Low bids give the city room to fully fund all the proposed routes and paratransit services.
Lawrence will have enough money in its transportation budget next year to run buses on all of the proposed routes and offer paratransit service to every square inch of city territory.
It may even have enough money left over to extend the on-demand, door-to-door paratransit service to elderly or partially disabled people who may not meet strict eligibility standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
But because of the time it will take for buses to be delivered and the need to plan a smooth transition for ADA-eligible riders from current transportation services to the new system, the expected start-up date for the city's new fixed route bus system probably will get pushed back from March 1 until sometime in May.
City officials made those announcements Thursday after reviewing bids for purchasing buses and hiring an outside contractor that will operate the city's new fixed-route bus system.
At the final meeting of the Public Transit Advisory Committee, city staff and consultants from K.A. Associates recommended Blue Bird Corp. of Macon, Ga., as the vendor for a dozen 30-foot buses, at $205,795 per vehicle.
They also recommended hiring MV Transportation Inc., of Fairfield, Calif., to operate the system for an average cost for three years of just under $1.8 million per year.
Those recommendations were included in a final report from the advisory group. City commissioners will be asked to adopt the report at their next meeting Tuesday.
"I don't think any of us believed we could get all this done this quickly," consultant Steve Klika said.
Although discussions and some planning for a citywide bus system have been going on for more than a decade, most of the concrete decisions have been made just since August when city commissioners approved a budget that includes about $1.5 million in property taxes to fund the system.
Other considerations in the report:
- MV Transportation was the top choice among four finalists that submitted proposals. The others included Laidlaw Transit Services of Overland Park; ATC of Chicago; and the Lawrence Bus Company.
- Officials said MV Transportation also had proposed subcontracting with the Penske truck service center at 2201 Kresge Rd. for vehicle maintenance and a site for its base of operations.
- The company has 16 years of experience operating fixed-route bus systems, mainly in California, officials said. It also operates paratransit systems in Los Angeles County, Oakland and Fairfield.
- Four bus manufacturers submitted proposals for a total of seven different models. Blue Bird's "QBRE 2903" bus was the least expensive model that met minimum specifications, but officials said they also looked at factors such as design, passenger capacity, the cost per-mile to operate the vehicle during its life cycle and how soon the vehicles could be delivered.
Klika said all the buses would be equipped with handicapped-accessible lifts. They can seat up to 28 passengers, with standing-room space for 23 additional riders.
According to City Manager Mike Wildgen, Lawrence expects to receive about $3.4 million next year from the Federal Transit Administration. Some of that can be used to pay 80 percent of the vehicles' price, computers and software, a phone system and other start-up expenses.
The 20-percent local match will come from a $270,000 allocation from the state's Comprehensive Transportation Program.
-- Peter Hancock's phone message number is 832-7144. His e-mail address is email@example.com.