Westmoreland transit authority to seek bids for bus and shared ride operator
The Westmoreland County Transit Authority will not renew its contract with the operator of its bus and shared ride system in 2020 because the authority could not reach an agreement with that company on the rates for next year.
National Express LLC wanted to charge rates the transit authority considered too high, Frank Tosto, transit authority chairman, said Thursday following the authority’s meeting in Greensburg.
The authority’s board unanimously approved seeking proposals from other operators.
The authority Sept. 13 issued a request for proposals, due by Oct. 16, said Alan Blahovec, the authority’s executive director. Blahovec said he hopes to be able to award a contract in early November, so that “by Jan. 1, we will have something in place.”
Phil Thompson, vice president of operations for National Express, declined to comment after the meeting on the authority’s decision to terminate the contract.
Although National Express signed a five-year, $29.5 million deal with the authority in 2018, the agreement has an annual rate reopener. National Express still can submit a proposal for service in 2020, Blahovec said.
Rather than seek another five-year contract with an operator, Blahovec said it is more likely the authority will look at a three-year deal, with annual pricing.
Blahovec said the decision not to renew its contract with National Express was based strictly on the rates it wanted to charge in 2020 and not because of its performance this year, which included many route cancellations, driver shortages and other disruptions.
The authority slapped National Express with fines totaling more than $220,000.
“This was purely financial,” Blahovec said.
The Westmoreland County commissioners gave the authority another option for operating its transit system — do it itself.
If the authority operates the buses and shared ride system, it would hire the drivers and undertake the labor costs.
“We are taking a look at that,” Blahovec said, but noted that it would be a short timeframe to undertake that part of the operations.
The authority will have to do a lot of research on the option of operating the transit system, Tosto said.
“It would not be fiscally responsible if we don’t look at all the options,” Tosto said.
In addition to seeking proposals from transit operators, Blahovec said the authority will evaluate its routes for next year.
“We are not looking to cut service for 2020 … but maybe a redesign,” Blahovec said.
The authority has been running the same routes for 15 years, he noted.
Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at 724-836-5252, [email protected] or via Twitter .