D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray said Wednesday that Metro hasn’t justified its plans to discontinue night bus service in parts of Southeast Washington where the transit agency says teenagers are throwing rocks at buses.
Gray, responding to reporters’ questions about Metro’s proposal, said the city has not been provided with evidence supporting Metro’s assertion that buses are targeted two or three times in a given week.
Even if attacks are happening with such frequency, cutting service in parts of the city’s poorest ward is not the solution, the mayor said.
“The people who live in these neighborhoods use these conveyances to get to work, to get to other parts of the city,” Gray said in a news briefing. “Based on the data that we have seen thus far, it just doesn’t seem to be the kind of case it’s being made to curtail the service.”
City leaders and Ward 8 residents have questioned Metro’s plan for the W6 and W8 routes, saying more police intervention is needed to address the problem before resorting to service cuts in an area highly dependent on public transit.
But so far, neither Metro Transit Police nor D.C. police appear ready to mount the sort of law enforcement effort that might root out those who are said to be targeting the buses.
Metro’s board will meet Thursday for the first time since news organizations reported the proposed service cuts, and some of the transit agency’s directors have said in recent days that they are going to give careful consideration to the proposal.
“Metro has responsibility, and the city has responsibility,” said D.C. Council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), the city’s representative on Metro’s board of directors. “We need to know why it’s not safe and make it safe.”
Mort Downey, who chairs the board’s safety and security committee, said the Metro and D.C. police need to work together to address the problem.“It is costing us a lot of money. It is putting our employees at risk. It is putting our customers at risk,” Downey said. “It is behavior that we just can’t tolerate.”
Rock attacks have been a citywide problem for years, Metro and District officials said. Metro says the W6 and W8 routes, which begin at the Anacostia Metro station, are frequently targeted with rocks, bricks and debris.
The incidents cause costly damage to buses and endanger drivers and passengers, Metro says. The attacks were cited by the transit authority as its reason to discontinue service after 8 p.m. in two residential pockets that are served by those routes.
D.C. police officials have said the bus incidents are the responsibility of Metro Transit Police, although they say city police can assist in investigations.
But with a police force of 450 officers, and only two dozen assigned to Metrobus, the transit force has not been well-positioned to tackle the problem. (The agency has previously announced plans to add 32 officers to its Metrobus unit.)
Metro Transit Police have not made any arrests in the past two years in the rock-throwing incidents, have not been able to curtail the vandalism and see no other option but to support cuts to bus service, Deputy Chief Jeff Delinski said.