Dr. Gridlock

Dr. Gridlock on the Closing of the Circulator Whitehaven Extension

By Robert Thomson
Sunday, September 20, 2009

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I saw an e-mail put out by the Georgetown Citizens Association about the Circulator's Wisconsin Avenue route being discontinued. Is this rumor or fact? The Circulator is the best thing that has happened to surface transit in the city, especially for Georgetown, which does not have a Metro stop.

While waiting for the Circulator, I saw three, yes, three 30 buses at one stop! The so-called "new" 30s routes, put in place after many polls and public meetings, are hardly better than the former ones, except that one drops off passengers at the Foggy Bottom Metro station. Old habits do not die. The 30s buses could be programmed like the Circulator.

Cynthia Ely, Georgetown

I regret to tell Ely and other fans of the Circulator bus along Wisconsin Avenue that the District plans to eliminate that section of the Georgetown-Union Station route as of Oct. 4. I'm also a fan of the jazzy red, black and gray buses that operate about every 10 minutes along five routes in the District's core. And I've heard from plenty of riders over the years when their bus routes are threatened with elimination, so I know that a neighborhood bus stop can be a vital link.

But throughout the region, the governments and authorities that operate bus routes are constantly reevaluating the services. They're trying to put the buses where the people are, they're trying to come close to meeting their printed schedules and they're trying to keep the cost down.

The Whitehaven extension wasn't part of the original Circulator route. It was added in spring 2007 in what was then described as a six-month experiment, in part testing the Circulator as a replacement for the Georgetown Metro Connection on its Foggy Bottom route.

The extension wound up carrying 2 percent of the Georgetown-Union Station route's ridership, while accounting for 15 percent of the cost, said John Lisle, spokesman for the D.C. Department of Transportation.

Still, he characterized the cutback as a "difficult decision." Ely's reaction suggests the Circulator did the things that bus advocates were hoping for: It established a highly recognizable brand associated closely enough with convenience and reliability. People looked for it and came to rely on it. The Circulator also serves the city's commercial interests by moving shoppers through a congested area underserved by transit.

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