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Future Milwaukee Bus System Operator Still Up In The Air


County Executive Chris Abele has named a Texas company to run the Milwaukee County Transit System, but two other firms are not giving up the fight.

This past July, Abele awarded a contract to MV Transportation of Dallas.  He wants it to run the system for the next three years.

“They’re the largest privately-owned passenger transportation firm in the country. I think it’s pretty cool that the woman who owns and started it, started as a bus driver. They’re also one of the largest minority owned companies, her board of directors consists of people, all of whom were drivers, so they understand the service,” Abele says.

MV is a for-profit company. The one Abele would boot, Milwaukee Transport Services, is not-for-profit. It’s run the bus system here since 1975, but the county exec thinks another operator can do a better job. For instance, he says MTS did not have to spend $8 million on para-transit services.

Jackie Janz is spokeswoman for MTS. She calls its service, excellent.

“We’ve been providing efficient transportation for the community for a very long time. This includes going through numerous budget cuts and funding issues throughout the years in which we had to be very creative in keeping the system as strong as it is with limited funding,” Janz says.

Initially, the county’s contract with MTS would have expired at the end of the year, but it’s been extended because legal challenges are underway. MTS and another losing bidder, Veolia, appealed Abele’s decision to award the next contract to MV.

A county board committee will begin hearing the case today. Supervisor Theo Lipscomb sits on the panel.

“It’s my understanding the committee will only review whether the process was conducted properly and fairly. It’s not the committee’s purview to determine that someone else should get the contract,” Lipscomb says.

Lipscomb says the committee will hold several meetings and render a decision early next year. MTS has also gone to court, to force the county to reveal the bids all three companies submitted for the three-year contract. It’s worth more than $160 million dollars a year.

And in another battle between the county executive and board, it’s demanding the county begin running the bus system, if the contract issue isn’t resolved within a few months.

Marti was a reporter with WUWM from 1999 to 2021.