Metro and the District of Columbia government have been unable to convince the residents of southeast Washington that their public transit service has improved when a trip costs them more and takes them longer.
That message was delivered clearly to both Metro and the D.C. government at public hearing at Ballou High School last week.
"I'm disgusted witht eh Metrobus system," Deborah Miller testified. 'It takes me an hour to get to downtown Washington and it used to take half an hour. I used to take one bus and now I have to take three buses . . ."
Miller was complaining about the cutback in bus service from Anacostia to the Farragut Square northwest arca. When Metro realigned its bus routes to make them feed the expanded subway system, virtually all through rush hour bus service from southeast Washington was terminated at L'Enfant Plaza, SW.
At that point, everybody was expected to transfer to the subway's new Blue Line for the rest of the trip. The problem is that it cost another 40 cents for what once had been a transfer-free one-fare trip.
Metro and the D.C. government responded by putting on a shuttle bus between L'Enfant Plaza and Farragut Square for the morning rush hour. That solved the extra fare problem, but it means a transfer and a transfer means time.
The purpose of the public hearing was to take testimony on whether the "experimental" shuttle bus, called the M7, should be made permanent.
"Apparently our former express bus service will not be restored," testified Alethea Campbell, a member of the Advisory Neightborhood Commission in Anacostia. It is essential that the M7 be retained . . . But the M7 is an inadequate pacifier . . ."
Suburban residents also have had to pay an extra fare to ride the subway, but the round-trip fare for most suburbanites works out to about the same fare as they paid earlier for a bus only round trip.
In the District of Columbia, the round-trip fare involving bus and train underwent an immediate 30-cent or 40-cent increase. In some cases - if a person must use a bus, then a train then a bus to complete a one-way trip - the round-trip far has increased by as much as 80 cents.
This does not sell well in southeast Washington. Metro officials and D.C. Transportation Director Douglas Senneider, who is also a member of the Metro Board and who attended the hearing, heard assertions that the bus cutback and fare policy is racist in nature and discriminates against a section of the region whose residents can least afford higher fares.
"Us black people were getting along fine with the bus," said Marcia Lee. "Some black people can't afford double fares . . . I don't think it's right."
Joseph Lomax, who described himself as "100 per cent public transportation dependent" complained about the bus cutback and then asked."Why aren't the people (on the Connecticut Avenue L buses) forced to transfer to train at Dupont Circle when those of us who live in Southeast have to change at L'Enfant Plaza?"
"You ask good questions," Schneider told him.
Metro and the local governments involved planned the bus cutbacks to reduce parallel service and save operating costs. In the District of Columbia about 50 per cent of the cost of public transportation is subsidized.
City Council member Wilhelmina Rolark (D-eight) told those at the hearing "We want more and better service and we to do something about it."