Cmdr. Robin Hoey, who heads the 7th District in Southeast, said he is aware of five incidents of objects striking buses along the W6 and W8 routes this year. Paul Quander, the deputy mayor for public safety, said the city is aware of four such incidents throughout Southeast Washington. And Metro says that the W6 and W8 routes are targeted multiple times a week, sometimes every day, although the agency has not provided data to substantiate that.
“There was no pattern, there was nothing that points to a particular neighborhood,” Quander said. He said police data show that rock-throwing incidents are more common elsewhere, such as the U Street corridor.
Metro spokesman Philip Stewart said he could not provide data because transit police do not have a “rock-throwing” category. Reports are filed under different crimes, including vandalism and assault, he said.
Some Metrobus drivers say the transit agency isn’t overstating the problem. Drivers said they fear for their safety and welcome Metro’s plan to keep them offof what they describe as some of the city’s most dangerous side streets.
“There is no exaggeration to the vandalism, and it is not just in the Southeast area. It is throughout the city,” said William H. Nowlin Jr., a bus driver and union representative in Southeast. “In the Southeast area, it seems to be more prevalent. We deal with something every night over here, so there’s never a dull moment here.”
The proposed service reductions to the W6 and W8 routes are among the agency’s proposed Metrobus service changes for next year. The plan, which goes before the board for approval next month, calls for discontinuing bus service after 8 p.m. on some side streets on the W6 and W8 routes.
The bus stops that would be affected are off Stanton Road, at Jasper Road, Robinson Place, Bruce Place and Elvans Road.
“This will pose a very, very serious safety issue,” said Ernest Lyles, senior pastor at Brighter Day Ministries, on 12th Place SE. “The distance from Stanton Road for some people may not appear to be long, but it can be very, very unsafe for someone to walk from there at night by themselves.”
D.C. Council member Vincent B. Orange (D-At Large) said that by cutting service the authorities would be capitulating to criminals. “It seems to me that you let the ones that are inflicting harm on the citizens win by saying that you want to cut service,” he said. “That is a cop-out.”
Metro’s head of bus services, Jack Requa, said affected stops have low ridership, especially after 8 p.m. Overall, the W6 and W8 routes have seen a decrease in ridership to about 2,170 weekday riders from nearly 3,000 in fiscal 2009, Metro statistics show.
Metro is holding public hearings this month to give residents an opportunity to give input on the proposed changes.