WASHINGTON – The Metrobus express to Dulles may soon be a thing of the past.
Members of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority board of directors will soon discuss proposed cuts, alterations and eliminations to Metrobus routes including the express bus route to Washington Dulles International Airport.
More than 40 Metrobus customers presented their comments either opposing or supporting route changes at a public hearing September 17 at WMATA headquarters in Washington, D.C to a portion of the WMATA board of directors.
WMATA staffers proposed to eliminate Metrobus Express Route 5A to Dulles Airport and 20 other routes in Maryland, D.C. and Virginia. WMATA plans to shorten or change existing routes and introduce new routes, including up to 19 in Maryland, according to WMATA.
Riders in Montgomery County who use the Q bus to get to either the Silver Spring Metro Station or the Wheaton Metro Station during Metrorail operating hours would have to take the Metro train partway, if the proposed Metrobus changes are passed.
People who want to take the Metro to catch an early morning flight from Dulles Airport may lose that opportunity if the board decides to cancel Metrobus Route 5A this fall. Additionally, Dulles airport workers who use the 5A Metrobus to get to early or overnight shifts would lose their fastest way to work and possibly their jobs.
WMATA explained that staffers proposed certain alterations to make the buses more punctual.
Riders could lose their jobs if WMATA deletes their only means of travel to their early-morning shifts on time.
According to Jaime Izquierdl, a customer service representative at Dulles International Airport, the only two ways to travel from Metro to Dulles airport are the 5A Bus from Rosslyn Metro Station and the Silver Line Express, a Washington Flyer bus that picks up riders at the end of the Silver Line at Wiehle-Reston Metro Station. Dulles customers could take a taxi but that costs more money.
Virginia resident Verdel Lee said although an alternative way to get to Dulles Airport exists, the 5A bus is the only way for him and about 30 others to get to work early enough without using taxi. Though the fare may cost more than the similar trip by Metrorail, Lee said he needs the bus service at the time it is currently offered to arrive at his job at the Dulles Toll Road, he said.
“That is true, but the time factor is where the problem comes in,” Lee said.
With the 5A bus people headed for Dulles can catch an 8 a.m. flight because they would reach the airport around 6:45 a.m., Lee said, but riders of the earliest Silver Line Express would not arrive at the airport before 9 a.m.
Although Phase 2 of the Silver Line Metro design will go to the Dulles Toll Road near Dulles Airport, those stations have not been built. If the 5A Bus is cancelled, Lee needs another way to work for now until 2020.
The list of counties that contribute funding to a Metrobus route depends on where a majority of the bus riders live, according to WMATA. Some riders outside the County proposed that D.C., Maryland and Virginia contribute funding to Metrobuses in each other’s jurisdictions.
D. C. resident Robert Dooling said elimination of the 5A bus would be problematic, and that the State of Maryland should pitch in to help, regardless of whether Maryland residents use the route. He proposed that Virginia also contribute to a Maryland bus which goes to the Baltimore Airport.
“Though I do know why Maryland would be upset their tax dollars are paying for this, (for) Virginia commuters, but eliminating the 5A bus is not a solution to that problem,” Dooling said. “WMATA set it up so that Maryland does not have to pay for the 5A. They could set it up so that Virginia has to pay for their B30 bus because Virginia residents use the B30 to get to BWI airport.”
Montgomery County does not financially contribute to the 5A bus because it is not located within the limits of the county, according to WMATA. However, County residents would have to take the 5A bus or else take the Silver Line Express if they want to get to Dulles Airport by Metro.
Riders could board the 5A Bus at L’Enfant plaza at 4:45 a.m. on a weekday and arrive by 5:45 a.m., according to the WMATA timetable for 5A bus. However, if riders of the Silver Line Express would have to catch a later flight. They would wait for Metro to open at 6 a.m., and then take the Metro to Wiehle-Reston Metro Station, before climbing onto the Silver Line Express. On the weekends, Silver Line express would pick riders up at 7:45 a.m., according to Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. The 5A bus leaves L’Enfant Plaza Metro Station at 5:30 a.m. on weekends.
Montgomery Village resident Ty’Ronn Waters Sr. said he would not take a job at Dulles Airport because he would have to make several bus exchanges and because of the total fare cost.
Melissa Ehrenreich, a Prince George’s County resident, said she can see the difficulty WMATA faces with picking which routes to remain in use. She does not want to see the disappearance of the R3 route.
“It’s tough when you get in a position when you have to take away a service that people need, because there are many people who do not want that service; they need that service,” Ehrenreich said.
D.C. resident Robert Dooling said he thinks that Maryland and Virginia should cooperate and should together fund the 5A express line to Dulles airport because people in Virginia need it. Dooling attended the September 17 public hearing to protest cancelling the route.
“If you eliminate the 5A bus, that’s throwing the baby out with the bathwater,” he said.
Ehrenreich stated she does not think Metrobus should have to cut bus routes that people use. She said Maryland, D.C. and Virginia should contribute enough money to fill in the gaps in funding.
“So if we were to fully fund the bus service, and all of the states kick in their contributions and recognize the value of mass transit that it gets to us, we wouldn’t be in these situations,” Ehrenreich said.
Dooling said he thinks that the State of Maryland should help pay for the 5A bus because it is one of the most profitable routes.