A proposed new Metrobus route to provide rush-hour service between Friendship Heights and the Van Ness-UDC subway station on Connecticut Avenue has drawn protests from Northwest residents who do not want buses rumbling past their homes.
The proposed interim Route 39, which would be discontinued after the Metrorail Red Line station at Friendship Heights opens in December 1984, was debated at a standing-room-only public hearing Wednesday at the Chevy Chase Community Center, 5601 Connecticut Ave. NW.
Metro officials said the $175,000 cost of the new route would be offset by increased revenues and reductions of service on some underused lines.
The service was requested by residents and advisory neighborhood commissions of the upper Wisconsin Avenue area to facilitate commuters' access to Metrorail. There is no existing direct bus service to Metrorail for Friendship Heights-area riders.They must take two buses to reach the nearest Metrorail station at either Van Ness-UDC or Cleveland Park.
Residents of Albemarle Street NW said the bus route would hurt property values in their upper-middle-class neighborhood. The traffic would endanger children and worsen already strained parking facilities in their neighborhood, they argued.
"We have been abused for the convenience of others for too long," said one resident, identified as Mrs. Joseph L. Nellis. "We are not going to stand for what is, in effect, another assault on Albemarle Street."
"Although the interim buses are a good idea, it pales before the advent of the real thing, the opening of the Friendship Heights station," argued Michael Spevak, of an ad hoc group, D.C. Citizens for Tenleytown-Friendship Metro Now.
Although both sides agreed the best solution would be an earlier opening of the Friendship station, Metrorail official Millard C. Seay said the opening must await completion of parking, ridership and traffic-pattern studies.
Buses on the interim route proposed by Metro would run every 10 minutes during weekday rush hours. Starting at Wisconsin Circle, near Wisconsin and Military Road NW, southbound buses would travel along Wisconsin Avenue and then proceed east on a six-block portion of Albemarle Street to Connecticut Avenue.
Opponents of the proposal said they favor an alternate route offered by Metro: Southbound buses on Wisconsin Avenue would turn left at Tenley Circle and take Nebraska Avenue north to Connecticut Avenue, turn right and go south to the Van Ness-UDC Metrorail stop at Connecticut and Veazy Terrace NW, avoiding Albemarle.
Metrorail officials argued the alternate route would add three-fourths of a mile to the trip, reduce the frequency of runs and require more buses. They offered no figures to support their claim.
Many area residents also called for Metro to conduct an environmental impact study to determine if the proposed bus route increase the level of air and noise pollution.
But Richard Dawson, superintendent of route development, said no such survey is planned. "Only when a transit project is federally funded are we required to do that kind of study. It has never been done to help us decide local routing matters."
If accepted by the Metro board of directors, the new route could begin in early January. Service would be reduced on the 30, 32, 34, 36 and 37 bus lines that run between Friendship Heights and Tenley Circle and on the L2 and L4 buses that run along Connecticut Avenue.
In the meantime, community residents await the board's decision.
Marion Hornbeck, who lives on the alternate bus route at Nebraska Avenue and Fessenden Street, objects to the prospect of buses running past his house.
"The only way to get people from throwing rocks at each other is to open up the Metro station at Friendship Heights," he said. "In the meantime, I'm going to tiptoe down Albemarle Street."