Detroit – On Wednesday, the City Council again delayed the renewal of a $49 million contract “without an alternative” despite complaints about the reliability of the French company that operates the system.
The paratransit community has called for the termination of Transdev service, the main provider that has underperformed the city for the past six years, demanding an increased contract.
Last week, the board unanimously approved a new $16 million contract with Lake Whitmore-based People’s Express Inc., delaying a vote on Transdev. Both contracts expire on December 31, 2027.
ADA activists have called for the contract to be reduced from five years to three years to see effective change.
Lisa Franklin, founder of Warriors on Wheels of Metropolitan Detroit, thanked the council for ignoring the Transdev contract.
Franklin, who uses a wheelchair, said: “We’re not going to sit back and allow another decade of underground service. No one has spoken for us and that’s why we’re here to help with checks and balances.” “Please make sure they are in place so we don’t get into any more trouble, we also want to check in with you often.”
Mikel Oglesby, Detroit Transit’s executive director, told the board Wednesday that a five-year contract is still the best option.
“If we were to go with a three-year contract, that would be an increase of $200,000 every year, and we don’t have that amount in the total budget of $15 million. Financially, it’s not the best move for every year to shorten the contract.” Oglesby said.
District 6 Councilwoman Gabriela Santiago-Romero asked how the director can ensure reliability and is not satisfied that the department can cancel the contract at any time.
The department said it plans to develop a scorecard that measures the frequency of accidents and tracks on-time pickups and drop-offs and the number of trips per hour provided by the sources. Data on key performance indicators is collected daily by DDOT and presented to service providers at weekly and quarterly meetings of the local advisory board and City Council.
“We’re not going into this blind. We know people want to see this, so when we have it, that information will be on our website,” Oglesby said. “The contract has not been submitted to the public for review because it has not been approved, but has been submitted to council members.”
Oglesby said last week that the City Council will go into recess from Nov. 24 to Jan. 8, and if it isn’t approved by then, “the city’s paratransit service will go from bad to terrible.”
“We know very well that at the last meeting we put a gun to our heads. Pass by January 1 of this year or only have 30% service, which will put this city in a very interesting legal situation. Department of Transportation, “said a public commentator. “I don’t know how it happened.”
Council President Pro Tem James Tate said he’s not comfortable without hearing that the riders have a chance to review the contract.
“I’m sure there are a number of concerns included, but I want to wait and see what real users think about the contract,” Tate said.
Oglesby said that if not approved, the city would only be able to provide 30 percent of public service through People’s Express until Jan. 1.
“It’s scary. For context, that’s 300 trips every day instead of 1,000,” Oglesby said. “We are running out of time. There will be no contract at the end of December. If we continue to do this, it will be more difficult for us to get it. We will try our hardest, but if we delay. , I have the tools to do it. I don’t have a job and the tools are now providers.”
Paratransit services for the Americans with Disabilities Act were prioritized when the City Council approved the fiscal year budget in April. About $72.3 million in the city’s general fund will support DDOT and People Mover transit service improvements. It includes a $5.8 million increase to improve paratransit services and transportation operations.
Riders said last year they waited hours for pickups and were sometimes dropped off at the wrong addresses. Detroit officials said they would take more control from Transdev, which the drivers have advocated.
“We’ve done a very poor job of providing quality phone services for seniors and people with disabilities,” Mike Duggan told council when he presented the budget in March. “We’re separating the process, and DDOT will actually book the appointments, and we’ll contract with the first-tier providers to provide the transportation.”
In his address to the City Council, Oglesby said Detroit pays among the lowest rates for paratransit service in the country, while other major cities charge an average of $56 per trip. In order to remain competitive and receive bids for the city contract, they must increase the fee from $15 to $40 per trip.
Oglesby said the city has taken some previously troubled services in-house and is now responsible for handling complaints.
“Transdev didn’t do well for six years, five years before I got here, and since then they’ve done well, but not satisfactorily,” Oglesby told the board. “Because the word Transdev is in there, people have a problem with it because it has been a poor performer for years; however, we have taken responsibility for these areas.”
Transdev will now have an operational role, while the city will take on the administrative role of stocking vehicles, scheduling, dispatching and delivery through its internal contract manager not only for People Express, but for the three subcontractors within the delivery package.
Oglesby said training drivers is also committed to training as contract managers and transit managers. Riders can also expect a new car park. Waiting, however, means potentially losing the contract or further delays, Oglesby said.
Board member Colmen A. Young requested an adjournment for an additional week.
Some drivers asked for qualifications to be integrated throughout the system and for payment to be a receipt or cashless system so that drivers can track their vehicle expenses for social security services. New freedom is also a transportation service for disabled residents of Detroit, Highland Park and Hamtramck to travel to the cities of Oakland and Macomb or other places in Wayne County. It is $2.50 for each trip up to 25 miles. Drivers are not allowed to make change and the service operates Monday to Saturday from 5am to 7pm.
“On top of that, we also have a new exemption that I was going to finish at the end of the year, but if that doesn’t pass, I’ll have to extend it for another year,” Oglesby told the council.
Oglesby said the most recent contract was in 2016, which was $7.4 million a year with an escalator clause each year based on driving that increased. Oglesby responded that the transportation budget had increased from $10 million annually to $15 million to meet the rising costs.
Oglesby pleaded with council members to trust and believe in their department, but to no avail.
“It’s a higher dollar amount for better cars, better pay for the operators of these facilities, despite the fact that we’re getting more as a city,” Oglesby said. “That’s when we take responsibility and change the model based on the last model that didn’t work.”