See the significant Report contained in this article - "New report scrutinizes Transdev management contract"
NEW ORLEANS Regional Transit Authority [RTA] contracts with Transdev to manage its streetcars and buses but a new report is critical of the arrangement, The Times Picayune website reports:Image result for new orleans st. charles streetcar https://www.flickr.com/photos/wallyg/4564209719
*RTA private contract with Transdev scrutinized in new report*
*Updated on October 10, 2017 at 4:31 PM*
*Posted on October 10, 2017 at 4:30 PM*
*By Beau Evans http://connect.nola.com/staff/bevans1/posts.html*
NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
New Orleans' public transit system takes center stage in a new report http://transitcenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/TC-A-Bid-For-Better-Transit-Publication-20170925-Digital.pdf highlighting the boons and pitfalls of contracting out public transit services to private companies in the United States and Europe. While essential in hoisting up the city's transit system after it was devastated by Hurricane Katrina http://www.nola.com/katrina/in 2005, the private company that has that system for nearly a decade still enjoys a troubling lack of in-house oversight from the city agency, the report finds.
Given the risk of private companies' profit margins outweighing the public's interest, the New Orleans arrangement serves as a cautionary tale for other cities and transit agencies interested in contracting out public services to private companies, the report says.
"New Orleans kind of the place to watch in terms of how this (service contracting) goes," Jon Orcutt, a spokesman for one of the report's co-author nonprofit groups, TransitCenter http://transitcenter.org/, said Tuesday. "You're under the microscope."
The report dives into six case-study cities http://transitcenter.org/publications/a-bid-for-better-transit/#oslo - New Orleans, Los Angeles, Vancouver, London, Stockholm and Oslo - to evaluate the efficacy of public-private transit service contracting. It was jointly penned by staff with TransitCenter, a New York-based nonprofit advocacy group, and the Washington, D.C.-based think tank Eno Center for Transportation https://www.enotrans.org/. It's not a cure-all for any problems currently contracted transit agencies have now, the report stresses, but rather seeks to guide how other markets contemplating public-private contracts can navigate the process with fewer headaches.
·/Read a summary of the report here http://transitcenter.org/publications/a-bid-for-better-transit/#executive-summary and the full report here http://transitcenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/TC-A-Bid-For-Better-Transit-Publication-20170925-Digital.pdf./
In 12 tightly written pages, the report explores the history of New Orleans' transit system before and after Katrina, and evaluates the efficacy of the "delegated management" service contract struck in the storm's wake.
Wrecked by Katrina, the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority https://topics.nola.com/tag/rta sought to return its hobbled fleet of buses and streetcars back on the streets quickly by signing over a broad swatch of management and operations responsibilities to Transdev, a large France-based transit company, in 2009. New Orleans and its transit system were reeling in the wake of Katrina, which destroyed much of the city's transit and equipment, and forced officials to funnel RTA budget allocations toward emergency relief, the new report notes.
"The RTA hemorrhaged ridership, lost funding, and was forced to dramatically cut service," states the report, titled "A bid for Better Transit: Improving Service with Contracted Operations."
RTA's initial contract with Transdev in 2009 proved key to strengthening New Orleans' crippled transit system, the report says, pumping up RTA's ridership from 11.4 million in 2008 to 19.8 million in 2016. (Although that's down from RTA's peak post-Katrina ridership of 23 million in 2012, the report notes.) But the quick-fix, $65 million contract largely glazed over how RTA - and by proxy, New Orleanians - would retain oversight over the foreign company running its transit system. Most apparent was the lack of any in-house RTA staff beyond the agency's volunteer board of commissioners, totaling just one employee - the secretary - until 2017.
A contentious, six-month effort to renew Transdev's five-year contract in 2014 http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2015/04/new_orleans_rta_signals_post-k.html for another five years yielded a better contract for RTA, the report notes - in particular, by laying the groundwork for more RTA staff to be hired. The hiring of Greg Cook http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2017/03/new_orleans_rta_selects_greg_c.html as RTA's first executive director this past March was a watershed moment for RTA oversight over Transdev, according to the report.
But less than a year on the job, Cook resigned late last month http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2017/09/rta_leader_resigns.htmlfollowing a closed-door RTA board meeting, dropping the agency's staff back down to one employee. The hiring flop has shown the continued fragility of RTA's oversight abilities years after strengthening its contract with Transdev, according to one of the report's authors, Stephanie Lotshaw.
"The problem is there is still no staff at RTA to see whether Transdev is meeting those standards of performance," said Lotshaw, TransitCenter's program director, on Tuesday. "In order for the agency to really excel, they need expert staff. They need people who are there day-to-day acting on behalf of RTA and monitoring Transdev."
Lotshaw pointed to another city case study, Los Angeles, as an example of how boosting one public transit agency's staff has helped keep better watch over a contracted private company. Similar to New Orleans' RTA, the suburban Los Angeles agency Foothill Transit http://foothilltransit.org/ has pursued delegated management contracts with several different private companies to run its transit system, and has done so since the agency's founding in 1988. That changed in 2013, when Foothill Transit brought its executive management and service planning in-house as it continued to contract out daily operations.
Some of those new management employees were even hired from Transdev, which is the most recent company to come under contract with Foothill, the report notes.
"That case shows the importance of dedicated staff working for the agency," Lotshaw said.
Alex Posorske, the executive director for the local advocacy group Ride New Orleans http://rideneworleans.org/, said Tuesday that the report touches on a major issue his group has long had with RTA and Transdev.
"It goes to the heart of one of our big concerns: That there's an imbalanced relationship," Posorske said. "It really underscores how important the executive director is and staffing-up for the long-term."
Ride New Orleans recently criticized Transdev http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2017/08/streetcar_jobs_transit_rta_rid.htmlin an August report over the company's investments in streetcar projects, as opposed to boosting bus service.
Aside from surveys and stakeholder meetings with key municipal groups, Fields and RTA held two public meetings on Monday in New Orleans and Tuesday in Kenner to discuss the plan. But while the New Orleans meeting attracted around 60 attendees, the meeting in Kenner drew a mere three people.
Fields said Wednesday that additional public meetings will be held over the summer as the plan progresses.
/To learn more about the Strategic Mobility Plan, please visit www.norta.com/strategicplan http://www.norta.com/strategicplan. You may also provide input on the plan by emailingstrategicplan@... mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 504-228-2626./http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2017/08/streetcar_jobs_transit_rta_rid.html
Edward B. Havens