Once again, we see the complete lack of political oversight–which is to say, failure by D.C. area politicians–on the Metro system. This time, it’s privatization (boldface mine):
Metro needs to be fixed fast — daily ridership is plummeting, contributing to a projected $125 million revenue shortfall this year.
But we have to draw a line in the sand: don’t privatize Metro.
Last week, Metro’s board — made up of representatives from D.C., Maryland, Virginia, and the federal government — endorsed a plan to do just that. General Manager Paul Wiedefeld’s latest proposal has a number of issues, but most alarming is his call for outsourcing services like maintenance and parking.
All he has to do is look in his own backyard to see that privatization could make things even worse. Both the D.C. Circulator and Streetcar, paid for by D.C. taxpayers but operated by global corporations, are glaring examples of why we shouldn’t hand control of public goods and services to corporations.
Last year, an audit of the D.C. Circulator bus service, operated by First Transit, exposed a high number of broken safety equipment, faulty driver controls and brakes, and loose lug nuts. In May, officials determined First Transit is still cutting corners on maintenance, leaving buses even less safe.
When it comes to the unpopular Streetcar, mismanagement by operator RATP Dev, which is owned by the French government, has run up costs to taxpayers and slowed development. Streetcars have caught on fire, clipped cars, and scratched the platform. On top of that, private operation has hurt the city’s economy: Streetcar driver wages are a third less than those of drivers operating public buses on the same routes….
Metro needs stable and dedicated funding, and there are progressive ways to do that.
Privatization is just another word for more of the same: underinvestment.
The problem Metro faces is that the one political entity that would be–and has been–willing to spend money, D.C., can’t force the other regions to pony up the money. And there are too many people in the suburbs who don’t realize that they are the traffic. That is, if most Metro riders (train and bus) took cars, current drivers’ commutes would be far worse than they already are. But by the time that effect would be felt, it’s too late for a functional Metro system that has slowly been degraded.
Somehow Metro needs to find a dedicated funding source, and then rip up that stupid funding compact–which limits how much money D.C. itself can put into the system.