The North County Transit District has announced a new firm, MV Transportation, will operate and maintain its regular bus routes, paratransit, and special transportation services. The contract includes the hiring, training, and employment of bus drivers.
This may come as good news to many North County bus riders and the 300 drivers for the district’s Breeze, Lift, and Flex buses, who’ve become weary of the current operational firm, First Transit. It was in 2010 that the transit district first privatized its buses and drivers by awarding an operational contract to First Transit.
Following the privatization, bus riders and drivers claimed new hires would not be trained properly, fares would go up, and the for-profit company would lower drivers’ wages.
While fares remained fairly constant and First Transit hired most of the former district drivers, they have been criticized for major incidents relating to safety, training, and hiring policies.
In 2013, on Camp Pendleton, three cyclists were hit; one died because the bus driver reportedly got too close to the cyclists and didn’t slow down when passing. In 2010, a Route 309 bus driver was arrested for DUI at the corner of El Camino Real and Encinitas Boulevard.
In April of last year, the threat of a bus-drivers' strike against First Transit’s wage proposal left a bad taste in the mouths of some local officials who oversee the district. (Each city served by the transportation district has one councilperson representative on its board.)
Some riders felt the wage dispute should have been handled privately between First Transit and the bus drivers rather than instilling worry among riders over the thought of losing their bus service.
On February 3, a day after the new contract announcement, a driver at the Encinitas bus-transfer station said he was confident all the current First Transit drivers would be rehired by the new firm and all seniority would stay in place.
“Rumor is that we’re supposed to make more money,” said the driver. “Of course, that’s just a rumor.”