Tag Archives: District of Columbia

D.C. Circulator operations contract going to a new provider

Source: Luz Lazo, Washington Post, June 4, 2018
 
The District plans to award a 5-year, $140-million contract for the operation of the D.C. Circulator to RATP Dev, a provider of transit systems in cities across four continents, including Washington where it runs the D.C. Streetcar.  The goal is to have a contract in place by July 1 to allow for a 90-day transition; RATP Dev would be the operator effective Oct. 1. The deals needs approval by the D.C. Council.  RATP Dev will run day-to-day operations of the six-route bus system, taking over from First Transit, which has run the Circulator since its inception in 2005. …

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Exclusive: Audit finds DC Circulator buses crumbling, unsafe for service
Source: Max Smith, WTOP, April 7, 2016

Ninety-five percent of DC Circulator buses inspected by an outside firm had at least one safety problem so significant they should have been pulled from service, according to an audit obtained exclusively by WTOP. Transit Resource Center, an independent transit consulting firm, conducted the audit last August, but it was closely guarded until now. The audit found an “unacceptable” number of the most serious safety defects in the Circulator fleet. … Overall, the audit finds the D.C. Department of Transportation and Metro have failed to carry out effective oversight of First Transit, the private contractor that operates the Circulator. DDOT owns the buses, and contracts with Metro to oversee First Transit. The audit notes that First Transit keeps buses for the Potomac and Rappahannock Transit Commission in Northern Virginia up to industry standards with about three smaller defects per bus, but falls woefully short when it comes to the Circulator.

District Exploring a Semi-Privatized Streetcar, Bus System
Source: Lydia DePillis, Washington City Paper, Housing Complex blog, June 26, 2012

Well, this could be a way to build a massive infrastructure project without busting the city’s budget: The District Department of Transportation is asking for ideas on how to bring in private capital for a 22-mile chunk of the original 37-mile streetcar system, and build it over the next five to seven years.

A request for information issued today also includes a proposal for a non-regional bus network, possibly independent from the Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority, that would include and expand upon the Circulator.

Metro gets serious about outsourcing Silver Line service

Source: Martine Powers, Washington Post, January 9, 2018
 
A proposal to outsource operations of the Silver Line took a significant step Monday, when Metro officials issued a formal “request for information” from potential contractors who might be interested in the job. …. Metro’s opportunities for privatization are limited, because of its existing union contracts. But the agency is allowed to seek help from outside contractors when considering how to manage operations on new segments of the system. Officials have already met with potential contractors to outsource bus operations and maintenance at the newly-constructed Cinder Bed Road bus garage in Newington, Va…..

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D.C. May Seek To End Private Contracts For Public Transit
Source: Martin Di Caro, WAMU, November 30, 2017

A coalition of organized labor and social justice groups are calling on D.C. lawmakers to stop the District from contracting out public transit services, saying the private firms that operate the Circulator bus system and D.C. Streetcar fail to provide reliable service to riders and treat their employees poorly.  “We are concerned about privatization of good public-sector jobs,” said Barbara Kraft of the Washington Interfaith Network, which is teaming with the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) and individual bus and streetcar operators to lobby the D.C. Council to bring all District transit operations in-house. …

Union: Look to Circulator and D.C. Streetcar for evidence of why Metro shouldn’t be privatized
Source: Faiz Siddiqui, Washington Post, May 16, 2017
 
Reliability problems with the D.C. Circulator and planning and construction shortfalls of the city’s streetcar system are examples of why the District and Metro should be wary of privatizing more services, the transit agency’s union said Tuesday.  Although the District Department of Transportation owns the Circulator buses and oversees the D.C. streetcar, Amalgamated Transit Union International says there’s an implicit warning for Metro.  “Fix the service you have; take responsibility for the quality of service you have,” said Michael McCall-Delgado, a strategic researcher at ATU International and author of a new report, “Fool D.C. Twice.” … The union report holds the District partially responsible for the decline of the region’s transit system, saying that instead of investing in Metro, local leaders pushed seemingly “hip” and “premium ridership” projects to attract millennials to the city. …

