WASHINGTON - Metrobuses are back in business in one Southeast D.C. neighborhood after FOX 5 put the pressure on.
A story you first saw here had Metro answering questions about bus service that was temporarily stopped after 7 p.m. on Elvans Road. This all started after a gunman disabled a bus and opened fire on passengers inside. Now, full bus service to that line has been reinstated.
Last Friday night on Elvans Road, a gunman was able to disable a Metrobus by opening a panel on the side of the bus and turning off the power.
According to sources familiar with the case, with the cameras disabled and the driver unable to move the bus, the gunman opened fire hitting a man who was not the intended target.
"That is a real, real concern because, in most cases, once they shut the bus down, it also shuts the radio system off, and on some of the newer buses, it actually opens the doors,” said Earl Beatty, a bus operator and an executive board member for Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689. “So yes, it’s ugly.”
It is not the first time this has happened.
There was another incident on July 28 where a couple of juveniles were able to disable a bus, order the passengers off of the vehicle and then threatened the driver who drove at least one of these suspects to the Anacostia Metro station where that person got off the bus.
"Now you have the operator at a disadvantage because he or she cannot make the calls,” said Beatty.
Metro said it decided to keep the buses off Elvans Road on Saturday, Sunday and Monday night after Friday's shooting and a rock-throwing incident at another bus on Saturday night.
Residents are concerned.
“How are you going to get home?” one woman told us. “I know they have Uber, they have Lyft, they have other things, but if you don't have the funding for that, you have just enough to get to and from with Metro.”
"It's not fair to us who live over here on Stanton Road,” said another resident. “We have elderly people here.”
“That wasn't fair for us commuters who go back and forth and we didn't get any notice about it,” said Southeast D.C. resident Carolette Sweatt. “It actually rained yesterday when they suspended service. But it wasn't fair and it's not the right solution.”
Metro Transit Police Chief Ron Pavlik said the decision to cut service was made by the agency without any input from the mayor.
"This was an emergency shutdown,” he said. “The incident happened Friday night and then we had an incident Saturday night. Again, for the safety of our employees, we took a breath and said let’s do a temporary security detour until we can get the right stakeholders in line. And here it is Tuesday and we are lifting the detour.
“So over that 24 to 48 hours period, did we consult directly with the mayor? We may not have, but again, it goes back to the safety of our employees and safety of our riders.”
Chief Pavlik said for now, there will be a police presence along Elvans Road for the safety of the route.
The chief would not say how people are getting the knowledge on how to disable these buses. He did say it is a requirement by the fire department to keep these panels accessible as there are no locks to them.
By Tuesday night, Metrobus service was restored in the area, but not without backlash.
“The solution would be more policing,” said Sweatt.
She echoed the frustration felt by many of her neighbors who walked 20 minutes to the nearest Metro station.
“People had to walk a longer way home, get off at the Metro station and walk home,” said Jamel Marshall. “And then it's at night time so it's just a ripple effect.”
He moved to this new development three years ago.
“We pay too much to live here in these brand new homes, nice homes and nice neighborhood to really be just this violence,” said Marshall.
Shortly before 7 p.m. Tuesday, extra Metro workers were in place at this Southeast bus stop. They appeared unarmed though residents said the enhanced security is a start.
“I think they should have police on the buses to monitor what's going on, so once people see police, they don't do anything, they're kind of scared,” said Chuck Turner. “If they had police on the buses, there wouldn't be anybody hijacking the buses.”
There was no additional comment from the transit agency in response to Southeast residents’ frustration on Metro bus service’s three-day suspension in the neighborhood.