Torrance Awards $65K Ridesharing Consultant Contract to Deputy Director of SBCCOG

Last Tuesday the Council awarded another $65K annual contract to Kim Fuentes. Fuentes is the #2 ranking staff member and Deputy Executive Director at the South Bay Cities Council of Governments (SBCCOG). The contract is for Commuter Transportation (Rideshare) consultant services for July 1, 2015 through June 30, 2016. According to City staff, approximately 500 City employees participate in the Rideshare Program by commuting to work either by van pool, car pool, public transit, bike, walking, or through use of a low emission vehicle.

At the meeting, Deputy Community Development Director Linda Cessna acknowledged that City staff manages the day-to-day operations of the Rideshare Program and that Fuentes provides the City with the needed technical expertise to keep the Rideshare Program in compliance with the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) regulations.

The staff report noted that, “AQMD Rule 2202 remains in effect in the South Coast basin; thus the City of Torrance is required to comply.”

Interestingly, however, the AQMD itself recently released a communication dated 01 May 2015 with regard to the same Rule 2202. In contrast to the City’s position, that document clearly states in the preface that, “Implementation of an Employee Commute Reduction Program (ECRP) [or Rideshare Program] is strictly optional under Rule 2202.”

Prior to awarding the contract, Councilman Goodrich lauded what the Program had accomplished in the past and asked staff to share what the goals were for the coming year. In response to that, Fuentes claimed that “one of the pieces that was missing in the Rideshare world was the ability to get better commute information for all kinds of trips.”  To address that, she said she is looking into a website that could give commuters information such as how long it would take to walk to certain places, or where bicycle racks were located.

Fuentes did not mention, however, that many similar websites or applications already exist. One of those, for example, called RideScout can be downloaded for free and claims to provide walking, biking, and driving directions that will sort results by type, costs, departure and arrival times, and calories burned.

In addition to the $65K consulting contract to Fuentes, the Council also approved an $80K contract to a company called Just Rewards to administer a City employee gift card incentive program for those employees that participate in ridesharing. The staff report for that item noted that:

“This service is necessary as utilizing Just Rewards will reduce the City staff time as the company procures, coordinates, and distributes the rideshare incentives. If the City staff were required to take on these tasks it would cause the program to be too labor intensive to manage.”

The incentive program is certainly a reward for the 500 city employees that participate in ridesharing, but one might question whether the $65K consulting contract combined with the $80K incentive program is a “Just Reward” for the taxpayer.

One comment

  • Richard Root

    Clint, you raise some very valid questions. This contract as well as the City giving gifts to employees to “incentivize” them to rideshare seems excessive. Also, according to the staff report, the City has been paying Ms Fuentes for her expertise every year since 1994; however, it does not say she has ever had to compete with others in an open competitive process for the contract. Is she the only person who has the expertise? It’s not rocket science. This smacks of insider favoritism.

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