Cobb County may return more than $300,000 it had fined the operator of its bus fleet in the last two years, according to county documents.
CobbLinc buses have been run by First Transit, an Ohio-based transportation management company, since it signed a five-year contract in 2017. According to the contract, if buses were on-time less than 80% of the time in a given month, the county could assess a fine, to be deducted from the company’s monthly invoice.
But First Transit found it difficult to meet the county’s requirements for on-time service, according to Erica Parish, director of the Cobb Department of Transportation.
As a result, the county hired a third-party consulting firm to look at CobbLinc routes and schedules and found they were due for an update.
In addition to refunding the company the fines it has levied since Jan. 1, 2018, commissioners will consider Tuesday whether to give the company a 90-day grace period to adjust to new, streamlined schedules that were implemented in September. The county’s governing board approved the new schedules in hopes that it would be easier for the company to meet its obligations.
The grace period would take effect after commissioners’ approval, if granted. If First Transit does not provide on-time service 60% of the time during that period, however, the county will keep the $300,000 in fines it had assessed.
“We felt like it was a fair request from them,” Parish said of First Transit. When the contract was signed in 2017, bus routes hadn’t been re-timed in several years, leading to consistent delays due to changing traffic patterns.
The changes implemented in September included a new Rapid 10 route, Sunday service, updated schedules and streamlined route alignments, as well as the elimination of Routes 10A, 10B and 10C from service.
“These changes are the result of more than a year’s worth of study and data analysis and some of the most substantial that the system has seen in its 30-year history,” Andrea Foard, DOT Transit division manager, said at the time. “We hope that these systemwide changes will provide a more reliable commute and enhanced riding experience for our passengers.”
A bus is considered on-time if it reaches a stop within five minutes of its scheduled arrival time, Parish said.
As part of that agenda item, commissioners will also consider reimbursing the company for $370,000 in “mid-life overhaul” repairs to the 19 express service commuter buses.
The CobbLinc system cost the county $22 million in fiscal year 2019, according to county spokesman Ross Cavitt. It took in $2.5 million in passenger fares and $1.2 million in MARTA Breeze Card fares.