Greater Greater Washington

Gaylord workers decry NH-1 reroute

About 30 workers from the Gaylord Resort at National Harbor attended last night's Metro Riders' Advisory Council meeting last night to talk about the huge burdens from Metro's rerouting the NH1 bus to National Harbor.


Photo by thisisbossi.

In August, Metro changed the route to travel from Branch Avenue Metro along I-495 to the resort instead of its previous route from Southern Avenue. The Southern Avenue route served many neighborhoods in Prince George's County and southeast DC, which include many of the workers at Gaylord, while the new route forces them to take multiple buses and rail trips, taking far more time and at much higher cost.

According to John Boardman, the Executive Secretary-Treasurer of UNITE HERE Local 25, which represents hotel and restaurant workers at Gaylord, the average commute time to work has risen from 55 minutes to 94 minutes, and employees now have to pay an average of $8.30 round-trip instead of $5.12 previously. That's because, for residents of neighborhoods like those around Indian Head Highway, they must take other buses to Southern Avenue (where many bus lines meet), then ride the Green Line to Branch Avenue to get to Gaylord, explained Local 25's Linda Martin.

Or they walk, as employee Louis Marshall does. Instead of boarding the bus on Audrey Lane in Oxon Hill, as he could before, he now has to walk an hour and 45 minutes along Indian Head Highway. If the weather doesn't permit that, he has an equally long transit trip, taking the D14 to Southern Avenue, then the Green Line to Branch Avenue, and finally the NH1 to work. Francis Silo of Silver Spring has to spend about $200 a month for his combination bus and rail trip instead of $30 a month before. Stephanie Winfield often can't afford the train, and must then take the W4 to the 34 to the C12 to the NH1. Not surprisingly, Gaylord offers no transit benefit to the workers.

Furthermore, the bus no longer runs early enough on weekends for many employees to get to work in time. Before the change, the first Saturday bus arrived at National Harbor at 6:21 am. Now, it's 8:15 am, and many shifts begin at 8. On Sundays, 8:43 is the first arrival compared to 6:46 before the change.

Why the change? According to union organizer Jen Shykula, the hotel asked for the change. They've only given two reasons: it's more convenient, and safer. Neither seems true, at least from the workers' point of view. Skipping neighborhoods along the route isn't more convenient, and more bus lines serve Southern Avenue. In addition, Shykula explained, the Branch Avenue station is much more desolate, as it's a large park-and-ride instead of being surrounded by neighborhoods as at Southern Avenue.

Some people might feel safer at Branch Avenue than Southern Avenuetourists. And while there's no evidence of this, it certainly appears that Gaylord wanted to change the bus to accommodate its visitors, many of whom arrive at a convention billed as "in Washington DC" only to find it 12 miles from downtown without convenient transit. At the Hyattsville hearing on this year's bus cuts, one speaker alleged that Gaylord's motivation was essentially to let its visitors avoid riding the bus with black people, or as that speaker put it, "to ride the Metrobus with people who had 'superior etiquette skills.'"

The change also likely saved some money, but how much of the savings came from the reroute as opposed to the schedule cut? Workers would probably have preferred a less frequent bus with the same hours and route instead of a much less usable bus. Plus, Maryland is putting resources into this bus. The NH1 mysteriously appeared at the top of the priority corridor plan, and when asked during a previous RAC presentation, WMATA bus planner Jim Hamre said that this happened at the behest of the State of Maryland.

Prince George's County considers the National Harbor project an important economic development initiative for the County. The project's design already turns its back on Oxon Hill, isolating it into an island unto itself instead of linking up with the surrounding neighborhoods. It's not right for the revenue to also come at the expense of existing residents, forcing employees to spend more of their already-small salaries to get to work so that the state can save money and the resort can keep its visitors from interacting with other socioeconomic classes.

David Alpert is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Greater Greater Washington and Greater Greater Education. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He loves the area which is, in many ways, greater than those others, and wants to see it become even greater. 

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thanks for telling this story that I otherwise would not have known about. It shines the light on the f***ed attitude of NH management and the a**h*** in the MD state government supporting them. Can we find out who in the state and/or PGC gov is supporting this anti-constituent bus change?

by Bianchi on Sep 3, 2009 12:06 pm • linkreport

And why is anybody surprised about this?

National has had FUBAR written all over it, since its conception. And it will stay FUBAR since it's been built, and the coffers of the right politicians have been filled.

There is no way you can expect a resort that bills itself as being "in DC" while it's only close to a rather wet point of DC in the middle of a river, to ever do anything genuine.

The folks in PG county should figure out who approved NH in the first place, and vote them out of office. Preferably, they should cover them with roll 'm in syrup and feathers and run them out of the county.

by Jasper on Sep 3, 2009 12:18 pm • linkreport

The problems with the trip taking longer aside, I don't see why their bus + rail + bus trip is $8.30 each day.

They should be using Smartrip to get transfers. This would save them $0.10 for the first bus ride, $0.50 for the rail ride, and $1.35 for the final bus. On the way back, it would save them the same amount. This saves them almost $2 each way, or $4 a day. The round-trip fare for bus-rail-bus should be only $5.10 per day for that route.

With savings of $4 a day, the $5 cost of a Smartrip card is more than recovered within a week.

