David Traynham, who lives in Arlington, says Metro improvements just may force him back into his car after more than five years of commuting on public transportation.
He estimates that his half-hour commute from Arlington to the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill will double after the opening of the first leg of Metrorail's Yellow Line subway, tentatively scheduled for the first week in April.
Metro plans to terminate Traynham's Route 16 bus line at the Pentagon in June. That would force him to catch a Yellow Line train, transfer to the Blue Line and walk four blocks to his office. Now he makes the trip in one bus ride.
Metro's plan is designed to save money by eliminating 15 "duplicate" bus routes and to force thousands of Northern Virginia commuters to use the new subway system.
"This may feed some people onto the rail system, but it's going to feed a lot of people off of public transportation altogether and into their cars. It's self-defeating in the long run," said Traynham, adding that he has collected over 600 signatures on a petition protesting the plan.
Traynham was one of about three dozen people who testified at a recent series of public hearings; all opposed it.
Fairfax McCandlish, public hearing assistant for the Metro board, said the public criticisms were "not unexpected. For those who can make a single vehicle trip, the current system is more convenient, there's no denying that."
"If there were sufficient resources around to run both systems, that would be fine, and we would throw this proposal out the window right away. But there is not. We're in a situation where we have to economize to the greatest extent possible," McCandlish said. "We're trying to deliver the best possible level of services to the largest number of people."
"It's unlikely that much of that existing bus service will be retained, although nothing is impossible," he said. "Anything that can be done within these constraints will be done."
McCandlish noted that the Metro staff has proposed a shuttle service from the Pentagon to 14th Street and Constitution Avenue, to the Memorial Bridge and back to the Pentagon.
"As a result of comments made at the hearings, consideration is being given to extending the area of coverage of the shuttle and to increasing its frequency," he said.
Metro staff plans to discuss the proposal and comments with Arlington, Alexandria and Fairfax County officials during the next few weeks, and the board is expected to make a final decision in about a month.
McCandlish said the two month "grace period" between the time the Yellow Line opens and the bus routes are changed will give commuters time to adjust so there "won't be a cold turkey transition."