By Ovetta Wiggins
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
The Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center wants Metro to expand its bus service to National Harbor to accommodate employees who say they are having trouble getting home from work because of limited transportation.
There is one bus route that runs to National Harbor. It began March 23, days before Gaylord's opening.
"There is a need for additional support for transportation," Monroe Harrison, director of public affairs for the resort, told members of the Prince George's County Council during a briefing yesterday on the hotel's first two months of operation.
Susan Hubbard, a spokeswoman for the county Department of Public Works and Transportation, said a decision to expand hours would be made jointly by the county, Metro and the state Department of Transportation. Ultimately, she said, the state would be responsible for funding.
Hubbard said the county's five-year transit plan calls for an additional Metro route to National Harbor and two county bus routes in the Oxon Hill area. "They are all dependent on funding from the state," Hubbard said.
"This county is a viable tourist destination," said Sheldon Suga, general manager for the resort. "But it needs to have the funding from the state level."
The current limited-stop bus route, NH-1, runs from the Southern Avenue Metrorail station along Southern Avenue, Indian Head Highway (Route 210), Oxon Hill Road, the Oxon Hill park-and-ride lot and National Harbor roadways.
The state spent $312,000 for the bus line to National Harbor, according to Metro officials.
Harrison said there has been a daily average of 400 riders since Metro extended the line. He said buses, which were set up to accommodate National Harbor employees, run from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., but Gaylord would like the service expanded until midnight.
"The [employees] say, 'I can't get home' or 'It prohibits me from working the second shift,' " Suga said.
He said that some employees have to clock out early to catch the last bus and that others leave early to catch a ride with someone.
Gaylord officials also announced that more than 17 percent of its contractors are minority-owned businesses and that the resort exceeded its goal to hire 30 percent of its workforce from the county. Jesse Stuart Jr., Gaylord's vice president of human resources, said 43 percent of resort employees live in Prince George's.
The meeting with the council was the first for Gaylord officials since the resort opened.
"We had a little bit of a flurry of activity in the first few weeks that we'd like to put behind us," said Suga, referring to the public relations fiasco the company endured when some of the hotel's first guests contracted a virus and later others reported seeing mice in their rooms. "We learned a lot of lessons from all of that."