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Posted at 4:03 PM ET, 12/22/2009

The wrong view of the H Street shuttle

By editors

By Adele Robey

Regarding Colbert I. King’s Dec. 19 op-ed column, “Earmark and entitlement on H Street,” about the District’s funding for a shuttle bus service:

In 2001, my husband and I made a commitment to H Street and in 2002 opened the H Street Playhouse. At that time, taxis wouldn’t come when we called, even if we assured them that the streets were deserted and they could pull up right in front. (Of course, there was parking then because no one was around and the street had yet to be torn up.) Many nights we shuttled theater patrons with our own cars back to Union Station so they could catch the Metro.

Parking is not so easy to find now, whatever Mr. King says. Clearly he has not attended any local meetings recently, where the topic of parking has been known to cause screaming fights.

Then came the city’s two-year streetscaping project. We were teased with the promise of streetcars and beautiful renderings of the future H Street. But even after things were approved, it took a year just to get out the request for bids and another good chunk of time to select a contractor. Then we started living with noise, dirt and chaos. Still, no one would give us a straight answer about the streetcars. It took the Sierra Club and the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission to finally start getting some answers.

After years of promise, it turned out that the streetcars for H Street hadn’t even been ordered and that the three that have been getting so much press are slated to go to Anacostia.

So we weren’t just privileged folks looking for a nice way to navigate H Street for customers of our “upscale” businesses. We were and are regular folks who are fighting to stay alive in a terrible economic time.

We asked for a Circulator bus when those began serving downtown. No, we were told. We were told officials would “wrap” the X bus in something fun and hip so people would want to ride it. We haven’t seen that. We were desperate for something that would serve a Metro station and bring people to our doors. Hence, the shuttle. I don’t know if it has ever come up, but I am certain that patrons would throw a dollar in the box for the ride, if that’s the real concern. But the tone of Mr. King’s column makes the money seem almost secondary, as if we were just the privileged few asking for a freebie. I am insulted that anyone would think that of me without even asking.

And then there was Mr. King’s not-very-veiled insinuation that white people will not take the X2 bus along H Street, with the insulting parallel between a civil rights activist’s remarks (“It’s not the bus, it’s us”) and the current use of the X2. I know many folks of all colors who ride the X2 bus. I know many folks of all colors who will not ride the X2 bus. It’s crowded; it can be rowdy; it can be erratic. The X8 bus to Maryland is more subdued, but it can’t always be counted on to get you where you need to be on time. Some people don’t ride the bus, period. We can’t change that.

So please, Mr. King. Come to the Playhouse to see “Black Nativity.” Have a cup of coffee first at our neighborhood coffee shop or dinner at one of the new restaurants. And by all means, drive your car and see if you can find a spot in the neighborhood.

But next time, please don’t turn your sights on those who are just trying to keep the lights on and hold on until our street is once again put back together.

By editors  | December 22, 2009; 4:03 PM ET
Categories:  HotTopic  
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