Lane excuses: Buses deserve dedicated space


(Ben Claassen III/For Express)

When you’re stuck in traffic, it doesn’t really matter whether you’re in a car or a bus. You’re not moving. And, as public transit-averse folk will tell you, when you’re in the driver’s seat, you can at least blast your tunes and avoid touching strangers. Advantage: car.

But to tip the scales in favor of the bus, all it takes is a dedicated lane — an infrastructure improvement that costs practically nothing, is a fairer distribution of road resources and gives riders a real incentive to sit shoulder-to-shoulder with smelly people.

So let’s hear it for the Sunday debut of Metroway. That’s the name of Metro’s new service that will be running its branded buses between Braddock Road and Crystal City partially on a “transitway,” aka dedicated bus lanes. In 2015, another portion of transitway will open along the route, which should speed up each trip even more.

The project is a much-needed first in the region, but where’s the second? And the third?

A slew of other Metrobus changes kick in on Sunday. Many of the tweaks are designed to direct more buses to crowded areas, and that’s a good thing. But they’re missing out on an obvious solution to these problems: more dedicated bus lanes. When a bus doesn’t have to battle car traffic, it arrives at its destination faster and can handle extra trips.

Dedicated lanes obviously aren’t necessary everywhere, but it’s hard to imagine a better case for them than on 16th Street NW. It’s one of the most congested corridors in the city, and the majority of people on it during rush hour are bus passengers. So the fact that the D.C. Department of Transportation’s recently released plan for the street promises only to study “the potential for bus lanes” is a head-scratcher.

This study is slated to take a year to complete. And I bet I know why: The people doing it will be stuck in traffic.

 

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Vicky Hallett is a MisFits columnist and the Fit editor for Express.
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Vicky Hallett · August 22