We’ve all been there: already stuck in D.C.’s horrible traffic and suddenly the president decides to go on a rush hour outing.
President Obama’s 12-minute stop to play ball with little leaguers at an upper Northwest park Monday evening turned out to be a fun surprise for the kids, but it was a nightmare for commuters on downtown streets and the Key Bridge.
Motorcade-caused delays are almost a daily occurrence for downtown drivers. For Metrobus and its 217,000 daily riders in the District, they are yet another cause for frustration.
“The impact of the happy hour decision by the president to go visit his friends… causes cascading delays that go throughout the entire city,” Jim Hamre, director of bus planning for Metro, told a group of riders recently. “That is one of the challenges that most cities don’t have to face.”
You’re on a bus in the morning, stuck on Massachusetts Avenue NW, just past the master clock at the U.S. Naval Observatory, already late to work in a bus moving in bumper-to-bumper traffic when things come to a complete standstill.
There goes Vice President Biden’s motorcade headed to the White House.
Then there are the traffic jams caused when President Obama visits dignitaries at hotels near the White House like that evening he went to the St. Regis, near Farragut North, shutting down parts of K and L streets NW and sidewalks between 15th and 17th. (Hello, riders of the 80, D6, and DC Circulator?) Or when dignitaries visit Washington, like that time the southbound lanes of 14th street were shut down between G Street and Pennsylvania during the Israeli prime minister’s visit.
Even D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray has called some of the Secret Service street closures paralyzing D.C. traffic “unacceptable” and a disrespect to the city. Metrobus and its riders will tell you, it’s double the stress for them. Buses on fixed routes can’t just decide to detour, and for the folks waiting at a bus stop, the arrival times on their Next Bus app can be infuriating.
Some transit users take to Twitter to document their frustration.
@hanvnah Waiting for 15 minutes let’s you know you’re getting the real deal. If you only wait 3 mins it’s just the Secretary of Commerce.
— Andy Smith (@VaNatsFan) May 4, 2014
Obama motorcade flying by while you’ve been waiting a cold 30 minutes at the bus stop really puts your life in perspective #hesnevercold
— Paddi Harchandrai (@paddychop) December 10, 2013
Your bus getting stuck behind the Presidential Motorcade. Just another DC commute.
— A Lacey Perspective (@LacePerspective) February 6, 2014
Unfortunately, there’s no getting around it, Hamre said. When a bus is stranded downtown, riders all across the city are waiting for that bus. The motorcades contribute to the list of Metrobus problems— reliability, bus bunches, big gaps in bus arrival, and so forth. Already, buses are navigating Washington’s slow traffic at speeds that often are under 10 miles per hour, Hamre said.
“The motorcades and the vice president commuting cuts H, I, K, Connecticut and so for the time that it takes to get up to the Naval territory the city just stands still,” he said.
It’s part of life in Washington, some might say.
Consequences of living in DC, traffic stopped by Whitehurst Freeway for a motorcade. pic.twitter.com/PgOQDGgZzJ
— Meg Cerullo (@megcerullo) May 19, 2014