Monday, April 24, 2006

X6 Facing Elimination

Update: The WMATA is still taking public comments on the proposed changes.

The WMATA recently announced service cutbacks and elimination of many bus routes. Here is the list:

Late night trips on:
• District of Columbia routes—80; 82; 94; D4; D6; E2; G8; H2,4; L2; M6; N6; V7,8
• Maryland routes—A12; C4; J2; K6; Q2; Y9; Z8
• Virginia routes—1F; 2A; 3E; 4B; 9A; 10A,B; 23A and 38B

All weekday service on:
• District of Columbia routes—5B; H5,7; M2; W9
• Virginia routes—4S and off-peak service on routes 13A,B

All weekend service on:
• District of Columbia routes—N8 and X6
• Virginia routes—4H; 13A,B; and 24P
The X6, one of the routes scheduled for elimination, is my primary way of getting to the National Arboretum when I want to go birding there. Without the X6, my birding patterns may change considerably, as the trip there will become longer. Many of the late night trips to be discontinued are on major bus routes that run across the District. These routes are usually the only way to get around town after the subways stop running (midnight on most nights).

Financial problems are endemic to the Metro system, one of the few major transportation networks in the country that lacks a dedicated source of revenue. Metro must beg for new funds each year from the three jurisdictions that it serves (DC, Maryland, and Virginia). These three have different ideas about their relationship with Metro and competing transportation goals. The many resulting disputes hold up needed projects and funding.

From that perspective, the need to cut costs is understandable. But the elimination of routes will undercut the core purpose of Metrobus - serving sections of the city where the subways do not reach and at times when the subways do not run.

If you wish to see any of these routes maintain their current level of service, contact the WMATA immediately. There is a public hearing on Tuesday, April 25, at 7 pm at the Arlington County Board Office. Comments may also be submitted in writing or by email at the following address:
Comments will be accepted verbally and in writing at the public hearing or via e-mail. All organizations or individuals who desire to be heard with respect to the proposed fare and fee changes or select bus route elimination can present their views. To establish a witness list, individuals and representatives of organizations who wish to be heard at the public hearing are requested to furnish their name, address, telephone number and organization affiliation, if any, to: Office of the Secretary, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, 600 Fifth Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001 or by e-mail at

For more information on the hearings, see the hearing docket and methodology. Please submit only one speaker’s name per letter and refer to Hearing No. 519 (April 5), 520 (April 10), 521 (April 11) 522 (April 25), Docket B06-2 in the heading. Written statements will be accepted through May 1.
I cannot attend this hearing, but I have submitted my own comment for consideration. My email to the WMATA is below.

To whom it may concern:

I learned recently of the proposed service cutbacks or elimination of several bus routes, including the X6. As part of the WMATA's public comment period, I wish to register my protest at the elimination of this route. (Since I cannot attend the hearing, I am submitting my comment by email.)

The X6 is a shuttle route from a major transportation center at Union Station to the National Arboretum, one of Washington's prime attractions away from the National Mall. It provides an easy way for DC residents and visitors to the District to enjoy some of the area's most beautiful gardens.

The X6 does not just serve Arboretum visitors, but also local residents on Capitol Hill and in the H St. and Bladensburg Rd. corridors as a fast way to go to and from Union Station and Hechinger Mall. At least half of X6 riders are using the bus for these short-distance trips. In fact, it is the local residents along the X6 route who would be hurt most by its elimination, a harm compounded by the lack of rail service in this section of northeast Washington.

While I am sympathetic to Metro's need for more funding, the proposed changes would seem to do more harm than good. Elimination of the X6, and elimination of routes generally, will discourage residents from using the bus system. In some cases this will be because the needed buses simply are no longer running. In other cases it will be a matter of extra transfers making for a longer trip - and therefore making the bus a less attractive option. Fewer buses means more people driving, either by choice or necessity, which in turn will worsen the District's pollution and traffic problems.

Please keep the X6 running. It is a minor route, but it is very useful to those of us who ride it regularly.