Route leaves GU going in circles

By:
04/17/2008

During the never-ending parade of GAAP tours last weekend, campus tour guides extolled the virtues of going to school in Washington: internships, proximity to power and cool events in the city. Meanwhile, Georgetown’s administration had already implemented a change that will likely dissuade some students from leaving campus at all: an absurd new route for the Dupont Circle GUTS bus.

As of April 7, the Dupont bus now takes a circuitous route up Wisconsin Avenue and down Massachusetts Avenue to avoid driving through Q Street in Georgetown neighborhood, resulting in longer ride times for students and employees. This new route puts the questionable concerns of vocal neighborhood residents ahead of the needs of Georgetown’s students, faculty and staff.

The change is Georgetown’s way of responding to “community concerns,” according to the Office of Transportation Management’s vague webpage announcement, posted three days before the new route came into effect.

But Ron Lewis, co-chair of the Advisory Neighborhood Commission’s transportation committee, was more forthcoming about the role the ANC played in pushing for route changes. According to Lewis, Georgetown’s old streets and 100-year-old historic houses cannot endure vibrations caused by bus traffic without sustaining damage.

“The problem started out on Q Street and has been building up for six months to a year,” Lewis said. (Lewis has been no friend to Georgetown students in the past—he eagerly co-sponsored a resolution last year to extend the one-keg limit off-campus, and is usually the most anti-student commissioner at ANC meetings.)

Of course, the regular city buses that continue to drive through Georgetown, dangerous vibrations and all, will not leave.

“They also serve bus stops in the residential area, so they’ll probably stay,” Lewis said. Changing those routes would, after all, be inconvenient for neighborhood residents. Sadly, the inconvenience for students heading to internships or University employees traveling to work doesn’t bother the ANC or the Georgetown administration, which worked closely with the ANC on the new route. The idea that members of the University community should suffer when neighborhood residents won’t do the same is ridiculous.

Unfortunately, while the University worked with the ANC on changing the route, Georgetown students remained largely unaware that a change to the Dupont Circle route was being considered. The change was announced quietly, without so much as a broadcast e-mail to warn riders to expect serious delays. Granted, Vice President for Facilities & Student Housing Karen Frank said that recent delays were greater than those in trial runs due to unpredictable rush-hour traffic and construction, but anyone who looks at a map of the new route—longer and on higher-traffic streets than the old one—can see that it will take more time whether construction crews are working or not.

Lewis called the new route a “win-win,” but Hoyas are the clear losers in this deal, with nothing to show for the concession besides more time to admire Embassy Row. The University should think twice before making decisions that make traveling into the city more difficult, given that Georgetown’s D.C. location is one of its greatest attributes. It should take more than neighborhood complaints for the University to voluntarily inconvenience so many Hoyas, especially when our neighbors continue to enjoy Metro bus service at their historic, apparently frail doorsteps.

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