The Rapid, in Grand Rapids, Mich., recognizes that clean buses are more likely to attract a group of riders that would ordinarily use their cars. It strives to promote a clean and healthy environment for its riders. The Rapid chose to procure a new bus wash for a number of reasons. Before it could purchase a wash, however, it had to choose its method of procurement.
There are two primary processes that The Rapid typically uses when it comes to procuring goods and services. The first is Invitation for Bid (IFB). This process is used when specifications for the exact product needed are available, or the buyer knows what product best suits its needs. It is commonly used during construction projects that have construction documents available. Traditionally, the lowest, most qualified bidder is awarded the contract.
The second process is the Request for Proposal (RFP). The RFP process is chosen when the buyer needs expert assistance to determine the most efficient, cost-effective solution, does not necessarily have knowledge of all products on the market, may not know which product will best suit its needs, or there are a variety of similar products available that adequately fulfill the owner’s requirements. During the RFP process for a construction project, construction documents are made public and vendors then submit a proposal to the owner. The owner forms an evaluation team that reviews all proposals that have been submitted by vendors. The proposals are evaluated on a number of different items including, but not limited to, warranty, function, quality, size and price. Each category is assigned a weight. Categories are project dependent and will change from project to project. The proposal with the highest score during the evaluation typically gets awarded the contract. Price makes up only a small portion of the scoring. This allows the owner to select the best overall product or contractor instead of relying on price alone, which may not be the best solution for its needs.
The evaluation process for RFP’s can be a lengthy one. In the case of The Rapid, the evaluation team required site visits to other transit authorities to study other bus washing systems. Evaluations may also involve post-proposal interviews with vendors that submitted proposals. This process is a very thorough way of choosing the best vendor and obtaining good results.
The Rapid did not know which bus wash would best serve its needs so it opted to use the RFP process. The Rapid evaluated the submitted bus wash proposals on a number of items including functionality, cost per wash, quality of wash, usability, warranty and price of system. In addition to evaluating each proposal, references were contacted to discuss the vendor’s ability to complete the work, the operation and performance of the proposed system and after-sale support.
The Rapid’s line haul fleet consists of approximately 120 buses, five of which are hybrid-electric buses. The existing washing system was outdated and created many problems. Scratched windows, mirrors being damaged or removed, and front-mounted bike racks being damaged were all results of the old system. In addition, soap use was quite high, yet the buses did not meet The Rapid’s standards for cleanliness. Lastly, only buses could be washed — the remainder of the fleet was washed by hand.
The Rapid needed a new bus wash, but it needed to sort through all the new technologies to find that best solution that would wash its entire fleet. It was time to find a bus wash that could wash modern buses and do it without damaging parts and costing extra money.
The Rapid requested that Progressive AE, with whom it holds a master agreement for A/E services, generate a RFP to procure a new bus washing system. There were many important things to consider in the design of the new system. Buses are changing; no longer is every bus square or easy to clean. Many have bike racks and all have mirrors that can be damaged during washing. The Rapid recently acquired hybrid-electric buses that have a rounded front end and a battery storage compartment on top that would need to be washed with the new system. Hybrid electric buses are also wider and taller than standard 40-foot line haul vehicles.