Don’t Stop Now


The people sitting at a bus stop are generally all headed in the same direction. That wasn’t the case with the handful of people sitting at the bus stop consolidation meeting WMATA held at Matthews Memorial Baptist Church in Anacostia on Tuesday.

It was the first of three gatherings organized to discuss which stops should get nixed to boost efficiency and on-time performance. (There was another one Thursday night, and the final meeting is scheduled for next week.)

Mark Browning, facilities planner in the office of bus planning, was ready with his spiel. Basically, the board has decreed that there should be an average of four or five stops per mile.

“Currently, on some routes, there are 11 stops per mile. That’s not practical,” he explained.

Every calendar quarter, four routes will be selected to get trimmed, and for this round, the lucky winners are the 70/74 and the 90s buses — along with two Arlington routes not mentioned at the meeting.

To avoid the blowback WMATA suffered last year when several stops were removed without neighborhood input, employees are asking people which ones they’d like to see cut or preserved. After reviewing what folks say, there will be another round of meetings (probably in June) to talk about what’s on the chopping block.

“This is not the end of the process,” Browning said. “This is the beginning.”

Instead of sharing their opinions on stops, however, the most vocal attendees used the opportunity to pile on complaints.

They were valid concerns — one woman said her son regularly has to wait twice as long for a ride because the first bus to arrive is too full to take on more passengers — but when Browning noted that this wasn’t the point of the meeting, the discussion began to feel a lot like an argument. There were accusations of “smoke screens” and lies.

In theory, I’d feel bad for WMATA. But it’s easy to see why people are suspicious. This meeting was announced just a few days in advance; there were no signs outside alerting passersby that the meeting was taking place, and to top it off, the church was LOCKED when I arrived.

I walked over from the Metro with 48-year-old Debbie Brown, a blind Rockville resident who wanted to make sure disability issues were considered in the planning process. I’m not sure she would have been able to get into the building if I hadn’t been there to flag down someone to let us in.

If WMATA truly wants to hear from the public, it has to pull out all the stops.

Vicky Hallett is a MisFits columnist and the Fit editor for Express.
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The Manolo · May 11, 2012