The Westmoreland County Transit Authority could be looking to move on from the company that has operated its bus and shared-ride systems for nearly a decade.
The authority last year awarded a new five-year, $29.5-million contract to National Express to operate the transportation services, but issues with canceled routes and driver shortages have led to the authority fining the company more than $220,000 in fines so far.
“Both our fixed-route service contract and our shared-ride paratransit service contract call for annual rate negotiations. We have been unable to agree on new contract rates with National Express due to significant changes in economic conditions since the start of this contract. At this point, the authority and National Express agree that it is in the best interest of both parties for the authority to issue a new procurement and review responses,” WCTA executive director Alan Blahovec said in a statement.
Five companies submitted proposals last year to run the WCTA’s bus and shared-ride systems. National Express did not have the lowest bid for the services, but earned the contract after negotiations in part because of its history as the authority’s previous operator.
New proposals are due next month.
The contract with National Express extends through 2023, but calls for yearly rate negotiations based on performance and economic conditions. Because of the annual rate negotiation clause, unless the deal is renegotiated, the contract will expire at the end of the year.
National Express operates the WCTA’s fleet of 41 buses to provide 25 weekday and Saturday bus routes, including multiple daily commuter bus routes into Pittsburgh as well as service throughout Westmoreland County. The company also handles the authority’s shared-ride paratransit service, Go Westmoreland, which offers subsidized door-to-door rides for low-income residents.