Just as massive disruptions of Metrorail service are impacting the region, due to the so-called “SafeTrack” program to repair the vastly outdated system, the same governing agency, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit System (WMATA) has abruptly terminated two of its three bus service lines along Route 7 between the West and East Falls Church Metro stations in the City of Falls Church.
A half dozen impacted City residents showed up at the Falls Church City Council meeting Monday night to protest directly to WMATA’s chairman Jack Evans and acting chief operating officer Jack Requa who were there to brief the Council on the Metro “SafeTrack” effort. They noted that three new large scale mixed use projects are just now being completed or will be constructed soon right along the Route 7 corridor where the service has been terminated.
The residents were all from the Winter Hill condominiums located smack in the center of the City and most utilizing the bus stop at the corner of West Broad (Rt. 7) and S. Virginia Avenue. As of Sunday, June 26, they and other bus riders were notified by a flier posted at the stop that two of the bus lines serving that Route 7 corridor – the 3P and the 28X – would no longer be showing up to carry riders to, among other destinations, the West and East Falls Church Metro stations.
No explanation for the sudden, considerable degradation of service was provided, although Evans said Monday night that, without knowing the details, it was probably due to “low ridership levels” and the fact that “Falls Church is small.”
Evans promised the citizens, “I will try to get them back,” and F.C. Mayor David Tarter quipped that if he did, he could get elected mayor of Falls Church (Evans, a long-time member of the Washington, D.C. City Council, has run unsuccessfully for mayor there, so Tarter’s remark had some impact).
Tony Beltran, a citizen who spoke, said that the change has significantly added to the time it takes him to commute to work, with the nearest bus stop that could take him to where he needs to go is now a half-mile away. “This flies in the face of all the efforts of the City of Falls Church to make the City more transit oriented and pedestrian friendly,” he said.
According to the flier attached at the bus stop (and also according to Metro’s website), for the 3T line, “Service between West Falls Church and East Falls Church Metrorail stations within the City of Falls Church will be discontinued,” as of June 26.
Concerning the 28X line, with the new service, “it will operate between East Falls Church Metrorail station, Seven Corners Transit Center and the Mark Center (in Alexandria),” while “Service between Tysons Corner and the Seven Corners Transit Center (which is to say along Route 7 through Falls Church – ed.) will be discontinued.”
No explanation for the changes was provided.
“It is like there is now a black hole in the center of Falls Church,” Beltran said.
Colin Gibb, vice chair of the Winter Hill Condominium Association, also spoke during the hearing, noted that anyone hoping to get to either the West or East Falls Church Metro stations will now have to walk to Route 29 (Washington Blvd.) to catch a 2A or 3A bus.
He noted the irony of the discontinued service in light of the opening of the new 301 W. Broad apartments above the soon-opening Harris Teeter, the Mason Row project and the Kensington Assisted Living project, all located along West Broad where the two lines have just been discontinued.
He also said it was ironic that the Falls Church City Council just approved $200,000 to fund WMATA at its June 13 meeting.
In addition to Beltran and Gibb, citizens Richard Rabil, Vicki Barnes, Sandra Bolivar and Thomas Ogden also spoke up on the issue.