EVEN VETERAN bus riders may not realize that Metro, which runs the subways and buses, doesn't determine where the buses go or how often. That's up to the participating local governments_and therein lie some big fat complaints that the District of Columbia should address before too many more transit riders become disenchanted enough to find other ways of getting there and back.

The trouble in too many places inside the District is that bus service is poor to nonexistent; and soon the air will be much chillier at all those alleged bus stops -- and moods are sure to follow suit.

Why single out the citys there stranding room only inside the District line? Certainly not everything is perfect at transfer points and along the outlying routes in the two states, but service within the city seems far spottier and worse organized. As more and more subway service is added, the situation actually deteriorates in certain neighborhoods where commuters try to use subway-to-bus service in the evenings. The connections just aren't there.

A little contrast: take the Red Line of an evening and get off at the Silver Spring terminal. Down below and all around are Ride On buses, purring and waiting to take you in various directions. Now take the Red Line the other way and get off at Tenleytown. Try to get a bus to Connecticut and Nebraska after the evening rush hour. The bus is supposed to come every half-hour until a few minutes past 9 p.m.. At 8:40, there's one college student waiting at the bus stop; 50 minutes later, he's still there and so are eight other people, in a driving rain waiting for the last bus that doesn't come.

It isn't that much different at other subway-to-bus "connections" around the city. But it should be. Additional subway service should free some buses for other duty, including better weekend service for children and older people; and rescheduling should be done to improve transfer time -- and thus the whole trip home.

Transit riders have had it with statistics showing that no bus runs were missed, or that service is right on cue. Their measure is a blunt matter of convenience, and when there isn't enough -- and when some other option is available -- you can start saying goodbye to a lot of people who want transit to work for them but can't take it anymore.