In no uncertain terms, the members of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 689 want Metro to be a safe, affordable and reliable transit system, and we know that privatization won’t make that happen, which is why we oppose it. And we reach that conclusion based on the facts.
The DC Circulator is a glaring example of the failures of privatization. Just last August, the Transit Resource Center, an independent transit consulting firm, conducted an audit on Circulator buses and found that ninety-five percent of all the buses had at least one safety problem so significant that they should have been pulled from service, but were not. DC Circulator is managed by First Transit, a private operator.
The failures of privatizing public transit can also be seen around the country from Savannah, Georgia to Fairfield, California to Nassau County, New York. By looking at any of those jurisdictions, there is evidence that outsourcing public transit drives up fares, jeopardizes safety, results in service cuts, and fosters an environment for political corruption. But Ms. Simmons didn’t bother to let those facts get in the way of her position.
Ms. Simmons also took the opportunity to over-generalize the sentiments of ATU Local 689’s members by talking to a currently terminated employee and two members who were rejected by Local 689’s membership in their respective bids for elected positions with the union.
Local 689 represents more than 13,000 active and retired bus and rail operators, station managers, maintenance and clerical employees. Basing the attitudes of the union’s entire membership on the experiences of two rank and file members and a terminated employee is both irresponsible and unethical.
Metro is dealing with a historic number of challenges that need to be addressed with fierce urgency, but privatizing the system fails to address those challenges. In fact, it makes the challenges worse by transferring the responsibility of public safety to a private company whose bottom line is the profit. Ms. Simmons’ response to the issue is as irresponsible as those who fail to properly fund the system to keep it safe.
Jackie L. Jeter
ATU Local 689