Meeting to address rock-throwing attacks directed at buses in Southeast
By Luz Lazo,
The District’s representative on Metro’s Board of Directors will lead a public meeting Monday on a contentious proposal to cut back bus service in a Southeast Washington area where Metro says buses are routinely pelted with rocks and bricks.
Muriel Bowser, the city’s Ward 4 council member, said she is convening the meeting in Southeast to hear from riders who would be affected and from police commanders and transit officials.
The route change, one of many the transit agency has proposed for 2013, would end nighttime service on a stretch of the W6/W8 route, which begins at the Anacostia Metro station and covers several miles through Southeast.
Metro says attacks have sent drivers and riders to the hospital and caused costly bus damage.
But D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) and other officials have said service should not be cut and that D.C. police need to step up their efforts to halt the attacks.
“The last thing that we want to hear is that people think it’s unsafe to be on the bus,” Bowser said Monday night during one of Metro’s public hearingson the system’s proposed bus service changes for next year.
The stops that would be affected are off Stanton Road, at Jasper Road, Robinson Place, Bruce Place and Elvans Road.
The meeting will be at the nearby Angels of Hope Ministries, 2441 Elvans Rd. SE, and start at 6:30 p.m.
Council members will hear testimony from Metro Transit Police and the D.C. police, which have offered differing views on the extent of the problem.
City officials say that few of the incidents have been reported to D.C. police and that detectives are not assigned because the attacks fall under the jurisdiction of the transit police. But Metro’s police force, with a couple of dozen officers handling Metrobus crime, has not been able to stop the vandals.
Metro officials say the service changes, planned for areas with low ridership, would help keep buses on main roads and avoid side streets that have become trouble spots.
Bowser, however, said public-safety concerns should not determine service.
“To me, that’s not an acceptable reason,” she said.
At Monday’s public hearing in Northeast, nearly 50 residents came out to speak against service changes to routes in that quadrant. Only a union leader addressed the proposed W6/W8 changes.
“I notice when I go to the Nationals baseball game, you have 15 police officers standing at the Navy Yard station, but you would not put them over there in Southeast, where we need them,” said Gerry Garnett, assistant business agent of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, which represents more than 11,000 Metro employees.
Although some Southeast bus drivers have said they support the changes to the W6 and W8 bus line as a way to improve their safety, Garnett said the union’s position is to oppose any service cuts.
“What we would like is better protection over there for the people who ride the bus and for the operators that drive the bus,” Garnett said. “By cutting the service, all it does is disenfranchises people who might want to get the bus.”