Testimony of Director Jeff Marootian at the DC Circulator Operations and Maintenance Services Contract Public Roundtable
Good afternoon, Chairperson Cheh, and members and staff of the Committee. I am Jeff Marootian, Director of the District Department of Transportation, or DDOT. I am pleased to testify before you today on behalf of Mayor Bowser’s Administration regarding the DC Circulator bus service and the intent of DDOT and the DC Office of Contracting and Procurement (OCP) to award the new contract for operations and maintenance of our Circulator system. I am joined by William Sharp, the Chief Contracting Officer for Transportation and Infrastructure for OCP. I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank OCP for their tireless work on this procurement process over the past year. I also want to thank our Circulator team at DDOT for all of their work on this effort as well. The Circulator system began with the 2005 introduction of the Georgetown – Union Station and Convention Center – Southwest Waterfront routes. While the Circulator service has been a District funded program, to date the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) has been our partner in contract administration.
Now, after more than 10 years of providing affordable, comfortable, and efficient service to millions of riders every year, the Circulator system is now the fourth-largest bus system in the region and we continue to improve the customer experience every day. We appreciate the partnership and stewardship with WMATA to contract for the services that include the most recent launch of the National Mall route in June 2015. The current Circulator operations and maintenance contract managed by WMATA expires September 2018. In recognition of this, and mindful of WMATA’s continued focus on its core services, DDOT began to explore the potential for taking over management and oversight of the Circulator service. We recognized that with DDOT’s departmental realignment, approved by the Mayor and Council in 2016, that we were building the organizational structure and capacity to perform the function that WMATA had graciously done on our behalf.
DDOT and OCP worked together to develop a Request for Information released in July 2017, which was meant to not only signal to the transit delivery contracting community that there would be an upcoming opportunity. It also allowed us to gain intelligence on various matters that would help us construct a Request for Proposals (RFP) that would encourage the greatest competition and process to derive the best value for the District of Columbia as we embark on this endeavor. The five-year contract term was selected following the completed RFI based on market research on comparable models. Longer contract lengths encourage more robust competition from the private sector due to the certainty of holding an account and providing the ability to plan activities long-term. This also provides budget certainty for the District over the same period. Longer contract lengths also spread out the labor intensive work of conducting the contract solicitations, making the overall program delivery more efficient for the agency. The selected five-year contract term also allows for three option periods of five years each with the District having a unilateral right to exercise or to not exercise the option. In developing this Request for Proposals released in September 2017, DDOT and OCP took a performance-based approach to this contract. Our focus is on ensuring the best experience for customers and workers by providing financial incentives and disincentives for several different areas of service delivery. These include on-time performance, safety, reliability, and maintenance operations. For example, an on-time performance of less than 85% would result in the contractor receiving a reduction of $4000 per month. The proposed contract requires the contractor to abide by the Service Contract Act (SCA) and comply with US Department of Labor wage classification of occupation codes, job titles and wage rates. For illustrative purposes, the Bus Operator category has base salaries that are higher under the SCA provisions than the current contract or WMATA bus operators. We believe this approach, as well as providing for a sufficient base period to allow some stability in the system for the contractor and its personnel, created the robust competition that we saw in the proposals that were submitted for evaluation. If despite these requirements and performance measures, the contractor fails to deliver or make sufficient progress on performance, the District has the ability to terminate the contract for convenience or cause.
This approach also complements the recent investments the Bowser Administration has made in the circulator fleet with the purchase of 40 new buses, including the largest fleet of electric buses on the east coast. The majority of the fleet is also equipped with wireless internet and USB charging ports. The
evaluation criteria as set out in the RFP are past performance, key personnel, oral presentations, management approach and organization, technology and innovation, and price. Based on the evaluation criteria and after significant deliberation by technical and price evaluation teams, DDOT and OCP believe that we have arrived at the best value award for the District of Columbia with the selection of RATP Dev. Awarding this contract does not preclude other long-term decisions about Circulator operations and maintenance made by the Council and Mayor. In a year’s time, the Eno Center for Transportation will provide objective analysis that will inform these next steps, including the costs and benefits of potential scenarios in which Circulator services are municipalized in the future. This analysis will be based on quantitative research as well as robust stakeholder engagement including interviews and focus groups. If the Council and Mayor decide to municipalize the Circulator service, then the process of implementation would begin. Though not a deterrent, implementation would likely take several years to complete and would require significant resources and close coordination. DDOT is eager to participate in this conversation as we continue to improve oversight and management of the DC Circulator system with the proposed contract before you.
In closing, I appreciate the opportunity to testify before you today as we seek the Council’s approval of this contract prior to recess. It is critical that Council act in a timely matter to consider and approve this contract to allow for a seamless transition that provides continuity of Circulator services. I look forward to addressing the questions that we can answer for the Committee while following federal and District procurement law for active procurements. Lastly, I want to thank the Circulator operators for their commitment to safely providing first class service to our riders every day.