WMATA proposes eliminating bus routes

WMATA proposes eliminating bus routes
A WMATA bus. (Photo/WMATA)

By Missy Schrott | mschrott@alextimes.com

Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority is proposing budget cuts that could result in decreased rail and bus service in Alexandria.

Like most sectors, public transportation has been impacted by the coronavirus. Due to the pandemic-induced revenue decrease, WMATA predicts that it will need to cut $215 million from its fiscal year 2021 budget and between $450 and $470 million from its FY2022 budget.

As a result, WMATA’s midyear budget proposal, which has been approved by the WMATA board for public hearing, recommends eliminating certain bus routes in Alexandria and reducing services.

Specifically, WMATA proposes permanently eliminating the 7W, 8S, 8W, 8Z, 10E, 11Y, 21A, and 21D bus routes. All of these routes are currently suspended because of the pandemic, but the temporary change could become permanent if the budget is approved. The proposal also recommends eliminating NH2 weekend service and reducing service on three routes: the Metroway, 22A and 22F.

WMATA will hold a public hearing on the proposed changes on Oct. 13 at 3 p.m. Speakers who cannot attend the virtual hearing live can also submit audio or video comments. For more information on how to submit comments, go to www.wmata.com/initiatives/budget.

“We highly, highly encourage our residents, if you are interested in any of these bus lines or the other service cuts that may occur, please make sure that your voice is heard during the public commentary time period,” Councilor Canek Aguirre, a representative on the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, said at the Alexandria City Council legislative meeting Tuesday night.

Aguirre said the city is closely monitoring the situation in hopes of maintaining some of the routes.

Councilor John Chapman requested that Alexandria have a city or council representative speak at the WMATA public hearing.

“I would hope that we would figure out a unified way to send a message to WMATA that we don’t want to lose these particular routes … and then possibly figure out how to have someone speak on the city’s behalf. I would hope that we would do that rather than rely on residents to come out and speak on this,” Chapman said.

Department of Transportation and Environmental Services staff said the city would arrange for a representative to speak.

Councilor Mo Seifeldein expressed skepticism that public input would change the proposal.

“WMATA’s going to come asking for more money [from the city], not a reduction in money, so asking for more money and then reducing the services does not sit well with our constituents,” Seifeldein said. “This is their way of kind of walking us to the guillotine slowly.”