Ride-On (RO) a local transportation program run under the United Cerebral Palsy of San Luis Obispo County, is voicing its objection to losing a bid on a two-year contract for a senior assistance transportation program created by San Luis Obispo Council of Governments (SLOCOG). Ventura Transit Services (VTS) won the bid on the program entitled Senior Go! RO intended to merge the county program with its senior shuttle program and questions why the County wishes to duplicate an already existing service that has been in operation since 2006.
SLOCOG designated RO as the Consolidated Transportation Services Agency (CTSA) in 1987. In 1997 Assembly Bill 120, designed to improve social service transportation, allowed up to 5 percent of transportation funding for these type of social services. In 1993, RO created a transportation program to assist seniors, veterans, social service agencies and people with disabilities in SLO County.
A letter circulated by RO states, “Despite Ride-On being the lower bidder and more experienced transportation provider, SLOCOG chose to award the bid to an agency outside of the county.”
In response, SLOCOG Administration Director Peter Rogers said, “We would challenge the fact that it is a firm outside the County because VTS has been working in the county for 10 years and has two offices in the County and, relative to the costs, VTS proposed a fully allocated trip cost of $30 per hour and Ride-On’s fully allocated cost per trip was about $34 per hour.”
Director of RO, Mark Shaffer said that in the proposal that his organization presented, the cost per ride was $24.14 and all money received from the County goes to rides and not administrative costs. Shaffer said that in VTS’ proposal approximately 33 percent of the cost-per-ride goes to “overhead.” He also said that if the program went over budget, RO would contribute an additional $50,000 to the senior shuttle program. Shaffer stated that the framework SLOCOG is using to base their decisions is formed from other cities’ shuttle programs that do not already have a system like RO in place.
“It’s clearly a better proposal,” said Shaffer referring to his company’s bid. “We’re more experienced, but their staff has this image that they want to do the program that is being done in other areas, and it doesn’t make it a better program.”
Rogers affirms that VTS’ proposal was superior based on the bid’s performance objectives; evaluation of the proposals, profile of the firms and projected approach cost.
“In the past, the program did not have a mileage-based fee structure,” said Rogers. “Now with the program, we are able to make rides cost only $2.50 for rides under 5 miles versus the $3 that was charged in the past. We think that there’s going to be a huge increase in the number of seniors over the next 20 years. [In the coming years] we’ll see another 30,000 seniors that are over 70 years old in this County, we felt a strong need to make sure we had firm accountability and transparency over the program.”
Referring to accountability and transparency of RO, Shaffer said that SLOCOG never had a problem with it in the past and that his organization has complied with all required audits.
“We submit to the same audits — the performance audits — that every other transit entity in this county does. We record all our different services for the last 14 years. We’ve done monthly reports of how the cost allocation is going per program, and they [SLOCOG] have always approved those cost allocation models as part of the performance audit,” said Shaffer. “This accountability stuff is a narrative that they are trying to feed their board that is just not true.”
Shaffer said that RO’s focus is advocating social service transportation, while SLOCOG’s emphasis is on roads and transit.
SLOCOG’s Senior Go! project is set to begin July 1. Shaffer affirmed that RO would continue their senior ride program despite the loss of funds from SLOCOG.
SLOCOG is set to make its decision post press time during the June 6 board meeting. Also on the meeting’s agenda is whether or not the organization will grant $200,000 to RO.
By Mark A. Diaz