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Concern about Metrobus Changes

I'm hearing from some Metrobus riders who didn't realize that their last commuter trips on those lines will occur Friday. Metro is making many changes in routes throughout the region, effective on Sunday.

These are the changes that Lena Sun, The Post reporter who covers Metro, wrote about in February. This was the first paragraph of Lena's story:

"Metro officials proposed a major overhaul of the region's bus system yesterday, scrapping service on routes with few riders, reducing crowding on heavily traveled routes and skipping some stops to speed trips along certain congested corridors."

Metro has a list of the affected lines on its Web site, along with a copy of the brochure that outlines the specific changes on each route. Some are gaining service while others are either losing service or being discontinued altogether.

The riders I've heard from are upset not only about losing their routes but about not realizing this was happening. Metro did hold hearings on this before making its decisions, and the notice has been up on the Web site for a couple of weeks. But the riders, who aren't required to check Metro's Web site or even to read The Washington Post, say there were no signs on the buses or at the stations and shelters and they didn't hear any announcements. They say that when they heard rumors about the cancellations and asked the drivers, even the drivers weren't sure.

Metro is pursing a theory that many of us can support: Put the buses where the riders are. But for those of us who are transit advocates, this is a bad scene: I'm talking about people who love their bus routes to work and don't want to give them up without a fight.

I talked with Patricia Leslie, who commutes from Tysons to L'Enfant Plaza for her job at the Department of Education. She takes the 5B for the entire trip and loves it. She says it's a swell bus, with good seating, and it stops only in Rosslyn along the way. Takes a half hour. She counted 16 passengers on a recent trip.

Last week, a fellow rider heard it would be discontinued, but the drivers said they didn't know. She found it on Metro's Web site. She says she'd be willing to pay double the $1.25 fare to keep it going. Probably what she'll have to do next week is take the bus to West Falls Church Station and take a train to L'Enfant Plaza. The trip will cost her a couple of dollars more each way, but she says it's not the economics. It's the convenience and comfort. She really doesn't want to join the Orange Crush at West Falls Church.

By Robert Thomson  |  September 20, 2006; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Metro  
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I'm also a regular 5B rider and I'm really frustrated about both the fact that Metro is discontinuing the bus and STILL has not notified the passengers via signs at the station or on the bus. Also, WMATA's trip planner continues to suggest the 5B as an option even for dates after it's supposed to be cancelled. I e-mailed Metro with my concerns but as is typical, received no response.

Posted by: McLean | September 20, 2006 7:54 AM | Report abuse

WMATA really puts its foot in its mouth with its bad PR. From reading the brochure, though, it sounds like service on routes that just don't get many passengers is going to help in efficiency.

What the system really needs is a complete rethinking of how the bus system works. Metro should scrap the current system anbd start over based on new commuting patterns, not the private bus schedules of the 1950's.

Posted by: TMD | September 20, 2006 8:09 AM | Report abuse

All the other times there have been route changes, Metrobus has put notices in the busses, usually more than a month in advance. I doubt these riders are telling the truth, or know what they are talking about.

Posted by: bkp | September 20, 2006 9:15 AM | Report abuse

I think Metro should have done a better job here - how hard could it have been to post actual signs on the buses and various stops? But honestly, I can't have too much sympathy for the reader who is going to bemoan the loss of her of seat space on the 5B.

I'd be interested to know the *time* she rode, because 16 people on an entire Metrobus makes me want to weep with envy and frustration. Because unless this was *very* early in the morning, I can understand why Metro is discontinuing the line.

I, too, loved the bus at one time - when I lived in the Merrfield area and worked in Arlington. Cheaper than the Metro and I was within walking distance of two different Metro lines, and 1 Fairfax Connector line. But only when I took the bus during lunch-time, extremely late or extremely early, did I ever enter a bus with less than 20 people on it.

Does anyone enjoy the crush? No one I know, and I certainly never enjoyed it. But you're living in NoVa and commuting into DC using public transportation. Time to join the rest of the teeming masses.

Posted by: Chasmosaur | September 20, 2006 9:30 AM | Report abuse

Since you aren't riding the buses, how do you know? If multiple people are saying it, I'm guessing they are true.

Posted by: To bkp | September 20, 2006 9:56 AM | Report abuse

I hope WMATA eliminates more bus stops along their suburban routes. On Lee Highway, there is a bus stop every 2-3 blocks, which is overkill considering people will half a mile to a metro station.