Is there something I'm missing? Are there strange fares going on?

by Michael Perkins on Sep 3, 2009 12:20 pm • linkreport

Jasper whats "FUBAR"?
Michael, aside from the costs don't you think the travel difficultly the change made is enough? Average commutes by bus increased 40 minutes and 30 people showed up at the meeting to express dissatisfaction with the change. How many showed up to show support for the change?

by Bianchi on Sep 3, 2009 1:33 pm • linkreport

@Bianchi, "FUBAR" is "F'd up beyond all recognition".

I understand that there are serious problems with the routing, including the fact that the new routing takes a lot longer, is way more inconvenient, and at certain times is not possible.

That being said, I'm not sure it's fair to complain about how much the new routing costs if you're not going to make any effort to get the transfer discounts that WMATA offers.

I'm not sure how Mr. Silo used to get to work for $30 a month, but $200 a month does not sound like he's doing it right.

I could be wrong. I sympathize with them over the terrible routing. It seems like WMATA/MTA listened to the interest of the developer over the interests of the people that are actually using the bus line.

by Michael Perkins on Sep 3, 2009 2:07 pm • linkreport

The best solution to all this would to make a second route, let's call it the NH2, that would not only run on the former NH1 alignment from Southern Avenue to National Harbor but then would continue across the Wilson Bridge to Alexandria (let's say King Street station). This would give the employees their old route back while also filling a massive hole for a MD-to-VA bus route that has existed for several years which, in turn, would give a sensible transit link between National Harbor and Virginia and benefit tourists *there*.

Since the change was done for "the tourists", it's only fair to do something for the employees. Outside of Metro's money woes and that the water taxi racket that takes Virginians to National Harbor for $8 one-way, what really is standing in the way?

by Jason on Sep 3, 2009 2:07 pm • linkreport

Bianchi:

FUBAR is F'ed Up Beyond All Recognition. Or, substitute 'repair' for 'recognition.'

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FUBAR

by Alex B. on Sep 3, 2009 2:08 pm • linkreport

FUBA reason is possible too.
The R is not so important, though.

@ Jason: What's standing in the way is two states and two (perhaps three) counties with budget deficits needing to agree on how to divvy up the cost of a bus line. So, the politics of not doing anything "saves" tax dollars, whereas serving citizens would actually be logical, but cost money and hence difficult.

@ Michael P: I am sure the folks who showed up tried to show the maximum cost of a new trip to get some more drama going on. It's not like that's unheard of in politics (see: Congress 1776-now and specifically any budgetary matter).

by Jasper on Sep 3, 2009 8:14 pm • linkreport

Was there no commitment from the developer in the beginning to provide a private shuttle to the metro station?
Are there any records of the building process that shows that someone might have asked about getting to the metro or DC? Or was it all covered by waving hands about a ferry?

by shy on Sep 3, 2009 9:12 pm • linkreport

@ shy: NH doesn't want any of that. They want their employees to appear out of the blue, and keep their customers in with as little opportunity as possible to leave. That's their business model, and that's how they're gonna behave. You can't even blame them for that. I don't think they ever really tried to hide that. I am sure they mentioned opportunities in their plans presented to the county, but as soon as they paid of the reps, they left it at that. Anything else will have to be forced down their throat, and they will fight it every step of the way.

FUBAR = FUBAR, it will never be fixed. That' what the BAR part stands for.

by Jasper on Sep 3, 2009 10:04 pm • linkreport

Stories like this make me so glad that I do not live in PG County anymore. Sigh.

by DavidDuck on Sep 3, 2009 11:25 pm • linkreport

@Jasper: Virginia and Maryland cooperated in the past with a bus route across the Wilson Bridge (the old N11/N13) which was discontinued in part due to the reconstruction. If they cooperated before, I think they would be able to cooperate once again especially since they both want to reestablish service and the Wilson Bridge will have transit lanes. Why put in transit lanes without transit?

by Jason on Sep 4, 2009 10:35 am • linkreport

This was the county's decision, which appears to be at the behest of the owner of National Harbor. Perhaps this injustice can be raised with the District Councilman to seek redress. Next year's likely budget shortfalls will bring even more hardship to workers trying to get to scattered jobs.

by ccort on Sep 4, 2009 11:58 am • linkreport

i wonder how they even managed to hire people.
national harbor is a hell hole. if i never go there again it will be too soon.

by twofeet on Sep 5, 2009 2:38 pm • linkreport

The new route is an inconvenience not only for employees but for people in DC, MoCo, Northern PG, etc. who find themselves having to attend meetings at this white elephant. I'm part of an organization that already has moved a meeting from NH to the Pentagon/Crystal City area because the locals wouldn't tolerate the commute.

by Rich on Sep 6, 2009 8:44 am • linkreport

Thank you for posting this article. Whoever is responsbile for changing this route is retarded and should not be re-elected ever. Take for example Fort-Washington/Oxon Hill express bus which charges $3 per trip - what kind of express bus stops everywhere, takes 1.5 hour to reach DC and runs after every 20 minutes and by the time it reaches Oxon-hill park & ride is already overcrowded. And on top of this, they were thinking of eliminating the line - why not start P18 from 5am from Southern Avenue station to accomodate National Harbor workers and guests?

by cantstandmetro on Sep 15, 2009 4:18 pm • linkreport

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