Census to set funding parameters for ferry operators

Since 2000, the Secretary of Transportation has been directed to collect data on ferry transportation in the U.S. and its possessions. The National Census of Ferry Operators (NCFO) was established to track data on existing ferry operations including the location and routes served, and the source of funds derived from federal, state, or local governments supporting ferry construction or operations.

Kenneth Steve, a survey statistician for the DOT’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the agency responsible for conducting the NCFO, spoke at the recent Passenger Vessel Association’s Annual Convention at Maritrans in Jacksonville, Fla.

“As we gear up for the 2013 census we are seeking to increase awareness of the census among ferry operators and inform them of the changes to the new census form and the benefits of providing accurate information,” said Steve. The recently enacted MAP-21 legislation (Public Law 112-141, section 1121(b)), requires the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to use NCFO data to set the specific formula for allocating federal ferry funds ($67 million in 2013 and 2014). 

The funding allocations are based on a percentage of the number of passengers, vehicles and route miles served. “It is critical that ferry operators submit accurate information for the NCFO so that FHWA has the most accurate data for funding allocations, as defined by law,” said Steve. “Providing accurate information helps ferry operators become eligible to receive federal funding for maintaining their infrastructure. The government benefits by, first, being fully aware of the nature and state of ferry operations across the U.S., and, second, by having the data necessary to effectively allocate tax dollars toward the upkeep and modernization of those systems.”

The Bureau of Transportation Statistics has made some changes recently to the census. “We added questions to comply with the MAP-21 legislation requirement that the NCFO database be consistent with the national transit database maintained by the Federal Transit Administration,” said Steve. “The items added for this purpose focused on operations and vessel characteristics.” 

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