The St. Mary’s Transit system won’t be contracting out it’s services, as suggested earlier this year, since county staff claim things are running more smoothly under the transportation department’s new management.
At Tuesday’s meeting, St. Mary’s commissioners heard a request from the department of public works and transportation to postpone the STS contract solicitation, months after stating bus driver retention rates were down.
John Deatrick, director of the department, told commissioners Allison Swint, deputy director, “did a great job” working with staff to reduce overtime by 56% while “still maintaining exactly the same service that we did pre-COVID.”
In late August, Swint was appointed to the newly created position of deputy director of transportation, which entailed reclassifying the airport manager position and eliminating the transportation manager position.
Deatrick said cutting overtime had a “pretty major impact” on the system as “drivers are happier” on the job and there are fewer accidents than before.
“Just in general things are a lot better at STS, so I think by delaying the procurement you’re not going to jeopardize the opportunity to dramatically improve service,” Deatrick said. “We’re already on our way to that.”
The director mentioned the postponement would allow the department to work on other things, such as launching a mobile app and obtaining routing software.
Swint said she is requesting the postponement so the department can “focus on customer service and increasing revenues in house.”
She mentioned she has several ideas to help, such as reviewing routes and route schedules for improvement and looking into routing software with voice response so pick-up appointments can be easily confirmed or canceled.
“Going forward, I’ve always been a big proponent of bus stops because I don’t agree with this idea of people standing on the side of the road trying to flag somebody down,” Commissioner Mike Hewitt (R) said. “How are we doing on bus stops?”
The department had “additional money budgeted for bus stop signs to increase the number of actual bus stops, Swint replied, mentioning she believes that was primarily on Great Mills Road.
“We’re working toward that transition and phasing out the flag stops but we are not at that point yet,” she said.
Commissioner John O’Connor (R) said he had concerns about the department’s request to postpone the STS contract solicitation.
“We’ve heard the same things over and over again … saving 56% in overtime is great but we still don’t have stops and we don’t have anything that needs to be there,” he said. “How long do we have to wait if this isn’t approved for all these things to happen again, when a contractor can just come in and do it?”
Deatrick replied he has tasked Swint with taking care of the bus stops in her annual performance evaluation.
“She’s working with the transit manager to get that done,” he said.
“I’d like to see some hard dates given to the county administrator versus hearing ‘we’re working on it,’ … I’m just tired of hearing about it,” O’Connor said.
“I understand,” Deatrick said, adding, “We will come back with regular reports to keep you up to date on that.”
Commissioners approved the request to postpone the STS contract solicitation with O’Connor voting against.