“We have seen public support for the bus lanes operating in rush hour, and we think there is significant benefit to extending them,” said Jeff Marootian, director of the District Department of Transportation.
Starting Nov. 12, the lanes’ hours of operation will be 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday. That is a significant change from the current hours, 7 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
DDOT is also creating loading zones on the opposite side of the bus lanes — on the south curb of I Street and the north curb of H Street — to accommodate delivery trucks that have been affected by the lanes. It will also change some signal sequencing and operations to address the heavy volume of right turns in some locations and move bus layover spaces outside the bus lane to create smoother bus operations.
The District is also evaluating automated traffic enforcement for the bus lanes to address violators. Officials and transit advocates say success of the transit lanes depends on consistent enforcement to get drivers to respect the rules. The city has been towing vehicles parked in the lanes during the peak hours and ticketing violators. The fine for driving or parking in the bus lane is expected to be $200.
Some transit advocates say the enforcement has still lagged. On a Wednesday last month, transit activists recorded nearly 300 violations using the How’s My Driving app.
“The bus lanes are great, but there is room for improvement,” Mark Sussman, co-founder of the How’s My Driving app, wrote in an analysis of the Aug. 21 bus lane enforcement blitz.
Marootian said the city will be implementing the changes in coming weeks and doing more public outreach to let drivers know about the new rules of the road.
Taking away the lane for the entire day will reduce curbside parking, with the loss of dozens of parking spots during those hours.
The I Street bus lane starts at 13th Street NW and ends at Pennsylvania Avenue NW; the H Street lane stretches from Pennsylvania Avenue NW to 14th Street NW. The lanes have added about 1.4 miles of bus lanes downtown.
These are the city’s most significant segments of dedicated bus lanes. A decade-old plan for dedicated bus lanes along 16th Street NW is on track for implementation next year, and the city is pursuing a $122 million plan to redesign K Street NW to add about two miles of bus lanes by 2025.
Bicycles, charter and school buses, and marked taxis are allowed to use the lanes. Other vehicles are allowed in the lanes to make a right turn.