Some TWT employees will be looking for new ways to get to work after the company halts its employee shuttle service next month, sources from within TWT told FishbowlDC.
COO John Martin announced the company’s plans to shut down the service in an email to employees on May 28, exactly a month before the shuttle is set to stop running.
This is what the email from Martin said:
“Over the last several months we have surveyed the utilization of the company’s shuttle service to and from our building and Union Station. The results are that roughly 4%, or six riders, use the service daily. Therefore, the decision has been made to eliminate the shuttle service effective June 28, 2013. Please contact me if you have questions or concerns.”
Because of TWT’s location in the middle of nowhere (well, actually at the eastern end of New York Avenue, close to the National Arboretum), navigation to the office is difficult for those who rely on public transportation and don’t have a car. The closest Metro is Rhode Island Metro Station, which is 2.7 miles from the office.
The shuttle currently leaves from Union Station to go to the TWT office four times each morning between 7:30 and 9:30 and leaves from the TWT office each afternoon at 3:30 and every half-hour between 4:15 and 7:15.
A former TWT editor told FishbowlDC that it’s “easier to get to Kazakhstan without a car than it is to get to the far eastern end of New York Avenue without one.”
Leaving at 8:01 a.m. from Union Station, where the TWT shuttle currently picks up employees, commuters can take the train to Rhode Island Metro Station, where they can then board the B8 bus that will arrive at Fort Lincoln Drive at 8:32 a.m. From there, it is a .52 mile walk to the TWT office. The total cost of the trip would be $3.20 using a SmartTrip card. The nearest Capital Bikeshare station is close to the Minnesota Avenue Metro Station, about four miles from the TWT office.
The former editor also said the shutdown of the shuttle service comes at a time when the company will be needing it more. “It is a huge deal. TWT is transforming itself into a more internet focused operation with a much flatter management structure on the news side. That means fewer experienced folks (high pay) and more interns and early career and new grad journalists with low pay. Those folks are the least likely to have a car and TWT is more dependent on them than ever.”
The former editor added that the move “could be part of a death spiral” and “have a crippling impact on newsroom retention and recruitment.”
A TWT insider says the move is “a big deal” and that the company’s management is “really desperate for cash, doing anything to cut costs and rubbing nickels together to keep the operation limping along.”
The source echoed others, saying that “the shuttle service, which runs from Union Station to TWT headquarters, is very important because the newspaper is in the middle of nowhere up New York Ave. There is no other practical way to use public transit to get to this hellhole location. This makes it infinitely harder for already suffering employees to get to work if they don’t have cars. The shuttle service is not a large expense so the necessity of this cut is ominous.”
UPDATE: A former TWT insider who agreed to speak to us anonymously had this explanation for the shuttering of the shuttle service:
“Pretty clearly this wasn’t done for convenience — try traveling from anywhere downtown to TWT during any semblance of working hours,” the individual wrote. “It can’t be done. So it can only show the money woes continue. It also reveals the lack of strategic planning that is endemic to the Times. The NY Ave property may have made sense back in the 80s, but it’s not a viable option for a news organization that claims relevance now because it delivers an under-covered perspective nationally. Say what you will about phones and texting and emails — or Skype, given the distance in this case — but there can’t help but be a further lack of interaction between reporters in the field and editors. In many respects, it’s a manifestation of what most people figured out long ago: The Times simply isn’t a part of these times. It had ample opportunity to establish a real beachhead on Capitol Hill or downtown, but it never did so out of some nearsighted nostalgia for that very strange and too-big property. But given the strength of Fox News, the Washington Examiner, The Daily Caller and others, in the end it doesn’t really matter. The Times will continue to tell everyone it’s relevant, but no one will hear it.”