George Ruck is unemployed.
And for that he blames the Metro system.
Ruck, a volunteer fireman who lives in Prince George's County, says prospective employers will not hire him because they cannot depend on public transportation to get him to work.
So, Ruck was riding the T11 bus -- the only one that goes to the seat of county government in Upper Marlboro -- to voice his complaint at a public hearing on the future of the county's mass transit network.
"It's ridiculous. They (Metro) only have one bus to the most important place in the whole county," grumbled Ruck, gripping a two-way radio that would warn him of any fire alarms as he headed for Upper Marlboro where the machinery of government starts and stops.
Ruck waited his turn, said his piece, and went to the Rte. 202 bus stop to catch the 9:54 p.m. T11 home.
But that bus never came.
Of eight participating local governments, Prince George's County faces the most drastic reductions in Metrobus service, with plans on the drawing board to end weekend and night service after 8 p.m. while introducing a complicated scheduled of far increases.
"It wouldn't surprise me any if they charge more and give us fewer buses," said Joyce Young of Largo.
Young, a daily commuter to her job on Capitol Hill, complained about poor service, late buses and high fares.
If bus service after 8 p.m. were dropped in Prince George's, Young said she will be unable to work overtime. "How could I? I couldn't get home."
At the hearing in the Largo Senior High School auditorium, a crowd of public transportation patrons waited -- some to speak, many to listen and complain.
Some 50 people spoke against the plan to trim the number of bus trips and to increase fares.
Most, such as Dana Tierney of Hyattsville, testified that loss of jobs and income would result from reduced bus service and higher fares. "I resent the fact that i even have to take time to come here tonight to tell you that people will lose their jobs," said Tierney.
Under the current routing and rate system, Tierney said the four mass-transit-dependent members of her family pay a total of $118 a month in fares.
She said the proposed increases in base fares, transfers, parking and interregional travel would bring that monthly total to $180.
Among other changes, Metro wants to standardize all one-zone bus fares at 60 cents throughout the metropolitan area, raising the existing non-rush hour cost of a one-way trip in Maryland, now 45 cents, by 15 cents. The cost of crossing the D.c. line from Maryland would rise from 25 to 35 cents.
Three representatives of major shopping malls in the county -- Landover Mall, Prince George's Plaza and Iverson Mall -- presented petitions bearing the signatures of 8,000 people who opposed the county's proposal.
"Iverson Mall will take legal action on its own to avoid cutbacks," said the mall's general manager, Alan Waters. "Why do you insist on calling it public transportation if you do not serve the public?"
Other merchants have expressed fears that reduced bus service will bring a drop in retail sales and will mean a loss of experienced employes who depend on the buses to get to work. Metro spokesman Cody Pfanstiehl said the Metropolitan Washington Board of Trade called an emergency meeting to examine the proposed changes. "They are very worried," said Pfanstiehl.
Several local and state politicians were on hand to criticize the plan.
"i'm outraged at the idea of a reduction of service," said Prince George's County Council member William B. Amonett. "People have been getting rid of their cars," he said, adding that government leaders have urged citizens to use public transportation "and now we pull this on them."
The T-11 is one of 35 Prince George's bus routes, out of a total of 59 in the county, that are in danger of being cut. the proposed cuts are part of Metro's efforts to reduce costs and avoid a projected shortfall of $12 million this year, forecast because of rising fuel and repair bills and a scheduled pay raise for the system's union employes.
Overall, buses in Prince George's make 1,949 trips during the week, 1,049 on Saturday and another 410 on Sunday.
Ironically, The Prince George's transit deficit for fiscal 1981 is $2.4 million less than in fiscal 1980. despite the shrinking county deficit due to increases in state aid, county transit director Dee Allison said Prince George's is being squeezed by Metro's projected $12 million shortfall.
At the conclusion of the hearing, a reporter who was assigned to attend the meeting via the metro system, waited for the 10:42 p.m. bus, the last T11 back to the Stadium Armory stop.
It was right on time.
By midnight, I was back in the office after following a route recommended by the Prince George's County Transit office. It took 3 1/2 hours on the bus and subway to reach a three-hour hearing on a system called rapid transit.