The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Broken Buses Deliver Profits in D.C.

Jul 31, 2017

Washington, D.C. privatized several downtown bus lines last decade, promising that the special one-dollar fares and brand-new buses would make the D.C. Circulator a wonder to behold.

Instead, the Circulator has meant millions of taxpayer dollars subsidizing corporate profits based on the dangerous practice of not hiring enough maintenance workers.

The city contracted with for-profit First Transit, part of the multi-billion-dollar corporation that also owns Greyhound. The city gave it more bus lines over the years and increased the funding by five times. But the corporation never hired more than a dozen mechanics. A recent audit showed that none had the ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) certification which is standard for auto, bus, and truck mechanics. Only two had air conditioning training.

Due to under-staffing, a third of the buses are out of service at any given time because of mechanical problems. Inspectors found nearly the whole fleet unsafe to be on the roads. Defects include doors that fly open while the buses are running, broken wheelchair ramps, cracked windshields, no turn signals or emergency flashers – and no air conditioning.

The city department, which passed the buck for over a decade, now proposes to give First Transit’s contract to another company. And how will giving the money to another profit-seeking company change the picture?