Some of the familiar Handi Car shuttle buses will begin to disappear from county streets in the next six months, replaced by Toyota Prius service cars, as well as modified Toyota Sienna vans.

The out with the old and in with the new comes as the Regional Transportation Authority moves to change its Sun Shuttle/Dial-A-Ride/special needs transit service provider next spring.

The RTA board decided Thursday to give Total Transit, the parent company of Discount Cab, a $17 million contract to handle the day-to-day operations of its special-needs transit system for the next three years.

The Phoenix-area company already contracts for similar services in several cities in the Phoenix metro area.

Total Transit CEO Craig Hughes envisions a new direction for the transit line, offering door-to-door service for those using Dial-A-Ride.

Dispatchers will help decide what type of vehicle to send on each call, with Hughes saying he has already ordered new vehicles (including specially equipped vans) to handle increased call volumes.

He anticipates his drivers will seamlessly switch back and forth between calls for a ride to the airport and calls associated with the RTA-provided service.

Hughes says he expects to hire 130 people in the coming months as part of the new contract.

The decision ends a long relationship with Tucson-based MV Transportation/Handicar, which has roughly 200 employees.

Larry Hecker, an attorney representing the Tucson group, said his client was disappointed with the RTA board’s decision and felt the staff recommendation was flawed.

For example, Hecker points to the company’s final bid losing points for staffing reductions as it tried to trim its final price.

He notes the cuts would come from other parts of the organization, but not drivers.

Those complaints echo criticisms by county supervisor and RTA board member Ramón Valadez, who said the RTA staff ignored his requests for an apples-to-apples comparison of the service levels proposed by each company.

The three-year contract is expected to be in place on May 1.

Down the Road

On Wednesday morning, crews under contract with the Tucson Transportation Department will be applying a thin layer of hot asphalt to fill in cracks, small potholes and other imperfections at the Sixth Avenue and 18th Street intersection and the Stone Avenue and 18th Street intersection.

The city will also begin a similar process on Roger Road between Oracle Road to First Avenue on Tuesday. It will take an estimated four days to complete.

During this work, travel lane restrictions will be in place. However, at least one lane of travel will be maintained in both directions.

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