Within a matter of months, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) will finalize its fiscal year 2021 budget proposal, a document that a contingent of Ward 8 residents said they hope takes into account their need for the bus routes connecting their communities — many of which are food deserts reeling with high concentration of poverty and crime — to nearby Metro stations and major areas of commerce throughout the District.
March 9 culminated the collection of public responses to WMATA’s 2021 budget proposal that outlined proposed bus service changes in the District, Maryland and Virginia. Immediately upon the release of the proposal in January, commuters from across the D.C. metropolitan area — and Ward 8 in particular — bemoaned the adjustments they said would further inconvenience their lives.
In a widely circulated document, transit authorities rationalized the reduction and elimination of the 30N, 30S, 34, 36, A4, W5, W1, W2 and W4 with predictions of cost-savings in the hundreds of thousands, more efficient trips across the District, and consolidation of bus routes with low ridership. That explanation didn’t suffice for those affected. For years, the 30 and W bus routes have connected portions of Southeast to downtown, Georgetown, and other neighborhoods west of Rock Creek Park, while the A4 and routes attempted to address urban sprawl by connecting Ward 8 residents to the Metro’s green line stations.
With some help from Ward 8 Council member Trayon White’s office, residents converged on the transit authority’s Northwest headquarters toward the latter part of last month to demand that officials renege on plans to cut nearly a dozen bus lines running from Southeast to areas in the western part of the city where residents work and interface with government agencies, corporations, and other entities.
The Feb. 26 meeting followed two others that took place at the Hilton Hotel in Arlington, Virginia, and Metro Points Hotel in New Carrollton, Maryland. The several dozen Ward 8 commuters who attended and spoke that evening stressed that the reduction of those lines meant longer commutes, greater risks to their safety, and further marginalization into the annals of a resource-starved enclave.
For those who ride the A4 — a bus line connecting Blue Plains residents to Anacostia Station — the threats to a longtime resource have become much direr, especially for seniors and disabled community members mulling how to navigate the dark, hilly streets on foot. Not even the presentation of alternatives quelled concerns among people already frustrated with the inconsistent arrival of the A4 and subsequent hourlong commutes into other parts of the city.
The following are quotes from Ward 8 commuters who weighed in on the proposed bus route changes and eliminations:
“I take the bus every once in a while, but if I do take it to and from Gallery Place/Chinatown, it takes 83 minutes. Getting across east of the Anacostia River is expensive and time-consuming. It’s hard to get to the grocery stores and recreation centers and walk up and down these hills. When you walk on foot, catch these buses, and talk to people, they don’t have any idea about a lot of things [changing in Ward 8]. We have websites and social media, but if I really want to talk to my people, I have to walk.” — ANC Commissioner Monique Diop (SMD 8D04)
“Getting rid of the bus line would be crazy. I would be spending more money that I need just to get home. Who wants to walk up a hill for three blocks? Now it takes me about an hour or so to get to work when I take the bus and train. I work near Brookland Station so I’m taking it quite a ways. I work where the money is, but I live where I can afford. If I could move closer to my job, I would. Not having that bus line would be terribly inconvenient.” — Martez Jennings, 31, child care center director and A4 bus line patron of nearly four years
“My mother and other community members ride the A4, one of the very few buses that stay on the main streets and doesn’t go through high-risk neighborhoods as it goes straight from Anacostia to Fort Drum. That makes a lot of community members feel safe. A lot of children who live in this neck of the woods get relief. There’s also a lot of government workers and individuals who use this bus to get downtown The detour to Southern Avenue metro station would be life-changing. People would have to rethink all they do.” — Markee Young, 30, a Ward 8 resident
“I already have to take two trains to get to my doctor’s office at the George Washington University Medical Faculty building. I have a straight shot to Anacostia on the A4. I’m really fighting for the older people because they take the bus on the regular. That bus line also serves a number of schools. The service cut would disrupt a lot of lives. If you mix in those different sections of Southeast that don’t get along, you will have serious problems. Someone didn’t think this out. They just decided they would do it.” — Frances Mellion, 69, a senior who’s taken the A4 for more than two decades