Columbia transit board hires Schneider for five years

ccope@thestate.com and dhinshaw@thestate.comJuly 24, 2013 

Bob Schneider

— The Central Midlands Regional Transit Authority board of directors unanimously voted Wednesday to hire Bob Schneider as the executive director of CMRTA for five years at an annual salary of $140,000.

Schneider, 38, has held dual roles as both executive director and general manager for Veolia Transportation, the international company that CMRTA has contracted with to run the bus system since 2011. Schneider now will work solely for the transit board and no longer for Veolia.

He is shedding his day-to-day operational responsibilities, he said, so he can focus on planning and financing with responsibilities including applying for grants, route planning, public and community outreach, and more.

“We’re much appreciative of his efforts thus far and we look forward to him directing us to the best possible transit system in this region,” said board chairman Brian DeQuincey Newman, who is also a Columbia city councilman.

Veolia’s assistant general manager, Larry Livingston, will be appointed as the interim general manager for the contract.

Schneider led the rebranding of CMRTA to Central Midlands Transit, or The COMET. The system will receive 29 percent of the revenues collected through a penny sales tax approved by voters in November.

Kelvin Washington, chairman of Richland County Council, added: “His vision that he has for the system matches exactly what the citizens were talking about” during the referendum. “And he embraces the county’s tagline, ‘Uniquely rural, uniquely urban.’ That’s the kind of system he’s building over there.”

On a related matter, county officials recently learned they will get revenue quarterly, instead of the expected monthly, from the transportation sales tax – a delay that seems most significant for the bus system, which is working on improvements that affect riders’ daily lives.

Consumers began paying the extra penny in May, and the county had expected payments to begin in August. But county Treasurer David Adams said Wednesday that the state will remit the first quarterly payment Oct. 25.

“Since everybody’s holding their breath, we’re going to let them know as soon as we get it,” Adams said.

The penny will pay for Schneider’s salary, seven new positions and other costs.

“Our money comes from the penny, everything from printing a bus schedule to putting the fuel in the bus,” Schneider said.

How the penny is spent will be tracked on The COMET’s new website, which launches Aug. 1, under a link called, “Your Penny.” The new website also will have detailed route maps, route schedules, an explanation of how to ride and where to buy passes.

Penny revenues, passenger fares and some state money pay for services such as driver’s wages, fuel and utilities, Schneider said. Federal grant money pays for buses and equipment.

The operating contract for operations and maintenance, which is currently held by Veolia, will go out for bid in the fall. Schneider said he will not participate in choosing the company that runs the bus system since his former employer might be making a bid to continue.

“We’re delighted that Bob has this tremendous opportunity before him,” Ken Westbrook, president for Veolia’s Transit Division, said in a press release. “He’s done a fine job for us as our General Manager and I know he will continue to provide great leadership in his new role with CMRTA.”

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