Marin County decided to stay with its 40-year partner, the Golden Gate transit district, for local bus service instead of potentially getting a cheaper contract by going with other vendors.
In its Monday meeting, the Marin Transit Board of Directors voted unanimously to accept a new contract provided by the GGT that will reduce its charge of $133 per hour to $120, cut its annual 5 percent increase to 2.7 percent and reduce its annual service hours by 25 percent.
GGT also suggested bus routes 19 and 51, which serve Novato and Tiburon, as well as their supplemental school services be transferred to other vendors. Bus routes 23 and 29, running from Fairfax Manor and College of Marin, could also have hours cut, but the final decision of which routes will be impacted the most will be up to the county.
"Those details will be fleshed out as we continue to plan," Golden Gate spokeswoman Mary Currie said.
GGT, which provides local bus routes within the county, negotiated the revised deal after Marin Transit officials notified the district that it would end its contract come December 2013 to save money. In the 2010-11 fiscal year, the county spent $500,000 more on transit than it generated in revenue and estimates a $15 million budget gap by 2017, according to officials.
Since most of Marin’s bus riders are low-income residents, the board looked to either renegotiate the existing terms or have competitors bid on a new contract to protect riders who couldn’t afford fare increases.
Under the new contract, around 30 Golden Gate transit workers could lose their jobs compared to the 125 employees if the county decided to go elsewhere.
Allowing competitors to bid could’ve saved the county $1 million and expand transit programs for areas like Novato and Tiburon, but the board decided that the 40-year relationship with Golden Gate was worth more.
“The relationship with the bridge district is something the board wants even if we have to pay a premium price for the contract,” board member Susan Adams said.
Despite the board’s support for GGT, some believed that bidding could lead to better service for riders. David Schonbrunn, president of the transportation nonprofit TRANSDEF, criticized Golden Gate transit for being the most expensive operator in the region and eating up funds from the 2004 Measure A half-cent sales tax increase that was meant to improve services.
“You can stop the bleeding temporarily,” he said, “or recognize that you’ve arrived at a dead end with Golden Gate and head out in a new direction.”
Cleveland Prince, who spoke on behalf of Teamsters Local Union No. 856, said the new contract was the right decision for the time and would support “the proud workers who love serving the riders.”
The contract will come before the board again in four years.
Denis Mulligan, general manager for the Golden Gate district, said he was thrilled with the board’s decision. “We responded to the challenges and we can take you where you need to be,” he said. “[Their decision] allows us to continue to provide integrated, seamless service to our riders.”