The newest bus route in town is also the shortest. It’s also not technically a bus, which is why the seats are plush, the music is peppy, and eating isn’t just allowed — but encouraged. Welcome on board The Roadie, a free shuttle service to Union Market (unionmarketdc.com) that began Aug. 21.
Richie Brandenburg, director of culinary strategy for Edens, which operates the foodie emporium, recognizes that although the location just north of Florida Avenue NE on Fifth Street NE is close to the NoMa-Gallaudet U Metro stop, it’s a long enough walk that many of the neighborhood’s worker bees aren’t up for the trip. And even the ones who don’t mind a trek probably aren’t so excited about lugging shopping bags to the office.
So the Edens team came up with the idea of a shuttle that runs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, connecting the market, a stop at Third and M streets NE, and one at First and L streets NE. A full loop takes about 15 minutes, as I learned Wednesday when I took a ride-along with driver Stanley Hill.
Just leaving was a trio of Booz Allen Hamilton employees who’d decided to take a field trip while their Internet service was busted. After a lunch at TaKorean, they were in a food coma and glad to get chauffeured back, said Erin Cawley, 22.
The Arlington resident had never been to Union Market, which is why co-worker Sal Brugman, 30, decided the shuttle was the way to go.
“People are skittish about the neighborhood,” said Brugman, who lives in Bloomingdale. “If they’re from suburbia, it’s not as common for them to see rundown homes and homeless people.”
The new service isn’t exactly mobbed yet — at most stops, the shuttle got more surprised looks than passengers — but every group that hopped on seemed to have someone like Brugman, a Union Market veteran who’d been trying to persuade friends to take a look.
Rene Tiongquico, 26, tested out the service himself last week before inviting his co-workers Wednesday. His findings? They could make the trip, devour lunch and still get back to the office on time. With his friends, the Glover Park resident said, it feels even faster.
Sipping iced tea and finishing off dessert, the group decided they’d need to come back to check out the wines at Cordial. And a few wished there could be a Capital Bikeshare station at the market, although they were having fun riding together, too.
As the shuttle hummed along, one pointed ahead and said, “That’s the Uline Arena!” The building, where The Beatles played their first American concert in 1964, is also the inspiration for The Roadie, which is decked out with a parody of the “Abbey Road” album cover. The four people in the crosswalk in front of Union Market are holding meat, flowers, bread and wine.
On his return trip to the office, Clarence Hill, 27, was carrying something else: a gallon of ice cream. In the air-conditioned shuttle, it didn’t melt and neither did he.