A portion of the Colorado Springs bus system is changing hands over the New Year.

First Transit, which operates the local fixed bus route lines, has allowed its contract with the city’s transportation department to expire, and a new bus contractor is stepping in to fill the void.

As of Jan. 3, Texas-based McDonald Transit Associates will run the city’s 18 bus routes.

Mountain Metropolitan Transit, the city’s transportation department, has signed McDonald for an annual contract worth roughly $6 million, slightly more than First Transit was being paid. MMT’s 2011 budget is roughly $18 million.

Robert Babbit, the president of McDonald, said the company’s goal is to hire on all the bus drivers employed by First Transit.

Since the city subcontracts operation and management of buses to independent companies such as McDonald, drivers must go through pre-employment screenings, but Babbit said he doesn’t expect any drivers to lose their jobs.

MMT’s transit business administrator, Andy Garton, said drivers don’t have to worry about another round of layoffs, such as the ones a year ago.

McDonald also will re-start a limited number of Saturday bus routes, said Garton. That should begin sometime in March, he said, depending on funding.

“We’re going to do as much with the limited dollars as we can,” said Garton.

The city’s transportation steering committee, which is looking at options for improving public transit, will meet 1-3 p.m. Jan. 7, in the board room of Falcon School District 49’s central office, at 10850 Woodmen Rd.

Contact the writer 476-4825.