After 23 years, retiring Bloomington Transit GM Lew May says: “It’s just been a wonderful ride.”

The community room at the Bloomington Transit (BT) headquarters building on Grimes Lane will now be called the Patrick L. “Lew” May Community Room.

BT general manager May attended his final board meeting on Tuesday night. The five-member group approved a resolution thanking him for his 23 years of service and naming the room after him.

May told the board, “We’ve done just tremendous work together. And it’s just been a wonderful ride, it truly has.” May added, “And that’s the longest I’ve ever worked at any one place.”

John Connell, who is taking over from May at the end of the month, attended the meeting in-person, which was a hybrid in-person, video-conferenced event. Connell comes to BT by way of the Greater Lafayette Public Transportation Corporation, where he was operations manager.

The board handled some significant business at May’s final meeting.

Among the items approved by the board were: a new salary ordinance that factors into the current negotiations with the drivers union; a contract with RATP Dev, which is a transit management consultant company through which May and his successor, Connell, serve as general manager; and a new contract with Mesmerize Media, which is the company that sells the advertising on the outside and inside of BT buses.

The salary ordinance was revised, in part, to include provisions for the $1,000 “essential worker” bonus for drivers, which the board had approved at its August meeting. The bonus was a part of a side letter to the collective bargaining agreement with AFSCME Local 613.

The side letter tied the essential worker bonus payment to a minimum of 12 drivers signing up on the overtime list. Only seven drivers signed up, May told the board. That meant the bonus was not paid. It also means that some bus runs continue to be cancelled due to lack of drivers. BT currently has 12 open driver positions.

May asked the board to approve a salary ordinance that ties the essential worker bonus to the ratification of a new collective bargaining agreement by Nov. 1. The current agreement runs through the end of the year.

Board members had some qualms about discussing at the public part of their meeting the salary ordinance and the way it affected negotiations with the drivers union. It would have disclosed their bargaining strategy to the union.

Board members briefly contemplated first going into a closed session, which is allowed under Indiana’s Open Door Law for the purpose of collective bargaining negotiations, and only after coming out of closed session approving the salary ordinance.

Putting their concerns to rest was John Bartosiewicz, who is the RATP Dev consultant BT is using to help out with collective bargaining negotiations. Bartosiewicz told board member James McLary, “It’s OK, Jim, pass it!” The board adjourned their regular meeting before going into closed session.

Based on the brief back-and-forth in the room on Tuesday, a new way to assign overtime sounds like it will be a part of the new collective bargaining agreement (CBA), even if progress is already being made on that issue within the confines of the existing CBA.

The contract with RATP Dev, which was approved by the board on Tuesday, is structured around a monthly fee, which includes services of the general manager. The monthly fee in the first year of the contract is $16,575, which works out to $198,900 a year.

The contract with Mesmerize Media, approved by the board on Tuesday, pays the firm a 55-percent commission on the bus advertising it sells, and guarantees $490,000 in total revenue for the initial three years of the contract.

Ridership on fixed route buses in August was up compared to July, which is the seasonal pattern connected to the return of students to the Indiana University campus. Ridership in August this year was also dramatically up compared to last year, when IU delivered much of its instruction remotely. This year, the university is taking a business-as-usual approach to classes, which means they’re in-person.

Fixed-route ridership in August this year was still down about 30 percent compared to the most recent non-pandemic year of 2019. In August 2021, BT gave 137,590 fixed route rides compared to 199,118 rides in August 2019.

The July-to-August bump this year (79,844) was about the same as in 2019 (84,869). But this year, July’s figure was 57,746, compared to 114,428 in July 2019.

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