Our transportation expert paints a sad picture of mismanagement and missed opportunities in the following GUARDIAN EXCLUSIVE special report.
By Jimmy D. Bus
Guardian Transportation Correspondent
Canyon County residents face the prospect of reduced bus service if Valley Regional Transit plans become reality. The service changes would begin in October 2010 and cover both the Caldwell-Nampa local service and the CaldwellñNampañBoise Intercounty service. Public hearings about the service changes have been scheduled for this week in both Canyon County and Meridian.
This situation is a direct result of Valley Regional failing to issue a bid for a new Caldwell-Nampa service contract in a timely manner. Although Valley Regional had known for 5 years that the current Caldwell-Nampa-Boise Intercounty service contract was going to expire early in 2010 they waited until the old contract had almost expired before putting a new bid for services out on the street.
Because the new bus service contract was not bid in a timely manner, Valley Regional found itself held over the proverbial barrel when the then current contractor demanded, and received, a 24% increase in their fee to extend the current contract until a new contractor could be found. A new contractor has been awarded the contract and the increase remains at about a 25% level causing an estimated $ 200,000 plus shortfall for the Fiscal Year 2011 budget year.
Canyon County politicos say they’re not willing to pony up more taxpayer dollars for the service, so either service reductions or fare increases need to be made. At this point fare increases appear to be off the table. Staff reductions at Valley Regional headquarters also appear off the table even though a part of that overhead cost is allocated to the Canyon County operations.
The favored option points to reduce Nampa-Caldwell local services so Intercounty services can be maintained. Why that option? Because Boise City is being asked to pony up about $ 48,000 to cover the lease of the buses used in Intercounty service and it would be hard to justify Boise City paying for those leases if those buses were sitting in a parking lot unused. Not unlike Eagle bailing out on its obligation earlier, calling upon BSU to carry the financial load.
The irony here is that Valley Regional has had stimulus money for about a year to purchase new buses for Intercounty service. However specifications for the new buses are just now in development and the bidding process is incomplete. Had specifications been developed and the buses bid right after the stimulus money was announced in August 2009, yes 2009, those buses would be much closer to delivery or maybe even on the road. New buses would have reduced or eliminated the lease payments, allowing those lease funds to be used for local Caldwell-Nampa service.
This is a last minute event as far as Valley Regional’s budget is concerned and one that could easily have been avoided. Had Valley Regional bid the new Caldwell-Nampa contract in a timely manner it would have known about the new contract increase in either late 2009 or early 2010, been able to have had a new contract in place as the old one expired, and planned any necessary budget or service adjustments in a rational timely manner. Had it bid the new Intercounty service buses in the timely manner the money saved by not leasing vehicles could have gone toward maintaining Caldwell-Nampa local service.
Some would call such a planned approach “Transit Management 101.” Apparently that’s a course Valley Regional Transit staff flunked.
To insure more advertising-free Boise Guardian news, please consider financial support.