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Grand Forks mulls bringing Dial-A-Ride service in house

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news Grand Forks, 58203
Grand Forks North Dakota 375 2nd Ave. N. 58203

The city of Grand Forks is considering running its Dial-A-Ride transportation program itself after its contract with a private company ends in 2015.

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The move could save the city about $172,000 each year as revenue from the program would go straight to the city and balance out extra expenses from taking on the service, according to city budget projections.

The Dial-A-Ride and Senior Rider program provides rides to people with disabilities or senior citizens who can’t easily access Cities Area Transit’s regular bus system. Any Dial-A-Ride trip is $3 one way.

Nothing will be decided soon as the city’s contract for the service with Grand Forks Taxi runs until the end of 2015, and city officials say they want to continue looking at the numbers for budget impact.

Rate increases

One reason the city is considering running Dial-A-Ride itself is that Grand Forks Taxi will likely raise its rates at the end of its contract, said Ali Rood, mobility manager for Cities Area Transit.

The company’s four-year contract with the city allows it to raise rates yearly, but the rates have not been raised since the beginning of the contract, Rood said.

“The rates will likely be higher with the new contract,” Rood said. “If they did raise the rate, it would be more economic to do (the Dial-A-Ride service) ourselves.”

The 2015 projected operating budget for Dial-A-Ride while still under the Grand Forks Taxi contract is about $1 million. The operating budget for 2014 was about $1.2 million.

At the end of 2015, if the city does decide to continue contracting out the Dial-A-Ride service, interested companies would compete in a bidding process and the city would choose the one with the lowest rate.

Before Grand Forks Taxi held its current four-year contract with the city, it shared a contract with NoDak Cab Company, Rood said.

Another reason for considering the change is that over the years, Cities Area Transit has slowly taken over many aspects of the Dial-A-Ride service, including owning the vans, paying for the fuel and providing some dispatching.

If the city took over the entire service, it would only have to hire more dispatchers and drivers, Rood said.

Considerations

Although the city’s contract with Grand Forks Taxi can be terminated at any time by either party, Rood said there are not any plans to make a switch mid-year.

“We just want to get ahead of things and just kind of have all the options out there,” she said.

Any changes would need to be approved by Grand Forks City Council, and Cities Area Transit is working with the council’s Service/Safety Committee to decide the best move, Rood said.

East Grand Forks officials also will need to be in the conversation, Rood said, as the city pays a fee for the service.

Council member Terry Bjerke, who is on the Service/Safety Committee, said he agrees with Rood in that there isn’t any rush to make changes to Dial-A-Ride.

“It’s good for us to look at the numbers again,” Bjerke said. “We’d want to make sure all the numbers add up.”

According to city budget projections, about $172,000 in savings comes from adding up about $209,000 in projected revenue, including fees that are collected by Grand Forks Taxi under the current contract, and about $37,000 in expenses for adding staff and increased fuel costs.

Those numbers are preliminary, with calculations based on the city’s 2015 preliminary budget and Grand Forks Taxi’s 2013 revenue totals.

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