Grayline of Vancouver Holdings Ltd. is challenging Whistler Transit Ltd. for the right to operate the Whistler and Valley Express (WAVE) and Pemberton Paratransit Service.
Under B.C. Transit guidelines, contracts for independent transit system operators have to be renewed every five years. At the end of a contract, B.C. Transit issues a general request for proposals that makes it possible for private companies to bid on the next five-year transit contract.
Whistler Transit Ltd., a subsidiary of Pacific Western Transportation Ltd. of Prince George, has operated WAVE for the past nine years. The only other company to operate the service since it started was Glacier Coach Lines for one year.
"Soliciting proposals from qualified management companies ensures good value for money and all taxpayers support that focus," said B.C. Transit chair Greg Slocombe in announcing the submission to operate six municipal transit systems for April 1, 2003.
"The RFQ (request for proposals) process is both comprehensive and fair and it has served us well in the province for nearly 25 years. It is an excellent example of public-private partnership."
According to Emma DalSanto, the traffic demand management co-ordinator for the Resort Municipality of Whistler, the regular RFQ process keeps the transit service cost-effective and ensures that it is as cutting edge as can be.
"If theres a new technology or something like that, it can get added to the contract. If we want to offer new services, that can also be dealt with," she said.
Both Whistler Transit and Grayline have submitted proposals to a committee of B.C. Transit and municipal representatives who will make the final decision in January.
According to DalSanto, all bids are accepted in a two-envelope process. Companies bidding for the contract explain how they will operate the service in the first envelope addressing a set of standard criteria, and have to obtain a score of 70 or better out of 80 points to be considered. If they pass the first test, the second envelope contains all of the financial information.
Currently, 46 public transit systems in the province are private-public partnerships. In Whistler, the municipality contributes 53 per cent of the funding, and B.C. Transit provides 47 per cent.