Final Notice on Updates to the Uniform System of Accounts (USOA) and Changes to the National Transit Database (NTD) Reporting Requirements, 70260-70264 [2016-24414]

Download as PDF 70260 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 196 / Tuesday, October 11, 2016 / Notices additional public notification. The format of the meeting will consist of a presentation describing the proposed Coachella Valley—San Gorgonio Pass Corridor Service Project, objectives, and existing conditions. Following the presentation, scoping meeting attendees will be able to participate in an open house format that encourages questions and comments on the Project from the public. Felicia Young, Acting Director, Office of Program Delivery. [FR Doc. 2016–24597 Filed 10–6–16; 4:15 pm] BILLING CODE 4910–06–P Ms. Amanda Murphy, Environmental Protection Specialist, Office of Railroad Policy and Development, Federal Railroad Administration, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., (Mail Stop–20), Washington, DC 20590; telephone: (202) 493–0624. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: More information about the Long Bridge Project is available at http:// longbridgeproject.com/. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Issued in Washington, DC, on October 5, 2016. Felicia B. Young, Acting Director, Office of Program Delivery. [FR Doc. 2016–24522 Filed 10–7–16; 8:45 am] DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION BILLING CODE 4910–06–P Federal Railroad Administration DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION Environmental Impact Statement for the Long Bridge Project in Washington, DC Federal Transit Administration Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). ACTION: Extension of agency and public scoping comment period, Long Bridge project. AGENCY: On August 26, 2016, FRA published a Notice of Intent (NOI) to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Long Bridge Project jointly with the District of Columbia Department of Transportation (DDOT) (81 FR 59036). The Proposed Action consists of potential improvements to Long Bridge and related railroad infrastructure located between the Virginia Railway Express (VRE) Crystal City Station in Arlington, Virginia and Control Point (CP) Virginia in Washington, DC. In announcing its intent, FRA and DDOT established a 30day public comment period that was scheduled to end on September 26, 2016. In consideration of requests for additional time to comment, FRA and DDOT are extending the scoping comment period to October 14, 2016. The extension provides agencies and the public with 30 days to submit comments following public and interagency scoping meetings held on September 14, 2016. DATES: The scoping comment period for the Long Bridge Project is extended to October 14, 2016. ADDRESSES: Scoping comments can be mailed to the address identified under the FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT caption below. Internet and email correspondence may be submitted through the Long Bridge Project Web site http://longbridgeproject.com/ or at info@longbridgeproject.com. asabaliauskas on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:12 Oct 07, 2016 Jkt 241001 [Docket No. FTA–2016–009] Final Notice on Updates to the Uniform System of Accounts (USOA) and Changes to the National Transit Database (NTD) Reporting Requirements AGENCY: Federal Transit Administration, DOT. ACTION: Notice, response to comments. This Notice finalizes updates to the USOA and changes to NTD Automatic Passenger Counter Certification requirements. DATES: Full implementation required in report year 2018. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Maggie Schilling, National Transit Database Deputy Program Manager, FTA Office of Budget and Policy, (202) 366– 2054 or margaret.schilling@dot.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: SUMMARY: Table of Contents A. Background B. Response to Comments on Proposed Updates to the USOA and Changes to NTD Reporting Requirements C. Response to Comments on the Revised APC Certification Process D. Overview of Final Updates to the USOA, NTD Reporting Requirements and APC Certification A. Background On February 3, 2016, FTA published a Federal Register notice (initial notice) (Docket No. FTA–2016–009) for comment on proposed updates to the USOA and changes to NTD reporting requirements. The USOA is the basic reference document that describes how transit agencies are to report to the NTD. The USOA was originally published in PO 00000 Frm 00176 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 1977 when NTD reporting began. While the NTD has undergone numerous and substantial changes in the past 38 years, the USOA was last updated for minor changes in 1995. The notice described various proposed changes to the USOA to better align with today’s NTD and accounting practices and to address FTA data needs and common questions among NTD reporters. In the initial notice, FTA proposed the following changes: A. Separation of ‘‘Passenger-Paid Fares’’ and ‘‘Organization-Paid Fares’’ B. Separation of ‘‘Paid Absences’’ from ‘‘Fringe Benefits’’ C. Consolidation of ‘‘Casualty and Liability Costs’’ under General Administration Function D. Expansion of Assets and Liabilities Object Classes (F–60) E. Addition of ‘‘Voluntary NonExchange Transactions’’ F. Addition of ‘‘Sales and Disposals of Assets’’ G. Simplification of State Fund Reporting H. Reorganization of B–30 Contractual Relationship Additionally, the initial notice proposed changes to the NTD reporting requirements that are not directly addressed in the updated USOA, which are as follows: I. Separation of Operators’ and NonOperators’ Work Hours and Counts J. Enhanced Auditor’s Review K. Revised Automatic Passenger Counter (APC) Certification Process In the initial notice, FTA proposed that it would begin implementing the proposed reporting requirements beginning with the FY 2017 NTD reporting cycle. B. Response to Comments on Proposed Updates to the USOA and Changes to NTD Reporting Requirements The comment period for the initial notice closed on April 4, 2016. The following is a summary of the comments from the initial notice related to the updates to the USOA and NTD reporting requirements. Comment: Three commenters raised a concern over the separation of ‘‘Passenger-Paid Fares’’ and ‘‘Organization-Paid Fares.’’ Commenters opposed the separation of ‘‘PassengerPaid Fares’’ and ‘‘Organization-Paid Fares’’ stating that the additional information will add little, if any, value to the NTD report. Commenters noted that adding these additional reporting requirements will only increase the cost of compliance for reporting agencies. One commenter specifically raised a concern stating that the proposed E:\FR\FM\11OCN1.SGM 11OCN1 asabaliauskas on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 196 / Tuesday, October 11, 2016 / Notices change would be especially burdensome for small rural reporters and suggested that FTA rescind the proposed change for ‘‘5311 providers in areas less than 50,000 population.’’ Response: FTA is sensitive to the concern that the proposed change may require additional efforts by the reporting agencies. However, FTA believes that the separation of ‘‘Passenger-Paid Fares’’ and ‘‘Organization-Paid Fares’’ will address a common source of confusion among transit agencies. There are several different types of revenue that count as fares, and the distinction between ‘‘Passenger-Paid Fares’’ and ‘‘Organization-Paid Fares’’ attempts to clarify the sources of funds that should be reported as fares. Additionally, this change will help NTD analysts in identifying and understanding special circumstances such as university towns where the farebox return is relatively high because the agency has negotiated such contracts. In developing these proposed changes, FTA conducted industry outreach which indicated that most agencies already collect this information by these categories and reporting these fares separately would not be an excessive burden. Comment: Five commenters raised a concern over separating ‘‘PaidAbsences’’ from ‘‘Fringe Benefits.’’ Commenters opposed the separation of ‘‘Paid-Absences’’ from ‘‘Fringe Benefits’’ stating that the additional information will add little, if any, value to the NTD report. Commenters noted that adding these additional reporting requirements will only increase the cost of compliance for reporting agencies. While one commenter did not specifically oppose this change, the commenter explained that the organization does have this information available but that method of reporting for NTD will result in additional manpower during the initial reporting period as all current calculations will need to be modified to capture this additional requirement. Response: FTA conducted industry outreach which indicated that the proposed change to separate ‘‘Paid Absences’’ from ‘‘Fringe Benefits’’ better and more closely align with many transit agencies’ current accounting and reporting practices. FTA believes that collecting these items separately will improve future analysis of this dataset by providing additional clarity on costs that are under a transit agency’s control (e.g., paid absences) versus costs that are external and outside the transit agency’s control (e.g., fringe benefits such as health care). FTA realizes that although the change may initially require VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:12 Oct 07, 2016 Jkt 241001 additional resources, these distinctions will ultimately improve data quality and analysis by data analysts. Comment: Two commenters expressed concern over the proposed change to consolidate the ‘‘Casualty and Liability Costs’’ under the General Administration function. Commenters expressed concern that if ‘‘Casualty and Liability Costs’’ are to be categorized and reported under General Administration function as outlined in the proposal, their transit agencies would lose Federal funds since this change would shift the costs from a capital eligible operating expense requiring a 20 percent non-federal match to an operating cost requiring a 50 percent non-federal share. Additionally, one commenter made a suggestion for FTA to consider other non-litigious settlements to be considered in this category. For example, an agency may have to provide a retroactive payment to its labor union employees due to a contract negotiation. The commenter explained that this lump sum outlay will greatly increase the perceived expenses in a single fiscal year. Response: The proposed change to consolidate ‘‘Casualty and Liability Costs’’ under General Administration function aims to align costs with their appropriate categories and simplify NTD reporting requirements for reporters. FTA’s prior decision to allow recipients to use Section 5307 funds for preventative maintenance did not originally anticipate this type of cost (i.e., casualty and liability costs) as an eligible preventative maintenance cost. This change corrects the unintended consequence of including these costs in the Vehicle Maintenance function as preventative maintenance activities by moving ‘‘Casualty and Liability Costs’’ to its appropriate place. FTA maintains that ‘‘Casualty and Liability Costs’’ are most sensibly placed in General Administration function. Per current reporting rules, retroactive payments made to employees for prior reporting years as the result of a contract negotiation should be reported as a reconciling item on F–40 form. Reconciling items are reported as a sum amount and not by individual functions. Retroactive payments made to employees for the current reporting year should be reported on the F–30 form. It is important to note that NTD reporting does not affect the eligibility of these costs for grant reimbursement. The eligibility of expenses for grant reimbursement depends on the nature or definition of the expenses. If an agency has a settlement that it does not consider as casualty and liability, the PO 00000 Frm 00177 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 70261 agency can reach out to its NTD analyst for clarification on object class definitions and can contact its FTA regional office to determine grant reimbursement procedures. Comment: Eight commenters raised a concern over implementing the proposed changes to the USOA and the NTD reporting requirements for the FY 2017 NTD reporting cycle. Commenters explained that the proposed implementation of FY 2017 does not allow for adequate time for transit agencies to prepare for the change. Response: FTA understands that some of the proposed changes may require adjustments to current data collection practices. FTA concurs with commenters that the proposed start date of FY 2017 may not provide adequate time for some agencies to make adjustments to their NTD reporting. FTA will delay the implementation of the proposed USOA changes to FY 2018. Comment: Three commenters raised concern over reporting pension and Other Postemployment Benefits (OPEB) in light of the recently released Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) statements. Response: After taking into consideration the recent GASB statements related to pension and OPEB reporting and the delayed implementation date of the USOA changes, FTA proposes to add line items to account for ‘‘Deferred Outflows of Resources’’ and ‘‘Deferred Inflows of Resources’’ on the F–60 form, as well as to rescind the original proposed changes to add ‘‘Pension Funds’’ and ‘‘OPEB Adjustment’’ USOA object classes. Comment: One commenter raised a question on how to report sale of an asset at a loss. Response: If assets are sold at a loss, the amount received from the sale of the asset should be reported as Sales and Disposals of Assets. Per the NTD Policy Manual, transit agencies should not report an accounting loss from a sale because no money was received for the portion that is treated as an accounting loss. Comment: Four commenters expressed opposition to the enhanced auditor’s review noting that the added cost detail and auditor certifications will increase the costs to reporters who are already strapped for cash due to reduced or frozen levels of Federal funding. One commenter asked FTA to provide guidelines for the enhanced review to aid auditors in effectively and efficiently reviewing agency information. E:\FR\FM\11OCN1.SGM 11OCN1 asabaliauskas on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES 70262 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 196 / Tuesday, October 11, 2016 / Notices Response: The auditor’s review is to be performed only once every ten years and, due to its limited scope, should not take more than a day of an auditor’s time. While FTA understands that this requirement will create some additional burden, FTA believes that the improved data quality and oversight justifies this requirement. In some cases, reporters have not had their NTD reporting certified by an auditor since the requirement for Independent Auditor’s Statement—Financial Data was first implemented over 30 years ago. FTA conducted outreach while developing these updates which indicated that agencies believe that business operations can change considerably in ten years and it would be appropriate to require agencies to complete this review every ten years. Additionally, the enhanced auditor’s review does not apply to rural reporters. Rural reporters should continue to comply with existing rural reporting compliance requirements. FTA publishes guidelines for the auditor’s review in the NTD Policy Manual which is updated and published every year. Comment: One commenter expressed concern over changes to maintenance categories for reporting on the F–30 and F–40 forms, as Vehicle Maintenance and Non-Vehicle Maintenance functions are sufficient. Response: FTA is not proposing to expand or change the expenses reported in these two maintenance categories. The term Non-vehicle Maintenance is being replaced by the term Facilities Maintenance. Under this current proposal, transit agencies will report expenses under the following four functions in the NTD: Vehicle Operations, Vehicle Maintenance, Facility Maintenance, and General Administration. Comment: One commenter pointed out that the USOA refers to OMB Circular No. A–87 and explained that for Federal funds awarded after December 26, 2014, the new ‘‘Uniform Guidance’’ applies instead of OMB Circular No. A–87. Response: FTA will update the USOA to reflect the latest guidance. The guidance provided with a reference to A–87 is not changed by the ‘‘Uniform Guidance.’’ Comment: Seven commenters raised concern over the new USOA numbering scheme as they believe they would need to make significant changes to their systems to match the new USOA numbers. While one commenter did not specifically oppose the proposed change, the commenter raised concern about whether the expectation is for the VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:12 Oct 07, 2016 Jkt 241001 agencies to change their chart of accounts structure to the new numbering structure. This would be a monumental effort and would be very difficult and costly. Also, it would make any comparative analysis difficult since historical transactions would be reflected under the old account structure. The commenter suggests that FTA allow for mapping an agency’s existing chart of accounts to the NTD reporting instead of requiring that the existing chart of accounts be renumbered. Response: FTA’s intention in renumbering USOA object classes was to provide a clearer numbering structure within the USOA and the NTD reporting system. FTA is proposing updates to the USOA in an effort to simplify and clarify reporting requirements which includes restructuring the USOA object classes by merging, dividing, adding, or deleting USOA object classes. FTA did not anticipate requiring transit agencies to restructure their core accounting structure. Although it was not intended or expected that transit agencies restructure their chart of accounts to match the proposed changes, FTA understands that the proposed USOA numbering scheme may cause confusion and therefore rescinds the originally proposed USOA numbering scheme. Instead, FTA will develop a new USOA numbering scheme that is more consistent with the general logic of sequencing followed in the current