Paratransit can help lessen seasonal business swings

SAN ANTONIO – Governments contract out myriad paratransit services, offering opportunities for motorcoach operators to diversify their business and level out seasonal revenue swings, a Kansas politician told attendees at one UMA Motorcoach Expo education session.

Steve Klika

“This is the type of services you have to go hunt for because the public sector is not going to be knocking on your door saying, ‘Come do my service for me,’ ” said Steve Klika, a member of the Johnson County Board of County Commissioners in the Kansas City area. He also is former president of International Motorcoach Group Inc.

Public-sector paratransit services can include running school buses, providing special education, elderly and disabled transit, van services, micro transit (kind of an Uber style), and more – basically any services provided that are not on a 40- or 45-foot transit coach, Klika said. He was the county’s representative on the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority board from 2011 through 2017.

“Public-sector transit systems don’t want to provide that service. It’s not a core business of theirs that they’re comfortable with. They’d rather just run big buses,” he said.

That presents opportunities for motorcoach operators willing to broaden their service options and perhaps add smaller equipment to their fleets as they seek to offer solutions to the public sector, Klika said.

Such service may be more challenging, but it has benefits that can result in long-term relationships, he said.

“You get some of these contracts, they provide a stable type of revenue that allows you to meet the basic overhead requirements of your organization and allows you to deal with the seasonal swings, ups and downs, on the motorcoach side,” Klika said.

Paratransit service profit margins can hover around 20 percent or more, he said.

“Paratransit’s getting a bigger and bigger definition,” Klika said, suggesting it could be moving workers from one point to another or linking a rail and bus stops.

Landing such contracts requires following one’s community closely – reading news sites, following city council, county commission, transit advisory board and committee agendas, attending relevant meetings, establishing contacts with those bodies’ representatives, maybe even making a campaign contribution to help get recognized, he said.

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