The Ongoing Story Of The Growing "Partnership" Between The Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District And The Belgian Manufacturing Company
FROM THE PAGES OF THE BERKELEY DAILY PLANET NEWSPAPER
AC Transit Increases Number Of Controversial Buses To Be Purchased
Riders Knock New Van Hool Buses At MTC Meeting
AC Transit Approves Purchase Of Additional Van Hool Buses
AC Transit Purchase Of Van Hool Buses Still On Track
AC Transit To Trade 10 More Buses For Van Hools
Untangling The Van Hool-AC Transit-Bus Rapid Transit Connection
A TRANSIT PROBLEM IN THE MAKING, OR SIMPLY A DISTRICT'S FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE?
In February of 2007, based upon a citizen complaint, the Berkeley Daily Planet began covering the purchase of Van Hool buses by the Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District. Van Hool is one of several companies that the district has bought buses from in recent years.
There is nothing at all unusual about a bus company buying new buses to replace its fleet, even over the objections of some drivers and passengers who said there were problems with the Belgian-made Van Hools. Still, some things seemed strange about the AC Transit-Van Hool transactions.
The first oddity was that while AC Transit officials insisted that only a handful of drivers and passengers were complaining about the buses, and the buses actually had support from both groups as well as the greater community in Alameda and Contra Costa counties, the district admitted that it had not taken a formal survey of either drivers or passengers in the years since it first put the Van Hools on the street. The second oddity was that detailed financial figures showing the bottom line cost of some of the Van Hool transactions were missing from the public record, and a majority of AC Transit's elected directors seemed content to approve the purchases on the General Manager's oral assurances that the deals were penciling out to the benefit of the district.
Meanwhile, district actions during the first months of 2007 gave the appearance that AC Transit was rapidly moving from spreading its bus purchases around fairly evenly between several manufacturers to a situation where Van Hool would become the district's major supplier, and the AC Transit General Manager boasted about a district "partnership" with Van Hool.
Throughout 2007, the Daily Planet published several stories on the transactions, continuing as the debate reopened at the beginning of 2008 as the time for the delivery of the Van Hool prototypes neared, and attention turned to the connection between the Van Hools and AC Transit's proposed Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system. With the prototype for the new Van Hool buses not due to be delivered until March of 2008, and financial details of the deals still unreleased, the AC Transit-Van Hool story remains a continuing story, with no answer to the question: is this simply the transit district's failure to communicate, or is this a transit problem in the making? The full story has not yet been told.