We Want a “Redundant” Bus System

While we don’t want empty ghost buses driving around D.C., it’s worth remembering that efficiency should not be the ultimate goal of mass transit:

Let’s look at two equally ridiculous scenarios. First, we have a bus route that’s used by fifty people a day, but runs buses along the route every five mintues. No one would claim that this is a good idea. Second, we have a bus that runs only every two hours, many people can’t get onto the bus, but it is packed every time. No one would argue the latter is actually efficient or useful, even it is cost effective.

The point is we really don’t want buses running at capacity. What we want and need are buses that run below capacity but that also aren’t empty most of the time. The goal is not to optimize the number of people we can cram onto buses, but to optimize the usefulness of the system (within financial constraints). Part of what usefulness means is the frequency of buses–and the more frequent buses are, the more likely people with other options are to use them. Another component is serving neighborhoods that don’t have other transportation options, which typically happen to be non-white.

Which brings us to this bad bus proposal by WMATA (D.C. Metorail and Metrobus; boldface mine):

The proposal, which also eliminates the $1.50 bus-to-rail transfer fee and maintains Metrobus fare prices, has won over many riders but remains months away from a vote.

Among those unhappy with the proposal are Metrobus riders who live in or near the neighborhoods of Burleith, Georgetown and Glover Park, where Metro officials have proposed eliminating or reducing service on several bus routes it considers a “redundancy,” according to agency records.

Among those being considered for elimination and combined into another route is the D2, which links Glover Park and Dupont Circle.

Several residents spoke out against the proposed change, saying it takes service from an area that has no Metro service and includes many seniors who do not have cars.

Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Kishan Putta, a Burleith resident, told the board that the route is also important to doctors and patients at Georgetown University Medical Center.

“There’s no Metro; it’s the only way that many people rely on,” he said. “We’re trying to get more bus service, not cut it.”

Putta said he worried that not enough people in the surrounding neighborhoods know about Metro’s plans because they are being announced just before the holidays. He said the route elimination benefits no one.

“You don’t want people to be incentivized to drive,” he said. “That is not the incentive you want.”

Under this proposal, the parts of the D2 that don’t overlap will be lost–and Metro should be stopping at Georgetown University Medical Center–because it’s a fucking medical center. The parts of the D2 that overlap with the D6 (and run adjacent to the G2 on P Street) will still be reached, but there’s a good chance the frequency of buses will decrease with the route loss. If that’s the case–and nobody knows because WMATA, true to form, isn’t telling anyone anything–then the bus is less useful getting to and from Georgetown. If D.C. is truly committed to both Vision Zero and fighting global warming and air pollution (I have my doubts to say the least), then we have to increase the frequency and service area of buses, not decrease it, unless we want D.C. to be a car-dependent city outside of a few oases of mass transit hubs.

This is going backwards.

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