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 at a meeting of advisory neighborhood commission 6B 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 unanimously to ask Metro to delay implementation of the change until further studies are made and formal public hearings held.
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 city's department of transportation, said that the change of terminal for these routes was necessary to elminate curbside congestion and hazards to communters at Potomac Avenue.
Althouth the Potomac Avenue station was desgined to serve as a major bus-rail transfer point, according to Schneider, 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."
"D.C. residents are being asked to make to tremendous sacrifice for the convenience of Prince George's County residents," said John A. O'Brien of 419 7th 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 Geogre's County buses also carry D.C. residents 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 33 more buses per day would use the side streets adjacent to the station - 7th, 8th and D streets. Of the blocks affected only the 700 block of D Street contains residences. To accommodate 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 be required to lay over for short periods of time on D Street.
"We've put up with this malarkey for five years now," said Justin McCarthy, ans new lives at 703D St.
Schneider conceded that the traffic 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 and thus decreasing the number of lay overs on D Street.
Commissioners and memebers 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 for transferring from bus to subway on the grounds that the station was out of the way of Pennsylvania Avenue buses. Using it, therefore, would result in added trip time for passengers and that would cost the county about $200,000 more a year in Metro subsidies for the added mieage.
Mileage traveled is one of the factors considered when Metro bills area jurisdictions for the costs of operating the buses. Fares do not cover the total cost.
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 rider's options to transfer to other buses instead of to metrorial.
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 Metro station, they must cross 14th Street SE. turn left, then wait for a green light to cross Pennsylvania Avenue's six lanes of traffic and center median.
Then they must pick out their buses from as many as eight lined indiscriminately along a block of Pennslyvania Avenue.
With a share of the rail-to-bus transfer moved to the Eastern Market station, officials reasoned, they could provide better service at Potomac Avenue and permit evening loading on the north side of the street - almost in front of the Potomac Avenue station.
Prince George's officials have received many complaints 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 for 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 through routing to downtown Washington of all buses that originate in Prince George's County. If that happened, it would result in over crowding of D.C. buses, according to Rachal. Present plans call for 10 Prince George's buses to go downtown.
"It's not enough to just 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."
The ANC passed a resolution asking that the plan not be implemented until the department of transportation had 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 Eichorn asked Schneider. "Have you decided to delay?"
"At this point," replied Schneider.
"Does that mean you'll implement it next week?" asked Eichorn.
"I didn't say that," answered Schneider.
The plan was originally scheduled to take effect Oct. 17. Metro officials have indicated, however, that it would not take effect until three fare gates have been added at the Eastern Market metrorail station to accomodate the increased traffic.