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Few Metro board members commute on system daily

Commuters board a train at Farragut North Metro station, Monday, October 10, 2012
A congressional deadline for Metro to install cell phone service in all of its tunnels was pushed back last week, from March 26 to Sept. 30. (Photo: Graeme Jennings/Examiner)

Few Metro board members face the daily rush hour frustrations of regular rail commuters.

Only two Metro board members of the 13 interviewed by The Washington Examiner commute on the transit system daily. Rules passed last year require the board of directors to use the system -- though they don't offer specific guidelines on how often -- after the board was criticized for not using the trains and buses it oversaw.

Marcel Acosta, who represents the federal government, and Chairman Tom Downs were the only board members who said they rode the system for daily commutes.

How do the directors use Metro?
Metro board members and the jurisdictions they represent:
Tom Downs- Chairman, D.C.
• Uses Metro "daily" from Friendship Heights station to downtown D.C.
• Uses Metro on the weekend when coming downtown. "I can't stand trying to find places to park downtown," he says. "I've used Metro for as long as I've lived in Washington, which was 1976. I got here the year it opened."
• Catches E2 or E4 bus if doesn't want to walk from home to Metrorail stop.
Muriel Bowser, D.C.
• Says she uses Metro regularly, but not daily. "Use varies."
• Normally travels on the Red or Green lines, E or R buses.
Terry Bellamy, D.C.
• Takes Metro two to three times per week for business. Navy Yard is his home station.
• Uses the Circulator bus or a D.C. government vehicle when not on Metro.
• Uses the free Metro pass given to board members for work-related, but not personal, trips. "It encourages use of the system by people who operate the system. We experience the same service that paying customers experience and that is a good thing."
Tom Bulger, D.C.
• Drives to work, but uses Metro "four or six times a day" to get to meetings.
• Doesn't use Metro on weekends, because he's frequently in Annapolis.
• Says bus stop near his house is too far away, doesn't have a shelter from the rain and doesn't go where he needs to travel.
Cathy Hudgins, Virginia
• Rides Metro about "twice a week," taking Fairfax Connector bus from Reston to West Falls Church Metro stop, then Metrorail into D.C. or Arlington. "I live a mile from the Silver Line, and I intend to be a frequent rider, as I am today," she said.
• Has used Metrobus but wouldn't say she uses it occasionally. "It depends on where I need to go."
• "I think I experience the same thing all riders experience. I've been offloaded. I've had great experiences," she said. "I like the system."
James Dyke, Virginia
Uses Metro three or four times a week for business meetings or personal trips.
• Drives to Vienna or East Falls Church from Reston, then takes Metrorail into the city.
• Drives to work in Tysons Corner.
•Rarely uses Metrobus now, but did more in the past.
•Doesn't use the free pass given to Metro board.
Bill Euille, Virginia
• Takes Metro two to three times a week, for meetings. Takes Metro on the weekends for events like baseball games.
•Drives when not taking the Metro.
•Rides buses within Alexandria.
Mary Hynes, Virginia
• Takes Metro once a week, more if she has many meetings, from Clarendon to Union Station or Crystal City.
• Walks "80 percent of the time"; drives car to church. "My church is just not Metro-accessible."
Mortimer Downey, federal government
• Uses Metro "two or three times a week" to get downtown from Vienna station.
• Learned how to take the S80 bus and D4; uses Circulator frequently.
• Occasionally uses Metro on the weekends.
Marcel Acosta, federal government
• Commutes on Metro to work daily, from U Street to Archives, during rush hour.
• Doesn't own a car; sometimes walks, bikes, takes a cab.
• Doesn't use free pass for Metro board members. "It's a long story, but since I'm a federal employee, they went through a conflict of interest analysis and thought it would be better if I paid for it on my own," he says.
Anthony Giancola, federal government
• Uses Metro three times a week, normally during rush hour. Before he retired in 2011, commuted daily on Metro.
• Rides the Red Line primarily.
• Has not used Metrobus in the last two years.
• "Having traveled on the New York system and light rail in Portland and Dallas, our system overall exceeds the others in comfort, cleanliness and levels of service and is getting better all the time."
Kathy Porter, Maryland
• Works at home, uses Metro to go to D.C. "several times a month."
• Commuted on Metro every day from 1985 to 2004, from Takoma Park to Union Station
• Doesn't use Metro on the weekend. "Partly it's because it's gotten slower on the weekend; partly it's because I'm more likely to be going downtown during the week," she said.
Michael Barnes, Maryland
• Uses Metro "once a week or so" to get to downtown D.C. from Chevy Chase, Md.
• Never rode Metrobus before joining the board. "Now I do that occasionally. That was a new experience for me, and it's great. People who don't ride it should give it a try."
• Last weekend ride on the Metro was in summer of 2012 to go to a Nationals game.
Alvin Nichols, Maryland
Did not respond to requests for comment.
Artis Hampshire-Cowan, Maryland
Did not respond to requests for comment because she was traveling for conferences, her secretary said.

Board member Tom Bulger said he doesn't ride the Metro to work because there is no rail station near his home and the bus stop is a half-mile uphill walk away.

"I know I'm going to get slammed for the bus stop. Don't slam me," Bulger said. "It doesn't have a shelter, it's three-quarters of a mile away, and it goes in the wrong direction. ... I'm not going to walk half a mile in the rain to wait for a bus -- I can't do that and run a business."

Many directors said they used the Metro often for meetings in downtown D.C., but not to travel to jobs during rush hour.

"I'm retired, so I spend a lot of time outside of Maryland. We have a second home. But when I'm there I go downtown about once a week or so, and I take the Metro," said board member and former Rep. Michael Barnes, who lives on the Maryland side of Chevy Chase.

Barnes says his daughter, who is disabled, rides Metrorail and Metrobus every day to get to her job in D.C. from Rockville, and she shares her experiences with him.

"She is my constant test of Metro," Barnes said. "Even though I'm not on it every day, I feel like I'm on it every day."

Some board members don't ride the Metrobus, and others, like Kathy Porter, don't ride the Metro on weekends, when the agency's grueling schedule of track repair shuts down stations and leads to long waits for trains.

"Partly it's because it's gotten slower on the weekend, partly it's because I'm more likely to be going downtown during the week," Porter said.

Board members receive a pass that allows them to ride rail and bus for free for life, and most use it. But some use it only for work-related travel, or not at all.

"I pay my own fare; I feel it's the only right thing to do. If I'm going to be voting on raising fares on everyone else, I need to have the experience of a rider," board member James Dyke said.