USOA. The NTD asks that an independent auditor review a reporter’s chart of accounts to determine that they either: (1) Match the USOA chart of accounts; or (2) can map to the USOA accounts. This is a self-certification process. Transit agencies are not required to restructure their chart of accounts/core accounting systems. Any proposed changes to the numbering conventions would still allow transit agencies to map their current chart of accounts to the USOA object classes. This mapping is considered sufficient for self-certification. Comment: Five commenters opposed the overall expansion of the NTD reporting requirements. Commenters expressed concern that proposed change will be costly and time-consuming, without providing additional benefits. One commenter specifically expresses concern for expanding the NTD reporting requirements for small system reporters. Response: FTA is committed to implementing reasonable NTD reporting requirements to better align with today’s accounting practices and to address FTA data needs. The current USOA has been in place for 38 years and in some PO 00000 Frm 00178 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 cases no longer reflects current accounting practices and transit business operations. FTA’s goal with the changes to the USOA is to address inconsistencies in the USOA due to changes in technology and transit organization structure and to revise accounting principles and object classes in the USOA to align with current accounting and industry leading practices and standards. FTA identified at the list of changes by conducting interviews with NTD reporters, NTD data analysts, and subject matter specialists in areas that needed improvement. FTA also followed up with several transit agencies to gather preliminary feedback on the changes which revealed that agencies already have the proposed information readily available. FTA recognizes that the changes may initially require some changes to data collection and reporting. However, all proposed changes are intended to simplify or clarify reporting requirements or to address issues that are not addressed in the current USOA. Rural and urban reporters receiving a small systems waiver will see limited changes to their reporting requirements. C. APC Certification Process Changes FTA received 15 comments on the proposed APC certification process. Following is a summary of the comments related to APC. Comment: Two commenters requested clarification on the rule allowing agencies with data on greater than 98 percent of trips to scale up the data. Response: FTA believes that its original statement of the rule was unclear. Agencies reporting to the NTD have two options when reporting passenger miles and unlinked passenger trips. One option is a 100% count and the other option is a sample. Agencies must report a 100% count if it is available. FTA recognizes that a true 100% count is very difficult to achieve; during the course of a year there may be equipment failures or other problems that lead to missing data on some trips. Thus, FTA permits agencies to report that they have a 100% count of passenger miles or unlinked passenger trip data if they have data for 98% or more of vehicle trips, or if a statistician approves their method for factoring up existing data to fill in missing data. This is a longstanding policy and FTA is not proposing to change it. Agencies that collect data on less than 98% of trips, and do not have a statistician to approve a factoring-up method, must instead report using a sampling method. Comment: One commenter noted that if an agency uses the proposed 5% criterion for APC approval, and then E:\FR\FM\11OCN1.SGM 11OCN1 asabaliauskas on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 196 / Tuesday, October 11, 2016 / Notices uses an NTD-approved sampling plan for NTD passenger miles reporting, it may not meet FTA’s long-held ‘‘10% accuracy at 95% confidence’’ standard. Response: This comment assumes that the manual count against which the APC is compared is in fact the true value; however, manual counts are subject to error. Once the APC system has been approved, FTA considers it to be the true value, and thus any NTDapproved sampling plan would give data within 10% of the true value, at the 95% confidence level. FTA further notes that many agencies with APC systems will sample well in excess of the required sample size, and thus the sampling error can be expected to decrease. Comment: Two commenters recommended that agencies be permitted to certify their APCs using a method different from the one prescribed by FTA, provided it meets some statistical standard. Response: FTA believes in the importance of allowing flexibility to agencies and encouraging them to adopt practices that best meet their individual needs. Thus FTA agrees with this suggestion. The final policy will allow an agency to certify its APCs using either the method prescribed by FTA, or any method certified by a qualified statistician to show that the absolute value of the difference between manual and APC data for unlinked passenger trips and passenger miles is less than 7.5% of the total of the manual data, at a 95% confidence level. Comment: One commenter proposed that agencies be required to submit a description of the results and methodologies in the acceptance testing process, as well as an administrative control procedure outlining responsibility within the agency for maintenance of the APC system over time. Response: The proposed policy already requires agencies to submit a description of the APC system used and benchmarking procedure. While FTA encourages agencies to put thorough administrative procedures in place, FTA believes it would be an unnecessary burden to require agencies to submit these procedures for approval. In general, FTA does not prescribe particular management procedures to agencies. Comment: Two commenters requested clarification of the calculations to be performed. Response: To determine whether their APC data meets the certification standard, agencies should take the total unlinked passenger trips on the vehicle trips in the comparison sample VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:12 Oct 07, 2016 Jkt 241001 collected by manual methods, and the total unlinked passenger trips on those vehicle trips collected by APCs. Agencies subtract these two totals and take the absolute value of the difference. They then divide this difference by the total unlinked passenger trips in the sample collected manually to get the difference as a percentage of the total. The difference as a percentage of the total should be less than 5% to meet the certification standard. The same calculation is performed for passenger miles. Comment: One commenter noted that APCs need to be checked continually, not just annually. Response: FTA concurs that continual monitoring of APCs is a best practice; however, the purpose of the new APC certification policy is not to be an exhaustive list of all procedures necessary to collect good APC data. Agencies are only required to submit results to FTA as described in the policy; beyond this, FTA encourages agencies to follow best practices. Comment: One commenter raised the concern that data could be improperly manipulated before being analyzed in the certification procedure, and suggested that agencies be required to use procedures that secure the data from such manipulation. Response: FTA encourages agencies to follow data security best practices; however, this certification will not carry additional administrative requirements to verify that numbers were not tampered with intentionally. As with other data collected by the NTD, FTA will require the agency CEO to attest to the accuracy of the data in the APC certification report. Comment: Five commenters offered opinions on the 5% error standard. One commenter suggested that larger agencies with higher ridership should be held to tighter error standards. Two commenters suggested that a looser standard (8% or 10%) would be reasonable. Two commenters suggested that standard error be taken into account; one suggested setting a maximum allowable standard error, while another suggested requiring the 5% error standard to be valid at the 95% confidence level. Response: In setting the proposed 5% standard, FTA balanced the capabilities of the technology, data needs of NTD data users, statistical validity, and ease of calculation. FTA continues to believe that the proposed standard best fits these competing needs. Comment: Two commenters suggested that agencies be required to count passengers already on board at the start of a sampled trip as boardings at the PO 00000 Frm 00179 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 70263 first stop, and passengers still on board at the end of the trip as alightings at the last stop. Response: FTA concurs that this is a best practice and a common source of error, and will include guidance to this effect in the policy. Comment: Two commenters suggested setting a maximum allowable percentage of trips discarded due to suspected poor data quality. Response: FTA concurs that a large proportion of trips with invalid data are likely to indicate a deeper problem with the APC system. The final policy will stipulate that at most 50% of vehicle trips may be rejected by data cleaning algorithms. Comment: One commenter noted that having a checker for each door is only necessary on heavy-ridership trips; one checker per bus is sufficient otherwise. Response: This is consistent with the guidance in FTA’s original proposed policy: ‘‘we recommend using a data collector at each door on heavily-loaded trips.’’ Comment: Three commenters had observations related to the APC penetration rate, the proportion of APCequipped vehicles in the fleet. Two commenters suggested that agencies be required to distribute APC-equipped vehicles throughout the system in such a way that high-ridership routes are not overrepresented. One commenter suggested that FTA provide more precise rules pertaining to the requirement, ‘‘The trips must be distributed over as much of the agency’s fleet of APC-equipped vehicles as possible.’’ Response: While distribution of APCequipped vehicles is a possible source of error in the annual service consumed totals reported to the NTD, it is not relevant to APC certification. Existing guidance on sampling already stipulates that agencies must avoid sampling bias. FTA believes that agencies can interpret the requirement to distribute sampled trips widely without the need for an explicit rule. Comment: One commenter suggested that the certification process use raw data rather than processed APC data. Response: FTA believes, based on industry input, that raw APC data should not be considered reliable or useful. Agencies will report processed data to the NTD, so it is reasonable that they should certify the accuracy of the processed data. Comment: One commenter asked whether agencies would be allowed to report unlinked passenger trips collected using one method (e.g., registering farebox) and passenger miles using APC. E:\FR\FM\11OCN1.SGM 11OCN1 asabaliauskas on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES 70264 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 196 / Tuesday, October 11, 2016 / Notices Response: FTA concurs that in general this is allowed. However, if the agency intends to use the average passenger trip length from a sample to estimate passenger miles in subsequent years, the agency must calculate the trip length using the unlinked passenger trips collected by the method that will be used to report unlinked passenger trips to the NTD. Comment: One commenter asked whether agencies should use all valid APC data, or should select a sample of vehicle trips from the available valid APC data. Response: FTA encourages agencies to use all valid data. However, agencies need to account for the stratified nature of the sample in this case. The set of all valid data may be biased toward certain routes, vehicles, or trips, and thus cannot be considered a random sample of the whole service. Instead agencies must determine average unlinked passenger trips and passenger miles at a granular level (the vehicle trip level, for example) and factor up each group (e.g., vehicle trip) individually. Alternatively, agencies are permitted to use any NTDapproved sampling plan in conjunction with APCs. Any such plan would include statistically valid procedures for replacing selected trips on which data are not collected. Comment: One commenter expressed concern that an agency may be penalized by reduced formula funding if they perform their APC maintenance check mid-year and find that the data no longer meet the requirements. Response: FTA reduced the required timeframe for the maintenance check from one year to any convenient period. FTA expects that it will typically take less than a month. An agency that performs the check and finds that the error is over 5% should reexamine its APC data collection procedures, make any needed adjustments, perform any needed maintenance on the system, and retest. The shortened timeframe should allow agencies to retest before the end of the year, thus ensuring that an agency that encounters problems in its maintenance check can nonetheless provide an uninterrupted set of data to the NTD. FTA will clarify this point in its final policy. Comment: One commenter suggested that FTA provide guidelines to agencies for accuracy standards and testing that the agencies can write into their RFPs when they procure APC systems. Response: While FTA certainly encourages agencies to follow best practices when procuring APC systems, FTA believes ample guidance is available through other industry resources. VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:12 Oct 07, 2016 Jkt 241001 Comment: Two commenters commented on the proposed sample size. One commenter recommended a minimum of 40 and a maximum of 70 vehicle trips. The other commenter recommended that a minimum number of boardings (e.g., 1,000) be mandated in addition to vehicle trips. Response: In devising the proposed number of trips (15 to 50) FTA balanced the need for good data with agency burden. FTA notes that the proposed requirements are only a minimum; agencies are free to use a larger sample if they believe it will provide better data. Comment: One commenter requested that FTA provide a template that performs the calculations. Response: FTA designed the error criteria to be simple enough that an agency should be able to calculate them without the need for a template. Comment: Eight commenters had comments about unbalanced error. One commenter noted that the unbalanced error criterion would be harder for small agencies to satisfy than large ones, and that unbalanced error does not detect systemic bias. Three commenters believe the unbalanced error criterion would be too difficult to meet. Three commenters noted that unbalanced error is redundant since unlinked passenger trips are already being tested. Two commenters requested clarification of the definition of unbalanced error. Response: FTA concurs with the concerns that commenters have raised and will withdraw the unbalanced error criterion from the final policy. D. Overview of Final Updates to the USOA and NTD Reporting Requirements After considering the comments submitted on the proposed updates to the USOA and changes to NTD reporting requirements, FTA will delay the implementation of the original proposed USOA changes to FY 2018. Additionally, FTA will add line items to account for ‘‘Deferred Outflows of Resources’’ and ‘‘Deferred Inflows of Resources’’ on the F–60 form, as well as rescind the original proposed changes to add ‘‘Pension Funds’’ and ‘‘OPEB Adjustment’’ USOA object classes. FTA will also publish a new USOA numbering scheme that is more consistent with a standard chart of accounts. These changes will be reflected in the final Uniform System of Accounts. The revised APC certification process is effective immediately. The final PO 00000 Frm 00180 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 requirements can be found on the NTD Web site: www.transit.dot.gov/ntd. Carolyn Flowers, Acting Administrator. [FR Doc. 2016–24414 Filed 10–7–16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE P DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION National Highway Traffic Safety Administration [U.S. DOT Docket Number NHTSA–2016– 0085 ] Reports, Forms, and Recordkeeping Requirements National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), U.S. Department of Transportation. ACTION: Request for public comment on an extension of a currently approved collection of information. AGENCY: Before a Federal agency can collect certain information from the public, it must receive approval from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Under procedures established by the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, before seeking OMB approval, Federal agencies must solicit public comment on proposed collections of information, including extensions and reinstatement of previously approved collections. This document describes a collection of information for which NHTSA intends to seek OMB approval. DATES: Comments must be received on or before December 12, 2016. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments using any of the following methods. All comments must have the applicable DOT docket number (e.g., NHTSA– 2016–0085) noted conspicuously on them. • Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the online instructions for submitting comments. • Mail: Docket Management Facility, M–30: U.S. Department of Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., West Building Ground Floor, Room W12–140, Washington, DC 20590–0001. • Hand Delivery or Courier: West Building Ground Floor, Room W12–140, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays. Telephone: 1–800–647–5527. • Fax: 202–493–2251 Instructions: All submissions must include the agency name and docket number for this proposed collection of SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\11OCN1.SGM 11OCN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 81, Number 196 (Tuesday, October 11, 2016)]
[Notices]
[Pages 70260-70264]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2016-24414]


