Muskegon Senior Transit May Return In Form of Public-Private Partnership

Andrew Trzaska | March 12, 2013

103.7 The Beat previously reported that the contract with Wakefield Leasing was not voted on at Tuesday’s meeting. The measure was in fact voted upon and passed in a 6-0 vote. The version of Wakefield’s proposal that was accepted would use a $40,000 city subsidy and is planned to cost riders $3.50 per ride.

Tuesday’s City Commission meeting saw new action on its now-defunct Senior Transit program, with possibilities of a public-private partnership in the works.

Commissioner Lea Markowski put forth the results of a request for proposals solicited by the city earlier this year that concerned a private vendor to continue the service, which was cut from this year’s budget after one part of a two-part proposal on last November’s ballot did not pass.

At the meeting, commissioners voted 6-0 to accept a proposal from a local private cab company, and instructed city staff to work out details of the service with the company on a one-year contract.

Markowski originated the suggestion of a public-private partnership in late December, when the service’s days were numbered and calls to keep the service running were at their highest.

Two proposals came back from the RFP: One through private cab company Wakefield Leasing, and one through Muskegon County’s Muskegon Area Transit System (MATS).

At Tuesday’s meeting, Markowski indicated that a committee she headed on the matter, which included city residents of varying ages, expressed preference for the proposal received from Wakefield Leasing, headquartered at 770 W. Sherman Boulevard.

Muskegon’s previous in-house Senior Transit program charged $3 per one-way ride.  All proposals generally would have increased transit rides for seniors.

The details of the winning Wakefield Leasing proposal changed depending on how much money the city was willing to budget for the partnership.

Wakefield offered a plan where the $40,000 city subsidy is optioned, where riders would pay $3.50 for a one-way ride.  Wakefield also offered a plan where a $25,000 city subsidy would have been optioned, where riders would have paid $5 for a one-way ride. Rides will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days per year.

Only 8,000 rides would be subsidized for the year, about 15% more than the 6,699 rides provided to seniors by the city last year. In the end, the city chose the plan which offered $3.50 rides with the $40,000 city subsidy.

If the proposal from MATS had received the nod, they would have used matching federal dollars and take the $25,000 city subsidy, and would concentrate their Go Bus service to areas where seniors most need rides. They would charge anywhere from $2-$5 dollars depending on how long the ride is, and riders must call with more advanced notice than a cab.

On a question from commissioner Byron Turnquist, Markowski explained how her committee came to pick the Wakefield as the preferred proposal:

“The MATS system wasn’t really giving us an option to replace the Senior Transit program,” said Markowski.

The future of Senior Transit will move forward to city staff to negotiate final details of the contract.

All commissioners and the mayor were present at Tuesday’s meeting except for commissioner Eric Hood.

Andrew Trzaska

103.7 “The Beat” – local government beat reporter and political analyst