The Downtown Circulator bus drives by Union Station on Friday, July 7, 2006, in Washington. (AP Photo/Leslie E. Kossoff)
New concerns have rocked D.C.’s Department of Transportation over the safety of its Circulator Bus fleet alongside an already troubled Metrorail subway system. According to a new report, 95 percent of D.C. Circulator buses have at least one major safety issue that would ordinarily sideline the vehicle. The Transit Resource Center, an independent transit consulting firm, found an “unacceptable” number of the most serious safety defects in the Circulator fleet, which included issues with safety equipment, engine compartments, driver controls, suspension or steering, brakes, and loose doors.
The news comes after the recent shutdown of the D.C. Metro system, which suspended service on March 16. According to news reports, parts of the Metro may have to be shutdown for months at a time for needed maintenance.
“The Circulator had been a dream ride from out of Anacostia and over to Eastern Market or to my job at Union Station, but doors would sometimes get stuck open or open without warning, and riders got to expect some delays due to doors,” Ward 8 resident Socorrey Gatewood told the AFRO. “It was still better than hopping from bus to train and walking, so I made allowances. I had no idea there were other serious issues.”
Some of those issues, such as an exhaust leak into a bus, loose lug nuts, and brake problems, according to the report, posed critical dangers to drivers, riders, and other vehicles on the road. “The inspection also revealed an exceptionally high number of defects, a total of 924 or an average of 22 defects per bus. Although the industry does not have universally accepted standards, this number of defects is considered excessive based on other maintenance evaluations,” the auditor revealed in their announcement.
DDOT Director Leif A. Dormsjo said, in a statement, that it “is actively monitoring the performance of WMATA. 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,” Dormsjo said. “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 scheduled in May 2016.