NCRTD earns award as top system of '14

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State > Recognition given for compliance of regulations

By Arin McKenna

Earlier this month, the New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT) announced that it has named the North Central Regional Transit District (NCRTD) the 2014 Section 5311 Rural Transit System of the Year.
NCRTD provides free weekday bus service to four counties and six pueblos in Northern New Mexico.
“Over the last 10 years, the NCRTD has progressed exponentially and proved to be exemplary in its compliance of state and federal transit requirements, as well as for having an ongoing record of safe, efficient and growing public transit service,” commented David C. Harris, Transit Bureau Chief at NMDOT.
This is NCRTD’s second major award in the past six months.
In October, FTA Acting Administrator Therese McMillan presented NCRTD Executive Director Anthony Mortillaro with the Federal Transit Administration Administrator’s Award for Outstanding Public Service in Rural Public Transportation during the 21st National Conference on Rural Public and Intercity Bus Transportation conference in Monterey, California.
McMillan was also on hand for the presentation of the state award.
In a letter acknowledging the Federal Transit Award, the FTA stated that, “this year’s award features rural transit providers who improved the mobility of Americans in rural areas, allowing them better access to employment, training, education and other services that provide ‘Ladders of Opportunity.’
“North Central Regional Transit District’s application successfully addressed all the evaluation criteria, and demonstrated that its services are a vital link in building Ladders for your community.”
Harris made the nomination for the national award, saying that “the NCRTD has more than fulfilled the tenets of the New Mexico Regional Transit District Act in its first 10 years would not overstate its impact, not only on New Mexico, but more importantly on the communities it serves. It has developed into a model for rural transit within the state and beyond.”
Mortillaro had not anticipated being named New Mexico’s Rural Transit System of the Year.
“It’s not the kind of award that you compete for. It’s one that is annually given out by the New Mexico Department of Transportation, based upon their assessment of which systems that they oversee have shown the biggest improvement in ridership and operations and compliance with state and federal regulations and overall delivery of transit services within the state,” Mortillaro said. “So it was a pleasant surprise. I had no clue that we were receiving this.”
NMDOT officials described some of the criteria that set NCRTD apart from New Mexico’s 21 other rural transit districts in a written statement to the Los Alamos Monitor. It reads, “The FY 2014 New Mexico Rural Transit System of the Year goes to the rural transit agency that has exhibited excellence in safety, efficiency, performance, and compliance with State and Federal regulations for that specific year or over a number of years. 
“NCRTD’s ridership grew by 5 percent over last year, and their cost per trip and cost per vehicle mile based on the funding NMDOT provides has decreased 26 percent and 21 percent, respectively. In a service area of 10,000 square miles this is quite an improvement, especially in light of even greater service improvements that the NCRTD is implementing this year. Their reporting is timely, their last site visit had no major deficiencies, and they are a responsive partner to their peers and NMDOT.”
Mortillaro is uncertain whether receiving these two prestigious awards will impact such factors as the competition for grant money.
“I hope so. The 5311 grants are a distribution of FTA money that comes to the state for rural agencies, and they have a formula on that. I would say that if you weren’t performing well, it probably might impact how much money you receive,” Mortillaro said. “On the federal side, I think that helps in receiving competitive grant rewards, when you’re a recipient of both state and federal recognition like we received. So we’re hoping that that gives us a couple extra checkmarks when they’re evaluating our proposals for a variety of projects. Hopefully that’s the case, but you don’t know, because it’s extremely competitive. So you hope that the fact that you receive these recognitions gives you a leg above anyone else that hasn’t.”
Mortillaro credited everyone involved with NCRTD with the achievement.
“This reflects really a lot of teamwork that occurs here at the RTD with the management staff all the way down to the drivers. Because that’s what would allow us to be successful and to be as good as we are, with everyone contributing and giving 110 percent,” Mortillaro said. “And that goes along with our board providing us with leadership and direction as well. So it’s a true team and organizational effort, along with the policy makers at the RTD.”