Columbia County’s public bus system announced Monday that a new contractor is managing drivers on the county’s bus routes and dial-a-ride services.

Janet Wright, transit director for Columbia County, said the previous contract with Metro West ended and First Transit Inc. was selected as the new transit operator.

“Of the three proposals received, First Transit stood out, and their work with other agencies in Oregon was exemplary,” Wright said in a written statement. “They bring a lot of experience to the table and our system can benefit from that experience.”

Metro West did not bid for another contract with Columbia County Rider, the county bus system. It had operated county transit since before the inception of CC Rider.

“First Transit looks forward to working with Columbia County staff as a partner in providing quality public transit services,” Joshua Fully, First Transit’s onsite manager, was quoted as saying in the announcement. “We keep our customers at the heart of everything we do and are honored to provide service to the citizens of Columbia County.”

CC Rider cut back on its dial-a-ride services and eliminated certain routes in April due to limited funding — a service reduction noted in the agency’s announcement.

Speaking to the Spotlight on Monday about First Transit, Wright remarked, “We’re hoping that they will like it out here, and that our riders will see some service improvements and will be happy with the service that we are trying to provide.”

Drivers are being offered “comparable wages and benefits” to what they had under Metro West, according to Wright.

First Transit is a division of Cincinnati-based FirstGroup America. It also provides paratransit service for TriMet; it previously did so in the Salem area as well.

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