Amber Woods doesn’t own a vehicle, so she relies on public transportation to shop, visit friends and attend meetings at the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland’s National Harbor chapter.
But she said a service reduction as part of Metro’s proposed $1.8 billion fiscal 2018 budget would take away more than just her means of getting around — it would take away her livelihood.
“I just got employed at the [Environmental Protection Agency in northwest D.C.] as a contractor,” said Woods, who rides to work the W13 bus line that runs on Bock Road in Fort Washington. “Take away the W13 [and] it’s like a having an artery blockage. I need that service.”
Woods and several others spoke at a town hall-style meeting Thursday at the UFCW Local 400 building in Landover. The UFCW and two other unions affiliated with Metro organized the meeting to receive comments from transit riders on what they would like to include in, or eliminate from, the budget.
Union leaders will take the comments from commuters and present them at a Metro public hearing to develop what they call the “Public Agenda for Metro’s Future.”
For instance, Lessie Henderson of Oxon Hill disapproves of Metro’s plan to reduce the more than dozen bus routes that include the P17, P18 and P19 buses on the Oxon Hill-Fort Washington line. That route services nearly 1,200 daily weekday riders.
“This is how we will form the people’s agenda,” said ATU Local 689 President Jackie Jeter. “Since Metro [officials] will not come to this community to listen, we will bring the concerns of the community to them.”
Malcolm Augustine, who represents Prince George’s County on the agency’s board of directors, did attend and informed the audience that a Jan. 30 public hearing on the budget will start at 5 p.m. at the agency’s headquarters in Northwest.
He also said discussions are underway to possibly restructure the W and P bus lines and the B30 route that runs between Greenbelt and Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.
Augustine said the specific bus routes were chosen because they are the most expensive. In addition, the proposed fare increases and requests for more money from Maryland, Virginia and D.C. stem from a nearly $300 million budget gap.
“The intent is we not strand anyone,” he said. “I don’t want any cuts. Will that happen? I don’t know, but I’m doing the best I can.”
Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld proposed in the budget that the three jurisdictions contribute more money. Only the District has been willing to put forth additional funding.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has said he doesn’t support any increase to the state’s subsidy of $500 million until the agency improves in safety.
State Sen. Joanne Benson (D-District 24) of Landover urged everyone in attendance to make their complaints heard in Annapolis. The Maryland General Assembly began its 2017 session Wednesday, Jan. 11.
“Bring your babies, dogs that don’t bite,” she said. “Bring everybody so we can make a clear statement … that we don’t want any cuts in the budget relative to bus transportation. We have ways to encourage the governor to do the right thing. So when you are called to Annapolis and lobby, we want you to respond. There is strength in numbers.”
The unions will hold two other sessions Jan. 18 at the Montgomery County Executive Office Building in Rockville and Jan. 24 at St. George’s Episcopal Church in Arlington.