CAPITOL HEIGHTS, Md. — DC Circulator Buses, giving 5.5 million rides annually before the pandemic at just $1 each, are a crucial part of Mayor Muriel Bowser’s strategy to connect DC neighborhoods. Buses are currently serviced and parked at three yards in the District.
DDOT, DC's Department of Transportation, wants to move all those buses to an 11 acre field surrounded by three Prince George’s County towns.
WUSA9 gathered the mayors of those towns: Cheverly, Fairmount Heights, and Seat Pleasant, to tour that location.
Cheverly Mayor Kayce Munyeneh said, “One of the questions I asked them [DC] was, how much would this have cost you if you spent that over on Wisconsin Avenue in your own jurisdiction? We also asked, ‘did you look anyplace else other than Prince George’s County? Did you look in Virginia? The answer to that was 'no.' It just feels like, quite frankly, that the District of Columbia is taking advantage of a majority-minority community."
Prince George’s County residents concerned about being surrounded by industrial and infrastructure projects realized there wasn’t enough live monitoring of air pollution in their neighborhoods, so they set up tracking devices of their own.
"Prince George’s County is growing, but I think it’s beneficial to know exactly how it’s affecting the residents, especially when you have the industrial zone right next to residential," said Cheverly resident and councilmember Marverly Nettles in front of her newly-installed home air pollution monitor.
DC points out that it’s transitioning its circulator buses to an all-electric fleet by 2030 and the truck drivers testing facility will only have several appointments a day. But despite those assurances, Prince George’s County leaders believe enough is enough.
"They figured they could just come and dump," said Fairmount Heights Mayor Lillie Thompson Martin.
Prince George’s County residents are looking to the DC neighborhood of Petworth for inspiration.
“There’s pollution, there’s noise, there’s environmental issues," said Petworth neighborhood resident Tallib-Din Uqdah.
Residents gathering as “Northern Bus Barn Neighbors” took on a different project under WMATA and got that transit agency to pause its project while working through neighborhood concerns.
"One of the things I learned is the time that I wasted arguing with the people who were doing the presentation of what they’re going to do here. They’re only doing their jobs," explained Uqdah.
One of those people who could actually do something about DC’s push to move their bus yard to Prince George’s County joined Uqdah and WUSA9 for a walking tour of the Northern Bus Barn site: DC Councilmember Janeese Lewis George. She opposes the re-opening of DC’s Northern Bus Barn and had advice for Prince George’s County residents:
“It shifts and moves my colleagues to make a change in their stances as happened here and it can happen here. So I would encourage them to go to the top."
DC’s Department of General Services, responsible for building the bus yard and truck testing facility wrote in a statement: “The District is committed to working with the Cheverly community, Maryland State and Prince George’s County officials as well as federal partners in the environmental review process to analyze and mitigate impacts. This will involve areas including air quality and noise pollution, and any other areas of analysis as identified and needed.” It adds DDOT may throw in electric car charging stations and more jobs for local residents.
DC’s bus yard is set to open 2025. But for now - three Prince George’s County towns stand united in common cause - fighting air and noise pollution in their communities.
"We need each other, we need each other," said Fairmount Heights Mayor Martin to the other two mayors.
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