When a transit contract is coming to its end, and it's time to entertain proposals from potential transit contractors, it's often considered less risky to choose the incumbent contractor for the new period, due to familiarity with that company's personnel, processes, and past history of performance. But switching from the current contractor to a new one can offer some benefits to the transit agency, which can range from cost savings, increased efficiency and performance, and improved technology, along with the potential for a new contractor to overdeliver in order to retain the new contract.
1. New expectations and better metrics
Familiarity can be reassuring, but choosing the perceived less risky option in order to not have to deal with changes can also mean sticking with a contractor that doesn't deliver, which may cause issues with agency staff. Choosing a new transit contractor, however, allows the agency to start fresh with new expectations and metrics, and to put in place a better process for ensuring that key metrics are met by the new contractor, in part by assessing the weaknesses or failures of the incumbent contractor and using those as guideposts for what not to accept from the new contractor.
2. Increased value
From a financial perspective, a new transit contractor can add more value to the agency through two main methods, either by delivering the same services at a lower cost, which helps keep budgets lean, or by producing a more diverse or richer set of services at the same cost as the incumbent was, which can lead to better performance at no increased cost. The difference between the two approaches can be challenging to assess, as simply cutting costs to deliver the same services may not be in the best interest of the agency's stakeholders, as contrasted with the promise of increasing the level of service and satisfaction at the same or slightly higher cost, which can be a boon to the agency's mission.
3. Fresh perspective and new solutions
On an operational level, a new transit contractor can offer a fresh perspective on the agency's pain points and goals, and can bring a different set of technological solutions or processes to the table, which may increase efficiency and productivity for paratransit operations. An incumbent contractor may not feel the need to bring in new talent or training or equipment if the company already has a past history of winning the contract, whereas a new transit contractor may be more than willing to bring new or additional tools to win the contract.
When reviewing RFP submissions for a transit contract, it can pay to closely examine the incumbent's history of performance and cost, and to weigh proposals from new transit contractors in light of that past, especially with a focus on how a new contractor could improve the current and future performance of paratransit operations.
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