(through acquisition of Ryder Public Transportation Services)
|Headquarters||600 Vine Street, Ste. 1400
Cincinnati, OH 45202
|Service area||United States|
|Service type||fixed route, paratransit, shuttle bus, management|
First Transit is a United States based subsidiary of FirstGroup. It provides contract public transit and paratransit services, transit management services and transit consulting throughout North America. First Transit is a sister company to First Student, which provides school bus services in the same geographic market.
First Transit was created in 1999 when FirstGroup acquired Ryder Public Transportation Services Inc. from Ryder. In 2007 First Transit acquired Cognisa, a company specializing in shuttle services. In 2007 FirstGroup acquired Laidlaw, and merged Laidlaw's transit operations with First Transit.
As of 2007, First Transit operates in 235 locations in North America, including locations in 41 U.S. states, 5 Canadian provinces/territories and in Puerto Rico. A total of 15,500 employees operate 7,100 buses that cover over 260 million annual fleet miles.
First Transit generally contracts to provide specific services to public sector authorities or contracts to manage the whole transportation business of such authorities. Most transit vehicles operated by First Transit are owned by and carry the brands of the contracting authority. The corporate brand of FirstGroup is therefore much less visible in the US than it is in the UK, where most FirstGroup buses operate under the First brand and carry the distinctive corporate livery.
In 2009, drivers employed by First Transit to operate the University of Alabama’s CrimsonRide shuttle service voted unanimously to join the Amalgamated Transit Union. The drivers earned less than $10 per hour with no benefits, while similarly situated drivers at the University of Texas at Austin (also contracted to First Transit) could earn about $17 per hour if they stuck with the job long enough. After almost a year of negotiations, ATU members carried out a one-day strike on March 1, 2010 to improve their wages and working conditions. University students walked the picket line with the drivers and rallied support across campus with slogans like, “Students support the strike!” and “Walk or bike, respect the strike!”. Supportive students also distributed fliers to their peers. In response to the service disruption, the University of Alabama released a statement indicating that it would search for another transit provider if First Transit could not settle a contract with the drivers. The University also stated that its payment to First Transit was large enough to provide the drivers with an adequate wage. On 9 March, CrimsonRide drivers ratified their first contract, securing a $1.50 per hour wage increase. However, the drivers still lacked paid sick leave.
Employee credit checks
Members of the Amalgamated Transit Union filed a class action lawsuit against First Group subsidiaries First Student and First Transit for violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act in October 2009. The plaintiffs claim that employees were illegally fired after the companies hired a third party vendor to perform credit checks. According to the act, First had to notify employees of any potential adverse actions resulting from the credit check and allow employees an opportunity to dispute the accuracy of the results. The suit was filed in federal district court in Illinois.
Deborah Brooks death
In Houston, Texas on March 10, 2010, First Transit driver Deborah Brooks died after collapsing in a METRO vehicle. Co-workers claimed that the driver radioed the dispatcher several times, complaining of feeling ill, but the dispatcher told the driver to stay on the job. First Transit stated that there was no indication that the driver was seriously ill, while METRO originally stated that there was no evidence that the driver had contacted the dispatcher. METRO is investigating the incident.
- "Corporate history". First Transit. Archived from the original on 13 March 2008. Retrieved 2 April 2008.
- "University of Alabama Crimson Ride Drivers Strike". Business Wire. March 1, 2010.
- "Outpouring of support for Tuscaloosa Bus drivers, negotiations resume". Fight Back! News. Retrieved 15 March 2010.
- "University of Alabama bus drivers accept new contract". Tuscaloosa News. Retrieved 15 March 2010.
- "Questions surround transit driver's death". KTRK-TV. Retrieved March 26, 2010.