Metro to retain night service on bus routes in Southeast

December 3, 2012

Metro has withdrawn a plan to discontinue night bus service in parts of Southeast Washington where the transit agency says buses are routinely pelted with rocks.

The contentious proposal to cut service after 8 p.m. to neighborhoods served by the W6 and W8 routes was widely criticized by city officials, while Metro said the change was necessary to reduce attacks that have injured riders and drivers and damaged buses.

Metro’s decision was made public Monday just hours before a public meeting in Southeast where D.C. Council members and more than 100 others were told by police and transit officials that they plan to redeploy resources to address the attacks directed at buses and increase collaboration between the two agencies.

“We depend on our jurisdictional partners to assist us,” said Michael A. Taborn, chief of the Metro Transit Police. “Any Metrobus that operates in a jurisdiction is also the responsibility of that jurisdiction. We all have invested responsibility.”

City leaders, including Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D), had protested Metro’s plan to discontinue some night bus service in Southeast, saying the agency had not justified the change. With many Ward 8 residents needing public transit, any cuts in bus service should not be made lightly, they said.

Two bus routes in Anacostia have been targeted by youths throwing rocks and bricks. Metro wants to cut service after 8 p.m. in two areas off Stanton Road.

Council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), who represents the District on the Metro board of directors, had also said that cutting service for safety reasons was unacceptable.

Bowser convened Monday’s meeting, where D.C. police and Metro Transit Police officials were expected to discuss a plan to improve safety on the W6/W8 routes.

Jack Requa, Metro’s head of bus services, said the agency heard the concerns from District officials and decided to withdraw the plan after getting a commitment from D.C. police and Transit Police to provide enhanced service along the route.

“After we heard the input from the community and the police agencies, we believe it is worthwhile trying to keep the service here and try to all work together,” Requa said at the meeting. “We think we can get ridership back up, and things will be safer and things will be better all around.”

The areas off Stanton Road where Metro was proposing to stop night service are places where shootings and other violent crimes are common and include bus stops at Jasper Road, Robinson Place, Bruce Place and Elvans Road.

At the meeting Monday night at the Angels of Hope Ministries, residents and community leaders called on law enforcement to more actively investigate the attacks, which they say are also directed at cars. Some residents said they could not understand why Metro would propose to cut service when other parts of the city also have seen rock attacks.

“Is it because of the population here, is it because of the fact that we make less money over in this ward, is it because of the academic status of this particular ward?” said the Rev. Alfred L. Harrison, co-founder of the ministry.

In the past weeks, Transit Police and D.C. police have offered differing views on the extent of the rock-throwing problem. City officials said that few of the incidents have been reported to D.C. police and that detectives are not assigned to investigate them because they fall under Transit Police jurisdiction.

Metro’s police force, with a couple of dozen officers handling Metrobus crime, has not been able to stop the incidents.

Although rock-throwing incidents targeting buses have been a citywide problem for years, Metro says they are more common in areas of Southeast. The W6 and W8 routes, which begin at the Anacostia Metro station, are targeted several times a week, Metro said. Metro, however, would not provide data to substantiate that claim.

But a report that Metro provided to Bowser indicates the W6 and W8 routes are among the bus lines most affected by safety-related incidents that occurred this year across the Metrobus system.

More cases of vandalism have been reported on other bus lines, including the W2, W3 and W4, which also serve the Anacostia area, according to that report. And on the list are the Wisconsin Avenue/Pennsylvania Avenue bus lines, which cover some of the affluent sections of Northwest.

Resident Rufaro Jenkins said the neighborhoods need more community centers and after-school opportunities that she said are available to residents in other parts of the city.

“We are all citizens and we all pay taxes,” she said.

Luz Lazo writes about transportation and development. She has recently written about the challenges of bus commuting, Metro’s dark stations, and the impact of sequestration on air travel.
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