The Metro transit authority has officially proposed abandoning the only direct bus service between north Arlington and downtown Washington, in an attempt to save an estimated $262,000 a year for District of Columbia taxpayers.

Under the proposal, the No. 38 bus line -- which now goes from the Ballston subway station in Arlington via Key Bridge to Union Station in Washington -- would no longer run east of Wisconsin Avenue and M Street in Georgetown.

Passengers who now ride the line would be required to get off in Georgetown and transfer to another bus going downtown via Pennsylvania Avenue. It would not be possible to transfer in Georgetown to a bus that runs along K Street, as the No. 38 now does, and no replacement service along K Street is planned.

Passengers who now ride Lee Highway or Arlington Boulevard lines to Rosslyn and transfer to the No. 38 to get to downtown Washington along the K Street corridor would have to transfer twice -- once in Rosslyn and again in Georgetown.

The cutback is part of a package of proposed changes recommended to Metro by the D.C. government. The package affects about a dozen bus lines, and District and Metro officials say it could save the city $800,000 a year in subsidies -- including the District's $262,000 share of running the No. 38 line.

Metro announced the proposls in a press release that stressed the financial benefits to the District and ignored the impact the curtailment could have on Arlington riders.

A public hearing on all the proposed changes will be held at 7:30 p.m. next Wednesday at Metro headquarters, 600 Fifth St. NW.No hearing will be held in Virginia. The Metro board will make a decision later.

The only other proposed change affecting Virginia bus schedules would be abandoning the S7 line between the Carter Barron fringe parking lot in Washington and Crytstal City in Arlington.

The No. 38 line was established along its present route early this year after the Orange Line on the subway was opened in Arlington.

When the subway is not running, the No. 38 is the only transit connection between north Arlington and Washington.

Anthony Rachal, assistant director of the D.C. Transportation Department, said his agency proposed the cutbacks in the No. 38 line because Virginians get most of the benefit from the line while the District pays heavily in subsidies.

He said Virginia's Metro directors have refused to agree to extend subway operating hours, which would reduce inconvenience from curtailing the bus service.

"Continuing to run competing bus and rail service is self-defeating to a lot of city (transportation) objectives," Rachal said.

Under the proposal, the No. 38 would continue to enter Washington via the Key Bridge. At Wisconsin Avenue and M Street, it would turn north and terminate in the Glover Park neighborhood north of Calvert Street.