Bid Protest Denied By GTA Board

At the Greensboro Transit Authority (GTA) board meeting on Wednesday night, an out-of-court hearing was held to determine whether the board would uphold or deny the protest petition from First Transit.

First Transit filed the bid protest on May 15 after a bidding process resulted in GTA deciding to approve a contract with Veolia, the company that has run the bus transit system in Greensboro since 2002. First Transit argued that the bid process had been, “arbitrary, capricious and wrongful.”

First Transit currently runs bus transit systems in over 250 cities, including Raleigh’s Wolfline at NC State.

Tom Terrell, the attorney representing First Transit, argued that the bid process was flawed. The selection committee of eight evaluated the contracts using a cumulative scoring process, so that even though five of the members of the selection committee scored First Transit higher, Veolia had the overall better cumulative score. First Transit contended that this was unfair.

First Transit accused the selection committee of being biased towards Veolia due to the City’s preexisting relationship with the contractor. James Dickens, the attorney representing GTA, denied this.

Even though First Transit submitted a less costly proposal than Veolia, the selection committee used what Dickens called “qualitative components” to determine which contract had the “best value”. First Transit contested this process as arbitrary and argued that the selection committee therefore did not choose the contract that presented the “best value.”

First Transit disputed the selection committee’s assessment while adding that it was irresponsible of the committee to choose a more costly contract when the GTA was in the midst of financial struggles.

Mike Fox represented Veolia and accused First Transit of being sore losers and lashing out at the GTA. In response to First Transit’s protest Fox said, “It’s an attack on your process because they weren’t chosen.”

Fox warned the board that upholding a protest bid such as this one could open the door for any other contractors to file a protest with the City just because they lost out on a bid.

Fox said, “If you go down this road then you’re setting up a terrible precedent.”

After all parties presented their case, GTA board members briefly discussed the matter. The board came to the conclusion that the real question at hand was whether or not the bid selection process had been fair.

Ultimately the board decided that they felt the bid selection process was good and that it had been fair. The board voted to deny the petition protest from First Transit. The only dissident vote came from Kristen Jeffers, a blogger for The Black Urbanist.

After the GTA board’s vote, First Transit was informed that they had three days to file an appeal to Greensboro’s City Council. If First Transit does not appeal the decision then the denial from the GTA board will be final. If First Transit does appeal, then City Council would be faced with the decision to go against a branch of their own city government or risk First Transit filing a lawsuit in response to an unfavorable decision.

GTA Costs Spark Heated Debate at City Council Meeting


Things became heated between representatives of Greensboro’s Transit Authority (GTA) and some members of City Council on Tuesday night over the cost of maintaining the service.

The discussion began during the public comment portion of the meeting.  Greensboro resident Lonnie Cunningham urged Council to consider a bond referendum to continue to subsidize the cost of bus fares at the current rate.

Cunningham suggested that one way to pay for the bus system would be to have a youth group collect all the campaign signs left around the City and send a bill to the candidates.

Cunningham also pointed out that buses in Chapel Hill are free.

“Chapel Hill has free buses because UNC subsidizes it,” Mayor Vaughan responded.  Council members chimed in to say that the City does take public transportation seriously and that they already heavily subsidize the cost of bus fares, which are currently $1.50 per trip for riders.

Bruce Adams, the Senior Operations Planner for the GTA, presented the program of projects for the GTA for the upcoming fiscal year. The program includes the addition of hybrid buses, which cost 40 to 50 percent more than regular buses. The recurrent maintenance is less costly with hybrid buses, but GTA representatives did concede that there is a high replacement cost for batteries that only last about five years.

Councilman Zack Matheny jumped on the discussion. Matheny, who has advocated for increasing the price of bus fares by twenty cents, pointed out that the GTA costs the City of Greensboro around $23 million each year, and at a rate of $35 per bus ride.

“If we raise the rates could we not do more to help GTA?” asked Matheny. “The cost of buses is going up.  The cost of fuel is going up. Do you see where I’m going with this?”

Councilwoman Sharon Hightower expressed her strong disagreement with Matheny on the issue, but eventually they decided to table the discussion for now and agree to disagree.

A twenty cent increase would add up for members of the community who rely on public transportation to get around everyday. A person making two or three round trips a day could end up paying an extra dollar a day.

Matheny demonstrated that this issue will most likely be a priority for him in the future. “You’re probably going to hear a lot more about this from me,” said Matheny.