Marin Access Improvements Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Marin Access Improvements FAQ

General Information about Marin Access

What is Marin Access?

Marin Access is a suite of mobility programs and services designed for older adults and people with disabilities that cannot or choose not to drive. Marin Access offerings include: ADA complementary paratransit, a volunteer driver reimbursement program, and subsidized taxi rides. Marin Access services include the Travel Navigators, Travel Training, and the Low-Income Fare Assistance program (LIFA) which provides fare assistance to those with income barriers. Two additional general public services, Connect and Dial-A-Ride services are great options for Marin Access riders that include favorable pricing and accessible service. The Marin Access suite of programs has organically grown and matured over the years and we’re excited about what the future holds for Marin Access! Visit www.marinaccess.org to learn more.

What is the difference between Marin Transit, Marin Access, and Vivalon / Whistlestop Wheels?

Marin County Transit District (Marin Transit) was formed by a vote of the people of Marin County in 1964 and was given the responsibility for providing local transit service within Marin County. Marin Transit contracts for operations and maintenance of services. Staff are directly responsible for planning, capital investments, financial management, and operations oversight. Marin Transit is financially supported by Measure AA Funds, Measure B Funds, State Transportation Development Act Funds, fares, property taxes and Federal Section 5311 rural transit funds.

Marin Access is a suite of mobility services and programs offered by Marin Transit. Marin Access Paratransit is offered through coordination between Marin Transit and Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District.

Per their website, Vivalon’s mission is to promote independence, wellbeing and quality of life for older adults and people living with disabilities in Marin County. Vivalon / Whistlestop Wheels is the current contractor of Marin Access Paratransit. Vivalon / Whistlestop Wheels operates Marin Access Paratransit on behalf of Marin Transit and Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District.  

What is Paratransit and who is responsible for providing this service?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires all public transit operators to provide a specialized service to individuals whose disabilities prevent them from using accessible public transit. This specialized door-to-door service, called "paratransit," is required by the ADA to complement fixed-route public transit service. For this reason, it operates at similar times and in similar areas as public transportation. As public transit operators, Marin Transit and Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District are required to provide paratransit service.

In Marin County, Marin Access Paratransit is a combined effort of both Marin Transit and Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District to offer a single point of contact all for paratransit trips that begin or end in Marin County or pass through Marin on our regional service (i.e. Santa Rosa to San Francisco). This joint effort allows for seamless travel within Marin County and beyond. 

Who is eligible for paratransit?

In order to become eligible for paratransit, an applicant must demonstrate that they qualify under one or more of the following ADA eligibility criteria.

  • Category I: A person with a disability who cannot navigate the transit system without assistance.
  • Category II: A person with a disability who requires an accessible vehicle when one is not available.
  • Category III: A person with a disability who is unable to reach the transit stop.

A rider may be determined to be eligible for paratransit on a conditional, unconditional, or temporary basis. For more information about Marin Access Paratransit, visit https://marintransit.org/paratransit.

How many rides do Demand Response programs provide a year?

Marin Access offers older adults and people with disabilities a variety of transportation options for getting around should they be unable to or choose not to drive. Demand Response programs include Paratransit, Catch-A-Ride, Dial-A-Ride and Marin Transit Connect. Demand Response programs provide approximately 165,000 rides per year pre-COVID; that includes 125,000 ADA paratransit rides.

Marin Access Request for Proposal (RFP) and Procurement

Why are you changing service providers?  

For more than 50 years, Marin Transit has provided ADA paratransit service to older adults and people with disabilities in Marin County. As the County’s population of those aging in place grows, we need to ensure that there is a robust transit system that will empower older adults and people with disabilities to live independently, travel with confidence, and keep them connected to the community.

After a thorough and competitive procurement process, Marin Transit recommended awarding the contract to the highest scoring proposal, from Transdev Services, Inc. In their proposal, the Transdev team demonstrated that they can manage the evolving needs of the Marin Access services and programs as they continue to grow and evolve. 

 When will the transition happen?

There will be a four month transition period before the new provider assumes responsibility for operations on February 1, 2022.

What did the procurement process include?

In March 2021, Marin Transit released a Request for Proposals (RFP) for Operation of Marin Access Services and Programs. The RFP process spanned more than six months, with more than half of that being dedicated to allow for a thorough evaluation of the proposals received. Prior to the release of the RFP, staff worked with a subcommittee, made up of members of our advisory committees, to request their input and insight into how we should shape the RFP and what factors were important to them. The subcommittee was comprised of seven members: three representatives from the Marin Paratransit Coordinating Council, two representatives from the Marin Mobility Consortium, and one representative from the Advisory Committee on Accessibility. We are very thankful for their input as we moved through this process.

In late May, staff received two strong responses to the RFP – one from the incumbent, Vivalon (formerly known as Whistlestop) and one from Transdev Services, Inc. Both firms were invited to interview with a technical panel made up of Marin Transit staff, Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District Staff, and a representative from Santa Rosa City Bus. Interviews were conducted via Zoom. The interviews were followed by a series of clarifying questions and subsequent follow-up questions. Each firm was given the opportunity to revise and update their proposal following each request for clarifications from the evaluation panel. In late July, each firm was offered an opportunity to do a walk through of the Kerner facility. Finally, in mid-August, we requested a best and final offer, or BAFO, from each proposer. The BAFO is the final opportunity for firms to refine and improve their technical proposal and associated costs.

