Maricopa Express Transit

Maricopa Express Transit has a new look.

MARICOPA — MET system provides more benefits if moved to in-house operations, not just for public transportation around Maricopa, but also for youth camps and other things, the city council was told.

The local transit system has had management operations outsourced to Phoenix, but the city is now considering being fully self-sufficient.

The MET system started in 2008 as the Maricopa Express that operated as a park-and-ride to Phoenix. In 2011, the name changed to Comet with a Dial-A-Ride service. In 2020, the name changed again to MET that came at the beginning of the current grant.

The service provides a fixed route with no fare including Shea Way, Sun Life Medical, Fry's Market, Pacana Park, Maricopa Meadows and more. There's also the Dial-A-Ride where reservations must be made up to 24 hours to 7 days in advance at a $1 fee within city limits.

"It's a great program, extremely cost effective if you're looking for low cost transportation," said Public Services Director Mike Riggs.

This program is federally funded, so the city of Maricopa isn't totally outsourcing. It's about an 80-20 with the growth they have. The next grant will probably be a 50-50 cost share.

Since there will be additional costs to the city, they're looking for ways to reduce the cost.

Riggs said drivers are hard to find and the Maricopa Unified School District can "attest to that." There are in-house mechanics that can maintain the buses rather than sending them to Phoenix and having them out of commission for weeks.

"I think there's a lot of wins to bringing it in-house and we're at that point in size where we can actually then utilize it for other services within the community if we also can manage it in-house and don't have to go through an outsource on that," Riggs said.

The contract is set up with a 30 day cancelation at any time. ADOT is "on board" and they manage the federal grant program. 

Riggs said they felt it was a "good time to make that move."

Councilwoman Amber Liermann said she thinks it's an "excellent" program and saw a "lot of value" in it. She wondered about the population trend using MET.

Riggs said it probably was a wide range of the population using MET. A lot of youth use it during school hours. 

Mayor Christian Price wanted to know if the cost for paying employees, taxes, state retirement, health insurance and more were factored into the presented amount. 

Riggs said all of that was factored into the in-house savings amount. Currently, the city pays their drivers through outsourcing, adding substantial management fee on top of that. But the management fee won't have to be paid for, which is where the big saving come from since they have staff in-house that can do that.  

They added half an employee more to their cost to help with the substitute driver. 

Price asked City Manager Ricky Horst to talk about what would happen if they got a positive result for Prop 416, 417. Price said there's a transit position saying "if cities in the Pinal County area had an existing transit system at the time that they would receive funding from that on an annual basis." He said it's about $100,000 they would receive.

The numbers at this meeting's budget didn't include the $100,000 a year for 10 years since they're waiting on the ruling. 

"I think it's also important to know that with our Dial-A-Ride sometimes we have hours of gaps but now we can use these Dial-A-Ride people to go pick up parts from stores or other options," Horst said. "They can be used more for our youth programs in the summer, Copa Camps, and those types of things. We can get more value out of the personnel we have as well and have the buses and transport systems available for our uses because now, in essence, we are renting for our summer camps and other things. It gives us a lot more flexibility in those ways as well."

Council member Henry Wade asked how much seating capacity and how many vehicles they currently have.

Riggs said they have three buses with 24 passenger seats each and three minivans with three seats with a wheelchair capacity. It has a two seat fold-down bench.

Horst mentioned they had talked about possibly connecting to Ahwatukee's system with a Dial-A-Ride though it would cost more than a dollar. He said it's under evaluation and they'll come back with it at a later date.

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Kimlye Stager covers Maricopa and the surrounding area for PinalCentral, including city, education, business, crime and more. She can be reached at kstager@pinalcentral.com.

(1) comment

rangerame

How many people use this service in a week?

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