Silver Spring Transit Center as an example of the perils of privatization
There has been a lot written about the debacle of the Silver Spring Transit Center in Silver Spring, Maryland, so much that I am not going to discuss it in depth here.
The station is designed to be intermodal, and to provide a structure (but modeled more after a parking structure than a grand railroad station) to provide bus service connections to the adjacent subway station, along with improved rail, bus, and inter-city bus connections (Greyhound, etc.) with a connection to the Metropolitan Branch Trail-Capital Crescent Trail for walking and biking (but no allied bike station on-site).
Problems with the station's construction (detailed in this Post article "Silver Spring Transit Center's inspectors ran poor concrete tests, report says") ended up being the result of design failures that went undetected, improper construction, and failures in the inspection and certification process--at least four parties, Parsons Brinkerhoff, the architect for the project, Foulger-Pratt, the construction manager, the concrete provider, and Robert Balter Company, the inspection firm, are all likely to end up paying out big dollars for the failures, even if Foulger-Pratt is trying to declaim their responsibilities for the debacle ("Foulger-Pratt 'disturbed' by county behavior" and "Contractor on troubled transit center blames Montgomery County officials" from the Post).
While it's typical for local governments to contract out the design and construction of buildings and structures, this doesn't usually extend to the inspection of a building, although it's not out of the question, if the structure is not one that is typically constructed in a community.
For all the talk about the benefits of capitalism, be it market democracy, neoliberalism ("March of the neoiberals" from the Guardian), or "democratic capitalism" ("The Empirical Kids" from the New York Times) at the end of the day, it's a bad idea to expect the market and the service providers to be focused on representing the client's interest at the expense of their own interest.
This is a good example of why relying on "competition" and "the market" isn't always a good strategy (see "Montgomery approves $7.5 million more for transit center" from the Post).
And why giving contracts to local firms like Foulger-Pratt, who are unaccustomed to building transit facilities, might be a bad idea also.
The County is getting a lot of criticism for what happened, but at the same time, officials get lots of push in terms of market-based "solutions" and supporting local business.
Too often, public-private "partnerships" are not partnerships at all.