… ATU, which represents more than 9,000 Metro employees through its Local 689 chapter, has rejected Wiedefeld’s shift toward privatization, including a proposal that would use private contractors to fill station manager or track inspection jobs on the second phase of the Silver Line. Contractors could also be used to operate such facilities as new bus garages. Separately, Metro has nearly doubled its spending on private contractors over the past two years. In its report, however, the union takes D.C. officials to task for failing to hold contractors accountable for construction, planning and service failures. The report highlights how the Circulator, operated by Cincinnati-based First Transit, has been beset by maintenance problems for years “while avoiding government oversight,” according to the union. Circulator buses have a notoriously poor reliability record, with the 2016 audit finding an average of 22 defects per bus. Many of the defects — nearly three per bus — were tied to safety equipment and should have been caught during routine inspections, the audit said. And the problems have persisted: A report this week from WAMU said reliability issues have left the Circulator up to 10 buses short of its quota when buses depart its lots each day. …

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With two weeks of private bus shuttles, Metro dips a toe into outsourcing

Source: Martine Powers, Washington Post, December 9, 2017
 
Metro riders inconvenienced by a two-week partial shutdown on the Red Line probably didn’t give much thought to the branding of the bus shuttles carrying them on their plodding ride between the Silver Spring and Fort Totten stations.  But those buses — private coaches with drivers hailing from out-of-state — could be a sign of things to come at Metro: more privatization, with a focus on outsourcing bus service.  It’s a shift that’s been forecast by Metro General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld, and cheered by politicians and Metro board members who see it as an opportunity to save on costs.  The transit agency recently announced that it is seeking proposals from outside contractors interested in handling bus operations and maintenance at Metro’s new Cinder Bed Road bus garage in Newington, Va. The contract would hand over the operation of 17 bus routes to a private company, and that company would be responsible for providing an estimated 129,599 hours of service to passengers each year. …

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Metro workers protest privatization of bus routes
Source: John Gonzalez, WJLA, December 7, 2017

WMATA has a proposal on the table to use private contractors to manage and operate nine existing Metrobus routes. The buses would eventually come out of a new facility in Lorton – but not everyone was pleased with the new proposal. On Thursday, angry Metrobus drivers showed up at the site of the new facility to protest. The workers, with the Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 689, blocked the facility’s entrance and attempted to disrupt a meeting that the transit agency was holding with contractors. “Paul Weidefeld is gonna destroy this transit system. We want transit to not be privatized. We want it to be ungovernable. To be able to have a say-so in what our public transportation looks like,” said union representative Anthony Garland. …

DC: Teachers Hit the Picket Line at First Charter School to Unionize in D.C.

Source: Liana Loewus, Education Week, December 1, 2017

A growing number of charter school teachers have begun to start seeing unionizing as an option, as we’ve written. Among the most recent charters to organize is Chavez Prep Middle School in Washington, part of the Cesar Chavez Public Charter School network. Teachers there voted in June to form a collective-bargaining unit affiliated with the 1.6-million-member American Federation of Teachers. And now those teachers are saying the charter school’s administration isn’t negotiating with them as is legally required. “By law after our vote, any changes to our working conditions have to be negotiated with us,” said Christian Herr, a science teacher who headed the organizing effort. “Our board continues to make significant changes—adding job duties without additional compensation, things like that—without bargaining with us.” …

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D.C. Charter Schools Get First Union
Source: WAMU, June 16, 2017

Middle school teachers at a charter school in Columbia Heights have voted to unionize, forming the first collective bargaining unit at a charter school in the district. The teachers at Cesar Chavez Prep Middle School voted 31-2 in favor of joining the American Federation of Teachers. … The educators organized through the District of Columbia Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff, which is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, one of two major education unions in the country. Staff at the school say they want to unionize to give teachers a voice in decision-making. Jenny Tomlinson, the school librarian, told WAMU in May that staff hoped unionizing would reduce teacher turnover, increase teacher input in the curriculum and attract more experienced teachers.

What a New Study on Vouchers Means for Trump’s Agenda

Source: Leah Askarainam, The Atlantic, April 28, 2017

… But a report released Thursday found largely negative results for students who participated in the District of Columbia’s Opportunity Scholarship Program, suggesting that many of the program’s beneficiaries might actually fare better if they turn down the private-school money.  The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) compared test scores for two groups of students: students who, through a lottery process, were selected to receive vouchers, and students who applied for yet didn’t receive them. The study compared the progress of both groups of students from spring of 2012 to 2014 and found that, a year after they applied for the scholarship, math scores were lower for students who won vouchers. What’s more, after narrowing the pool of students down to those in kindergarten through fifth grade, both reading and math scores were lower for students who won vouchers. …

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A Federal Funding Fight Over D.C. Vouchers
Source: Hannah Hess, Roll Call, Hill Blotter blog, March 17, 2015

Republicans on Capitol Hill are trying to protect the D.C. school voucher system, a GOP pet program championed by Speaker John A. Boehner and others. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Republicans are gearing up to move forward on a bill reauthorizing vouchers in the nation’s capital, an initiative known as the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. They are concerned the White House has again signaled the demise of the federally funded private-school program in its fiscal 2016 budget request…. The president’s budget includes $43.2 million to remain available until expended, a reduction from $45 million in fiscal 2015. The administration wants $3.2 million of the proposed figure to be used for an evaluation of the program…..

