A detour that was imposed on a Metrobus route in Southeast Washington after weekend violence was lifted Tuesday. Instead, a police cruiser will be stationed near bus stops along the route, Metro’s top law-enforcement officer said.
Metro Transit Police Chief Ronald A. Pavlik Jr. said buses would resume regular travel along Elvans Road, reversing Metro’s decision Monday night to bypass the road for a week because of violence. Pavlik said that a Metro Transit Police cruiser would be stationed in the area nightly until further notice.
The goal, transit agency officials said, is to deter crime and assuage the fears of riders and bus operators after a passenger on a W8 bus was hit by gunfire.
About 10:30 p.m. Friday, someone fired at a Metrobus in the 2400 block of Elvans Road, wounding a rider. The victim fled the bus and was later found suffering from injuries that were not considered life-threatening, police said. Police do not think that the victim was the intended target.
Prompting additional concern, Metro officials said Tuesday, individuals were able to disable the bus connected with the shooting — something that has happened to other buses on several occasions in recent months. And on Saturday, someone threw rocks at another Metrobus, the type of attack that has previously heightened anxiety among drivers and passengers and led to conversations about potential service cuts.
“When you look at our bus crime and you map it out, you are seeing a lot of rock-throwing-type incidents in the Southeast neighborhood,” Pavlik said.
“We had this problem about two years ago, [and we] brought the community together. We brought all the stakeholders together, and the problem kind of went away, to be honest with you, and now it’s starting to come back up again,” he said.
Some had complained that the detour, like potential service cuts, disproportionately affected the city’s poorest residents, many of whom have no other transportation options. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) was not consulted about the detour plan, and Pavlik said that was because it was an emergency response. Metro officials said the police cruiser will be stationed along the affected bus route, which includes three stops near Stanton and Elvans roads, from 7 p.m. until the end of the night’s operations for the W6 and W8 buses.
Pavlik also sought to dispel rumors that a Metrobus had been hijacked. Earlier this week, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, which represents Metro train and bus operators and other employees, sent an e-mail and tweets with the subject line “Statement on Weekend Metro Bus Hijacking.”
Metro said there was no hijacking. But Pavlik said that late last month, at about 19th and Savannah streets SE, Metro Transit Police received a report of “young riders shutting our buses off.” In that instance, Pavlik said, a female bus operator was verbally threatened but drove her bus to the Anacostia Metro station without incident.
“Some of our young riders have found a way to disable our buses,” Pavlik said. Metro officials would not elaborate on the details of how or the motivation for doing so.
“It’s not like we can lock it,” Pavlik said. “It’s something we don’t like to talk about. It’s a security issue.”
The union contends that Metro isn’t doing enough to protect bus operators and passengers. Transit Police officers should be riding buses and patrolling bus stops, said Earl Beatty, a veteran bus operator who serves as business agent for ATU Local 689.
Beatty said that by his count, there are roughly 2,700 bus operators but only 20 transit officers assigned to Metrobus. Pavlik said that officers are deployed on Metrobus every day, in “plainclothes or uniform,” but that assigning one officer to patrol each bus would be difficult, given the required service hours.
“When we talk to our operators, you can tell in their voice that they’re afraid of going into some of these areas,” Beatty said. “We can’t keep the buses in there and put the operators in harm’s way. We can’t do it.”
A report by federal transportation officials earlier this summer found that Metro has not adequately addressed the rising number of assaults of bus operators by passengers and ordered the agency to take corrective action.
One of the issues with the Elvans Road route, Metro officials said, is that the road provides no outlet. “It’s a cul-de-sac,” said Metro Transit Police spokesman Richard Jordan. “People know that the bus has to turn, so it’s limiting in that regard.”