October 22, 2019|Brianne Eby and Paul Lewis
The District of Columbia contributes to the regional transportation network by providing two public transit systems in the city. The DC Circulator consists of six fixed-route bus lines throughout the city, and the DC Streetcar is one single rail line running along the H Street corridor in Northeast DC. The District government, through the District Department of Transportation (DDOT), manages two separate contracts with one private company to operate these services. While this management structure is established for the tenure of the contracts, District leaders want it proactively reviewed to improve or overhaul it in the future.
Much is at stake. Reforming the governance can alter who is making long term capital and service planning decisions for Circulator and Streetcar. Bus drivers and mechanics currently work for a private company, but change could mean them becoming District government employees. Different governance models provide varying incentives and tools for the District to get the best service for its riders.
This analysis takes an independent approach to evaluate alternative management structures and operational models for Circulator and Streetcar, including understanding how to improve the current model for potential future procurements. Analyzing the implications of transit governance and service delivery models involved in-depth conversations with stakeholders, experts, and those with knowledge of the regional system. The Eno Center for Transportation used its existing knowledge of transit governance, reviewed previous research, and interviewed government officials, rider groups, business leaders, private transit operators, bus drivers and maintenance workers, and labor and community organizers.
This report reviewed four feasible options for the District government. Ultimately any governance option is viable, but the analysis shows that a continuation of the current model with proper oversight will best serve the District moving forward. Beyond that, we make four other recommendations that are necessary for the model to work: legislating labor protections, following international best practices for contracting, investing in an adequate bus maintenance facility, and determining the future of the District’s transit networks. These can help improve Circulator and Streetcar regardless of which governance structure is chosen.