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DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

Federal Transit Administration

[Docket No. FTA-2016-009]


Final Notice on Updates to the Uniform System of Accounts (USOA) 
and Changes to the National Transit Database (NTD) Reporting 
Requirements

AGENCY: Federal Transit Administration, DOT.

ACTION: Notice, response to comments.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: This Notice finalizes updates to the USOA and changes to NTD 
Automatic Passenger Counter Certification requirements.

DATES: Full implementation required in report year 2018.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Maggie Schilling, National Transit 
Database Deputy Program Manager, FTA Office of Budget and Policy, (202) 
366-2054 or margaret.schilling@dot.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Table of Contents

A. Background
B. Response to Comments on Proposed Updates to the USOA and Changes 
to NTD Reporting Requirements
C. Response to Comments on the Revised APC Certification Process
D. Overview of Final Updates to the USOA, NTD Reporting Requirements 
and APC Certification

A. Background

    On February 3, 2016, FTA published a Federal Register notice 
(initial notice) (Docket No. FTA-2016-009) for comment on proposed 
updates to the USOA and changes to NTD reporting requirements. The USOA 
is the basic reference document that describes how transit agencies are 
to report to the NTD. The USOA was originally published in 1977 when 
NTD reporting began. While the NTD has undergone numerous and 
substantial changes in the past 38 years, the USOA was last updated for 
minor changes in 1995. The notice described various proposed changes to 
the USOA to better align with today's NTD and accounting practices and 
to address FTA data needs and common questions among NTD reporters. In 
the initial notice, FTA proposed the following changes:

A. Separation of ``Passenger-Paid Fares'' and ``Organization-Paid 
Fares''
B. Separation of ``Paid Absences'' from ``Fringe Benefits''
C. Consolidation of ``Casualty and Liability Costs'' under General 
Administration Function
D. Expansion of Assets and Liabilities Object Classes (F-60)
E. Addition of ``Voluntary Non-Exchange Transactions''
F. Addition of ``Sales and Disposals of Assets''
G. Simplification of State Fund Reporting
H. Reorganization of B-30 Contractual Relationship

    Additionally, the initial notice proposed changes to the NTD 
reporting requirements that are not directly addressed in the updated 
USOA, which are as follows:

I. Separation of Operators' and Non-Operators' Work Hours and Counts
J. Enhanced Auditor's Review
K. Revised Automatic Passenger Counter (APC) Certification Process

    In the initial notice, FTA proposed that it would begin 
implementing the proposed reporting requirements beginning with the FY 
2017 NTD reporting cycle.

B. Response to Comments on Proposed Updates to the USOA and Changes to 
NTD Reporting Requirements

    The comment period for the initial notice closed on April 4, 2016. 
The following is a summary of the comments from the initial notice 
related to the updates to the USOA and NTD reporting requirements.
    Comment: Three commenters raised a concern over the separation of 
``Passenger-Paid Fares'' and ``Organization-Paid Fares.'' Commenters 
opposed the separation of ``Passenger-Paid Fares'' and ``Organization-
Paid Fares'' stating that the additional information will add little, 
if any, value to the NTD report. Commenters noted that adding these 
additional reporting requirements will only increase the cost of 
compliance for reporting agencies. One commenter specifically raised a 
concern stating that the proposed

[[Page 70261]]

