New bill would create DC transit board
A bill introduced this morning by Councilmember Jim Graham would establish a new board to oversee DC's Circulator and streetcar systems, routes and fares.
DDOT and the Mayor control the Circulator and all decisions exclusively. While DDOT's decisions about the Circulator are often good, they also often aren't transparent. And sometimes they are controversial.
For example, Georgetown residents suddenly heard last month that the segment up Wisconsin Avenue was being cut for budget reasons; then, just as suddenly, the Mayor somehow found money to reinstate it.
While the Circulator started out supplementing Metrobus routes, more recently the Circulator has sometimes taken over existing routes. At the recent hearing about having the Georgetown Metro Connection ("blue bus") become a Circulator, ATU Local 689's Craig Simpson also testified that the average wage for Circulator employees is only $31,000, too low for most families to meet regular household expenses. Simpson argued that the Circulator's wage levels have undercut transit pay for other bus drivers. A board could publicly discuss and weigh issues such as this.
When introducing the bill, Graham emphasized that most of the particulars are far from set in stone, but he hopes the legislation as written can create a starting point for a debate over what exactly the board should look like.
The bill proposes a 7-member board, with three members including the Chair appointed by the Mayor (i.e. DDOT), 2 by the DC Council, and 2 elected at-large for 4-year terms. It also specifies that the Mayoral and Council appointees must be regular riders.
In his statement, Graham said, "When we were just getting started with the DC Circulator it may have made sense to have a less formal decision-making process, but now the DC Circulator system has matured into a bona-fide DC bus network."
Such a board could increase transparency and accountability for DC's growing transit systems and take political whim out of service choices. It could also mire all decisions in political calculation or hinder innovation. Do you think this will help or hurt the Circulator and the future streetcar system?
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