Pauline Spaulding was just warming up. She blasted D.C. Council member Willie Hardy (D-Steven) for leaving the hearing early. She attacked Metro spokesman Cody Pfanstiehl just because "I can't stand him," and she told Jeffrey Bruggeman, a transportation consultant, "I'm sick of damn consultants."
Then Spaudling of 4131 New Hampshire Ave. NW expalined the real reason she was at the hearing. "The Metro," she said, "can go to hell. But it is not going past my house." One proposed routing of the line to Greenblet would do just that.
Spaulding provided the best moment of theater in five nights of recent public hearings on Metro's future in the Washington metropolitan area. But most citizens and groups who testified spoke in facor of completing at least the leg of the metro system that would help them.
At the same time, members of a group calling itself Committee for Metro Accountability appeared at every hearing and attackedthe cost of building Metro and the projected operating deficit.
The cost has more than doubled to an estimated $5.5 billion, and the deficit is variously estimated for the combined bus-rail system at $90 million of $300 million annually, depending on the size of fares.
Committee members charged that Metro's projected total bus and rail ridership is unreasonably overestimated at 400 million riders a year in 1990. About 125 million people ride each year now - a decrease from 1950 as dramatic as would be the projected increase. In 1950, area bus companies carried 350 million passengers.
Committee members said the nature of the area has changed from that of a core city, when Metro was planned, to that of a far-flung suburb today, when Metro is being built, and that a fixed-rail system cannot efficiently serve such a far-flung community.
The hearings the last two weeks are part of the federally ordered process by which the area is reexamining Metro to determine how it should be built or how much can be built, given the money available.
Metro's present plan calls for a 100-mile system. Twenty-three miles are operating, and another 37 are under construction and funded. Four more miles are partly under construction and funded. The rest, about 35 miles, is in dispute.
A regional task force headed by Prince George's County Council member Francis Francois has completed an exhausting study of four of the five remaining legs and has proposed four alternative systems to the 100-mile system. Two of the alternatives would be about 80 miles long and would cut off the routes to Franconia from Alexandria and to Greenbelt from Columbia Heights. The other two would be, with minor variations, about the same length as the presently planned system.
Area political leaders will be meeting in coming weeks to decide which system to recommend to the federal government. Then they will try to decide how to pay for it.
Residents of southern Prince George's County said they wanted Metro. They debated whether it should terminate at Branch Avenue inside the Beltway or to the south and west at Rosecroft Raceway, but they did not debate whether they wanted it.
Residents of Arlington County and Falls Church were certain they did not want Metro just to stop in their neighborhoods. They wanted it extended, and quickly, into Fairfax County.
In Fairfax County, there was little debate about whether Metro was wanted. Again the question was where - Vienna, as present route maps show, or Tysons Corner, as is being studied. Those from the Franconia area of Fairfax said they wanted their line, too.
In Montgomery County, the Glenmont line is not officially under study, even though its future is far from assured. So a handful of county residents, accustomed to testifying in detail on everything, instead testified that they were unhappy that there was no study of the Glenmont line to testify about.
That leaves the Greenbelt Line, which is scheduled to run up 7th Street, U Street and 14th Street to about Park Road (Columbia Heights), then northeast into Prince George's County and ultimately to Greenbelt. There are two significant pockets of opposition to that line as well as enthusiastic support.
Spaulding's succinct remarks explain the problem in the District of Columbia. There have been several proposals for routing the line northeast of Columbia Heights, and all have encountered heavy citizen opposition.
There is little opposition, judging from comments at the hearings, for extending the line from Gallery Place to Columbia Heights, partly as a spur to economic development of an area hard hit by the 1968 riots. The shortest proposed system includes that extension.
Leroy Hubbard of the 14th Street Project Area Committee testified that "the Columbia Heights stop can be the difference between making Columbia Heights a first-class shopping area and a second-class area, where stores open and close every day."
David A. Clarke (D-One), the Columbia Heights City Council member, supported completion of the line all the way to Greenbelt. Truncation at Columbia Heights, he said, "would adversely impact a residential community."
In Prince George's County, political representatives from Hyattsville, Berwyn Heights, Greenbelt and Riverdale all said they wanted Metro. But a well-organized College Park group, headed by Mayor St. Clair Reeves, attacked the Greenbelt line specificallge and the cost of Metro in general.
John Mercer, who heads a Prince George's County group called Pro-Metro, testified that because funds are limited the Greenbelt line might be sacrificed in favor of the Glenmont Line in Montgomery County.
"I'm afraid," said Mercer, "that Montgomery County is going to get the tunnel and Prince George's County is going to get the shaft."
The Greenbelt debate, Francois said in an interview, "is the classic confrontation between the individual who wants to travel to auto and the one who is willing to use transit. But the auto user assumes everything will be the same - gasoline availability, parking in D.C., etc."
Ridership and area population projections are not the only issues, Francois said. "There are a tremendous number of uncertainties. "We will just have to make the best estimate we can, then decide. All decisions are made the same way," he said.