Posted by: Arrrlington | September 20, 2006 10:28 AM | Report abuse

You're right that 16 riders is inadequate for a standard MetroBus route. Those of us who use the 5B acknowledge that it's likely an unprofitable route for Metro. But this situation has been really frustrating for a number of reasons. First, we'd heard in the Spring that the 5B was slated for termination. Several regular riders attended the public meetings to question why and were told that if they could galvanize support for the bus, it could be saved. So they did. They circulated petitions. They distributed 5B schedules to all the neighboring apartment complexes. And, they wrote letters and e-mails to Metro. Metro encouraged all of this and hinted that these efforts wouldn't be in vain. The 5B even appeared in the 2007 budget, so we thought things looked pretty promising. Then one day about 2 weeks ago, I happened to overhear another passenger ask the bus driver whether the bus was being discontinued, and the driver responded that it was. I spent about 15 minutes on WMATA's site and finally found the notice buried within a pdf document. That was it.
And, to bkp, I can assure you that as of this morning (4 days before the route will be terminated) there was no sign at the stop at Tysons WestPark Transit Station nor on the bus.

Posted by: McLean (Again) | September 20, 2006 10:48 AM | Report abuse

I'm delighted that my K6 will be running every 15-20 minutes on weekends - for years it's only run every half hour, which would make sense if it were only a weekday commuter bus. But it's actually a major shopping bus for the people (many of them, presumably, carless) at the apartment complexes up and down New Hampshire Avenue. It can be insa-a-anely crowded on a Sunday afternoon with people trying to get to the stores at Langley Park - it gets to the point where everyone who's sitting down is either ancient or pregnant, and everyone else is squished in as tight as they can be in the aisles. Anyway, I'm glad to hear Metro's finally remedying that situation.

Also, I love the term "orange crush." Nice one.

Posted by: h3 | September 20, 2006 10:54 AM | Report abuse

The schedule overview says that the 90,92 and 93 routes are affected but does not say how. Thanks, Metro!

Posted by: 14th and U NW | September 20, 2006 12:35 PM | Report abuse

To McLean-

Oh if that's the case, then yes, that does suck. If you took all that time and effort and energy to work with WMATA and they didn't have the courtesy to update you on their decision, than I can understand the frustration.

Posted by: Chasmosaur | September 20, 2006 12:35 PM | Report abuse

Does anyone know how metro goes about weighing their responsibility to not waste tax dollars by running lines with no one riding vs. their responsibility to provide decent transportation to the entire region? Are there standards concerning how "disconnected" various parts of the region are allowed to get? The entire region must be within 0.5 mile of a bus line perhaps? Or 1 mile even? Just seems like some areas are already pretty disconnected, like 1 bus that runs every half hour, but not later than 8pm or what have you. Obviously, peoples lives are affected by these changes - you can't necessarily just up and move because they discontinued your bus service and you don't own a car. While I understand that if a line has very few riders and is simply hemorraging tax dollars, they can't worry about minor inconviniences to people, such as a 0.5 mile walk to the bus instead of 2 blocks. But is there any sort of standard by which they abide to asure that they do not create more than simple minor inconviniences? Make sure someone's walk doesn't go from 2 blocks to 2 miles for example. Does anyone know if anything regarding quality of service is spelled out in their charter or what have you?

Posted by: PJB | September 20, 2006 1:22 PM | Report abuse

"Make sure someone's walk doesn't go from 2 blocks to 2 miles for example."

I would hope that metro looks at these types of things when making changes to bus service. I've never understood though why some areas (PG County for one) has bus service that ends so early in the night (Say around 9pm for example), with no other alternatives then taking a cab. PG county inside the beltway has always seemed like it would have a higher percentage of it's population taking the bus.

While purusing the list of changes I was impressed to see that metro is making some adjustments based on when trains arrive at a station. It always infuriates me when it's late at night and I take the train to somewhere and have to catch a bus, but I miss it by a minute and end up having to wait 30 minutes for the next one. Good job with that at least metro!

Posted by: Laura | September 20, 2006 2:57 PM | Report abuse

For some routes with fewer passengers, I think, the best way is to have the bus make a fewer runs than completely discontinue the service. I live close to New Hampshire Ave. in Silver Spring, MD. Between White Oak and Randolph Road, there are only two buses running -- C8 and Z2 -- every 30/40 minutes and they stop services early, about 7 or 8 o'clock in the evening. There ia no rideon bus running on this section of New Hampshire. It is hard for us to ride on bus if we come bakc late in the evening. It will be great if we have at least a bus running on major roads every hour.

Posted by: Libin | September 21, 2006 2:38 PM | Report abuse

As of today, the Friday before the schedule change, Metro's website *still* doesn't have detailed timetables for all of the affected buses up (One example, the #4 line in Virginia isn't posted, though one branch of the line has been completely discontinued). That says it all about the problems they had about alerting people...

Posted by: Wes | September 22, 2006 6:16 PM | Report abuse

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