DCTA bus

Students get on and off a bus near the intersection of North Texas Boulevard and West Highland Street. 

This story has been updated to correctly identify Irving Holdings current contract, the bus route serving The Retreat, and the financial contribution of the member cities.

A new suite of contracts will allow DCTA to allocate as much as $2.4 million of its annual operations budget to different kinds of transportation services, from electric scooters to car rides with Lyft or autonomous vehicles.

The Denton County Transportation Authority Board of Directors approved Thursday afternoon a cafeteria-sized selection of services with 31 companies.

“We have a good smattering of the mobility providers out there,” said Raymond Suarez, DCTA president.

Some companies offered to dispatch rides on demand, like taxis. Other companies offered the rides along with new dispatch technology. Still others offered only the dispatch technology, two of which are already working with DCTA. Others offer new ways to get people where they need to go, such as autonomous vehicles.

A total of 37 companies responded to the DCTA’s nationwide request for proposals and 31 scored high enough to secure a contract.

The contracts don’t guarantee the work. Instead, they define the relationship between DCTA and the company, in addition to how DCTA would order the work when the time came.

The contracts also allow the companies to shop their services to other governmental agencies. Government procurement laws allow agencies to share purchasing agreements under certain conditions and when it is beneficial to both the business and the agencies.

DCTA’s agreements with the 31 new providers can be shared with other transit agencies nationwide, which is a new development for transit agencies, the staff said.

Although board members didn’t name names in the meeting, it was noted that Uber did not respond to DCTA’s nationwide call. The staff said it was possible DCTA would issue another call in a year or so.

DCTA staff told board members that once all the contracts are executed, they will be able to provide a broader list of services to both contract and member cities. (Denton, Highland Village and Lewisville are those member cities, funding more than half of DCTA’s $45 million annual budget with a half-cent sales tax.)

Suarez said he anticipated some companies might compete to serve an area.

“We’ll be putting more zones in Denton,” he said, adding that he thought such service changes would likely happen later this year or next.

Currently, DCTA has one “zone” bus in Denton. The bus serves several stops around Denton Enterprise Airport and the warehouse district, dropping off riders after they hail the bus with a smartphone application. Riders must get to the Fouts Field parking lot at the University of North Texas to catch the zone bus.

Board secretary Sara Bagheri requested that the board be briefed regularly on the expenditures and activities related to the contracts, since they are new.

In addition, Suarez assured the board that in places where services might be reduced, such proposals would be presented to both the public and the board.

PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter at @phwolfeDRC.

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