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We Deserve Better!

The Backstory 

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Originally built in 1907, as a "car barn" – where streetcars were kept – the 14th St. bus garage has served the city's public transportation system from it's current location for more than 113-years, without our input or that of our local government. Here is how we got to where we are:

A private financier acquired the city’s hybrid transportation system – buses and streetcars – in 1949, but after a crippling strike, had its franchise revoked by Congress in 1955. It was then awarded, under a 20-year concession to a rival financier, O. Roy Chalk, on the condition that he replace all the city's "electrified" street cars with diesel-fueled buses by 1963. Under Chalk the DC-leg of the transportation system was known as DC Transit. 

WMATA was formed (1967), as a rail system only, after negotiating interstate compact agreements with Maryland (1965), Virginia and the U.S. Congress (1966). Without Home Rule, Congress acted on behalf of the District of Columbia.

In 1971 the compact was amended, giving WMATA the authority to take over bus companies and operate a bus system. After several months of failed negotiations with DC Transit's Chalk, WMATA condemned his bus system (1973) and took it over.

The resulting takeover – some voluntary – now makes up four, (previously) private-owned bus companies we now know as WMATA that except in certain limited exceptions, has been granted sovereign immunity – unless waived – and is exempt from paying any real property taxes on the land it owns, including the 14th St. bus garage.

The cost of Metrobus is allocated under a formula that considers the excess of expenses over revenues from specific bus routes – 14th, 16th Sts. and Georgia Ave. – and any federal government grants received are spent on projects that include technology, facilities maintenance, vehicles and vehicle parts. DC pays the bulk of WMATA's debt that is financed directly by the local jurisdictions.

Fares and other revenue sources funds 58% of the system's daily operations, with the other 42% coming from state and local governments. The federal government covers 65% of the system's capital costs – what's needed to make the system commercially operable.

Of that 42% coming from state and local jurisdictions, under the current formula, DC contributes the most – 38% – followed by Prince George's County – 21% – Montgomery County – 17% – Fairfax County – 13% –  and 11% from all others. 


No one knew then, the environmental deterioration or harmful health effects of diesel/gasoline exhaust. The EPA wasn't formed until 1970. It took them 15-years just to study fossil fuel emissions and another 2-years1987 – before lead in gasoline was finally banned, and in between – 1985 – vapor-capturing hoses were required at all gas stations. 

And diesel particulate matter (DPM) – an invisible soot, carried by fumes emitted by diesel-fueled exhaust from buses and other sources – was unheard of until 2001. DPM is (now) a known carcinogenic carrier of lung and bladder cancer, as well as the procuring cause of other cardiovascular and respiratory system's failures; and the fumes are no better.

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