This $1.5...

Alexander (Alex) Ewers

Alexander (Alex) Ewers Associate Mr. Alex Ewers is an RLS Associate assigned as an on-site Grants Management Technician for the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) at the ODOT Headquarters in Columbus, Ohio. Mr. Ewers is a strong communicator and collaborator...

Gregory (Greg) Harnett, Esq.

Gregory (Greg) Harnett, Esq. Associate Mr. Greg Harnett works in the Dayton Headquarters, is a Lead Compliance Reviewer, and is RLS’ legal expert for all project and company matters. He has over five years of transportation experience, including as a former FTA Lead...

Zachary (Zach) Kincade

Zachary (Zach) KincadeOffice Manager/GIS SpecialistMr. Zach Kincade is the Dayton Headquarters Office Manager, as well as over eleven years of experience as a project manager and Lead Analyst for RLS data collection and survey analysis projects. He also provides...

Alex Schultze

Alex Schultze Associate Mr. Alex Schultze is located in the Dayton Headquarters and has over nine years of experience in map development using ArcGIS and survey data entry having provided technical support to several RLS projects. He has also become proficient with...

Lucy Sherman

Lucy Sherman Associate Ms. Lucy 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 Techniques, Defensive...

Sara Trafton

Sara Trafton Associate Ms. Sara Trafton is located in the Dayton Headquarters. She is an experienced transit and project manager with over 15 years of public transportation experience, and a background in strategic planning, executive management, grant development and...

Victoria (Vicky) Warner

Victoria (Vicky) WarnerAssociate/RTAP ManagerMs. Vicky Warner is located in the RLS Columbus, Indiana Office where she is responsible for office administration and daily operations. She is an experienced transit manager and trainer, with over 24 years of transit...

Megan Gatterdam

Megan GatterdamAssociate/RTAP CoordinatorMs. Megan Gatterdam has over 10 years of experience in the transit industry and is the Indiana RTAP Coordinator in the RLS Columbus, IN office. She is a Lead Trainer and coordinates the annual RTAP Roadeo driver competition....

Rosamary Amiet

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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