NC: PART Scrambles for Provider

Aug. 31 -- TRIAD -- The region's mass transit agency is seeking short- and long-term solutions to keep passengers of the Piedmont Authority for Regional Transportation on the road.

The latest crisis facing PART, which has coped in the past year and a half with budget shortfalls, bus trip cuts and fare increases, is the possible loss of the company that contracts to provide drivers for buses. The PART board of trustees met Thursday to discuss what steps to take in the wake of the bankruptcy of Coach America, which has provided bus services for the agency.

PART is attempting to negotiate a financially viable contract with the company that took over operations from Coach America in the bankruptcy reorganization. High Point Mayor Becky Smothers, chairwoman of the PART board of trustees, told The High Point Enterprise after the meeting that PART will keep trying to negotiate new terms.

In the long term, the PART board voted Thursday to contract with a consulting firm to look at a range of PART operations. Smothers told the Enterprise that the goal is to reassess and realign PART's operation based on its expected revenues in coming years.

Also at the meeting, PART Executive Director Brent McKinney moved up the time frame for his retirement. McKinney, who announced his retirement earlier this month, is the only executive director in the 14-year history of the mass transit agency.

McKinney originally was going to retire at the end of January, but now will depart at the end of November. Before he retires, McKinney will transition from executive director to consultant for PART.

Smothers said McKinney initially indicated he wanted to retire this fall, but was willing to stay on through early next year if necessary. But the board believes the actions it took Thursday will allow McKinney to retire two months earlier.

Copyright 2012 - The High Point Enterprise, N.C.