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AUSTIN (KXAN) — CapMetro is one step closer toward approving a new contractor to oversee the transit authority’s fixed-route services, including its MetroBus and MetroRapid lines.

CapMetro’s operations, planning and safety committee unanimously voted to recommend CapMetro’s board of directors approve a nearly $753.7 million contract with Keolis Transit Services, LLC. If the board of directors votes to approve the contract at its Sept. 25 meeting, Keolis would be responsible for overseeing CapMetro’s fixed-route bus operations and maintenance services.

If approved, Keolis would manage CapMetro’s current 1,212 bargaining employees as well as its 36 operations, safety and general management personnel. Austin’s transit authority received two additional proposals alongside Keolis’:

  • MTM Transit, LLC, which currently oversees CapMetro’s MetroAccess and paratransit services
  • MV Transportation, Inc., which is CapMetro’s current fixed-route contractor

Keolis’ bid proposal was listed at around $718 million, per a CapMetro presentation. It was the lowest bid proposal received, with MTM’s reported at more than $772 million and MV’s just over $728 million.

Not everyone attending CapMetro’s committee meeting on Wednesday was in favor of the recommended contractor. Darrell Sorrells and Brent Payne, vice president and president of Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1091, shared reservations with the way Keolis has allegedly worked with unionized employees in communities across the United States.

Each said they had concerns with whether Keolis would honor the ongoing contract negotiations and union employees, with Sorrells adding that “you get what you pay for.”

David Scorey, president and CEO of Keolis North America, spoke Wednesday and said he was disappointed to hear comments made by ATU representatives. He said Keolis’ company emphasis remains centered on safety, operational excellence and the importance of its employees.

Andrew Skabowski, CapMetro’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, said CapMetro will oversee and handle employee trainings when those are ramping up before releasing employees back to Keolis’ oversight. In the event of any union disputes or issues between Keolis and employees, Skabowski said CapMetro will work with both parties to come to an agreement.

CapMetro’s current fixed-route contractor, MV, has been in contract negotiations with ATU, after its last existing contract expired in January. Skabowski said only two remaining items are left to be settled between ATU representatives and MV before the next bargaining agreement is implemented and runs through 2025.

He confirmed to Committee Chair Eric Stratton that, should Keolis be awarded the contractor agreement, there will be a contractual provision in that agreement honoring MV’s negotiation with ATU.

Prior to the committee’s recommendation vote Wednesday, committee member Jeff Travillion said he wants CapMetro to be an employer of choice in the Austin area, adding CapMetro officials will look to ensure Keolis upholds a shared stewardship and responsibility in relation to its employees.

Stratton stressed the importance of CapMetro’s frontline personnel — particularly its bus operators and mechanics — in maintaining transit operations.

“[They] are our bread and butter,” he said. “This is the biggest thing and the most important thing that we do.”

CapMetro’s board of directors will review and consider the item Sept. 25.