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SCAT Sarasota
Sarasota Wednesday, Jul. 11, 2018 5 months ago

County to seek bids for private SCAT operator

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The County Commission could make a decision on the future of transit service before the end of the year.
by: David Conway Deputy Managing Editor

The County Commission voted unanimously Wednesday to solicit bids for private companies interested in operating the Sarasota County Area Transit system.

The decision moves the county closer to the potential privatization of local bus services. A majority of the board expressed a desire to move quickly toward a decision, hoping to settle the long-considered question of transferring the public service to an independent operator.

County staff intends to bring back a request for proposals in August. A list of interested operators could be ready for the county to consider toward the end of the year.

The board expressed interest in coordinating its search for a private operator with Manatee County, hopeful teaming up would produce increased efficiency.

“Let’s remember: Not only is it about shared resources, but 40% of the ridership is down the same corridor,” Commissioner Paul Caragiulo said. “These economic units are tied together. The jurisdictional lines only mean something to people like us.”

Commissioner Nancy Detert expressed skepticism that privatization would represent an improvement for SCAT’s operations.

“I find it a stretch to think that private industry is going to be able to provide the same level of services we do at the same price and serve the same amount of people with no disruption,” Detert said.

Rob Lewis, the interim SCAT director, said the commission should be in a position to decide the future of the public transportation operation before it puts together a budget for fiscal year 2020.

“I anticipate the responses to the RFP and analysis of the RFP would all take place prior to the building of the next budget,” Lewis said.

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