Friday, May 17, 2013

Saipan Launches Improved Paratransit System, Looks to Establish New Transportation Services

Contributed by Thomas J. Camacho, Special Assistant for Public Transportation and Chairman for the Commonwealth Public Transportation Advisory Board
Commonwealth Office of Transit Authority, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands

In 2003, a group from Saipan, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, participated in
ESPA’s Mobility Planning Services Institute. In 2011, after years of advocacy, CNMI established its first transportation office, the Commonwealth Office of Transit Authority. Thomas J. Camacho, a member of the CNMI team that participated at the MPS Institute, recently wrote to ESPA about their upcoming launch of an improved paratransit system and other ways in which they are enhancing transportation services in the community.

Under the Commonwealth Office of Transit Authority (COTA) and COTA management and operations, we are launching our new and improved paratransit system, AKA the Call-a-Ride Saipan service, on May 29th.

Currently, we've selected a transportation consulting firm to conduct our Saipan Fixed-Flex Route and ParaTransit System Feasibility Study. Within four to five months from now, COTA will have completed this study with plans to launch its first-ever Saipan fixed-flex route service (possibly four accessible mini-buses and installation of up to 40 bus stop shelters) to be complemented by the ADA paratransit service or Call-a-Ride Saipan. Eventually, COTA will bid out the Saipan fixed-flex route and paratransit service to a third-party contractor.

We are also close to bidding out the Saipan-Tinian Island Ferry Boat Feasibility Study and in six to seven months from now, this study will be completed, and we are hoping it will suggest that a passenger/auto ferry boat system is a viable operation between the island of Saipan and Tinian. COTA will stand ready to implement the recommendations of this study from applying for transit grants to build or acquire ferry boat(s), build terminal facilities and have operation assistance.

Lastly, we are gearing up to establish the first ever One-Call/One-Click Transportation Information, Resource & Referral Service Center which will be equipped with the latest transportation management software; design/build COTA's new Administration Building; and design and convert an existing warehouse into COTA's Vehicle Maintenance, Repair and Storage Facility. 

Our local public lands department designated a good size piece of public land property to COTA for its new building and maintenance facility. We are very excited about these upcoming services and projects so we can be a part of improving quality of life for our citizens. These projects are funded under COTA's Veterans Transportation & Community Living Initiative II grant.

For more information on the work that CNMI has accomplished in accessible transportation, download the Mobility Planning Services Retrospective in PDF, Word, or read the blog posting, from September 2011.

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