A Bid for Better Bus Service

By Lena H. Sun
Friday, May 9, 2008

A Metro board committee gave preliminary approval yesterday to overhaul the transit agency's highest ridership and oldest bus line, the 30s line, the major east-west route in the District.

More than 20,000 passengers a day ride the line, which consists of routes 30, 32, 34, 35 and 36. To reduce crowding and keep more buses on schedule, Metro and District Transportation Department staff developed a plan to shorten some routes, eliminate others and add two rush-hour express services that officials say will reduce commute times for thousands of riders.

If in two weeks the full board approves the overhaul, as expected, the new service plan would take effect June 29.

Metro also is proposing to spend $3 million to keep buses on schedule and reduce crowding on 12 other heavily used lines, starting at the end of next month, as part of next year's budget.

In the District, the lines are H2-4, S1, W4 and X2. In Maryland, the lines are 84, C8, D12, D14 and W19. In Virginia, the lines are 2A-G, 28A, B, and 29K. The agency is also proposing to spend $2.3 million for 25 additional supervisors to be on the streets to respond to incidents and relieve "bus bunching," a common rider complaint, which occurs when several buses arrive at a stop in short succession.

Increased Police Presence

Metrobus operators on eight routes in the District are experiencing a high number of assaults from passengers, according to information released yesterday.

Transit Police Chief Michael Taborn said police will double the number of plainclothes officers assigned to buses to 32 from 16, and will deploy more officers to the routes and coordinate more closely with D.C. police.

The routes are X2, U8, W4, B2, 40, 42, P12 and 70. In 2006, there were 127 assaults on bus operators; in 2007, there were 86 assaults. There have been 18 assaults this year.

Officials said transit police will install more cameras at Metro parking lots and garages to combat thefts of automobiles, navigational devices and vehicle catalytic converters. Thirteen parking facilities have cameras and, using a grant from the Justice Department, Metro is installing cameras and video recorders at 19 additional lots as part of a study on crime reduction by the Urban Institute. Metro has parking facilities at 42 rail stations.

Transit police are also exploring the use of hand-held devices that officers could use to scan license plates to determine whether they match those of stolen vehicles.

Metro has 1,041 cameras in the 86-station rail system; 715 Metrobuses, or almost half the fleet, are equipped with five cameras each.

In November 2006, a camera was installed outside the U Street Station's west entrance, with identification-quality resolution up to 150 feet. Board member Jim Graham, who is also a D.C. Council member (D-Ward 1), is pushing to have more cameras installed outside stations in the District. He asked Taborn to determine how useful the U Street camera has been and provide a recommendation on which stations should have exterior cameras.

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