Two private transportation firms are vying to manage most of the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority’s operations beginning this fall. One is the company that now runs almost all facets of the agency's work.
An evaluation committee on Friday cleared the current operator, Transdev, as well as Dallas-based MV Transportation to advance to the next stage of the selection process. After a second vetting by the committee, the full board will consider their proposals in May.
The firm that is selected by the RTA at the end of the process will operate the authority's buses, ferries, streetcars and paratransit vehicles, which together serve 18 million passengers annually.
It will employ a general manager, performance and reporting manager, operations and safety manager, maintenance manager and customer service manager.
But instead of reporting only to the authority's board of commissioners and an executive director hired by the board, the new company will answer to a number of publicly employed managers under the type of contract the authority wants to sign by Sept. 1.
Advocates and the board's consultants say that type of arrangement, instead of the one in place now where Transdev manages essentially all parts of the authority's operations, will lead to better outcomes in New Orleans.
"Continuity, transparency and accountability ... can be best realized with a permanent cadre of staff, loyal to the RTA, which strongly identifies with the service area and aligns with the interests of the community," wrote Management Partners and TMG Consulting in an October report that recommended the change.
MV Transportation and Transdev each responded to a Jan. 4 request for proposals, though their public presentations to the committee and board won't be made for another two weeks.
Another firm, First Transit of Ohio, expressed interest in competing but ultimately passed on the chance.
MV Transportation says it serves more than 200 public transit agencies, universities, corporations and school districts across the country, and more than 110 million passengers across 30 states and Canada.
Transdev North America also works with 200 cities and communities in the U.S., and its parent company operates in 20 countries on five continents, according to its website.
Under its current contract, it is paid tens of millions of dollars a year to handle administrative, operational and maintenance tasks on behalf of the RTA.
Members of the evaluation committee included Joshua Cox, Mayor LaToya Cantrell's senior adviser and director of strategic initiatives; City Councilwoman Kristin Gisleson Palmer; the authority's interim executive director, Jared Munster; Jeff Roesel, of the Regional Planning Commission; and Jennifer Terry, of RIDE New Orleans, a transit advocacy group.
The committee met in a closed session Friday to discuss the two applicants before declaring publicly that MV and Transdev were qualified to move along in the process.
The state Attorney General's Office has said such executive sessions are allowed as long as the discussion leading up to the final vote and the vote itself are done publicly.
The RTA board drew public scrutiny in February when it privately approved Transdev's hiring of a new general manager, Darryl Simpson, but didn't take a public vote until a month later.
The evaluation committee will further vet the firms' proposals and give them the chance to make presentations at a public meeting April 17 at 9 a.m.
The full board will select a winner in May, and the contract is expected to be finalized by Sept. 1.
The private contractor that runs the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority’s operations wil…