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Rain can’t dampen fun for AARP

Rain can’t dampen fun for AARP

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County looking for bus service options

The King George Board of Supervisors is expected to this week review a draft “Request for Information” (RFI) contained its meeting packet for May 15 (following our press time).

Supervisors will take a look at the RFI as part of its continuing efforts to find any lower-cost alternatives to bus service provided by FREDericksburg Regional Transit (FRED). 

FRED bus service is being discontinued in the county at the end of June. There is not expected to be any new service options available immediately. But the county is continuing to explore possible options to see if any are viable. 

It has become clear that efficient and economical provision of mass transit requires masses of people that simply don’t exist in a rural county. 

At a meeting in early April, a report was provided to Supervisors on two options currently being explored by a group of county officials that includes Supervisors Cedell Brooks and Dale Sisson, county administrator Travis Quesenberry, director Tim Smith of the county’s Parks & Recreation department, and director of Social Services Dave Coman. 

The two alternative options are being explored simultaneously for feasibility. 

The current task is to try to at least find low-cost transportation for getting around the county and within the region for those residents who need transport for routine medical appointments and possibly for employment commutes.  

Part of that idea might include helping county residents to get to the Ferry Farm Walmart to link up with a FRED bus to go further west, or to get riders directly to FRED Central, located on Route 1 in Fredericksburg.

One idea is for the county to see if they can find service providers that might be willing to offer a fixed 

route, with some deviations provided if requested 24-48 hours in advance on an individual basis. Another way to go might be to see what is available for an on-demand service. 

DRAFT REQUEST FOR INFORMATION

The draft RFI calls for a letter of interest, qualifications, references and estimated pricing from qualified and experienced companies to provide “annual renewal renewable business hour (over a 12-hour period per day) public transportation (bus route) services to and from designated points” in King George as indicated on a map to be provided. 

It also asks for on-demand transportation services with the county, adding that transportation to and from a regional transfer point may be desired. Transportation service providers responding to the RFI are asked to “strive to maximize ridership, fare box recovery and on-time performance, while minimizing road calls, vehicle damage and complaints.”

It notes that information obtained may be used to develop a comprehensive Request for Proposals for contracted services. 

The draft RFI provides another page of questions to further explore the possible provision of service options that may or may not be available. 

Supervisors are expected to take a look at the draft RFI at this week’s meeting and provide any comments and suggestions back to Quesenberry.

OTHER OPTION

A second option is also being explored to see if a plan could be developed for the county itself to operate a transportation service at an affordable cost to taxpayers combined with possible user fees. 

That idea was put forward by Smith at the early April meeting. It proposed possible service to be provided in-house with the capital purchase of a 21-passenger bus and a van estimated at $103,000 for capital costs.

Estimated annual operating costs were estimated at $100,000 to $125,000, based on Monday through Friday operations at 12 hours per day. Staffing costs are based on an estimate for 60 hours of drive time and 30 hours of dispatching/administration, along with fuel, maintenance, insurance and office miscellaneous costs. 

There are still a lot of unknowns in that possible plan. 

That current annual estimate is more than FRED wants for its service. But, the estimated operating costs would be partially offset by proceeds from fares. Fares, if set at $4, are currently estimated to bring in about $250 per week. But that would depend on the number of riders and their frequency of trips. The current estimate from fares would only add up to about $12-15,000 per year in proceeds, at a best guess. 

Potential ridership numbers are hard to pin down. But the ridership estimated looked at had  included those obtained from Social Services for people needing transport to routine medical appointments. Those riders might be included in the count for an in-house scheme, since at least a portion of the current cost is being borne by county taxpayers through payments to other local agencies. 

Exploration of that option is contingent on determining whether counties are provided the authority under state law to provide transportation services, as are cities. 

It is also likely contingent on a cost-benefit analysis that would carve out current costs for transportation paid by Social Services to make comparisons on whether a new county scheme would be cost-effective. 

 

Phyllis Cook

 

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