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Westmoreland

National Express to continue running Westmoreland Transit buses under new contract

Rich Cholodofsky
| Friday, May 18, 2018, 6:18 p.m.
Riders board a Westmoreland Transit bus headed for Pittsburgh at 7:15 a.m. on Thursday, April 12, 2018. The riders had been waiting at a park-and-ride in North Huntingdon.
Renatta Signorini | Tribune-Review
Riders board a Westmoreland Transit bus headed for Pittsburgh at 7:15 a.m. on Thursday, April 12, 2018. The riders had been waiting at a park-and-ride in North Huntingdon.

The Ohio company that operates the Westmoreland County Transit Authority fixed-route bus service and door-to-door shared-ride paratransit system will continue to do so under new five-year contracts.

National Express Transit of Cincinnati will be paid at least $39.5 million to operate the authority's current fleet of 41 commuter and local service buses and 52 Go Westmoreland paratransit vehicles through mid-2023.

The company was one of five private firms to submit proposals to operate the authority's transit systems and, although it's initial bid was not the lowest price submitted, it was ranked the most favored based on its experience and service proposals, said authority Executive Director Alan Blahovec.

“The other proposals were not as highly ranked as National Express,” Blahovec said.

Authority and company officials negotiated the final financial terms of the new contracts after it was selected as the top choice for the job, according to Blahovec.

National Express has operated the authority's fixed-route system since 2010, and last year was paid $3.6 million. It will be paid $3.8 million in the next year and can negotiate future rate increases with the authority over the remaining four years of the deals.

The fixed-route system carries about 500,000 passengers annually. Service is not expected to be altered, Blahovec said.

The county's paratransit system provided 195,000 door-to-door rides to senior citizens, and low income and handicapped passengers last year.

National Express will be paid $3.9 million to operate the paratransit service over the next 12 months, a 2 percent increase from the current costs.

“The increases weren't big and hopefully we can maintain and increase the quality of service,” said authority board Chairman Frank Tosto.

National Express, as operators of both transit systems, furnishes drivers, mechanics, maintenance and management services for the authority.

It operates the fixed-route service out of the authority's maintenance facility in Hempfield and previously serviced paratransit vehicles from it's own garage in South Greensburg. The authority on Thursday approved a 10-year lease to rent a 22,000 square-foot garage at the Buncher Industrial Park in Youngwood to serve as the new maintenance center for the paratransit system.

The authority will pay $145,000 in each of the first three years to rent that property.

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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