29 November 2012

WMATA changing more than just the "rock throwing" bus routes

Most DC news outlets have covered the story about WMATA cutting bus service to some streets east of the Anacostia River. The rationale for those cuts are incidences of rocks being thrown at buses. This news coverage has failed to point out that many other lines in the city are being adjusted or removed altogether. Two of those changes greatly affect my neighborhood, Trinidad. Very little time remains to let WMATA know what you think about these changes.

The biggest change is the proposed elimination of the D3 line. The D3 currently provides a direct connection from Ivy City, through Trinidad, to downtown, Dupont Circle, and Georgetown. It provides a convenient way to access Metrorail's Green and Yellow lines, by disembarking at 7th and E Streets NW.

Metro's rationale for eliminating the D3 is "duplication with other routes" and "low productivity." I cannot find anything quantifying "productivity" on WMATA's website, so I don't know how it is defined. Perhaps one thing causing "low productivity" would be a low farebox recovery rate on the line. I (and others) often note that the fareboxes on the buses are not working - it means a free ride, but that clearly hurts the system financially in the long run. Additionally, I'd guess those free rides aren't counted in the overall ridership totals for the line.

Other bus routes certainly ply the same streets, but nothing provides a direct connection from our neighborhood to the other side of the central business district in the morning. The D3 buses are usually crowded by the time I board at Montello Avenue and Neal Street. WMATA does not clearly state whether they will increase bus frequency on the other lines that run on Montello Avenue (D4 and D8) to make up for the lost capacity.

Speaking of the D4, it will be changing as well.

The D4 route, which currently runs between Ivy City and Franklin Square, will more than double in length when it's extended north from Ivy City to the Fort Totten Metro Station. It will be taking over the easternmost part of the E2, E3, and E4 lines, which currently run from from Friendship Heights through Fort Totten to Ivy City.

Longer routes can lead to more opportunities for buses to fall off schedule, as well as "bunching," which is when many buses on one route arrive at a stop at once. This can lead to very long waits between buses instead of the expected even spacing.

Metro originally announced a hearing for the changes happening in Northeast DC for October 30, but the impact of Hurricane Sandy meant that it was rescheduled to November 26, the Monday that just passed.

A heading says "Routes seeing improvements in this bus service change proposal" on the page with the public hearing schedule, but the list does not mention the elimination of the D3. Certainly, one could argue that the elimination of a route is not an improvement, so WMATA was under no obligation to list the removal of the route on that list. I would argue the total elimination of a route is something that should be prominently noted, regardless of whether this is an "improvement" or not.

An additional problem is that I have seen no signs at the bus stops along the route alerting people to these changes. Certainly people who ride the D3 would be interested to know their bus is going away, and wouldn't the best place to reach those people be on the bus itself?

There's still time to let WMATA know what you think (though not much time). Written testimony can be emailed or faxed to WMATA, but you must do so by Monday, November 5 December 3. From WMATA's website:
Written statements and exhibits may be sent to the Office of the Secretary, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, 600 Fifth Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20001, or e-mailed to writtentestimony@wmata.com. Statements also may be faxed to 202-962-1133. Please reference the hearing number. [Ed. Note: The hearing in NE DC was number 579, and the Docket number for all the proposed changes is B12-03.]
Submissions must be received by 5 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 5 [Ed. Note: From what I understand, the date for submissions was changed due to the hurricane as well, though this press release does not indicate that.]. Please note that any personal information such as name, e-mail address, address, or telephone number you provide in the statement may be releasable to the public under the WMATA Public Access to Records Policy, available at http://www.wmata.com/about_metro/public_rr.cfm.
Let WMATA know what you think about the changes to the D3, D4, or any other route that they plan to change in the new year.

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