TN: Rogero- City Not in a Hurry to Make Any Changes -- if Any -- to Transit Authority

Feb. 19--Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero said Tuesday the city is not in a hurry to make any structural changes, if any, to the Knoxville Transportation Authority's role and responsibilities.

Rogero met with Transportation Authority members to hear what they want in a new director and also discuss recommendations made in a report released in November.

City officials commissioned a nearly $40,000 study by Gobis & Co. LLC to provide an analysis of the city's bus system. The study found governance of Knoxville Area Transit is too cumbersome and confusing, with five organizations sharing responsibility.

"I know when I was on KTA, it was always kind of confusing in that regard in terms of what our role was versus what the city's was and how we can best serve and promote the system. ... Maybe we're fine the way it is. Maybe it's been that way for so long, it can still serve that role," Rogero said.

That study was the basis of Rogero's decision in November to discontinue a $218,719 contract with Veolia Transportation, which provided a general manager who was responsible for labor negotiations with the Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 1164.

Four organizations remain, including the city government, which owns all property and equipment and funds the system.

City leaders appoint members to the Transportation Authority, which approves fare and service changes and makes recommendations to the city about capital and other operational issues.

The Community Advisory Committee works with the authority to improve public involvement and outreach.

K-Trans Management, Inc., a nonprofit organization, handles the employment of all KAT employees and benefit management. Deputy Mayors Christi Branscom and Bill Lyons said after the meeting that K-Trans will now handle labor negotiations.

Gobis recommends consolidating the KTA and CAC to help with short- and long-range plans and with public outreach, but no longer to make recommendations on fares and schedules. That requires changes in city ordinance.

"Some group of individuals is going to have to do that, whether that be KTA or the City Council. ... Does the City Council want to take on some of this? I know their agenda can last well into the evening," said John Lawhorn, attorney for the Transportation Authority and KAT.

Hubert Smith, Transportation Authority member, said he has yet to speak with a City Council member who wants to take on transit authority responsibilities.

"We do a variety of things," Smith said. "That's not just coming and sitting down once a month and accepting something that's put before you and voting on it then it goes through. We have lots of discussions."

Branscom told the group more than 30 applicants have applied so far for the transit director position.

Rogero said any decision that could change the role of the transit authority won't be made until after the new director is hired.

Copyright 2014 - The Knoxville News-Sentinel, Tenn.

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