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Westmoreland Transit issuing temporary bus trip cancellations, negotiating with contractor |

Westmoreland Transit issuing temporary bus trip cancellations, negotiating with contractor

Megan Tomasic
A Westmoreland County Transit Authority bus waits in front of a new bus shelter in downtown Jeannette on Thursday, Dec. 27, 2018. The shelter was retrofitted with an irrigation system that will water the adjoining Jeannette Greenspaces Community Garden.

Westmoreland Transit Authority officials plan to temporarily cancel certain bus routes and trips rather than release individual announcements each day — just one step being taken to fix ongoing issues with its Ohio-based contractor.

The bus authority has recently announced a string of last-minute cancellations due to a driver shortage by posting on social media or sending out text message alerts just hours before a bus is scheduled to leave. That included a Friday morning route — 1F — from Greensburg to Pittsburgh.

The 5 p.m. 2F route — one of four bus trips that leaves Pittsburgh each afternoon — is canceled until further notice, said Alan Blahovec, executive director of the transit authority. That route had been canceled Wednesday and Thursday, according to Westmoreland Transit’s Facebook page.

Another 2F bus leaves the city at 5:10 p.m. for a return trip to Westmoreland County.

Authority board members also instructed Blahovec to create a corrective action plan by negotiating with National Express Transit, an Ohio-based company hired to operate the transit system. The plan will start with filling empty bus driver positions but also will focus on other service and administrative requirements, like on-time performance and service quality.

“National Express must start meeting all of the obligations that they agreed to in our service agreement,” Blahovec told the Tribune-Review. “If they cannot meet their obligations, the authority will be forced to take further action beyond charging liquidated damages.”

Since October, the authority has fined National Express more than $100,000 for maintenance and operation failures, including service issues related to missed routes. Almost $60,000 in fines were issued in December after a series of maintenance failures, route delays and supervisory and driver vacancies impacted services.

National Express will be required to meet obligations laid out in a timeline, Blahovec said.

National Express has a five-year, $39 million contract to operate the authority’s 40 buses on its local and commuter routes, along with 50 vans and buses used in the shared-ride paratransit program.

Megan Tomasic is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 724-850-1203, [email protected] or via Twitter .

Categories: Local | Westmoreland
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