The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority has announced a more detailed set of plans to merge and cancel bus routes that serve the Georgetown neighborhood, triggering backlash from students and community members.
The service changes come as a part of WMATA’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2021 and will affect three bus routes servicing the Georgetown area. Route D1 (Glover Park-Franklin Square Line) will be eliminated under the new plans. Route G2 (P Street-LeDroit Park Line), which stops directly outside Georgetown’s front gates and Route D2 (Glover Park-DuPont Circle Line) will be consolidated, shifting the closest stop from the front gates of campus to 35th and Q Streets.
Removing the campus Route G2 stop will discourage students from commuting to work and traveling beyond the Georgetown neighborhood, according to Advisory Neighborhood 2E Commissioner Kishan Putta, who is running to represent Ward 2 on the Council of the District of Columbia.
“Right now the G2 is a really popular way for people to get across our city and Georgetown students in particular,” Putta said in an interview with The Hoya. “It’s always been there for Georgetown, for decades, and I fear that a lot fewer students will take the G2 now, it has been a convenient way for students to get to DuPont Circle and beyond.”
Students and workers who live off-campus in Petworth will face longer commutes under the bus reroutes including more transfers and walks, according to Jordan Brown (COL ’21), who commutes to campus.
“These cancellations will make my commute much more difficult. The G2 is the only WMATA bus that goes directly to Georgetown’s campus, which makes our campus accessible to the rest of the city,” Brown wrote in an email to The Hoya.
The Georgetown administration does not support WMATA’s proposal and are organizing a response, according to Vice President for Government Relations and Community Engagement Christopher Murphy.
“The university is deeply concerned about WMATA’s proposal and is working with community and student leaders to ensure our voices are heard on this important issue,” Murphy wrote in an email to The Hoya.
Without making route changes, WMATA may have to raise fares for 94% of bus riders instead of establishing a $2 weekend flat fare on Metrorail and eliminating transfer fees for 66,000 trips per day, according to Ian Jannetta, a WMATA spokesperson. Despite criticism, mergers like that of Route G2 and Route D2 will increase efficacy and cut costs to encourage more riders, Jannetta wrote.
“Most of the proposed changes include restructuring of routes to improve efficiencies and eliminate redundancies, as is the case with the proposed combination of the G2 and D2 routes,” Jannetta wrote in an email to The Hoya.
Minimal access public transportation in Georgetown has long frustrated students and neighborhood residents. The university is a transit desert, or an area where the demand for public transportation is greater than the supply because most students do not have personal vehicles or the financial means to frequently use ride-sharing services such as Uber or Lyft.
Georgetown does provide its own free transportation service for students that runs routes from campus to Metro stations at Rosslyn and Dupont Circle as well as the Georgetown University Law Center, the U.S. House of Representatives, university offices on Wisconsin Avenue and stops in Arlington, Virginia.
The G2 route, however, offers more consistent weekend service is more accessible than Georgetown’s transportations shuttles, according to Advisory Neighborhood 2A Commissioner Patrick Kennedy, who is also a candidate in the Ward 2 Council race.
“Although Georgetown University operates its own shuttle service, the G2 serves a distinct need, operates reliably year-round with no drop-off in service outside the academic year, and uses newer, low-floor buses that are more reliably ADA accessible,” Kennedy wrote in a message posted to the online Georgetown Forum message board.
The reroutes will especially impact low-income students and staff, who do not have the means to use more expensive modes of transportations like rideshares, according to Brown.
“Route G2 is the only WMATA bus that goes directly to Georgetown’s campus. Georgetown is already notoriously inaccessible and set apart from the rest of the city and these cancellations and reroutes would only make it worse,” Brown wrote. “Lower-income students who rely on public transportation to travel the city and the workers who keep our campus running would be the hardest hit by these changes.”
WMATA has not been responsive to residents’ concerns, according to Putta, who has testified with groups of community members at hearings considering the proposal.
“Either they’re not thinking about these people, or they don’t care to reassure them,” Putta said. “We went down to testify in December, we went down to testify in January, everytime telling them, ‘people are scared,’ and you’re not doing anything to reassure them.”
WMATA will not come to an affirmative decision until after residents can express their opinions on the service changes, according to Jannetta.
“Metro has begun an extensive, multi-week public outreach period where customers can make their voices heard,” Jannetta wrote. “No decisions will be made until all public comments have been delivered to the Metro Board for their consideration.”