Metro Proposes Longer Train Waits, but D.C. Bus Cuts More Likely

Metro is hosting public hearings, gathering written testimony and surveying riders as it considers service cuts to fill a gap in the next budget.

Much of the attention has been focused on cuts to the rail network that would make riders wait as long as 25 minutes for trains on weekends not the more likely changes to buses that would primarily affect D.C. riders.

None of Metros board members has talked seriously in public about cutting back the rail service as proposed. The measure was thrown into the mix largely to give the board options as it tries to find a way to cover a $66 million budget shortfall in the fiscal year that starts July 1.

Furthermore, Virginia and Maryland officials have said they are willing to cover their share of the gap. And Metro board member and D.C. Councilman Tommy Wells said last week the District is committed to finding its share so such cuts wouldnt happen.

Its clear no one wants to do it, said Ben Ross, whose advocacy group Transit First has been fighting the rail cuts. But the problem is its not clear the District is going to come up with the money.

As of last week, Wells staff said the city needed to cover $4.3 million of its share. Thats less than the proposed package of cuts, which are expected to save $5.3 million.

Still, some of the changes proposed may happen regardless of the Districts ability to pay up. Included in the proposal is a plan to change a long-standing discount program for Anacostia bus service. The city would increase the size of the transfer discount for some riders who switch between bus and Metrorail, but other bus riders who enjoy a 50-cent discount would have to pay full fares. MetroAccess riders could see fares rise by $1.

Metro estimates that would affect fewer than 300 daily riders. But the change has no effect on the overall Metro budget.

Meanwhile, the District is also eying eliminating three lines in Northwest and modifying others with low ridership.

Some riders are fighting back.

Michaela Platzer, who takes the E6 each day to work from her Barnaby Woods home, gathered more than 1,100 signatures on a petition to fight the proposed cut of that route.

The District has proposed cutting the line because it carries an average daily total of 373 riders about a third of the number who signed the petition.

But Platzer calls it a quality-of-life issue. She, for one, bought her house 10 years ago partly because it had the bus route to provide access to the Friendship Heights Metrorail stop.

Were paying a lot of taxes around here, she said. It raises a lot of questions exactly what are we getting?

With gas prices rising, she said, officials should be making it easier to take public transit, not harder. This is like death by a thousand cuts, she said.

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