By Cassandra Lans
The Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS), the current private provider for the Milwaukee County transit system has managed the system since 1975.
Back in April of 2013 Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele put out bids for the transit system contract.
Based on an independent board’s scoring process, an African American, woman owned company based out of Dallas, TX, MV Transportation, Inc. was awarded the bid.
The county executive made the decision to search for an alternative to MCTS based on feedback that he had received since taking office in 2011. County Board Supervisors, transit drivers, and riders have expressed being unhappy with MCTS for years.
Back on July 2, 2011 The Milwaukee Courier published a front page lead article entitled, ‘Bus drivers are fed up with physical attacks’.
The buses were being bombarded with violence, and bus drivers felt that MCTS provided them with no support.
After many physical assaults, the drivers took their voices to the media, because MCTS was not listening. Drivers had been suspended, or fired based on incidents of trying to protect themselves, bus property and/or riders.
And MCTS failed to come up with a plan that truly worked to ensure safety of passengers or drivers.
Abele decided that putting this contract out to bid allows the County to respond to these concerns by ensuring we are working with a partner that shares our dedication to the Milwaukee transit system.
He is looking to get the most value, accountability and service for taxpayers, riders and the public.
In the past decade, transit has seen fares increase and routes cut.
Putting the management out to bid does not commit us to any specific provider, but it allows the county to ensure that transit service is sustainable for decades to come.
In order to make sure politics and outside pressures did not play a role in the decision, the MCDOT selected a panel of professionals who scored all the bids based on the cost, service levels and other important criteria to ensure the awardee would provide the best value to riders and taxpayers.
MV Transportation, Inc. was founded in 1975, and boasts an annual revenue of $950 million dollars.
They currently operate transportation services, both fixed route (big buses) and para-transit services in 28 states in the United States, including in Green Bay, WI and abroad in Saudi Arabia and two provinces in Canada.
According to MV’s communications director, Nikki Frenney, MV Transportation is prepared to handle the issues that Milwaukee bus drivers and riders are concerned with.
“We look forward to feedback from our riders and drivers.
One of the things that we are known for across the country is starting Rider Advisory Groups-fixed route and para-transit.
All across the country, we advocate for DriveCam which are cameras that are placed on the buses that are used for a number of issues-training, as well as for safety and the driver has control over that camera. We would not put our drivers at risk.”
Nikki has been in Milwaukee for months.
Other representatives from the company including the members of the management team and even MV’s founder, Feyson Lodde have also made frequent visits to the city.
MV has also made themselves available to speak with members of the community who have any questions or concerns.
They have even met with current bus drivers to disspell a lot of rumors that have been planted by MCTS and others misleading them on their pensions, and any other concerns.
Frenney says that the overall feedback that she has received has been positive and welcoming.
The original goal was to be able to reach an agreement with MV in time for the County Board to review and consider the deal and have it approved by September.
Instead, MCTS decided to file a lawsuit against the county regarding the procedure used in awarding MV the contract, and now the goal is on hold.