Graduation rates up for D.C. public schools, down for charter schools
Source: Michael Alison Chandler, Washington Post, March 17, 2015

D.C. Public Schools’ graduation rate increased last school year by two percentage points, to 58 percent, but the city’s public charter schools recorded a drop of nearly seven points, to 69 percent, according to new data. The citywide average for the Class of 2014 — 61 percent — was almost unchanged from the year before, according to data from the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE). The city’s graduation rate remains far below the national average of 81 percent….

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AMR’s D.C. Crews Vote to Form Local Union

Source: EMS World, March 24, 2017

Nearly 200 EMS professionals at American Medical Response (AMR) have voted to form a local union with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) District Council 20.  The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) conducted the union election on Tuesday and Thursday. The NLRB counted ballots Thursday evening with more than 70% voting in favor of unionizing. EMTs and paramedics at AMR transport patients to and from facilities across the metro area and provide backup 9-1-1 medical response in coordination with the DC Fire Department. The private EMS provider signed a contract with the district in 2017. Workers formed a union to address ongoing issues that impact patient care, such as scheduling, fatigue, training, equipment and employee turnover. …

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D.C. private ambulance drivers consider unionizing
Source: Sam Ford, WJLA, March 21, 2017
 
In the year since the American Medical Response private ambulances came on, the number of horror stories around D.C. ambulance care have mostly gone away. But workers are voting Tuesday and Thursday on whether to have the AFSCME, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, union represent them. Since march of last year, AMR’s private ambulances take the low priority patients in D.C. freeing up the city’s ambulance for the more serious cases. But some of the EMTs and paramedics of AMR are saying they are pushing for a union, hoping for better equipment, better training and scheduling. … D.C. currently spends $12 million a year with AMR.

EMTs for DC contractor say personal vehicles being broken into while they respond to 911 calls
Source: Tisha Lewis, FOX5, February 9, 2017

[Ed. Note: AFSCME is currently organizing these workers]

Several first responders for a city medical transportation contractor said thieves are breaking into their cars while they are responding to emergency calls across the District.  Ambulances for American Medical Response are dispatched to several hospitals around Washington D.C. But their employees said a parking problem at work is making their cars targets to theft.  Paramedic Kyle Seymour said his employers refuses to move the ambulances in their parking lot to give workers a place to park in. …

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School vouchers are not a proven strategy for improving student achievement

Source: Martin Carnoy, Economic Policy Institute, February 28, 2017
 
Betsy DeVos, the new U.S. secretary of education, is a strong proponent of allowing public education dollars to go to private schools through vouchers, which enable parents to use public school money to enroll their children in private schools, including religious ones. … This report seeks to inform that debate by summarizing the evidence base on vouchers. Studies of voucher programs in several U.S. cities, the states of Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, and in Chile and India, find limited improvements at best in student achievement and school district performance from even large-scale programs. In the few cases in which test scores increased, other factors, namely increased public accountability, not private school competition, seem to be more likely drivers. And high rates of attrition from private schools among voucher users in several studies raises concerns. The second largest and longest-standing U.S. voucher program, in Milwaukee, offers no solid evidence of student gains in either private or public schools. In the only area in which there is evidence of small improvements in voucher schools—in high school graduation and college enrollment rates—there are no data to show whether the gains are the result of schools shedding lower-performing students or engaging in positive practices. Also, high school graduation rates have risen sharply in public schools across the board in the last 10 years, with those increases much larger than the small effect estimated on graduation rates from attending a voucher school.

… The lack of evidence that vouchers significantly improve student achievement (test scores), coupled with the evidence of a modest, at best, impact on educational attainment (graduation rates), suggests that an ideological preference for education markets over equity and public accountability is what is driving the push to expand voucher programs. Ideology is not a compelling enough reason to switch to vouchers, given the risks. These risks include increased school segregation; the loss of a common, secular educational experience; and the possibility that the flow of inexperienced young teachers filling the lower-paying jobs in private schools will dry up once the security and benefits offered to more experienced teachers in public schools disappear. The report suggests that giving every parent and student a great “choice” of educational offerings is better accomplished by supporting and strengthening neighborhood public schools with a menu of proven policies, from early childhood education to after-school and summer programs to improved teacher pre-service training to improved student health and nutrition programs. …

Read full report.