change would be especially burdensome for small rural reporters and 
suggested that FTA rescind the proposed change for ``5311 providers in 
areas less than 50,000 population.''
    Response: FTA is sensitive to the concern that the proposed change 
may require additional efforts by the reporting agencies. However, FTA 
believes that the separation of ``Passenger-Paid Fares'' and 
``Organization-Paid Fares'' will address a common source of confusion 
among transit agencies. There are several different types of revenue 
that count as fares, and the distinction between ``Passenger-Paid 
Fares'' and ``Organization-Paid Fares'' attempts to clarify the sources 
of funds that should be reported as fares. Additionally, this change 
will help NTD analysts in identifying and understanding special 
circumstances such as university towns where the farebox return is 
relatively high because the agency has negotiated such contracts. In 
developing these proposed changes, FTA conducted industry outreach 
which indicated that most agencies already collect this information by 
these categories and reporting these fares separately would not be an 
excessive burden.
    Comment: Five commenters raised a concern over separating ``Paid-
Absences'' from ``Fringe Benefits.'' Commenters opposed the separation 
of ``Paid-Absences'' from ``Fringe Benefits'' stating that the 
additional information will add little, if any, value to the NTD 
report. Commenters noted that adding these additional reporting 
requirements will only increase the cost of compliance for reporting 
agencies. While one commenter did not specifically oppose this change, 
the commenter explained that the organization does have this 
information available but that method of reporting for NTD will result 
in additional manpower during the initial reporting period as all 
current calculations will need to be modified to capture this 
additional requirement.
    Response: FTA conducted industry outreach which indicated that the 
proposed change to separate ``Paid Absences'' from ``Fringe Benefits'' 
better and more closely align with many transit agencies' current 
accounting and reporting practices. FTA believes that collecting these 
items separately will improve future analysis of this dataset by 
providing additional clarity on costs that are under a transit agency's 
control (e.g., paid absences) versus costs that are external and 
outside the transit agency's control (e.g., fringe benefits such as 
health care). FTA realizes that although the change may initially 
require additional resources, these distinctions will ultimately 
improve data quality and analysis by data analysts.
    Comment: Two commenters expressed concern over the proposed change 
to consolidate the ``Casualty and Liability Costs'' under the General 
Administration function. Commenters expressed concern that if 
``Casualty and Liability Costs'' are to be categorized and reported 
under General Administration function as outlined in the proposal, 
their transit agencies would lose Federal funds since this change would 
shift the costs from a capital eligible operating expense requiring a 
20 percent non-federal match to an operating cost requiring a 50 
percent non-federal share.
    Additionally, one commenter made a suggestion for FTA to consider 
other non-litigious settlements to be considered in this category. For 
example, an agency may have to provide a retroactive payment to its 
labor union employees due to a contract negotiation. The commenter 
explained that this lump sum outlay will greatly increase the perceived 
expenses in a single fiscal year.
    Response: The proposed change to consolidate ``Casualty and 
Liability Costs'' under General Administration function aims to align 
costs with their appropriate categories and simplify NTD reporting 
requirements for reporters. FTA's prior decision to allow recipients to 
use Section 5307 funds for preventative maintenance did not originally 
anticipate this type of cost (i.e., casualty and liability costs) as an 
eligible preventative maintenance cost. This change corrects the 
unintended consequence of including these costs in the Vehicle 
Maintenance function as preventative maintenance activities by moving 
``Casualty and Liability Costs'' to its appropriate place. FTA 
maintains that ``Casualty and Liability Costs'' are most sensibly 
placed in General Administration function.
    Per current reporting rules, retroactive payments made to employees 
for prior reporting years as the result of a contract negotiation 
should be reported as a reconciling item on F-40 form. Reconciling 
items are reported as a sum amount and not by individual functions. 
Retroactive payments made to employees for the current reporting year 
should be reported on the F-30 form.
    It is important to note that NTD reporting does not affect the 
eligibility of these costs for grant reimbursement. The eligibility of 
expenses for grant reimbursement depends on the nature or definition of 
the expenses. If an agency has a settlement that it does not consider 
as casualty and liability, the agency can reach out to its NTD analyst 
for clarification on object class definitions and can contact its FTA 
regional office to determine grant reimbursement procedures.
    Comment: Eight commenters raised a concern over implementing the 
proposed changes to the USOA and the NTD reporting requirements for the 
FY 2017 NTD reporting cycle. Commenters explained that the proposed 
implementation of FY 2017 does not allow for adequate time for transit 
agencies to prepare for the change.
    Response: FTA understands that some of the proposed changes may 
require adjustments to current data collection practices. FTA concurs 
with commenters that the proposed start date of FY 2017 may not provide 
adequate time for some agencies to make adjustments to their NTD 
reporting. FTA will delay the implementation of the proposed USOA 
changes to FY 2018.
    Comment: Three commenters raised concern over reporting pension and 
Other Postemployment Benefits (OPEB) in light of the recently released 
Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) statements.
    Response: After taking into consideration the recent GASB 
statements related to pension and OPEB reporting and the delayed 
implementation date of the USOA changes, FTA proposes to add line items 
to account for ``Deferred Outflows of Resources'' and ``Deferred 
Inflows of Resources'' on the F-60 form, as well as to rescind the 
original proposed changes to add ``Pension Funds'' and ``OPEB 
Adjustment'' USOA object classes.
    Comment: One commenter raised a question on how to report sale of 
an asset at a loss.
    Response: If assets are sold at a loss, the amount received from 
the sale of the asset should be reported as Sales and Disposals of 
Assets. Per the NTD Policy Manual, transit agencies should not report 
an accounting loss from a sale because no money was received for the 
portion that is treated as an accounting loss.
    Comment: Four commenters expressed opposition to the enhanced 
auditor's review noting that the added cost detail and auditor 
certifications will increase the costs to reporters who are already 
strapped for cash due to reduced or frozen levels of Federal funding.
    One commenter asked FTA to provide guidelines for the enhanced 
review to aid auditors in effectively and efficiently reviewing agency 
information.

[[Page 70262]]

    Response: The auditor's review is to be performed only once every 
ten years and, due to its limited scope, should not take more than a 
day of an auditor's time. While FTA understands that this requirement 
will create some additional burden, FTA believes that the improved data 
quality and oversight justifies this requirement. In some cases, 
reporters have not had their NTD reporting certified by an auditor 
since the requirement for Independent Auditor's Statement--Financial 
Data was first implemented over 30 years ago. FTA conducted outreach 
while developing these updates which indicated that agencies believe 
that business operations can change considerably in ten years and it 
would be appropriate to require agencies to complete this review every 
ten years. Additionally, the enhanced auditor's review does not apply 
to rural reporters. Rural reporters should continue to comply with 
existing rural reporting compliance requirements.
    FTA publishes guidelines for the auditor's review in the NTD Policy 
Manual which is updated and published every year.
    Comment: One commenter expressed concern over changes to 
maintenance categories for reporting on the F-30 and F-40 forms, as 
Vehicle Maintenance and Non-Vehicle Maintenance functions are 
sufficient.
    Response: FTA is not proposing to expand or change the expenses 
reported in these two maintenance categories. The term Non-vehicle 
Maintenance is being replaced by the term Facilities Maintenance. Under 
this current proposal, transit agencies will report expenses under the 
following four functions in the NTD: Vehicle Operations, Vehicle 
Maintenance, Facility Maintenance, and General Administration.
    Comment: One commenter pointed out that the USOA refers to OMB 
Circular No. A-87 and explained that for Federal funds awarded after 
December 26, 2014, the new ``Uniform Guidance'' applies instead of OMB 
Circular No. A-87.
    Response: FTA will update the USOA to reflect the latest guidance. 
The guidance provided with a reference to A-87 is not changed by the 
``Uniform Guidance.''
    Comment: Seven commenters raised concern over the new USOA 
numbering scheme as they believe they would need to make significant 
changes to their systems to match the new USOA numbers. While one 
commenter did not specifically oppose the proposed change, the 
commenter raised concern about whether the expectation is for the 
agencies to change their chart of accounts structure to the new 
numbering structure. This would be a monumental effort and would be 
very difficult and costly. Also, it would make any comparative analysis 
difficult since historical transactions would be reflected under the 
old account structure. The commenter suggests that FTA allow for 
mapping an agency's existing chart of accounts to the NTD reporting 
instead of requiring that the existing chart of accounts be renumbered.
    Response: FTA's intention in renumbering USOA object classes was to 
provide a clearer numbering structure within the USOA and the NTD 
reporting system. FTA is proposing updates to the USOA in an effort to 
simplify and clarify reporting requirements which includes 
restructuring the USOA object classes by merging, dividing, adding, or 
deleting USOA object classes. FTA did not anticipate requiring transit 
agencies to restructure their core accounting structure. Although it 
was not intended or expected that transit agencies restructure their 
chart of accounts to match the proposed changes, FTA understands that 
the proposed USOA numbering scheme may cause confusion and therefore 
rescinds the originally proposed USOA numbering scheme. Instead, FTA 
will develop a new USOA numbering scheme that is more consistent with 
the general logic of sequencing followed in the current USOA. The NTD 
asks that an independent auditor review a reporter's chart of accounts 
to determine that they either: (1) Match the USOA chart of accounts; or 
(2) can map to the USOA accounts. This is a self-certification process. 
Transit agencies are not required to restructure their chart of 
accounts/core accounting systems. Any proposed changes to the numbering 
conventions would still allow transit agencies to map their current 
chart of accounts to the USOA object classes. This mapping is 
considered sufficient for self-certification.
    Comment: Five commenters opposed the overall expansion of the NTD 
reporting requirements. Commenters expressed concern that proposed 
change will be costly and time-consuming, without providing additional 
benefits.
    One commenter specifically expresses concern for expanding the NTD 
reporting requirements for small system reporters.
    Response: FTA is committed to implementing reasonable NTD reporting 
requirements to better align with today's accounting practices and to 
address FTA data needs. The current USOA has been in place for 38 years 
and in some cases no longer reflects current accounting practices and 
transit business operations. FTA's goal with the changes to the USOA is 
to address inconsistencies in the USOA due to changes in technology and 
transit organization structure and to revise accounting principles and 
object classes in the USOA to align with current accounting and 
industry leading practices and standards. FTA identified at the list of 
changes by conducting interviews with NTD reporters, NTD data analysts, 
and subject matter specialists in areas that needed improvement. FTA 
also followed up with several transit agencies to gather preliminary 
feedback on the changes which revealed that agencies already have the 
proposed information readily available. FTA recognizes that the changes 
may initially require some changes to data collection and reporting. 
However, all proposed changes are intended to simplify or clarify 
reporting requirements or to address issues that are not addressed in 
the current USOA.
    Rural and urban reporters receiving a small systems waiver will see 
limited changes to their reporting requirements.

