On its first day, the D.C. Circulator took Marion Buelken from her home on the Southwest waterfront to Georgetown, where she had given up going because parking was so hard to find.

It took Emily Wallace from Georgetown to Union Station, which, owing to the complexities of public transit, she had not visited for years.

The colorful buses that debuted yesterday ferried tourists from Texas from their downtown hotel to the bustling intersection of Wisconsin Avenue and M Street NW and transported a Northeast Washington woman to Maine Avenue SW to buy fresh snapper at the wharf.

They took an octogenarian couple from Georgetown to Union Station for ice cream and shuttled Capitol Hill residents to Georgetown for pizza.

"This just connects everything," said Wallace, 55, as Bus No. 1129 glided past her office at Seventh Street and Massachusetts Avenue NW. "It's just been necessary, and needed, for years."

Wallace has taken a bus and two Metro trains to work -- a byproduct of the fact that Metro doesn't have an underground rail station in Georgetown and has always operated as a radial system, bringing people into the city, rather than a system that takes riders across the center of town.

Now, officials hope Wallace and thousands of others will hop on the Circulator system, which offers easy boarding through three doors and oversize windows to gaze at the passing streetscape. The $1 fare is among the cheapest in town -- and, until next Sunday, riding the bus is free.

Rather than operate on a specific schedule, the circulators are supposed to arrive at each stop at five- to seven-minute intervals. They will run from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week.

Eleven buses out of the fleet of 29 were put into action yesterday -- seven of them traveling west from Union Station to Georgetown and back and four following a north-south loop between the Southwest Waterfront and the Washington Convention Center, crossing the Mall and Chinatown en route.

On weekdays, 24 buses will be in use, with five kept in reserve.

Transportation officials from the District, which created the Circulator in partnership with two business groups and the National Capital Planning Commission, said more routes could be added in future years.

The goal is to bring tourists from the Mall into the core of the city and to lessen crosstown congestion by giving people a more convenient option than Metro or driving.

By the end of the day yesterday, D.C. transit officials said, 1,085 people had tried out the new service. Officials hope that ridership will climb to 4 million people a year, or nearly 11,000 riders a day on average, as more people find out about the service.

Those on board yesterday oohed and aahed at the clean interior and pronounced themselves delighted to have a new public transit option for going crosstown.

"It really opens up a lot for people. . . . It's just filling in a huge blank," said Pomella Shaw, 46, who walked with her 21/2-year-old son, Nathaniel, to Union Station from their home on Capitol Hill to catch a Circulator to Georgetown.

Yesterday, they planned nothing more ambitious than a pizza lunch before heading home.

But Shaw said they would be back to travel to the Georgetown multiplex. And, noting the bicycle racks on the front of the bus, she said she and her husband probably would take one to Georgetown with Nathaniel to bike the Crescent Trail.

Dan James, 58, took the Metro from Silver Spring to Union Station and then hopped on the Circulator to attend a boat show in Georgetown. Usually, he said, he would have switched trains downtown and traveled to Foggy Bottom, then walked or taken a shuttle bus.

"It's a convenient way for people to get to Georgetown," he said, looking out the window at the high-rises and construction cranes along K Street. "You can see part of the city as you drive along."

Operator Colonel M. Armstrong takes the bus through M Street and Wisconsin Avenue NW in Georgetown. Pomella Shaw and son Nathaniel, Capitol Hill residents, take the D.C. Circulator to Georgetown, which has no Metrorail access.