DC Circulator drivers say buses unsafe, 'disaster waiting to happen'

D.C. Circulator bus drivers are speaking out against what they say are dangerous conditions that put riders at risk. The drivers testified at a D.C. Council Committee hearing Friday on the state of their buses.

In a press release, union representatives say that despite drivers flagging and reporting safety issues, District Department of Transportation contractor First Transit put unsafe vehicles into service.

An audit shows 95 percent of the buses inspected had safety problems that should have removed the buses from operating.

The D.C. Circulator service has 67 buses on seven routes and has been running for about a decade, charging customers $1 to ride.

"If Mayor Bowser and DDOT do not act on this information now, we're going to have another preventable transit disaster in a city that's rightfully sick of them," said Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1764 Trustee Sesil Rubain.

"We can't wait any longer for the Mayor to act as underpaid bus drivers are costed out of the city they serve and transit riders board buses that shouldn't be on the road," Rubain continued. "Transit workers and riders need to unite and demand accountability from the Wilson Building."

DDOT Director Leif Dormsjo issued a statement saying there has been substantial progress on the maintenance of Circulator buses:

"The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) is actively monitoring the performance of WMATA. DDOT proactively sought a third party independent audit of DC Circulator buses and with each audit, DDOT works with WMATA to ensure that any vehicles with safety defects are immediately pulled from service for repair. DDOT has seen substantial process since the initial audit last August. The safety-related defect rate on Circulator buses has declined from 2.9 per bus to 0.5 per bus. The number of maintenance bays for Circulator buses has increased from two to three and the number of maintenance technicians has increased from four to six. These proactive measures were the result of pressure from WMATA as it fulfills its project management responsibilities per its agreement with DDOT. The next maintenance audit is planned in May 2016, and DDOT and WMATA will continue to use these audits as a tool to assess the condition of the fleet and ensure that all defects are identified and corrected as soon as possible. We have always emphasized to WMATA that safety is our first priority and we will continue to work with our partners but will also hold them accountable."