Audit Finds ‘Disturbing’ Problems With DC Public Bus System

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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A third party audit of Washington, D.C.’s, public transit buses found “disturbing” safety issues so bad the report found 95 percent of the fleet should not be in service.

Consulting firm Transit Research Center’s audit revealed egregious defects putting riders and transit operators at risk, reports WTOP. The audit uncovered issues including severely cracked windshields, unreliable breaks and a broken exhaust leaking inside of the bus.

“The inspection also revealed an exceptionally high number of defects, a total of 924 or an average of twenty-two defects per bus,” stated the audit, released exclusively to WTOP. “Although the industry does not have universally accepted standards, this number of defects is considered excessive based on other maintenance evaluations.”

The laundry list of safety problems with DC Circulator buses ranges from broken seat belts and blinkers to oil in the bus air systems. Emergency doors in some cases were broken or would not open. Auditors also found exposed wires, fuel leaks, defunct horns, broken brake lights, unreliable steering and suspension and warn down break linings.

Auditors, who called the serious saftey threats “unacceptable,” place blame at the feet of D.C. Department of Transportation (DDOT) and Metro’s poor management of the city’s public transit. The Transit Resource Center charges officials failed to properly oversee the private contractor, First Transit, which operates the city’s bus system.

The audit comes as metro officials announce they may need to initiate big closures across the city to fix track problems. Federal inspectors are currently investigating metro safety issues, which is expected to last through April 13, reports WUSA9.

“DDOT is working hard to make sure WMATA improves maintenance standards and results at Circulator,” read a statement to WTOP from the department.

The federal report on the city’s metro services is expected arrive sometime in early summer. Metro’s General Manager Paul Wiedefeld is unveiling his proposal to fix the broken transit system sometime in April.

“Regarding whether buses maintained by First Transit for DDOT are safe, the findings speak for themselves,” read the audit. “Despite the lack of universally accepted definitions, it is clear from this maintenance assessment that the DDOT fleet is not being kept in a state of good repair.”

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