DDOT Issues Request for Information (RFI) for 22-Mile Priority Streetcar System

Photo by PoPville flickr user Mr. T in DC

From DDOT:

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) is exploring the potential of privatizing the District’s non-regional bus service and a 22-mile priority streetcar system as a means to accelerate delivery. As part of this process DDOT is asking for the private sector’s perspective and feedback in a Request for Information (RFI) issued this week. The RFI is an inquiry only, not a procurement, but the responses will help the District advance planning and development efforts for the project, which may result in the launch of a formal procurement.

The scope of the proposed project includes a combination of the following activities to support transit service within the District:

· Design, construction, financing, and on‐going operations and maintenance of a 22‐mile minimum priority streetcar network;

· Operations and maintenance of the DC Circulator bus system;

· Operations and maintenance of “non‐regional” bus service within the District currently operated by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (“WMATA”) ; and

· Purchase of vehicles as necessary to operate the above services.

The District anticipates a public-private partnership (PPP) could accelerate the delivery of the DC Streetcar system. Other potential benefits include allowing appropriate risk sharing; maximizing competition and leveraging available public funds; providing greater cost and schedule certainty for the District over the long‐term; and allowing for a more favorable payment profile for the District.

17 Comment

  • Didn’t we already do this? Where’s O. Roy Chalk when ya need ‘im?

  • Hmm. The Circulator system seems to be working pretty well under DDOT control. As far as the Circulator goes, I’d hate to see a good thing messed up.

    Bus service by WMATA is pretty crummy in comparison to the Circulator. I’d rather see Metrobus operated by DDOT, but I guess that’s not an option here.

  • So if this went through, all buses within DC would no longer be run by WMATA?! Is DC in a position to do that? Could it decide WMATA could no longer run the metro trains as well? Or is there some other ‘non-regional bus service’ that this is referring to?
    Having a private operator run the streetcar system (should one be so inclined) seems like a good idea to me, but privatizing everything listed above seems like it would be a huge move.

    • If I understand this correctly, they are talking about the Circulator only, in other words, they’re saying bus lines that run only within the borders of DC, not all bus lines that run in DC at any point. Since DC is only one of three members of WMATA, it cannot do anything unilaterally. It (DDOT) could conceivably ask WMATA to discontinue lines that run only within the borders of DC and run new Circulator type routes on those same or very similar routings, but DDOT or the potential private operator would have to supply the buses and operators. In any case, the vast majority of bus lines in the District would remain Metro operated, and Metrorail would not be affected in any way.

  • I love how even when DDOT wants to privatize something, it’s doing it w/ the understanding that *DDOT will still be in charge* — so it’s “privatized” as long as the private sector absolutely finishes it, regardless of feasibility/profits.

    DDOT wants to “privatize” the streetcar like the IMF wants to “help” Argentina.

    • I take it you know nothing about the P3 transportation infrastructure market? DDOT isn’t reinventing the wheel here.

  • springroadintoaction

    Ah, yes, Britain privatized their transit systems to save money and increase efficiency, and now the fares are twice as high, it requires twice the state subsidies, and the service is half as good.

    So, it’s clearly a really good idea.

    • Don’t you know that the private sector always does things better and more efficiently? This is a universal truth not to be questioned. What do you have against freedom??


    • If given a measurable set of performance and operation standards (i.e. safety record, fare increases, etc clearly defined) ALONG with incentives for exceeding the standards, why would this not be a good idea for DC. Take a look around at all the efficiency that DC and Federal government has created and its no wonder why folks are willing to do anything but the status quo.

      • The idea that the private sector can always do things more efficiently than the government is badly flawed.

        Considering transportation infrastructure is incredible expensive and the market price customers are willing to pay is comparatively very low – I dont see how its ever going to be revenue neutral or profitable. Unless of course, the entity that is trying to make it revenue neutral has other sources of revenue that are related to the infrastructure but not ticket sales. i.e. taxing authority.

        Since private companies dont have taxing authority, I dont see how it can really work. Its an invitation for failure by neglect, by bankruptcy via making the price to ride too high, or by insolvency by not making enough money to pay the costs.

      • Didn’t Lehman Brothers, Arthur Anderson, Worldcomm, and ENRON have measurable performance standards and incentives?

        • I can name companies too. Apple, Microsoft, Boeing, GE…

          • You mean Apple with human rights abuses in China, GE who pays zero taxes in Wisconsin, Boeing who union busts any chance they get, and Microsoft the once and future king of anti-trust violations?

            Privitization almost always results in people losing their jobs, and crappier service for more pay, all in the name of “efficiency”. And half the time it’s a give-away to campaign contributors.

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