Dr. Gridlock’s traffic, transit tips: New buses in D.C., Fairfax; I-95 upgrade coming

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16th Street buses

Planners and politicians like to put down tracks, because a rail line — or more specifically a rail station — can become a focal point for development. But one of the advantages of bus routes is that they are flexible and can respond to changing needs.

We’ll see an example of that as Metro adds nine bus runs to the southern part of the 16th Street Line to ease crowding during the morning rush. The 16th Street Line is very popular, which is great. But because the buses start from Silver Spring, they’re already crowded by the time they reach the Columbia Heights and Mount Pleasant neighborhoods. People waiting there can’t even find standing room.

Robert Thomson is The Washington Post’s “Dr. Gridlock.” He answers travelers’ questions, listens to their complaints and shares their pain on the roads, trains and buses in the Washington region. View Archive

As of Monday, the extra buses will operate from 7:30 to 9:15 a.m. weekdays beginning at Harvard Street NW. They will make all the southbound stops that the line’s S2 buses make, then turn left on H Street and continue to 14th Street NW. So they also will be designated “S2.”

Express Connector

Fairfax County just added two routes to the bus service that takes advantage of the new 495 Express Lanes on the Capital Beltway. These Express Connector routes take commuters from Lorton and Springfield to Tysons.

The one-way fare will be $3.65 with a SmarTrip card and $4 with cash. But through April 12, the ride is free.

The county bus service already was operating expresses between Burke and Tysons, using the express lanes. I hope all these routes will become as popular as the 16th Street buses. It’s swell that the express lanes give solo drivers a new travel option, but the new lanes won’t really live up to their advance billing unless they serve transit users as well.

The full schedule for the express buses is on the Fairfax Connector Web site, www.fairfaxconnector.com.

NextBus app returns

One more note about bus services: The missing app is back. It’s the one that was called NextBus DC, which many Metrobus riders who have smartphones found helpful for tracking arrival times. The new version is called iCommute DC. There’s a “Lite” version for free and an enhanced version for $1.99.

The app has some attractive features. Besides looking nice, it can use your phone’s location service to identify nearby bus stops. But you don’t need an app to use the real-time bus and train arrival system. It’s available on Metro’s mobile Web site, www.wmata.com/mobile. (Whether the bus actually shows up when the system says it will is another matter. Riders have complained about that since Metro adopted the NextBus service.)

A rider tip

A Metro rider with a disability wrote in to say that she has bookmarked the page on the Metro Web site that lists all the busted escalators and elevators, so she can check it before she travels.

That’s a smart idea. You can get to this status page for the first time by going to Metro’s Web site, www.wmata.com, and clicking on “Elevator” and then on “View All Alerts & Advisories.” When you’re on the go, you also can check that status page from Metro’s mobile site.

Work on I-95

In April, the Virginia Department of Transportation plans to start a new project on Interstate 95 in Prince William County to add auxiliary lanes and widen shoulders along seven miles. The project’s goal is to ease choke points, reduce lane weaving and add capacity for emergencies.

The shoulders between Dumfries Road and the Prince William Parkway will be widened. Auxiliary lanes will be added on I-95 South to connect the Opitz Boulevard on-ramp with the Prince William Parkway off-ramp and the truck rest area on-ramp with the off-ramp to Route 234. On I-95 North, an auxiliary lane will connect the Dumfries Road on-ramp with the truck weigh station off-ramp.

The work, most of which will be done at night, is scheduled to be completed in summer 2015.

For more transportation news, go to washingtonpost.com/transportation.

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