It’s 8:30 a.m. and Oumar Koumbassa is flashing his ID as he walks into school. Most people are just beginning their day. But because of SafeTrack shutdowns, Oumar has already spent two and a half hours on buses and trains to get to his English classes at Carlos Rosario International Charter School.
Metro is midway through a year of rolling station closures to tackle long-delayed repairs. When they are done, it will mean a safer, more reliable ride for commuters. But the disruptions — and proposed permanent cuts — have hidden costs for people like Koumbassa who don’t have other ways to get around.
“Every day, I take four buses and two trains or four trains. Every day,” says Koumbassa, who arrived from Guinea eight months ago. He found a job after four months of looking in Olney, Maryland — more than 30 miles from his home in Southeast Washington, D.C. After working all night, he joins rush-hour commuters to come back into the city for school. When the Red Line shut down for SafeTrack repairs, his commute grew from four hours to six. At his $11 an hour wage, an Uber is out of the question. “I think it’s a very, very difficult commute for me, it’s very, very hard,” Koumbassa says. “But I have to do it, I have to do it because I don’t have another chance, or another opportunity yet.”