Westchester bids Bee-Line contract; demands $20 million bond to cover compensation to Liberty Lines

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Bowing to demands from the US Department of Transportation, Westchester County on Monday  issued a request-for-proposals for the county’s bus system.

The bid documents include a provision that bidders post a $20-million bond to cover possible compensation to the current operator, Liberty Lines, if Liberty loses the bid.

The federal government had threatened to withhold an estimated $13 million in transit aid if Westchester extended its current agreement with Liberty Lines, which has held the no-bid contract since the 1980s.

“Price and service are the core of any Bee-Line bus contract, and we now have a foundation for both,” said  County Executive Rob Astorino. “The request for proposals process will keep costs down and federal aid in place. The bridge contract provides insurance against the interruption in the quality of service. The goal we are working toward is to protect both riders and taxpayers.”

Liberty Lines runs 56 of the Bee-Line system’s 59 lines. PTLA Enterprise Inc. runs three county bus lines in Peekskill. Overall, the system carried 32 million passengers in 2012, up 1.7 percent from 2011.

Westchester since  2009 has known of the federal requirement to bid the bus contract. But Westchester officials had argued that its special relationship with Liberty Lines would make them exempt from the bidding requirements. Earlier this summer, the Astorino administration  was on the brink of awarding a five-year extension to Liberty Lines. The administration and Board of Legislators Chairman Ken Jenkins sought the aid of the county’s Congressional delegation to sway USDOT to drop its demands.

Federal transit officials disagreed, and held firm to its demand that the $100 million contract be bid, arguing that taxpayers deserve to let the open market decide what should be paid the private operator.

Liberty Lines executives have argued that Westchester could be liable for millions in compensation if it loses the contract, claiming it has certain rights to the routes that the county buses run on.

The proposal may prove daunting for potential competitors. The RFP requires that bidders procure a $20 million bond to cover the potential legal awards to Liberty if it loses the bid. The winner of the would be required to defend and indemnify the county against any claim made by Liberty Lines. Liberty, meanwhile, would not have to pay for a bond of that magnitude, giving the company an advantage in the competition.

In addition, any competitor would have to address concerns of the trustees of the TWU-Westchester Private Bus Lines Pension Plan. The trustees have warned that awarding the contract to a new operator would create a withdrawal liability of $232 million.

 

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13 Comments

  1. Where does Liberty Lines get the idea they own the routes? Did they build the road? Were they part of of some community development firm that created Westchester County? I know, they are the Royale Nobel Lords and demand their fee to be paid, and King Robert has agreed to pay them. For What??? How easy Rob agrees to throw $20 million dollars to to these people, our tax dollars. Must be fellow Republicians thats why. How is that supposed to save the county money on a less expensive bus company when they have to include $20 million for Liberty Lines. What about other contractors that have been doing work for the county for many many years shouldn’t they be compensated if that work is given to another contractor ???

  2. Can someone explain how this is even legal!! !If putting this out to bid is to have a fare bidding process, how can it be sitpulated that 20 million must be included to give to Liberty? Again, doesn’t sound legal to me.

  3. So the political contributions are secured for the current Westchester County Executive since, as others have stated, who would bid on such a costly imbalanced deal? Like getting the Heavyweight Boxing match where one boxer has to wear 500 pound shorts.

  4. Why is Rob Astorino so crooked?
    We need an honest man and will vote for Noam Bramson November 5.
    We need to end the crooked, arrogant, and statements full of lies from Astorino

  5. Seems that everyone that has commented hasnt really looked into it, though I will say this is %100 legal. Liberty lines purchased the routes many decades ago which means only they can only pick up passengers along those routes. Astorino nor liberty are wrong for asking for the 20 million, liberty is simply asking to get paid just like they paid. Bottom line is liberty invested, if you want it you should invest just as liberty did which is not unfair at all.

  6. Joe "Astorino" Rodriguez on

    Got something to back up your statement of “fact” that you musta looked into unlike, as you posted, the other posters? Or are you just another astorino shill that he pays with taxpayer dough? This is a big deal. Not a BS 25k county contract.

  7. The county owns the roads, the buses, the buildings the buses are housed in and maintained in an dthe property the buildings are on. Liberty Lines is just a management company that manages running the buses. I am not complaining the buses have been great. I feel if Astorino and Liberty Lines stay the coarse then to keep things fair Liberty’s bid must come in 20 million dollars less than the next lowest bid.

  8. To out bid liberty lines would be costly to the taxpayers. bringing in a new company to run the bee line system would be costly (increase in fares) and frustration to the riders. Liberty lines is very well invested running the systems for many years have no problem with the buses. Hoping we will have a new County Executive come November. Please vote so Westchester County be a good place to live.

  9. There is no good reason why Liberty Lines should have had a no bid contract all of these years. They have made a literal fortune off of Westchester County and federal and state grants in a continuing sweetheart deal. Other contractors were forced out. The only reason that the company PTLA still exists is because it is a minority owned company that political people didn’t want to hassle.

    We can be pretty sure that Liberty Line’s continued existence is as a result of contract gratuities to elected officials and campaign donations. Westchester County is filthy with corruption and waste and it has gotten worse under the current administration.

    It’s about time that the contract for bus service is open for bids even if Liberty has to be reimbursed for rights to lines that it owns. There should be offsetting savings in the future.

  10. the reason for getting rid of Liberty Lines because most of the employees are minority. new bus company would great pressure on the riders and lost of jobs.

  11. Since 1970 the private bus operators have been receiving buses purchased 100% with county and state money. At that time there were numerous operators. Liberty was a small operator until they acquired Westchester Street Transportation Company, the largest operator, in 1969. The second largest operator, Yonkers Transit Corporation went out of business in 1972 and its lines and most of its buses were divided up between Liberty, Westchester Street, Club Transportation and Liberty Coaches. Club was acquired by Liberty in 1980,by then known as Liberty Lines. The three companies were merged as Liberty Lines Transit, Inc. in 1982. Since the mid 70s Liberty has been acquiring the smaller companies. While Club and Yonkers Transit ran with new equipment, Liberty and Westchester Street ran second and third hand buses. (Westchester Street only bought 2 new buses in 1966 and those were sold off in 1971. That companies next newest buses which had come second hand from Eastern Massachusetts in 65 and 66, 7 built in 1962, were also sold off at that time. So to make a long story short, as far as Liberty’s operation is concerned, the investment in new buses has been from the public sector. Then there is the brief period in the 80s when the lines in the northern part of the county were assigned by the county to Mt. Kisco Bus Company, and then returned to Liberty lines soon after. Liberty may own the bus companies but are franchises granted in perpetuity?

  12. YES LIBERTY “ACQUIRED” ALL OF THE ROUTES IN THE 1980’s and 1990’s. WHAT THE PUBLIC DOESN’T KNOW IS THAT THE COUNTY SUBSIDIZED LIBERTY TO BUY OUT THOSE ROUTES. SO HOW DO THEY OWN THEM AGAIN? THIS DEAL IS AS CORRUPT AS IT GETS.