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City Hires New Firm to Manage Shuttles : Transportation: Citing safety concerns, council members switch operators of the free Beeline buses in a three-year, $4.3-million deal.

September 02, 1993|TOMMY LI | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

GLENDALE — City Council members voted Tuesday to hire a Pomona-based firm to run Glendale's Beeline shuttle service, citing safety and maintenance concerns with the current contractor.

The three-year, $4.34-million agreement with Mayflower Contract Services Inc. is expected to take effect in November. It will replace Glendale-based Medi-Ride Inc., which has operated the city's free bus lines for the past 2 1/2 years.

Tuesday's 3-1 vote came after nearly two hours of presentations and comments from city staff, the public and Medi-Ride and Mayflower officials. Councilman Sheldon Baker was absent because of an illness.

Staff members told the council that Mayflower and Medi-Ride were among five transportation service companies that submitted bids to the city in June. The other three firms--Dootson Enterprises of Arcadia, Diversified Paratransit of Pomona and ATE Management & Service Co. of Long Beach--were dropped from consideration because they failed to meet a four-member review panel's criteria and they presented higher bids.

Although the current operator had the lowest offer at $4.32 million, city staff recommended against awarding Medi-Ride the contract because of reports of repeated maintenance and service problems over the past two years. Two residents also told council members that they supported a switch in operators.

Between March and May of this year, for example, as many as four out of 12 buses failed an inspection by an outside firm, according to a report given to council members. Defective parts on shuttles included such items as rear brake lights, air conditioning and a repeated leak in the hydraulic lift system for wheelchairs.

Mayflower's offer scored higher in a review over Medi-Ride, especially in the areas of providing a full-time operations director, project manager and maintenance supervisor and spending more money to train drivers.

In reaching their decision, most of the council echoed concerns about safety and the need for frequent inspection of the city's 18 buses, 11 of which are newly purchased.

"I am very concerned that we continue to have safety problems" with Medi-Ride, said Councilwoman Eileen Givens. "I think this is a time to try a different operator."

Mayor Larry Zarian agreed with the call for change.

"The end result is that we want to make sure that our buses are safe and that our bus riders are safe," Zarian said.

Councilman Richard M. Reyes opposed dropping Medi-Ride.

"I'm not for change for the sake of changing," Reyes said. "I like what I hear from staff that (Medi-Ride has) improved in the last six months."

John Gantus, an attorney representing Medi-Ride, acknowledged that maintenance problems have occurred but told council members before their vote that Medi-Ride officials have taken steps to correct them.

Gantus later said the council should have considered Medi-Ride's achievement in helping to boost ridership on the Beeline to 1.2 million this year.

"This system has operated quite nicely for (nearly) three years," Gantus said. "I don't think we're getting anything more than what the city (already) has. I was especially disappointed that they've gone outside Glendale" for services.

Mayflower officials said the company plans to lease an operations and maintenance building in Glendale at 1242 Los Angeles St. As part of the contract, it will also give the more than 40 current Beeline employees first chance to apply for jobs.

"We're excited that we were awarded the contract, and we're very eager to get started," said Reno Navarette, who will be the full-time general manager at the new building.

Mayflower Contract Services Inc. is one of the largest U.S.-owned transportation services companies. Its clients include Beverly Hills, Pasadena, Los Angeles, Bell Gardens, Cudahy, Pomona, South Gate and San Bernardino.

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