There’s Car-Free Day in September, Bike to Work Day in May, and now, the District is introducing Bus to Work Day.
D.C. officials have declared Monday a day to commute by bus, noting that there is plenty of room on the region’s more than 3,800 buses and many reasons to give the service a try.
“From reduced emissions of carbon and other air pollutants, to safer and less congested roadways, to improved access to economic opportunity, bus transit is a cost-effective and flexible solution to many of the District’s challenges,” said D.C. Council member Brandon T. Todd (D-Ward 4), who spearheaded the idea for Bus to Work Day.
The Washington region’s buses carry 600,000 people every day and are a critical mode of transport. Nearly half of Metrobus users are low-income residents, and more than half don’t have their own vehicles. But, the declining performance of bus systems has turned many commuters away, resulting in troubling ridership declines in recent years.
The Bus to Work campaign aims to give bus ridership a boost, reduce the number of cars on the road and promote a diverse set of bus policy priorities, Todd said.
“Our goal is not only to achieve increased bus ridership Monday, but to see a sustainable, long-term upward trajectory in ridership trends,” he said.
That may be a most difficult task. Some transit advocates say that to reverse these trends, the region must take bolder steps, including prioritizing dedicated bus lanes and overhauling routes. But a group of transit experts and officials, including from Metro and other bus agencies, is working on a plan to address the bus challenges.
For now, bus enthusiasts say commuters shouldn’t turn their backs on the mode but should join bus regulars Monday and experience what the bus has to offer. The region’s extensive bus network reaches corners the Metrorail system doesn’t and is cheaper, with fares at $2 a ride and free transfers within two hours.
Monday is looking like a good day to give the bus a try. After subzero and single-digit temperatures, the Washington region is looking at sunny, warmer weather Monday, with highs in the mid-50s.
Commuters new to the bus can also take advantage of free rides on the D.C. Circulator, which is waiving fares on the system’s six lines until Feb. 28, as part of Mayor Muriel E. Bowser’s Fair Shot February campaign to make it “easier for Washingtonians to get where they need to go and connect to opportunities across D.C.”
Bus to Work Day coincides with Transit Equity Day, a national effort to promote public transit as a civil right and a strategy to combat climate change, as well as with the birthday of civil rights activist Rosa Parks.
District officials say they hope commuters find inspiration in Parks, who refused to give up her seat to a white man on a bus in Montgomery, Ala., on Dec. 1, 1955, and was arrested under Alabama’s racial segregation laws.
“Rosa Parks reminds us that a bus is not simply a way to move people from point A to point B, but a bus is a vehicle for moving society forward and fostering social progress,” Todd said. “That is exactly what we hope to achieve with Bus to Work Day.”