Cut and run: transit and crime edition
In the run up to Hurricane Sandy, the Washington Post reported in "Citing attacks directed at buses, Metro weighs service cuts in Anacostia," that the DC-area transit authority proposes to cut bus service at night to a transit-dependent part of DC's Ward 8 because of rampant vandalism--rock throwing etc.--being directed at the buses at night.
Note that this is another illustration of my point that these kinds of transportation service decisions are too important to be left to the transit operators, they should be made as part of general metropolitan scale transportation planning and plans. (See, among others, the past blog entry "Washington Post article on the demand for night-time bus services.")
From the article:
The steep, narrow streets around Robinson Place, often the scene of violent crime, have become treacherous territory for Metrobuses in Southeast Washington. Police say teenagers are pelting buses with rocks, bricks and debris, causing injuries and damage and heightening anxiety among drivers and passengers.
Now, Metro wants to end night service in the trouble spots, all but giving in to the unidentified young people thought to be menacing the route. Metro Transit Police say they have not been able to halt the attacks, with no arrests in at least two years.
The chief spokeswoman for the D.C. police says the department does not assign officers or detectives to the bus cases because the attacks on Metrobuses are the transit agency’s responsibility. Caught in the middle are residents who live in the heart of the city’s poorest ward and who depend on bus service. If the proposed service cuts to the routes — the W6 and W8 — are approved, some riders would be forced to walk up to half a mile to the nearest bus stop.
While I understand the transit authority's desire to limit vandalism, reacting by retreating is not the best course of action, it furthers disorder.
Furthermore, addressing equity issues concerning transit access means that those with fewer transportation resources at their disposal shouldn't be denied service because of the negative actions of others.
And DC's police department needs to step up.
Interdicting this violence should be a #1 priority of the Metropolitan Police Department, which maybe doesn't need to do city-wide "All Hands On Deck" ("D.C. police on deck but robberies increase" from the Washington Times) initiatives as much as they need to do focused policing initiatives, not unlike how Michael Davis, who went around assaulting-killing people with hammers and rocks in the Petworth neighborhood, was apprehended through filling the area with uniformed and undercover police (Brother of two NFL players arrested in Petworth hammer attack" from the Washington Post).
Contrast this to the response in the Gold Coast region of Australia to the same problem. From "Teen vandals hurl rocks at buses" in the Gold Coast Bulletin:
... Mr Fernandez said bus drivers did not have support mechanisms in place to protect them. He said the Newman Government should follow the lead of NSW and South Australia and impose harsher penalties on people who attacked drivers.
"The driver of that bus is pretty shaken up,'' Mr Fernandez said. "We're going to keep pushing the Attorney-General (Jarrod Bleijie) to adopt harsher penalties for those who attack bus drivers.''
Meanwhile, police have warned that rock throwers terrorising bus drivers and passengers would face the wrath of the courts. Superintendent Paul Ziebarth said endangering lives on public transport was a more serious offence than the culprits might realise.
Clearly, all of the city's (not just WMATA's) criminal justice and prosecution forces need to be mobilized similarly here, to reduce this problem, which we must note, is a recurring one (for example this Post article from 2003, "Metrobuses Face Rock Attacks On Streets of Southeast D.C.; Stone-Throwing Incidents Causing Injuries, Damage"), although this is the first time that I have heard of the proposed response being cessation of service.
(Another option, if the buses are lightly filled at night, would be to shift to a jitney/taxi collectif type service.)