National Harbor bus reroute deepens inequality
Maryland can't come up with more money to protect bus service for residents who depend on buses for mobility, but they're subsidizing a glorified shuttle bus from the Green Line to the National Harbor private resort and conference center. As part of the cuts, Metro is rerouting the NH1 bus to take the Beltway to the Branch Avenue Metro instead of its current route along Indian Head Highway to Southern Avenue.
Metro Riders' Advisory Council member Frank DeBernardo attended Monday's Hyattsville public hearing, where many residents objected to Maryland's bus cuts, which disproportionately hit Prince George's County. Several speakers claimed that Maryland has 70% of the bus cuts (thanks to its unwillingness to contribute more to Metro, as the other jurisdictions did), and Prince George's has 80% of the Maryland cuts. Moreover, the cuts impact low-income and minority residents compared to others even within the County. DeBernardo reports:
[The NH1] re-routing, suggested by the Gaylord National Harbor resort, would cut service to local citizens in favor of tourists at National Harbor. Many consider this discriminatory since [one speaker] suggested that part of the motivation for the re-routing was so that National Harbor tourists would not have to use the Southern Avenue Metro station, located in a low socio-economic neighborhood, and would be able to ride the Metrobus with people who had "superior etiquette skills."We don't know for sure what National Harbor's intentions were in requesting the change, whether a fear of black people or a love of green paper, but it's unfair either way. As we've criticized in the past, National Harbor built a resort far from DC, discovered that visitors were disappointed, then complained that people couldn't easily reach it from DC.
But Maryland and Prince George's officials deserve the real blame for encouraging the development and then enabling it by subsidizing transit. The NH1 suddenly jumped onto Metro's list of priority bus corridors. Prince George's transportation plan includes road widenings around National Harbor and transit lines to reach it.
It's a great business model if you can get it: buy really cheap land with poor transit access very far from other development, build a huge resort, then stick the state and county with the responsibility of paying for people to get to you. When their budgets go sour, they cut transit service for all the existing residents just to keep you happy. It doesn't hurt DC and Virginia residents directly, since Maryland is paying for the transit all on its own. But if I lived in Maryland, I'd be pretty mad my tax dollars are going to this boondoggle.
Now that the NH1 will mostly just go from Metro to the resort, it's basically a private shuttle bus. National Harbor should run the shuttle themselves, or reimburse Maryland for the full cost. If they can make enough profit to afford to move people to and from their facilities, then good for them. But they shouldn't expect free elite transit service from the state any more than they should expect the state to pay for all their toilet paper.
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