Georgetown neighborhood residents have expressed concern about the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s December draft budget report for the 2021 fiscal year suggesting potential bus route changes and a fare hike ahead of a Jan. 16 WMATA meeting.
The December proposal suggested the complete elimination of bus routes servicing the Georgetown, Burleith and Glover Park neighborhoods, including Route D1 (Glover Park-Franklin Square Line) and Route 54 (14th Street Line), among others. Route G2 (P Street-LeDroit Park Line), which stops outside the main gates of Georgetown’s main campus, would be merged with Route D2 (Glover Park-Dupont Circle Line), according to WTOP.
Metrobus base rush-hour fares would see a 25 cent increase for anyone paying with a Metro card or cash, according to the draft budget released in November. The draft also proposed a 10 cent base rush-hour price increase for those using the Metrorail. A December WMATA Finance and Capital Committee meeting proposed raising the 10 cent increase to 15 cents. The budget would also include a $2 discount for those transferring from bus to rail and vice versa.
Both proposed moves have been met with concern from community members, according to Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner 2E01 and Burleith resident Kishan Putta.
“In December, a few constituents and I traveled to downtown D.C. to testify before the Metro Board because we had seen proposed changes in conjunction with their budget proposal,” Putta said in an interview with The Hoya. “A lot of the constituents, they took the bus to get there — actually, they didn’t have any other way of getting down there from our neighborhood. That’s the only way to get there via public transportation because there’s no Metro station.”
WMATA representatives said they would primarily cancel repetitive routes and customers currently relying on those services would continue to have access to the transportation by transferring to another bus or rail, according to WTOP. At least two possibly canceled routes would be terminated due to few riders.
The WMATA Board is set to discuss the proposals at its meeting Thursday. The board will also set dates for public hearings over the next few weeks when residents can voice concerns and give feedback on the draft proposal.
The proposed route changes would directly affect students who live off campus, according to Georgetown University student Jordan Brown (COL ’21), who lives in Petworth and commutes to campus for classes.
“The routes that comprise my daily commute, the 54 and G2, are both on the chopping block,” Brown wrote in an email to The Hoya. “These proposed Metrobus changes would severely affect my commute likely cause it to be even longer than it already is – forty-five minutes to an hour each way.”
If WMATA implements these changes, lower-income community members will be disproportionately affected, according to Brown.
“This will most directly impact low-income students, who are already at a disadvantage in this expensive neighbourhood,” Brown wrote. “Low-income students like myself quite literally cannot afford to take rideshares every time we need to travel between Georgetown and another area.”
Logan Arkema (COL ’20), who commutes to Georgetown from East Burleith, reached out to Putta directly to express his grievances.
“As a Georgetown University student without access to a personal vehicle, a budget to sustain rideshares, or easy access to a metro station, these five lines have been essential for me to access my internship, job, and city as a whole,” Arkema wrote in the email. “One of the main reasons I decided to rent in East Burleith is its close proximity to the aforementioned bus lines, and I’m hoping they won’t go away with the next WMATA budget.”
Councilmember Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), who represents the Georgetown neighborhood on the council as well as other sections of the District, announced in a Jan. 7 letter that he will officially resign from the D.C. Council following accusations of ethical misconduct. A special election to fill Ward 2’s open seat will be held June 16.
Evans’ resignation announcement leaves Ward 2 without representation to voice community members’ concerns about WMATA’s proposed changes, according to Arkema.
“Ultimately, the decision rests with the city council at a time when Georgetown and all of Ward 2 has no city councilmember,” Arkema wrote in an email to The Hoya. “I hope the city council takes the concerns of his former (and now unrepresented) constituents into account, especially since the budget will be finalized before the election to fill his vacant seat.”
WMATA’s response to complaints has been slow, leaving residents dissatisfied and confused, according to Putta.
“They said they would be putting more details out after the holidays. So we waited,” Putta said. “There was a community meeting last week and Metro was supposed to come, and they pulled out at the last minute because they said we would have more details and would be able to react to that.”