New bus company mapping route to success

When MV Transportation received a preliminary nod on a five-year contract to become the new provider of bus service in the Grand Valley, taking over for First Transit, then-Grand Valley Transit General Manager and First Transit employee Valdon Lewis predicted MV would realize no profit or lose money because of its value-priced bid.

MV Transportation officials are betting otherwise.

The Fairfield, Calif.-based company is in its third week operating 11 routes throughout Mesa County, and county officials say the transition from First Transit has been seamless thus far. Within two months, the company that operates more than 200 contracts in North America, including seven in Colorado, intends to separate itself from its predecessor by offering nighttime service and incorporating technology they say will enhance riders’ experience.

That boost in service is expected to come at little or no extra cost to taxpayers.

MV Transportation beat out four other transit providers largely on the strength of the firm’s promise to fulfill a longtime wish of bus operators and riders alike — running buses later in the evening — without requiring a large dose of funding.

MV Transportation’s $9.7 million bid, which included extending six-day-a-week service three more hours to 10:15 p.m., was virtually the same price as First Transit’s $9.6 million proposal, which would have maintained the current service level and shut down buses at 7:15 p.m.

Grand Valley Transit customers long have complained that the bus could get them to work in the morning or afternoon, but it couldn’t get them home at night. First Transit offered extended hours for $11.2 million.

Chad Hockman, regional vice president for MV Transportation, said MV Transportation knew the county wanted to expand service but didn’t have the extra dollars to do so.

“We as a company took a risk on cutting our profit margin because we wanted to be a partner here,” Hockman said.

“We knew, in order to get service levels that everybody is wanting, that we would need to come in significantly lower (in price) than First Transit.”

MV Transportation also intends to introduce a software system that will allow riders to track the exact location of their bus — through kiosks at transfer stations, a phone number, a website or on their cellphones or smart phones — to determine whether it’s on time or running late. MV Transportation will notify riders of service delays through text messages or posting information online.

The system also will allow administrators to track bus performance live. If they see a bus is running behind, they can take steps to make sure it gets back on track or send another bus to pick up passengers.

The extended service hours and new software system should be implemented in March.

“What we’re trying to do is develop a partnership, a long-term plan,” Hockman said. “We were willing to take that (financial) risk on, and I know we can provide service better than what was being provided and technology and infrastructure that will help support that system. Our goal is to be here the next 30 years, 40 years, 50 years.”


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