In an effort to cut the cost of running the Metro system, Prince George's Montgomery and District officials have prepared plans to eliminate dozens of bus routes, including hundreds of bus trips on Saturday and Sunday.
The most extensive cuts have been proposed by Prince George's County officials, who want to discontinue about 4 percent of the county's daily service and 16 Sunday bus routes -- leaving only three running -- for a production of well over 500 bus trips.
Officials said that the cuts were made in routes that had low ridership or duplicated other Metro service. But they acknowledged that the cuts would eliminate an essential form of transportation for many persons and that other riders would probably give up buses rather than find other routes. This would result in lost revenues for the system.
The proposed cuts were made by the three jurisdictions as they prepared Metro budgets for next year. Because Metro operates at a deficit, each of the local jurisdictions must pay an operating subsidy each year to support the system.
"We were under orders from the budget office to reduce our Metro subsidy by as much as possible," said Dee Allison, the Prince George's transit administrator. "There are people who are going to get hurt, but we really couldn't justify continuing to run those routes."
The cuts in bus service for all three jurisdictions, the first large-scale reduction to be proposed in over a year, are detailed in a report to be presented to the Metro board next week. A copy of the report was made available to The Washington Post. Public hearings will be held in April before any routes, are halted.
Metro officials estimate that the reductions would save the District $1.3 million in subsidies, Montgomery $100,000 and Prince George's $500,000. Virginia reductions are not included in the package because cuts were recently made in bus service there, Metro officials said.
District officials have proposed elimination of seven routes, shortening of some others and reduction in some Saturday and Sunday service. In most cases, remaining bus lines have been rerouted or altered to compensate, in part, for the missing lines.
"I feel comfortable about the changes," said Richard J. Dawson, a Metrobus operations specialist who helped develop the District plan. "I think on the whole we are going to help a lot of people, but some people are going to get hurt too."
District lines from Brightwood and Silver Spring to Buzzard Point, from Fort Totten and Brookland to the Kennedy Center, from Carter Barron to the Federal Triangle, from Union Station to Buzzard Point, from the Kennedy Center to Fort McNair and from Petworth and Takoma to the Federal Triangle would be haltered under the proposal.
In some cases, new routes have been created to compensate for the changes. Officials have suggested a new Route 61 from Fort Totten to Buzzard Point, for example, to compensate for the loss of other routes to Buzzard Point.
In many cases, however, riders will have to make additional transfers or find more roundabout routes. "We expect to have some revenue loss," said Dawson. "Anytime you eliminate a route and make people transfer, you lose riders."
Montgomery County's bus service changes would be relatively monor compared to the District and Prince George's under the plan. Four lateevening trips on the Randolph Road Line, Route C-4, would be cut, and the Montgomery Village-Montgomery College T-8 bus would be stopped and replaced with County Ride-On service.
Prince George's, which is faced this year with a voter-imposed limit on property tax revenues, made wide cuts in weekday and weekend service, and made no provisions for rerouting or scheduling to compensate for the cuts on weekdays or Sundays.
According to Allison, the only buses that would continue to run on Sundays would be routes through Holly-wood Park and College Park and the Dodge Park-Landover Mall-Capitol Plaza line.
The plan would cut two routes on Saturday, and would eliminate well over 100 bus trips on weekday and Saturday routes, most in the early morning or evening.
Most of the routes discontinued had an average of 10 riders or less, Allison said. "But that is 10 people who depend on the bus and are going to lose their transportation," she added.
The Prince George's cuts would also endanger District Sunday bus service on Pennsylvania Avenue between Branch Avenue and Fairfax Village and along Michigan Avenue between Brookland Station and Avondale. Metro officials have encouraged riders of District buses in these areas to turn up at public hearings and lobby for alternate service.
In addition to the bus service cuts, Prince George's has taken other measures to slice its Metro subsidy. It is now near $9 million -- a $1 million increase over last year -- but does not yet include the proposed bus service cuts.
County Executive Lawrence J. Hogan has told Metro managers that he will anticipate a $500,000 benefit from a proposed Metro fare increase that is still awaiting public hearings, and said he will not finance Sunday Metro service next year.