Punxsutawney company takes over bus service at IUP
The Indiana County Transit Authority will no longer provide service to Indiana University of Pennsylvania students after it was edged out in the bidding contest for a transportation contract.
Krise Bus Service Inc., a Punxsutawney-based business with a terminal in Indiana, bid about $69,000 to run the Park and Ride line, which has been in existence about 11 years. The authority, known as IndiGo, has run the line since its beginnings.
IndiGo bid about $5,000 more for the nine-month contract, which had previously been year-round. The line will no longer run during the summer.
IndiGo’s buses were made over several years ago, when the green and white vehicles were repainted to maroon and gray, IUP’s colors, to represent the close affiliation. Two bus drivers will have to be laid off as a result of the authority’s losing the contract.
IndiGo Executive Director Gerald Blair said officials were taken aback when they lost the line, which last year generated $97,000 for the authority.
“We weren’t terribly surprised” that the authority lost the contract, Blair said, “(but) we were surprised they decided to award it strictly on low bid since it’s not required by law or by their regulations.”
IUP spokeswoman Michelle Fryling said state law is the reason for awarding the contract to Krise.
“It’s a statewide process,” Fryling said. “We have state regulations for that.”
The contract was put out for bid by the purchasing office.
“I know that IndiGo was clearly upset, certainly,” Fryling said, “(but) they know how the contract is let. The bid process is fairly well understood by bidders.”
“They have every right to accept or reject any part of a bid,” Blair said. “I know they’re in a real bind financially.”
This year, the state has slashed allocations to universities in the State System for Higher Education by about 5 percent. Allocations also decreased in the two prior fiscal years.
But IndiGo, like IUP, has also had to deal with some restrictive financial circumstances in recent years. Blair said IndiGo has not received an increase in state funds since 1997, and suffered a 6 percent slash in funding last year.
Blair said had state allocations been significantly larger, IndiGo would have been able to bid lower. But the authority has been operating the Park and Ride line for about the same amount for five years, while expenses for diesel fuel, compressed natural gas and personnel have risen significantly.
“We simply couldn’t do it at the giveaway price any longer,” said Blair. “That’s just business. I don’t think there’s any bad guys involved.”
Fryling made similar remarks.
“It’s business. It would be financially irresponsible for us to go with the higher bid,” she said.
Though Blair feels that the line’s loss will have an impact, he pointed out that IndiGo still has many lines that run through IUP.
Though they no longer have any direct contracts with the university, Blair said the authority still has a contract with the Student Cooperative Association. That contract allows students who have paid the activity fee to ride for free all over the county.
“It’s a great deal for those that use it, and it doesn’t hurt anyone that doesn’t use it,” Blair said.
IndiGo is also looking into installing more lines in the Blairsville area, where the Wyoming Technical Institute, or Wyotech, is planning to expand. The school that provides training in automotive and diesel mechanics, collision repair and refinishing will nearly double its location size once the expansion is complete.