C. APC Certification Process Changes

    FTA received 15 comments on the proposed APC certification process. 
Following is a summary of the comments related to APC.
    Comment: Two commenters requested clarification on the rule 
allowing agencies with data on greater than 98 percent of trips to 
scale up the data.
    Response: FTA believes that its original statement of the rule was 
unclear. Agencies reporting to the NTD have two options when reporting 
passenger miles and unlinked passenger trips. One option is a 100% 
count and the other option is a sample. Agencies must report a 100% 
count if it is available. FTA recognizes that a true 100% count is very 
difficult to achieve; during the course of a year there may be 
equipment failures or other problems that lead to missing data on some 
trips. Thus, FTA permits agencies to report that they have a 100% count 
of passenger miles or unlinked passenger trip data if they have data 
for 98% or more of vehicle trips, or if a statistician approves their 
method for factoring up existing data to fill in missing data. This is 
a longstanding policy and FTA is not proposing to change it. Agencies 
that collect data on less than 98% of trips, and do not have a 
statistician to approve a factoring-up method, must instead report 
using a sampling method.
    Comment: One commenter noted that if an agency uses the proposed 5% 
criterion for APC approval, and then

[[Page 70263]]

uses an NTD-approved sampling plan for NTD passenger miles reporting, 
it may not meet FTA's long-held ``10% accuracy at 95% confidence'' 
standard.
    Response: This comment assumes that the manual count against which 
the APC is compared is in fact the true value; however, manual counts 
are subject to error. Once the APC system has been approved, FTA 
considers it to be the true value, and thus any NTD-approved sampling 
plan would give data within 10% of the true value, at the 95% 
confidence level. FTA further notes that many agencies with APC systems 
will sample well in excess of the required sample size, and thus the 
sampling error can be expected to decrease.
    Comment: Two commenters recommended that agencies be permitted to 
certify their APCs using a method different from the one prescribed by 
FTA, provided it meets some statistical standard.
    Response: FTA believes in the importance of allowing flexibility to 
agencies and encouraging them to adopt practices that best meet their 
individual needs. Thus FTA agrees with this suggestion. The final 
policy will allow an agency to certify its APCs using either the method 
prescribed by FTA, or any method certified by a qualified statistician 
to show that the absolute value of the difference between manual and 
APC data for unlinked passenger trips and passenger miles is less than 
7.5% of the total of the manual data, at a 95% confidence level.
    Comment: One commenter proposed that agencies be required to submit 
a description of the results and methodologies in the acceptance 
testing process, as well as an administrative control procedure 
outlining responsibility within the agency for maintenance of the APC 
system over time.
    Response: The proposed policy already requires agencies to submit a 
description of the APC system used and benchmarking procedure. While 
FTA encourages agencies to put thorough administrative procedures in 
place, FTA believes it would be an unnecessary burden to require 
agencies to submit these procedures for approval. In general, FTA does 
not prescribe particular management procedures to agencies.
    Comment: Two commenters requested clarification of the calculations 
to be performed.
    Response: To determine whether their APC data meets the 
certification standard, agencies should take the total unlinked 
passenger trips on the vehicle trips in the comparison sample collected 
by manual methods, and the total unlinked passenger trips on those 
vehicle trips collected by APCs. Agencies subtract these two totals and 
take the absolute value of the difference. They then divide this 
difference by the total unlinked passenger trips in the sample 
collected manually to get the difference as a percentage of the total. 
The difference as a percentage of the total should be less than 5% to 
meet the certification standard. The same calculation is performed for 
passenger miles.
    Comment: One commenter noted that APCs need to be checked 
continually, not just annually.
    Response: FTA concurs that continual monitoring of APCs is a best 
practice; however, the purpose of the new APC certification policy is 
not to be an exhaustive list of all procedures necessary to collect 
good APC data. Agencies are only required to submit results to FTA as 
described in the policy; beyond this, FTA encourages agencies to follow 
best practices.
    Comment: One commenter raised the concern that data could be 
improperly manipulated before being analyzed in the certification 
procedure, and suggested that agencies be required to use procedures 
that secure the data from such manipulation.
    Response: FTA encourages agencies to follow data security best 
practices; however, this certification will not carry additional 
administrative requirements to verify that numbers were not tampered 
with intentionally. As with other data collected by the NTD, FTA will 
require the agency CEO to attest to the accuracy of the data in the APC 
certification report.
    Comment: Five commenters offered opinions on the 5% error standard. 
One commenter suggested that larger agencies with higher ridership 
should be held to tighter error standards. Two commenters suggested 
that a looser standard (8% or 10%) would be reasonable. Two commenters 
suggested that standard error be taken into account; one suggested 
setting a maximum allowable standard error, while another suggested 
requiring the 5% error standard to be valid at the 95% confidence 
level.
    Response: In setting the proposed 5% standard, FTA balanced the 
capabilities of the technology, data needs of NTD data users, 
statistical validity, and ease of calculation. FTA continues to believe 
that the proposed standard best fits these competing needs.
    Comment: Two commenters suggested that agencies be required to 
count passengers already on board at the start of a sampled trip as 
boardings at the first stop, and passengers still on board at the end 
of the trip as alightings at the last stop.
    Response: FTA concurs that this is a best practice and a common 
source of error, and will include guidance to this effect in the 
policy.
    Comment: Two commenters suggested setting a maximum allowable 
percentage of trips discarded due to suspected poor data quality.
    Response: FTA concurs that a large proportion of trips with invalid 
data are likely to indicate a deeper problem with the APC system. The 
final policy will stipulate that at most 50% of vehicle trips may be 
rejected by data cleaning algorithms.
    Comment: One commenter noted that having a checker for each door is 
only necessary on heavy-ridership trips; one checker per bus is 
sufficient otherwise.
    Response: This is consistent with the guidance in FTA's original 
proposed policy: ``we recommend using a data collector at each door on 
heavily-loaded trips.''
    Comment: Three commenters had observations related to the APC 
penetration rate, the proportion of APC-equipped vehicles in the fleet. 
Two commenters suggested that agencies be required to distribute APC-
equipped vehicles throughout the system in such a way that high-
ridership routes are not overrepresented. One commenter suggested that 
FTA provide more precise rules pertaining to the requirement, ``The 
trips must be distributed over as much of the agency's fleet of APC-
equipped vehicles as possible.''
    Response: While distribution of APC-equipped vehicles is a possible 
source of error in the annual service consumed totals reported to the 
NTD, it is not relevant to APC certification. Existing guidance on 
sampling already stipulates that agencies must avoid sampling bias. FTA 
believes that agencies can interpret the requirement to distribute 
sampled trips widely without the need for an explicit rule.
    Comment: One commenter suggested that the certification process use 
raw data rather than processed APC data.
    Response: FTA believes, based on industry input, that raw APC data 
should not be considered reliable or useful. Agencies will report 
processed data to the NTD, so it is reasonable that they should certify 
the accuracy of the processed data.
    Comment: One commenter asked whether agencies would be allowed to 
report unlinked passenger trips collected using one method (e.g., 
registering farebox) and passenger miles using APC.

