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The City Council of Norwalk reportedly rejected a bid to hire the rideshare company Uber to provide taxi-like service for seniors and disabled residents to travel to certain locations outside the city. The decision comes four months after rejecting its competitor Lyft.
In its place, the council awarded a $188,151, three-year contract with two, one-year options to its existing contractor, Fiesta Taxi. The vote came out 3-1, with Mayor Jennifer Perez voting against it because she wanted the city to provide the service. Councilman Tony Ayala was absent. Director of transit for the city Jim Parker recommended giving the contract to Fiesta, despite Uber’s annual proposed price being less than half — $14,567 in contrast to Fiesta’s bid of $35,439. Back in Feb, Parker had recommended Lyft because Fiesta proposed raising its rates and was having service problems.
The taxis will take seniors and disabled residents to 130 satellite medical sites: 25 sites in Bellflower, 61 in Downey, seven in Lakewood, one in Santa Fe Springs, and 36 in Whittier. Patrons pay a $1 copay.
Though the city first sought more bids, it only received them from Fiesta and Uber. In a phone interview with Press Telegram, Parker reportedly said that Fiesta has improved its service and its bid was better than Uber’s. He added that the city only received two complaints.
He said that while Uber’s smartphone, customer-facing options would allow Norwalk residents patrons to book their own trip and track the location of the vehicle, Fiesta has better security arrangements than Uber in knowing its driver pool. “Fiesta currently provides us with federal drug and alcohol random testing that we do with public transit,” he reportedly said. “Secondly, they have the DMV pull system where you get an annual report on drivers’ reports as well as a periodic report if there’s a suspension, conviction, anything like that. That was kind of compelling.”
The program provided 3,775 trips for a total of 5,949 passengers in the fiscal year ending on June 30, 2020.
As aforementioned, Mayor Perez wasn’t satisfied with either bid, reportedly saying the city could provide better service. “Nobody does it better than NTS (Norwalk Transit System),” she said.
But the other three council members said they were satisfied with Parker’s recommendation. “It sounds like there was extensive research,” Councilwoman Ana Valencia reportedly said. “The team did a yeoman’s job of putting something together for us so we can move ahead. It would be better to continue with this contract.”