A Metro plan to have 77 Prince George's County buses per day begin or end their trips at the Eastern Market metrorail station drew angry opposition from Capitol Hill residents at a meeting of the neighborhood's advisory commission last week.
After hearing an explanation of the plan from D.C. department of transportation officials and unfavorable reactions to it by Capitol Hill residents, the ANC voted unanimoulsly to ask Metro to delay implementation of the change until further studies are made and formal public hearings held.
However it was unclear if the plan originally proposd to take effect Oct. 17, would be indefinitely delayed. The Metro board has already approved the plan, but officials have indicated that it will not take effect until three free gates have been added at the Eastern Market station to accomodate increased traffic.
The routes affected by the plan - H-11, H-12, H-14, K-12 and K-19 - now begin and end at the Potomac Avenue metro station, about seven blocks east of the Eastern Market station. Douglas N. Schneider Jr., director of the D.C. Department of Transportation, said that the change was necessary to eliminate curbside congestion and hazards to pedestrians.
Although the Potomac Avenue station was designed to serve as a major eastbound transfer point, according to Scneider, eastbound buses using the station's bus bays would have had to circle through a residential area. To avoid that, Schneider told the meeting, eastbound Prince George's County buses now load passengers on the south side of Pennsylvania Avenue.
"In the evening people have to cross six lanes of traffic" to get from the rail station to the bus stop, said Schneider. This "large volume of pedestrian movement," he said, is both hazardous and "inappropriate in bad weather."
Commissioners and members of the audience repeatedly asked Schneider and his assistants why the transfer activity couldn't take place at the Stadium-Armory station, the present terminus of the Blue Line.
Schneider replied that Prince George's officials had opposed using Stadium-Armory on the grounds that it would result in added trip time for passengers and that it would cost the county about $200,000 more a year in Metro subsidies for the added mileage. Because of these objections from Prince George's officials, said Schneider, it was not politically feasible to use the Stadium-Armory station as the main bus-rail transfer point. He added -that using the Stadium-Armory station would also limit the riders' options to transfer to other buses instead of to metrorail.
Some people attending the meeting claimed that time and mileage would actually be saved by using the Stadium-Armory station.
"They wouldn't have to go down Pennsylvania Avenue with all those traffic lights," said ANC chairman Gooch.
The present situation at Potomac Avenue, particularly during the evening rush hour, is one of chaos for Prince George's commuters. After leaving the Potomac Avenue station, they must cross 14th Street SE, turn left, then wait for a green light to cross to Pennsylvania Avenue's six lanes of traffic and center median.
Then they must pick out their buaes from as many as eight lined indiscriminately along a block of Pennsylvania Avenue station.
Prince George's officials have received many complains from their citizens on the inadequacy of the present transfer arrangements. "We must change it," Prince George's County Councilman Francis White told a recent Metro board meeting. White is chairman of the Metro board this year.
Tony Rachal, assistant director mass transportation at the D.C. department of transportation, said the switch to the Eastern Market station was a compromise. The compromise was negotiated, he said, in the face of a threat by Prince George's officials to discontinue running all buses into downtown D.C. If that happened, it would result in overcrowding of D.C. buses, according to Rachal. Present plans call for 10 Prince George's buses to go downtown.
"It's not enough just to say that Prince George's County won't stand for it," said Gooch. "We want you to understand that we won't stand for it."
"D.C. residents are being asked to make a tremendous sacrifice for the convenience of Prince George's County residents," said John A. O'Brien of 4197th St. SE.
ANC Chairman Ray Gooch questioned whether the switch was warranted "just so people don't have to cross the street. Half of Capitol Hill lives across the street from the Eastern Market station," said Gooch.
Schneider pointed out that all but 12 of the Prince George's County buses also carry D.C. passengers from east of the Anacostia River. He said that the proposed change would result in only one more bus trip per day serving the Eastern Market station.
Figures furnished by the department of transportation, however, indicate that 362 more buses per day would use the side streets adjacent to the station - 7th Street, 8th Street and D Street. Of the blocks affected, only the 700 block of D Street contains residences. To accomodate the buses, D Street, which is now one-way eastbound at that point, would be changed to one-way westbound. Fifty-three buses per day would would required to layover for short periods of time on D Street.
"We've put up with this malarkey for five years now," said Justin McCarthy, who was born 75 years ago at 707 D St. and now lies at 703 D St.
"Residents here in D.C. may as well go out to Prince George's County," said McCarthy, complaining about the increased bus traffic that would pass his house.
Schneider conceded that the traffic on D Street would be greatly increased and indicated that it might be possible to alleviate this situation by changing the route of the A-8 buses.
The ANC passed a resolution asking that the plan not be implemented until the department of transportation made studies comparing mileage, time and costs if the Stadium-Armory station were used, and until public hearings were held. When the resolution passed, commissioner Jan Eichron asked Schneider: "Have you decided to delay?"
"At this point, no," replied Schneider.
"Does that mean you'll implement it next week?" asked Eichorn.
"I didn't say that," answered Schneider.
"The board of directors of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority has already approved the plan, citing public hearings held during October and November, 1976. Metro did not hold public hearings on changing Eastern Market to a major transfer point.
Bill Sanders, who represented Ward 6 City Council member Nadine Winter at the meeting, said that Winter might hold hearings on the subject "if problems are not resolved amicably between the department of transportation and Maryland and District residents.