Shockwaves were sent through Southwest when WMATA proposed two bus service reductions on August 28th. If either amendment is approved, changes will be implemented in June 2014. Operating at an already unreliable frequency, bus lines servicing Southwest could get more complicated, and less reliable.

As seen in the WMATA figure provided: Option 1 proposes slashing our beloved 74 bus line altogether. Option 2 would reduce 74 bus service on evenings and weekends.

Option 1 proposes rerouting the V7/V8, an inadequate compensation for the loss of the 74 bus line. This option eliminates bus service altogether along a looping span equating to five city blocks in Buzzard Point, between Canal Street SW and Half Street SW.

Option 2 proposes reducing the frequency of the 74, and discontinuing a crucial line of the V9 which runs along M St SW from Pennsylvania Ave to L’Enfant Plaza.

If these options sound confusing, it’s because they are. Both proposed amendments further complicate bus routes for Southwest bus riders, and both would result in reduced bus service in Southwest.

Low-ridership was cited as justification for the proposed reduction. Low ridership can be attributed to already existing problems with reliability and comprehension of the “spaghetti bowl” of bus lines serving Southwest. Who among us can parse the differences between the V7, V8, and V9 bus lines, for instance?

A society is measured by how well it cares for its most vulnerable and the Southwest residents most affected by potential cutbacks live in Buzzard Point. As noted by ANC 6D 06 Representative Rhonda Hamilton at the WMATA Fall Hearing, some of Southwest’s struggling residents would lose their jobs for lack of dependable transportation. Scooter and wheelchair-bound individuals, who can currently access the 74 from near their front doors, would fall victim to inclement weather.

Southwest needs more public transportation options, not less. Consider our community’s most vulnerable: senior citizens, the handicapped, and low-income riders. Dialogue with WMATA should address a bolstering of Washington Elderly Handicapped Transportation Service (WEHTS) in the form of increased white WHETS van presence. Instead, Southwest residents must unite to defend and improve the threadbare bus service that we really do treasure. Such a central quadrant with diminishing bus access in our nation’s capital in 2014 is unacceptable.

Dependable bus access allows low-income communities to utilize affordable bus passes, thus saving money to perhaps feed dependents. Reduced access to these provisions is the sort of strain that can lead to criminal activity out of necessity for survival. Saving the 74 is therefore a security issue, and is in the best interest of both the Southwest community and municipal service providers.

Proposing reduction to Southwest’s main bus lines while DC Office of Planning (DCOP) simultaneously primes Southwest for a boom in urban development, via the Small Area Plan, makes little sense. Perhaps the proposed reductions in bus service to Southwest are merely an appalling lack of coordination between WMATA and DCOP? Mercifully, savvy elected representatives in Southwest, Hamilton and Ron McBee (ANC6D03), boldly called out the injustice at the WMATA Fall Hearing on September 17th.

Residents used to enjoy the straightforward SW Waterfront – Shaw Circulator bus route that was reliable and cost just one dollar. That Circulator line was ultimately discontinued in September 2011. The 74 line was introduced to replace that Circulator line.

Alex Padro, ANC 6E01 representative in Shaw, said: “The Circulator bus was a vital link between Shaw and Southwest. An expanded 74 bus route would help restore the connection between these two neighborhoods undergoing rapid development and revitalization. The new 74 route would serve as a stopgap until construction on the major projects that caused the Circulator service to be interrupted is concluded and the Circulator route can be restored.”

Increased bus line dependability and comprehensibility would equate to a sharp increase in ridership. ANC6D (Southwest) and ANC6E (Shaw) are rapidly developing and attracting new residents. A simple, dependable bus link between the two historic and cultural anchors of Ward 6 would be a sure success as development continues.

By: Sam Marrero

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