Teachers At A D.C. Charter School Want To Try Something New: Unionizing

Source: Martin Austermuhle, WAMU, February 22, 2017
 
Advocates for public charter schools often argue they’re a better alternative to traditional public schools because charters aren’t weighed down by a central administration, school boards and a unionized workforce. But teachers at one D.C. charter school are now looking to do something that’s commonplace among their colleagues in D.C. Public Schools: form a union.  Teachers at Paul Public Charter School in the Brightwood neighborhood of Northwest D.C. have submitted a petition to the school’s management asking that they be permitted to create a union, the District of Columbia Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff. It would be associated with the American Federation of Teachers, which represents teachers and staff at 229 charter schools in 15 states. If they succeed, it would become the first union in D.C.’s charter sector, which educates close to half of the city’s 90,000 students. Paul converted from a traditional public school to a charter school in 1999. … But any move towards unionization could face a number of challenges, both political and philosophical. Though charter schools are publicly funded, they are exempt from the D.C. law requiring the government to enter collective bargaining agreements with public employees. An organizing effort in 2012 by the Washington Teachers’ Union — which represents teachers in DCPS — fizzled due to legal and political obstacles. A decision last year from the National Labor Relations Board means the teachers’ attempt to unionize will come under the federal law that applies to private sector workers. That gives the school’s management two choices: willingly recognize the teachers’ request for a union, or call an election in which staff would have to vote on whether to unionize. …

Feds cite D.C. charters for high suspension rates, particularly for black students

Source: Joe Davidson, The Washington Post, February 14, 2017

A new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report says suspension and expulsion rates for charters in the capital city are double the national rate and disproportionately high for black students and those with disabilities. … When D.C. charter schools kick students out, they are not allowed to return, the GAO reported. They generally transfer to a traditional public school. … It’s no surprise that the greater suspension and expulsion rates for charter schools fall heavily on black students. From preschool discipline and throughout the criminal justice system, studies have shown that black people are treated more harshly than white people for similar conduct. The GAO “found that the rates of suspension for Black students in D.C. charter schools were about six times higher than the rates for White students and the rates for students with disabilities were almost double the rates for students without disabilities.” …

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Life Is Hell for Tenants of Giant D.C. Slumlord Sanford Capital-And Taxpayers are Subsidizing the Company

Source: Alexa Mills and Andrew Giambrone, Washington CityPaper, February 2, 2017

… Mold, vermin, broken refrigerators and toilets, children and elderly living without heat and air conditioning, units open to vagrants no matter how many times tenants complain—these are standard conditions at buildings owned by Sanford Capital, the company that owns G Street Apartments and at least 16 other D.C. properties, amounting to hundreds of units across the city. Sanford Capital has been buying apartment complexes that are home to the city’s working poor for more than a decade. In extensive reporting on the company’s practices, City Paper found that Sanford employs a systematic strategy for allowing buildings to become so squalid that residents are forced to leave. The company also files for evictions in bulk. In some cases, Sanford has rushed to replace the modest rents of the working poor with those of very low-income people who hold government-issued vouchers set at similar or higher rates—the District footing the bulk of the rent bill and ensuring a guaranteed stream of revenue for the company.

… According to D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA), Sanford has amassed nearly $150,000 worth of fines since 2009 across 26 addresses.
Many residents in Sanford’s properties receive housing vouchers or other forms of rent assistance that are bankrolled by taxpayers. … D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine filed a lawsuit against Sanford Capital in October, seeking a court-appointed receiver to oversee a rehabilitation plan for Terrace Manor, a Sanford property in Southeast. Racine is also asking the company to abate housing code violations and for restitution of rents tenants paid while Sanford was illegally neglecting apartments. … In other words, the city is simultaneously enriching and suing Sanford. … Estimating conservatively that vouchers average $1,000—some are more, some are less, and they depend on family income, among other factors—Sanford is being paid about $340,000 a month, or $3.7 million a year, by District and federal programs. … Advocates say Sanford accepts formerly homeless and low-income voucher tenants because the company is guaranteed to make money from them, at least for the duration of the benefits those tenants receive. The District’s rapid rehousing program, for example, helps people move into more stable environments than shelters, but the subsidy is time-limited so some landlords are reluctant to welcome participants. …