I am a regular rider on North County Transit District (NCTD) buses and the Sprinter. Over the years, I've developed friendships with several of the bus drivers. Their union, which includes maintenance workers (about 80) and bus drivers (210) voted recently to determine if they wanted to be part of the negotiations to bring in a private company.
Cost overruns associated with Sprinter rail service, coupled with dwindling federal and state subsidies, are thought to be the driving force behind this move. Two private companies being considered are Veolia (headquartered in Illinois) and First Transit (based in Cincinnati, Ohio). The bus drivers think that Veolia is progressive and treats employees well; they’re not as positive about a possible takeover by First Transit.
The bus drivers say that privatization is pretty much guaranteed, and a June 2010 takeover date is projected. They speculate that privatization will bring major changes to the bus service and expect reduced hourly wages (perhaps as low as $13/hour).
The NCTD also plans to contract services to produce a comprehensive operational analysis. The study will include a market assessment, service assessment, and operations assessment and is anticipated to cost between $250,000 and $400,000.