Monday, March 29, 2010

Grassroots Movement Growing to Save Bus Routes in Fairfax County

When I was in college I worked for a non-profit opera company that was based in downtown DC (it was actually just a couple of blocks away from the Verizon Center). Even though I used public transportation, it was still a relatively long commute going downtown from the Centreville area. During one of the summers I worked there, I even used the bus system to get to the closest Metro station (which is Vienna in my case). What made that interesting was the closest bus stop to my house was over two miles away, which meant I usually got a ride to the bus stop in the morning and then would walk home in the evening. Although the walk did provide some good exercise, I think it also goes to show how even then the public bus system in Fairfax wasn’t a very convenient option to use (not everyone can get a ride and it's not an easy walk in work clothes).

Unfortunately, it looks like it’s going to be even more incontinent for people in Fairfax County who might want to utilize the public transportation system in our region. In addition to cutting Sunday service, the number of late night routes (which impacts people who work long hours or jobs that aren’t in a traditional 9 to 5 setting), an increasing fares, there are now proposals to cut seven different bus routes. Since these proposals aren’t set in stone, however, there has been a grassroots movement of people speaking out against the potential changes that was started by a woman named Deloris Bailey after she heard that the bus route she uses was going to be cut. As the Washington Post points out, she’s been working hard to make sure the public is aware of these changes.
Now, what started as a few e-mail exchanges among concerned riders has grown into a movement to save the Dulles corridor buses. Bailey created a Web site and Facebook group to help promote discussion. She also organized an online petition that has more than 250 signatures. She distributes fliers on the bus when commuting to and from work.

"It basically got started on the bus," Bailey said about the effort. "There's no meetings. There's no officers."

Her goal is to spread the word and make sure affected riders attend public hearings scheduled for April 6 through April 8 on the budget cuts. Bailey said she has spoken to several Fairfax officials, who told her to bring as many people to the hearings as she could to help get her message across.
In my experience, the online organizing can definitely have an impact on the members of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors to some degree. It’s having community members attend the public hearings and write letters to their individual Supervisors that truly have the most impact on potential decisions though. That is why I’m extremely pleased to see that Deloris is making sure that people know about the upcoming hearings. With that being said, if you can’t make it to the hearings but you care about easing the burden on our congested roads and allowing people to have an affordable and convenient way to get to work, then I encourage you to the very least sign onto the petition that Deloris started.

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