The two boards met on August 1, and released a press release on Monday detailing their decision to proceed with a merger. The purpose of the merger is to build a stronger foundation for improving transit service in southeastern Vermont, to better leverage the strengths of each organization to improve customer service, reduce duplication of efforts such as marketing and grant applications, and produce a more financially sustainable system.
While a name has not been decided on, the new organization will be a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, and, according to the companies’ press release, no staffing cuts will occur. The new company will feature two operating divisions each keeping their well-known brand names. The MOOver will continue to be based out of the Wilmington division, while the “Current,” which covers territory from Brattleboro to White River Junction, Lebanon, NH, and as far west as Rutland, will be based in the company’s Rockingham division.
DVTA and CRT intend to begin business as one entity on October 1. In the meantime, DVTA board president and co-founder Susie Haughwout says that while there are many details to be crafted, and many legal issues to be explored and nailed down, the end result will be positive for all parties, including customers of the two companies. “When you take two standing companies and merge them, there’s naturally a lot of work to do,” said Haughwout. “In a meeting of both boards we all agreed (on the benefits). We’ve been talking about the benefits for a long time.”
Haughwout said the combination of resources will be mutually beneficial in multiple ways from mechanical issues to staff coverage and streamlining procurement efforts. “We believe this will bring together all our resources under one whole company, rather than continue to go without ways of accessing each other’s resources and assets while trying to move most efficiently into the future. Some benefits may take time to reveal themselves, but we feel they’re there.”
The DVTA, the state’s third largest fixed bus route service, took over management of CRT after performing a management review on behalf of the Vermont Department of Transportation in 2013.
Following the review, VTrans recommended CRT sign an agreement allowing DVTA to work in a management capacity for the company. With their relationship now evolving into a merger, the companies do not see any negative effects or changes to current routes or passenger expectations in the future. The new organization will, however, place a greater emphasis on improving service over time, and intends to create increased service levels by reducing administration duplication, and increasing operational efficiencies such as shifting services between bases.
Haughwout says the merger will create the possibility for better routes in the future. “We started the DVTA with one route and our company has grown in what I hope is a smart way,” said Haughwout. “We’ve had funding in place for certain routes and maybe they were not working out so well, maybe ridership fell and we address those changes all the time. As we access our combined resources, we may find new, brilliant ideas, and that’s what bringing two solid groups together affords us.”
Ted Reeves, president of the CRT board of directors, said he believes the merger is a step in the right direction. “From the standpoint of finances, audits, and grants we receive from the state, it will create a lot of streamlining,” said Reeves. “There’s been some bumps in the road with the transition of management, but overall the DVTA’s management of CRT has been good, and it’s one reason why we’re headed for this merger. With the right management in place, the strong bond between our groups will get stronger and will work more efficiently.”
Current DVTA general manager Randy Schoonmaker will serve as general manager for the new company, which will consist of a board of up to 10 members, four to five from the Wilmington division, and the same number from the Rockingham division.
The merger will be the second big piece to an eventful 2014 for the DVTA. In May, the 18-year-old company broke ground on a new, sorely needed facility on Shafter Street complete with a bus-washing station for their trademark Holstein-decorated buses.
Both the DVTA and CRT are 501(c)(3) companie. According to their website, the DVTA’s 18 drivers provided over 280,000 rides last year.