Skip to main content

Whittier, California

Keywords: Transit, Failed Contract

Public Bus Service

Like most cities in California, the City of Whittier faced serious budget constraints in the early 1990s. In an effort to cut costs, the city decided to privatize its public bus service. Following a competitive bidding process that included three private firms, the city awarded a five year contract for the service to a local bus company about seven years ago.

At the end of the private contract, the city decided to bring the bus service back in-house. Poor service quality was the primary reason for the switch. The city received many complaints about dirty busses and underqualified drivers. The accident rate for the private service was significantly higher than when the city did the job, which meant that much of the cost savings from privatization were lost due to the sharp increase in liability claims. Equally important, the bus company cut corners on routine bus maintenance and safety checks, resulting in higher than expected costs for vehicle repairs.

The citys bus fleet is small, with about six buses providing the service.

Case based on interview with Thomas Mauk, City Manger, August 6, 1999.