Select Ride Contract OK’d by AAATA

The terms of the third and final year of Select Ride‘s contract to provide complementary paratransit service for the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority has been given approval by the AAATA board. The board’s action to approve the contract – which is valued at $3,016,871 for the coming year – came at a special meeting held on July 23, 2013. Select Ride is a private taxicab company.

The negotiations for terms of an extension to a third year of Select Ride’s contract also included a one-time “stabilization payment” to Select Ride of $100,000 to be paid by July 31, 2013. The contract also includes a 5% ($150,000) increase for this final year of the contract. The staff memo in the board’s information packet attributed the increases to the rising consumer price index (CPI) and to fuel costs. Based on board deliberations on July 23, the negotiations with Select Ride were difficult, and were completed under the stress of the possibility that there was no realistic alternative to Select Ride to provide the service.

The provision of complementary paratransit service for people with disabilities – as an alternative to the fixed-route service – is a requirement of the Federal Transit Administration under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Public transportation agencies must provide special service to those with disabilities that is “comparable to the level of service provided to individuals without disabilities who use the fixed route system.”

The paratransit service is required to be offered within a corridor 3/4 mile on either side of a fixed bus route. Comparable service is defined as a demand-response service from door to destination, in which the public transit agency schedules and provides paratransit service to an eligible person for a request made the previous day. The fare that can be charged for the paratransit service can’t be more than twice what the fare would be for a similar trip taken on the fixed-route system. [.pdf of Federal Transit Administration Section 7 of Title 49 on "Transportation Services for Individuals with Disabilities"]

The AAATA fulfills its obligation under the ADA through its A-Ride program. In addition to trips that can be arranged at least one day in advance for a $3 fare [which is twice the $1.50 full fare for regular fixed-route rides], same-day trips can be arranged through A-Ride for a $4 fare. The higher fare can be charged for those trips, because they are not being offered under the ADA requirement. Some holders of A-Ride passes – who have the right to reserve rides for $3 under the A-Ride program – might also be able to ride the AAATA regular fixed-route system. If they opt to ride the fixed-route system, the A-Ride program allows them to do that without paying a fare.

Allowing A-Ride eligible passengers to ride the fixed-route service for free, compared to the $3-4 charge for paratransit, works out better for the AAATA financially. Based on the AAATA’s financial reports through the first three quarters of the fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30, the cost per passenger for the fixed-route system is about 1/7 of the cost per passenger for the A-Ride service – $3.35 compared to $23.46. Fares don’t cover the total cost of rides for any of the services offered by AAATA – with the difference made up by local tax, state and federal funding. Per passenger, the AAATA uses $6.94 in local tax for paratransit compared to $1.23 per passenger for the fixed-route service. [.pdf of AAATA third quarter financial report]

According to AAATA manager of service development Chris White, the Canton and Chelsea commuter service and the AirRide service to the airport are “interurban express services” and do not fall under the ADA requirements.

According to AAATA controller Phil Webb, the total value of the Select Ride contract was estimated based on 37,728 passenger trips on lift-equipped vans (accessible service) and 79,716 passenger trips in taxi cabs, along with a monthly fixed fee. Fares are collected by Select Ride, and Select Ride subtracts that amount from the total revenue it is provided under the contract. Passenger fares are projected to be about $405,000 – so the total amount paid to Select Ride by the AAATA will be about $2,612,000. That yields a total value of the contract of about $3,017,000.

The AAATA tracks passenger complaints it receives about subcontracted service providers like Select Ride separately from complaints about the fixed-route service. For the three-month period of April-June 2013, 76 of the 93 complaints found to be valid by the AAATA arose out of rides taken on subcontracted services. Those include A-Ride (Select Ride), NightRide (Blue Cab) and AirRide (Michigan Flyer).

According to the staff memo accompanying the board’s resolution, higher service standards are included in the final year of Select Ride’s contract, with financial consequences for non-compliance. The memo also indicates that the new RFP (request for proposals) for A-Ride service will include “an alternative service delivery model” that will allow the AAATA to exercise greater performance oversight and cost control.

The board did not have a regular meeting scheduled for the month of July – so in order to take action on the Select Ride contract, it was necessary to call a special meeting. There was also an outside chance that the special meeting could have been used to vote on placing a new transportation millage on the November 2013 ballot. [For background see: "AATA Adds Ypsilanti, Expands Potential"] However, the board did not contemplate that action at its July 23 meeting – as CEO Michael Ford indicated during his report to the board that a November 2013 millage was probably not realistic. Instead, he said, a May 2014 request of voters could be considered.

This brief was filed from the AAATA headquarters at 2700 S. Industrial Highway, where the board held its special meeting. A more complete report will follow: [link]