Photo by Michelle Chance

The city has extended its contract with the third-party transit service to continue operating the City of Maricopa Express Transit fleet, better known as COMET.

Maricopa City Council voted Tuesday to extend the contract with Total Transit Enterprises for another three years of service, costing the city $781,000 over the life of the contract.

In 2020, Total Transit will also have an option to renew with one-year contracts for up to two years after the new contract’s expiration.

Maricopa Transit Planner David Maestas said the only increase in cost is marginal. At 3 percent, the increase is included due to cost-of-living increases and inflation.

Maestas said the city prefers to keep a third-party as its transit operator because costs associated with public transit can quickly become overwhelming,

“One, you have to have a dedicated facility for the transit fleet, the city would them become responsible for the hiring of drivers and dispatchers,” Maestas said. “On top of that you would have to have a full-time operations manager.”

Those expenses can become daunting even in larger cities like Phoenix, he said.

“More and more cities that have owned transit themselves are going to contract providers,” he said.

“Same is true with Phoenix and Valley Metro.”

The bulk of the expense will be paid for with Transportation grant money – roughly $472,000. The remaining $309,000 will be covered out of the general fund which is accounted for each year the city’s budget is developed.

City documents show the contract is “contingent upon council budget approval” each year for fiscal years 2018, 2019 and 2020.

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