William H. McGilvery, who was quoted in a story about a shuttle bus proposal in Mount Pleasant in last week's District Weekly, works for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Commission. (Published 6/ 21/90)
A group of Mount Pleasant residents, fed up with parking problems and a daunting walk to the closest Metro station, are proposing to start their own shuttle bus service to connect their neighborhood with through streets in Adams-Morgan, Cleveland Park and Woodley Park as well as with two Connecticut Avenue Metro stations.
They want mini-bus service every 20 minutes on weekdays, less often on weekends, running both ways down Mount Pleasant Street, Columbia Road, Calvert Street, Connecticut Avenue, Porter Street and Klingle Road.
They want it to make frequent stops at such places as the Uptown Theater, the National Zoo and the public health clinic on Columbia Road.
They also say they have already found enough riders along the route to support their plan.
All four Advisory Neighborhood Commissions in the area have studied it and backed it unanimously. Business and hotel owners are enthusiastic. And a survey of area residents found 250 who said they would use the service often and two who said they would never use it.
"You can't drive to any of these places now because you can't find a place to put your car," said Judy Fredette, transportation chairman of the Mount Pleasant Neighborhhod Advisory Commission leading the plan. "We are virtually cut off."
A spokesman for Metro said if community support exists Metro might consider providing such service. But organizers say they haven't decided whether to seek private backing, public backing or both.
The neighborhood survey showed that most people would be willing to pay about 50 cents a ride. Some said they would pay $1.
"We are not sure where the money will come from just yet but we're not going to let that discourage us," Fredette said.
Private shuttle bus services are not a new concept in Washington and its suburbs. Area-wide there are nearly 100, said to William H. McGilvery, Metro executive director. But those in the District provide service only for limited populations such as senior citizens, handicapped children, college students or city workers. Many are part of programs financed by the city.
Neighborhood shuttles are rare because unincorporated areas rarely have the funds or taxing authority to raise funds for such a service. Only two exist in the region: in Laurel and in Friendship Heights.
The 10-year-old Friendship Heights service is similar but smaller than what Mount Pleasant is proposing. Its single bus connects apartments and condominiums on a circular route that includes a stop at the Friendship Heights Metro station. The service every 15 minutes is free, and, in a special arrangement with Montgomery County is funded by a rebate of 30 cents on every $100 the county collects from area residents.
That service and a similar one in the city of Alexandria cost about $70,000 per bus each year to run.
Hotels in upper Northwest have indicated they might be persuaded to contribute to a shuttle service. Michele Hayes, executive assistant manager of the Sheraton Washington called it "a terrific idea we'd look at." Arnold Fine, spokesman for the Omni Sheraton Hotel, said his hotel would be "definitely interested."
National Zoo officials laud the idea and say they are sure visitors would use it. "It's critical that people can get here by public transportation," said spokeswoman Gretchen Ellsworth. "On fine days, all the parking lots fill up by 10 a.m."
But the driving force behind the idea is coming from residents who long for better access to Metro and to the shops and restaurants in trendy Adams-Morgan, where parking has become a nightmare.
Virginia Weisner, who lives on Connecticut Avenue in Woodley Park, said she and her husband used to frequent restaurants in Adams-Morgan, but the parking problem has made it too difficult. "We'd go back if we could get there. A shuttle would be the ticket."