When it comes to the Bee-Line Bus system, Westchester County Executive Robert P. Astorino has always had two goals: to provide safe, quality service for the 100,000 daily bus riders and make sure it is at the best possible price for taxpayers.
With that in mind, Astorino announced Aug. 13:
• The county will use a competitive procurement process to solicit companies to operate up to 61 routes of the bus system beginning in 2014 or early 2015.
• The procurement process will follow federal guidelines, which means operating assistance to the Bee-Line system will continue uninterrupted. This assistance is expected to be about $13 million in 2014. The county has been in talks with the FTA since early this year to ensure federal funding would not be jeopardized.
• The RFP will be issued in early September, with the contract, which is for five years with an option to renew for five years, awarded in December. In the event that the new contract is not awarded to Liberty Lines, the current operator, Liberty Lines has the option to manage the Bee-Line system under a bridge contract for up to one year to ensure a smooth transition to the new operator.
“Price and service are the core of any Bee-Line bus contract, and we now have a foundation for both,” said Astorino. “The request for proposals process will keep costs down and federal aid in place. The bridge contract provides insurance against the interruption in the quality of service. The goal we are working toward is to protect both riders and taxpayers.”
On Aug. 9 the FTA signed off on the bridge contract, which is for six-months with an option to renew for an additional six months if necessary.
The county’s bus system is a unique public-private partnership. The county owns the buses, sets fares and determines routes. The private companies, mainly Liberty Lines (which runs all but three routes), operate the buses with their own employees and receive a subsidy from the county to supplement farebox receipts as well as state and federal funding.
Liberty has operated most of the buses since the mid 1970s and assembled many of the routes. Liberty has asserted that it has certain rights to compensation that must be taken into account should Liberty not be awarded the contract.
Deputy Commissioner of Public Works and Transportation Patricia Chemka said, “We are now working with all the parties as we move through the RFP and bridge contract process.”