[[Page 70264]]

    Response: FTA concurs that in general this is allowed. However, if 
the agency intends to use the average passenger trip length from a 
sample to estimate passenger miles in subsequent years, the agency must 
calculate the trip length using the unlinked passenger trips collected 
by the method that will be used to report unlinked passenger trips to 
the NTD.
    Comment: One commenter asked whether agencies should use all valid 
APC data, or should select a sample of vehicle trips from the available 
valid APC data.
    Response: FTA encourages agencies to use all valid data. However, 
agencies need to account for the stratified nature of the sample in 
this case. The set of all valid data may be biased toward certain 
routes, vehicles, or trips, and thus cannot be considered a random 
sample of the whole service. Instead agencies must determine average 
unlinked passenger trips and passenger miles at a granular level (the 
vehicle trip level, for example) and factor up each group (e.g., 
vehicle trip) individually. Alternatively, agencies are permitted to 
use any NTD-approved sampling plan in conjunction with APCs. Any such 
plan would include statistically valid procedures for replacing 
selected trips on which data are not collected.
    Comment: One commenter expressed concern that an agency may be 
penalized by reduced formula funding if they perform their APC 
maintenance check mid-year and find that the data no longer meet the 
requirements.
    Response: FTA reduced the required timeframe for the maintenance 
check from one year to any convenient period. FTA expects that it will 
typically take less than a month. An agency that performs the check and 
finds that the error is over 5% should reexamine its APC data 
collection procedures, make any needed adjustments, perform any needed 
maintenance on the system, and retest. The shortened timeframe should 
allow agencies to retest before the end of the year, thus ensuring that 
an agency that encounters problems in its maintenance check can 
nonetheless provide an uninterrupted set of data to the NTD. FTA will 
clarify this point in its final policy.
    Comment: One commenter suggested that FTA provide guidelines to 
agencies for accuracy standards and testing that the agencies can write 
into their RFPs when they procure APC systems.
    Response: While FTA certainly encourages agencies to follow best 
practices when procuring APC systems, FTA believes ample guidance is 
available through other industry resources.
    Comment: Two commenters commented on the proposed sample size. One 
commenter recommended a minimum of 40 and a maximum of 70 vehicle 
trips. The other commenter recommended that a minimum number of 
boardings (e.g., 1,000) be mandated in addition to vehicle trips.
    Response: In devising the proposed number of trips (15 to 50) FTA 
balanced the need for good data with agency burden. FTA notes that the 
proposed requirements are only a minimum; agencies are free to use a 
larger sample if they believe it will provide better data.
    Comment: One commenter requested that FTA provide a template that 
performs the calculations.
    Response: FTA designed the error criteria to be simple enough that 
an agency should be able to calculate them without the need for a 
template.
    Comment: Eight commenters had comments about unbalanced error. One 
commenter noted that the unbalanced error criterion would be harder for 
small agencies to satisfy than large ones, and that unbalanced error 
does not detect systemic bias. Three commenters believe the unbalanced 
error criterion would be too difficult to meet. Three commenters noted 
that unbalanced error is redundant since unlinked passenger trips are 
already being tested. Two commenters requested clarification of the 
definition of unbalanced error.
    Response: FTA concurs with the concerns that commenters have raised 
and will withdraw the unbalanced error criterion from the final policy.

D. Overview of Final Updates to the USOA and NTD Reporting Requirements

    After considering the comments submitted on the proposed updates to 
the USOA and changes to NTD reporting requirements, FTA will delay the 
implementation of the original proposed USOA changes to FY 2018. 
Additionally, FTA will add line items to account for ``Deferred 
Outflows of Resources'' and ``Deferred Inflows of Resources'' on the F-
60 form, as well as rescind the original proposed changes to add 
``Pension Funds'' and ``OPEB Adjustment'' USOA object classes. FTA will 
also publish a new USOA numbering scheme that is more consistent with a 
standard chart of accounts. These changes will be reflected in the 
final Uniform System of Accounts.
    The revised APC certification process is effective immediately. The 
final requirements can be found on the NTD Web site: 
www.transit.dot.gov/ntd.

Carolyn Flowers,
Acting Administrator.
[FR Doc. 2016-24414 Filed 10-7-16; 8:45 am]
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