Midlands transit board expects to have operator contract by February

ccope@thestate.comJanuary 24, 2014 

The contract for the operator of the Midlands transit system, The COMET, which was formerly CMRTA, is expected to be finalized at February's board of directors meeting.

CASSIE COPE — ccope@thestate.com

  • THE FINAL THREE

    First Transit is the U.S. division of the United Kingdom-based FirstGroup mass transit company, which operates in more than 40 states, Canada and Puerto Rico.

    Keolis, a French company, operates in the United Kingdom, Scandinavia, France, Germany, Australia and China. Keolis America has more than 100 U.S. systems, including on college campuses.

    Veolia Transportation is based in Paris and operates transit systems in about 200 communities in Europe and the United States, including Phoenix, Denver, San Diego, Atlanta, Baltimore, the suburbs of Washington, D.C., and Toronto.

— The board of directors for the Midlands transit system is currently negotiating with the top candidate for a contractor to run the bus system, said the board chairman.

Chairman and Columbia City Councilman Brian DeQuincey Newman said he could not name which of the three remaining transportation companies the board is working with to finalize a contract. But he said he expected it to have a contract at February’s board of directors meeting.

The three remaining companies vying for the job to run The COMET, formerly CMRTA, are First Transit, Keolis and Veolia Transportation, which has operated the system for more than 10 years. The board first named the three in November.

Many representatives from Veolia were at Wednesday’s board of directors meeting. The board went into executive session to discuss a possible contract but took no vote.

Newman had previously said he expected a decision to be made by the end of 2013, but now says the process should be completed by February.

The board has gone through all of the steps in vetting the candidates, he said.

“We understand and respect our commitment to the community to move swiftly,” Newman said.

Bob Schneider, executive director of The COMET, said his role in the negotiation process for the operator contract is assisting legal counsel and the executive committee with technical issues and performance standards.

Schneider once held dual roles as both executive director of The COMET and general manager for Veolia Transportation, but he went to work solely as the head of The COMET in July.

The bus system receives about 29 percent of the revenues collected through a penny sales tax approved by voters in November 2012.

Larry Livingston was appointed as the interim general manager for Veolia.

Livingston said Veolia’s goals have been restoring services that had been cut, such as Sunday routes.

The penny also allowed Veolia to bring back almost all of the about 40 employees, including bus drivers, who had been cut, Livingston said.

THE FINAL THREE

First Transit is the U.S. division of the United Kingdom-based FirstGroup mass transit company, which operates in more than 40 states, Canada and Puerto Rico.

Keolis, a French company, operates in the United Kingdom, Scandinavia, France, Germany, Australia and China. Keolis America has more than 100 U.S. systems, including on college campuses.

Veolia Transportation is based in Paris and operates transit systems in about 200 communities in Europe and the United States, including Phoenix, Denver, San Diego, Atlanta, Baltimore, the suburbs of Washington, D.C., and Toronto.

Reach Cope at 803-771-8657

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