Metro plans longer buses for 16th Street and Georgia Avenue corridors

 (Luz Lazo/The Washington Post).
(Luz Lazo/The Washington Post).

If you catch a bus along the 16th Street corridor during the morning commute, chances are you’ve had a crowded bus pass you by without stopping.

Metro says it is working to reduce that problem. Starting Aug. 25, the transit agency will add longer buses in the 16th Street and Georgia Avenue corridors to relieve crowding and accommodate rising ridership.

More 60-foot articulated buses will run during rush hour on the S-Line that connects downtown Silver Spring to downtown Washington via 16th Street NW.  Riders of the No. 70 buses along Georgia Avenue will see more trips in the 60-foot buses throughout the day.

The change will benefit passengers in two of the city’s busiest bus corridors.  Along 16th street, riders waiting at bus stops in the southern portion of the route often are left behind by crowded buses.

The longer buses seat 62 passengers, 22 more than the standard 40-foot bus.  The longer buses also have more standing room.

Some community leaders welcomed the announcement, but said other efforts are necessary to ease the chronic problems in the corridor. Riders and advocates have been asking for  rush hour bus lanes in the 16th Street corridor to free buses from the traffic congestion that Metro says keeps the buses running at less than 10 miles per hour and oftentimes also is the source of bus bunching.

“We needed more capacity. We have pushed and pushed for months and finally Metro agreed to put in longer buses,” said Kishan Putta, a member of the Advisory Neighborhood Commission for Dupont Circle and an advocate for a dedicated bus lane on 16th Street and better bus service overall.

Putta, who is seeking an at-large seat on the D.C. Council,  said the city has to look at a longterm solution to improve efficiency.

“The buses are way off schedule right now,” he said.  “Technically we have 40 buses per hour during rush hour. That should mean one bus every 90 seconds, but every rider will tell you it’s nothing like that. It is more like five buses every 10 minutes.

“The only way to keep them on schedule and keep them from bunching as much as they do is to allow them to flow efficiently. .. The only thing that can really solve the biggest crunch time is the dedicated bus lane and the signal prioritizing,” Putta said.

Metro agrees that a dedicated bus lane and the implementation of a traffic signal system that gives priority to buses at some intersections will help. But because Metro doesn’t own the road, the city needs to take lead on those issues. Metro has said that after adding longer buses there’s not much more it can do to address the corridor’s problems.  Some city leaders, including, council member Mary M. Cheh, who chairs the transportation committee, and Council member Muriel Bowser, a mayoral hopeful, have urged the D.C. Department of Transportation to study the feasibility of a bus lane. It is unclear when DDOT will do the study.

The promise of longer buses is the latest in a series of bus service improvements aimed at addressing the demand for more and improved service along 16th Street NW.  Metrobus carries about 20,000 passengers on 16th Street and another 20,000 on Georgia Avenue each day.

“We are pleased to be able to find an innovative way to shift more longer buses to these busy corridors,” said Jack Requa,  Metro’s bus chief.  “We will continue to work with our partners to meet future ridership growth.”

Here’s what you can expect starting Aug. 25:

  • On the S-Line the number of trips operated by articulated buses will go from 68 during rush hour to 99.  During rush hour, five bus trips that currently operate with standard 40-foot buses will be converted to the longer 60-foot buses.
  • On the No. 70, along Georgia Avenue, the number of trips using articulated buses will nearly double from 89 to 172. The longer buses will run throughout the day, with approximately five more trips running with longer buses each hour from 4 a.m. until 10 p.m.

Metro said it is doing some restructuring to shift the longer buses to these two busy corridors. Some of the larger buses are coming from the Y Line, in Montgomery County, which will be converted to standard buses.

 

Luz Lazo writes about transportation and development. She has recently written about the challenges of bus commuting, Metro’s dark stations, and the impact of sequestration on air travel.
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