Who participated in the evaluation committee?  

The evaluation committee that scored the proposals received was made up of representatives of Marin Transit staff, Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District staff, and a representative from Santa Rosa City Bus.

Why would Marin Transit select an operator at a higher cost?

Under Marin Transit’s Procurement Policy, and as a recipient of federal funds, Marin Transit is required to competitively procure goods and services. This procurement was developed as a “Best Value” procurement, as indicated in the RFP, and allowed Marin Transit to select the offer deemed most advantageous and of greatest value to the agency. The award selection was based upon consideration of a combination of technical and price factors based on the criteria identified in the RFP.

The contract was awarded to the firm that submitted the highest scoring proposal as they were determined to offer the best value to the District that will lead to overall improvements to operations and the rider experience.

Why didn’t Marin Transit give preference to Vivalon, a local non-profit?

Federal Transit Administration (FTA) procurement policies prohibit the use of in-state or local geographical preferences in the solicitation and evaluation of bids or proposals.

What was the role of the Marin Paratransit Coordinating Council in this process?

Marin Paratransit Coordinating Council members had the opportunity to join a subcommittee to provide input on and help shape the RFP.

Were community members given an opportunity to provide input on the proposals received?

No, FTA procurement policies require that confidentiality be maintained in order to allow for an open and competitive process. Community members had the opportunity to provide input on the staff recommendation for the award presented to the Marin Transit Board of Directors on September 13, 2021.

Were community members given an opportunity to provide input on the contract award?

Community members had the opportunity to provide input on the staff recommendation for award presented to the Marin Transit Board of Directors on September 13, 2021.

Why would Marin Transit choose to switch vendors in the middle of the pandemic?

Marin Transit developed the RFP recognizing the new realities of the COVID-19 pandemic and uncertainties about if, or when demand for these services and programs would return. The new contract will allow greater flexibility and opportunity to explore alternative service models for how Marin Access services and programs are delivered, with the intention of improving the rider experience and streamlining operations.

What will happen to Vivalon?

We are thankful for the 50 years of service provided by Vivalon and the work they continue to do to serve the community through programs, classes, meal delivery and food access, and care for older adults.  Though the service provider is changing, jobs will be offered to all qualified drivers and frontline staff who want them, with increased benefits and higher wages. We expect to maintain our great relationship with the Vivalon team and are eager to explore new ways we can collaborate in the future. 

What will Marin Transit do to ensure that the new vendor continues to provide the same great service riders are used to?

Marin Transit’s Board of Directors and our staff are responsible for and committed to holding our contractors accountable for delivering safe, courteous, and efficient service.

Marin Transit monitors the performance of their contractors in many ways including through service monitoring, reviewing input and comments from riders, and regular coordination and communication with contractors.

Impact to Marin Access Riders

I am a Marin Access rider, how will this affect me?

Riders can continue to expect the same great service from the Marin Access team you are used to. You will not have to re-apply or do anything new to maintain your eligibility and should not notice any changes in your service. Our goal is for the transition to be seamless for passengers, from the way rides are scheduled to the drivers and vehicles that pick you up. You're likely to see and interact with many of the same drivers and staff you already know.  

Will the fares change?

There will not be any change to the current fare structure. The next phase of the planned fare increases outlined in Marin Transit’s Fare and Eligibility Policy update will be implemented in fiscal year 2024. For more information, visit https://marintransit.org/farepolicy2019.

Do I have to reapply for Marin Access?

No, there will not be any change to your eligibility status for Marin Access and the change in service operator will not impact that. 

Will the eligibility or scheduling processes for Marin Access and Paratransit be changing?

No, the eligibility and scheduling process will remain the same.

What kind of outreach will you be doing to the public?        

We’ll be providing information to the public in several ways: in early October, we will send out an informational flyer to all of our Marin Access riders, we have a dedicated webpage on the Marin Transit website that will have transition information, an online comment form, and contact information should you have additional questions.

Impact to Marin Access Frontline Staff

I am a Marin Access employee, how will this affect me? 

Drivers and frontline staff are the backbone of the Marin Access programs and our customers trust and rely on you. Many of you live in this community and have dedicated your time to serving your neighbors while providing a critical transportation service across the County. Though the service provider is changing, we deeply value and hope to retain our drivers and frontline staff should they choose to transition their employment to Transdev. We are committed to maintaining seniority and providing better pay and benefits. 

What is the process for transferring my employment to Transdev? 

Transdev will be hosting several open houses to meet with incumbent employees and share information about transitioning employment. Transdev will establish an employment portal where incumbent employees can apply. It is Transdev's intent to bring all qualified employees for which we have positions on board. 

Getting Involved

How can I provide input?

If you have any questions, please contact us directly: email: info@marintransit.org; call: (415) 226-0855; send us your comments and questions via our online comment form