The city of Bowling Green is moving ahead with major changes to the way it operates transit in the city, issuing last week a long-discussed Request for Proposals for the management and operation of transit services.
A $125,000 transit study by Pittsburgh-based Michael Baker International unveiled in 2019 by the Bowling Green-Warren County Metropolitan Planning Organization suggested the city seek assistance for the complex task of running public transit. The RFP is a result of that recommendation.
“There are some things the city does well and some things the city can improve on,” Bowling Green Mayor Bruce Wilkerson said. Operating a transit system falls into that latter category, he added.
Currently, the city offers an annual contract for transit operations and Community Action has been the successful bidder to operate GO bg Transit since 2003. But the city has had periodic issues with Community Action’s handling of the transit system.
“Users are generally happy with buses and drivers, but we think we can improve how we handle transit,” Wilkerson said.
Brent Childers, director of the city’s neighborhood and community services department, said the RFP presents interested parties with three options:
- A bid to provide day-to-day transit management only, with another entity providing the actual services.
- A bid to provide the daily transit services, but not daily management.
- A bid to provide both management and operations.
The city could chose a firm to do both management and services, or two different entities.
In either case, the city is looking to bring onboard a firm with expertise in transit management.
“Sometimes an outside pair of eyes is helpful,” Wilkerson said.
Michael Baker International representatives will assist in assessing the RFP submissions, Childers said.
The city receives federal funding for public transit, about $1.2 million this year with a $430,000 match from the city.
Childers said there are some national firms that provide these kinds of services, but “I’m not expecting a huge volume of” responses, he said.
There is an April 8 deadline to respond to the RFP. Community Action’s current contract to provide transit expires June 30, meaning there will be a short window to hire a firm or firms and get them in place for a new contract starting July 1.
“It’s tight,” Childers said of the timeline.
Don Butler, Community Action’s executive director, said the agency is still reviewing the RFP, but “we will more than likely respond to one or both of” the requests for proposals.
The agency’s track record as the transit provider for almost 20 years gives it an advantage in the RFP response, he said.
“I believe we’d be very competitive. ... We have a good staff in place,” Butler said, noting that the agency has been involved in providing transit services in the community in some form since 1994.