It’s the end of the line for the transportation contractor that has been operating GRTC’s paratransit service for nearly five years.
GRTC decided not to renew its contract with Ohio-based First Transit to run GRTC’s van service for elderly and disabled riders.
A competitor called National Express Transit will take over the service, GRTC spokesman Mike Frontiero said Friday. GRTC awarded First Transit a five-year contract to handle the paratransit service in 2017. The contract ends Dec. 1 of this year.
First Transit informed the state’s unemployment agency earlier this month that it could lay off up to 95 employees in relation to the contract’s end.
GRTC decided not to renew the contract with First Transit because the Richmond-area bus operator wasn’t happy with how things were going under First Transit’s tenure.
“There were ongoing challenges with First Transit regarding retention of operators and quality of service. National Express offered better responsiveness, accountability, terms, and value,” Frontiero said in an email.
Frontiero said that “most” of the First Transit employees affected by the layoffs have applied for jobs with National Express. It’s unclear exactly how many people will be left unemployed, given the potential to be hired at the new provider and possibility First Transit transfers employees elsewhere.
“As many as 95 employees may be subjected to a layoff. However, it is probable that First Transit will have transfer opportunities available for employees at other facilities, or that the new contractor will have employment opportunities available for these employees,” First Transit Regional Human Resources Manager Miriam DaRocha wrote in an Aug. 5 WARN notice to the Virginia Employment Commission.
Employees affected by the layoffs include drivers, dispatchers and administrative staff, according to DaRocha’s letter.
First Transit didn’t respond to a request for further comment.
The offices used by First Transit at GRTC’s facility at 301 E. Belt Blvd. will be taken over by National Express.
As GRTC swaps out paratransit contractors, the regional transit provider continues to offer no-cost fares on its buses. Henrico County representatives in the spring joined the organization’s governing board of directors.