University to lower costs with new bus company
The wheels of change are turning for the state's second-largest transportation system.
The University's Department of Transportation Services earlier this week came to an agreement with First Transit, its new bus service operator, which will replace Academy Bus Company as the provider of transportation for students on campus.
Terms of the contract will go into effect July of next year, and by June 2011 the contract with Academy will expire, said Jack Molenaar, director of Transportation Services.
"For the most part, the students won't know that much of a difference, which is a very good thing," Molenaar said.
First Transit will bring in new 40-foot buses for the University and refurbish New Flyer buses currently in use, he said. The new buses will feature automatic stop announcements.
The buses will run on 20 percent biodiesel fuel, which reduces carbon emissions and petroleum consumption, making vehicles more environmentally-friendly, Molenaar said.
Although both companies had their advantages, Molenaar said the lower cost was a major factor in the decision to go with First Transit.
"All things being equal, they both could handle this job," he said.
But Molenaar said administrators at the University have a responsibility to do what is best for the school, and in this case, going with First Transit was the right decision.
"I don't want to talk badly about Academy, because there's nothing really bad to say," he said. "They're both capable companies, but one had a lower bid. It's always nice to get something cheaper than what you're paying now."
Financial troubles at the University have forced departments to make difficult decisions, but Molenaar expressed relief that the cost of buses would no longer be a concern.
"We constantly are dealing with budget problems every year," he said. "It's one less I have to deal with."
Savings gained from switching companies may also improve transportation at the University in the future, he said.
"We're in a better spot for next year because we have a lower rate," Molenaar said. "It gives us a little more flexibility to add in buses where we need to."
First Transit President Brad Thomas said his company is eager to start working with the University.
"We are pleased to serve the students and staff of Rutgers University," Thomas said in a statement. "At First Transit, our focus is on providing safe, cost-efficient and reliable transportation services, and we look forward to a successful relationship with the University."
First Transit spokesman Timothy Stokes said that in addition to its lower prices, the company's emphasis on safety puts it above other transportation services the University could have selected.
"Superior safety practices — that's something we pride ourselves on very much," Stokes said. "We also work with the community as well as the school to provide efficient and reliable transportation services on and off campus."
First Transit's parent company FirstGroup America last year won the National Safety Council's Green Cross for Safety Medal, according to the NSC website.
First Transit provides transportation services to other universities, such as Princeton University and Texas State University, according to the company's website. It also serves agencies in cities like Los Angeles and Houston as well as state transportation departments, including those in Illinois and Connecticut, according to the company's website.