On Thursday, March 14, we learned that Sound Transit has quietly been taking steps to contract out their bus service to a private, for-profit corporation. This is unacceptable for so many reasons. Privatization of public transit is a profit-grab that in other cities has led to eroding service and safety standards, not to mention that any “savings” usually come from turning middle class union bus driver positions into lower-wage jobs with worse benefits. Contracting out to a private company also undermines public oversight, transparency, and accountability. TRU and allies sounded the alert and hundreds of people emailed Sound Transit Boardmembers urging that they halt the privatization plans. Guess what? The board listened.
Sound Transit has agreed to “pause” the RFP (request for proposals) to allow for a thorough discussion among boardmembers and with King County Metro, which currently operates the Express service; labor partners like ATU 587, which represents Metro drivers and mechanics; transit rider organizations like TRU; and the public. We are hopeful this pause will allow for a productive dialogue and a better outcome. We believe that together we can tackle challenges like the need for additional bus base capacity, while keeping public transit public, maintaining transparency and accountability, and without eroding service and labor standards.
We will stay vigilant and keep you informed as this conversation continues. The next public discussion will be at the Sound Transit Board’s Operations Committee meeting on April 4, 1-3pm at Union Station. Again, THANK YOU to everyone who took action. When we organize, we win!