In August, Gaithersburg-based company Challenger Transportation filed a civil lawsuit against WMATA in Montgomery County Circuit Court. The suit, in part, claims Challenger lost a multimillion-dollar MetroAccess contract to the French company Veolia, where WMATA Board Chairman Tom Downs serves Veolia on their Board of Advisers. Challenger provided service to disabled commuters across Montgomery and Prince George's counties for 14 years. However, in 2012, WMATA publicly solicited bids for a new 10-year contract, running from 2013 through 2023. The bid by Veolia was $161.6 million higher than Challenger’s bid, which was $736.3 million over ten years. Despite the gaping divide in estimated costs, WMATA hand-picked Veolia with 50 percent of the lucrative deal. Challenger's civil lawsuit alleges Downs abused his WMATA board position and played some sort of role in Challenger losing the contract so that he could benefit himself and his role with Veolia. This past summer, ATU Local 689 and more than 20 ATU local presidents lead a rally at WMATA headquarters calling out Tom Downs for his conflict of interest between Veolia and WMATA.
The District's Circulator bus network is set to have a major expansion beginning next year. The expansion will add six new routes and extend four others. These expansions will duplicate some already existing Metrobus services, which will put Local 689 jobs at risk.
The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) released its 2014 Circulator Transit Development Plan in late September. According to the report, the planned Union Station-Navy Yard extension to the Southwest Waterfront would require a tax payer subsidy of $11.80 per passenger, based on projected ridership. By comparison, extending the Rosslyn-Georgetown-Dupont line to U Street and Howard University would require a subsidy of $1.86 per passenger. None of the lines is expected to recoup even half its costs through fares. D.C. Council are also expected to raise fares from $1 to $1.50 for SmarTrip users and $2 for cash payers.