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North of Union Station, the Metro station at NoMa is Washington's only "infill" station. Another is planned at Potomac Yard. In Chicago, where the CTA has been working on infill stations for several years, there's proof that the stations can be added cheaply.
Infill stations are new stations constructed between stations on an existing transit line. NoMa, for example, opened in 2004. It was built between the existing stations at Union Station and Rhode Island Avenue along tracks that had opened in 1976.
The Chicago L dates back over a century. In many places its iconic, rickety structures pass through the dense, vibrant neighborhoods they helped to create. But after World War II, when the CTA took over service, many stations were closed to make trips from the outlying branches faster and to bring down expenses.
In recent years, CTA has reopened several of these stations, which is a more intensive process than it sounds like because the old stations weren't just abandoned; they were demolished.
A few months ago, the agency opened a new station on the Green Line at Cermak/McCormick Place. The station has a gorgeous vaulted canopy. In this location, there's a former stretch of third track, which became platform space.
But because the platform is so narrow, CTA didn't want to have any columns obstructing it. The solution was the vault, supported from outside the trackway. The station cost relatively cheap $50 million. (Yes, fifty million).
Across town, the Morgan station recently opened on the Green and Pink Lines. It was even cheaper to construct, coming in at just $38 million.
This station was also located where a former station had been removed in 1948. It has proven very popular, and was also fairly cheap and quick to construct.
The Yellow Line is also home to an infill station at Oakton. That station was a recent additon to the line, which formerly had no intermediate stops between Skokie/Dempster and Howard.
In Washington, our infill stations tend to be a little more expensive because they're designed with wider platforms and sturdier materials. Also, in both the case of NoMa and Potomac Yard, the new stations required relocating the tracks. That was not the case in Chicago.
Where would you like to see an infill station on Metro?
A full-time bus lane on 16th Street, or a rush-hour only lane, are two of many possible strategies for improving bus service on 16th Street. DC transportation planners presented a menu of ways to make these buses faster and more reliable at a meeting Wednesday night.
The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) has been studying 16th Street in detail from Spring Road to Lafayette Park. Planners scrutinized the buses' operations to figure out how much time buses were waiting for people boarding, at lights, and more.
Now, they've devised three scenarios. Each scenario combines a host of individual changes, from small ones like lengthening a bus stop to major changes like a bus lane. After getting some more public input, the team will run them through traffic models.
Ultimately, they will be able to mix and match pieces, so rather than focusing too much on what's in each scenario, here is a list of some of the most significant ideas to think about.
A full-time bus lane (in scenario 2): 16th Street south of Spring would get a bus lane in each direction, a general travel lane in each direction, and a reversible lane. Between U Street and O Street, where 16th Street is 48 feet wide, it would become 5 narrow lanes (with the middle one reversible) instead of the current 4 wide lanes. That would ensure that drivers in the peak direction still get two lanes as they do today.
Typical lane configurations for scenario 2 in Columbia Heights (left) and Dupont (right). Click for a detailed diagram of the corridor with lane configurations for all portions. Images from DDOT.
A rush-hour bus lane in the peak direction (in scenario 3): During morning rush, 16th would have a southbound bus lane and two southbound general travel lanes; the reverse would apply in the evening. Through most of Columbia Heights where 16th is already 5 lanes, that means one reversible lane (like today). In the narrow part from U to O, it would stay four lanes, but in this scenario, would have two reversible lanes.
Typical lane configurations for scenario 3 in Columbia Heights (top) and Dupont Circle (bottom) in the AM peak (left) and PM peak (right). Click for a detailed diagram of the corridor with lane configurations for all portions. Images from DDOT.
Removing a few bus stops (all scenarios): In some places, bus stops are very close together, like a stop at Riggs Place southbound which is between other stops at Q and R. Planners suggest removing southbound stops at Newton, Lamont, V, and Riggs, and northbound at L, Q, V, Lamont, and Newton.
Queue jumps (scenario 1): If there is no bus lane, there would be a few "queue jump" areas where buses could go ahead of other vehicles at a signal. For instance, northbound at U Street, buses now pull out into a combination bus stop and right turn lane, but then have to wait to merge back in when the light turns green. A special signal could let the bus go first if it's waiting.
Headway-based service (all scenarios): Now, buses operate on a schedule, where each bus leaves at a predetermined time. The Circulator, instead, uses a headway system where they leave each end whenever it would space out the buses at the appropriate time intervals (10 minutes for Circulator). The S buses would start using this same system as well to try to reduce bunching.
Other bus stop tweaks (all scenarios): Southbound, the stops at Harvard and M Streets would move to the far side of the street, which will also make it possible to lengthen them. Other stops would get longer as well.
Off-board fare payment: There are three ways to do this. One (in scenario 2) would be to just add kiosks at bus stops to let people load up their SmarTrip cards while waiting for the bus. Loading them on the bus adds a lot of delay.
WMATA is already exploring doing this on five lines, though at the meeting, Megan Kanagy of the study team said that cash transactions on 16th Street represent a low percentage of riders.
Alternately, DDOT and WMATA could work together to set up full off-board payment, where people touch a SmarTrip at a kiosk or pay and get a receipt or something (the exact physical details are not yet worked out). Inspectors would then spot check buses to verify people had paid.
Fare payment kiosks for New York's 34th Street Select Bus Service. Photo by New York City Department of Transportation on Flickr.
According to the table here this would save 1-4 seconds per rider. People could also then board through both the front and rear doors.
This is a big change, however. One challenge is that it's hard to do this on only part of a route, since if someone gets on in the non-off-board zone, pays with cash, and then rides into the zone, there's no way to prove he or she paid. The S1 bus now splits off the other buses at K Street and heads over to the State Department, while the S2 and S4 go east and south to the Federal Triangle area. Therefore, this option would be hard to implement unless the routes also got shorter, as discussed below.
An easier way to get started (in scenario 3) would be just to do this on the S9 express bus, which goes from Silver Spring to McPherson Square and makes fewer stops.
Shorter routes (scenario 1): In addition to the issues with off-board payment, the route split also hurts reliability. Longer routes are harder to keep on time, and when buses start in far-apart spots and then merge, it's hard to get them to not be bunched up once they merge.
One option, then, is to shorten the downtown sections of each route, having the S1 just go to Farragut and the S2 and S4 just to McPherson.
A big drawback is that especially for the S1, riders won't have a lot of great alternatives. In fact, Metro is already proposing cutting back the 80 bus to make it more reliable, and it doesn't run very frequently anyway. According to the data here (page 23), 61% of the riders who take the S1 to the Dupont/U/Columbia Heights area get on in the portion beyond McPherson.
So that doesn't sound so good right now. But it could be in the future. Transit planning guru Jarrett Walker talks a lot about the value of having a simple network of frequent routes instead of a lot of branching. Rather than giving riders a lot of sub-routes which go different places, just make it easy to transfer (just like with most rail systems).
If Metro were able to more holistically rethink the bus routes downtown, we might end up with a network where all S buses go to the same place, but there's a frequent, reliable route east-west. Anyone going to the Foggy Bottom area could confidently transfer to that bus without it making the trip much slower or less reliable than the S1 today (or hopefully even better!)
Therefore, it seems this option is worth studying now, but probably not implementing yet. The bigger rethink of bus routes is also worth getting started on.
Fix some intersections: DDOT previously studied of the complicated intersection where Havard, Columbia, and Mt. Pleasant Streets all meet 16th in three very closely-spaced lines. Scenario 2 contemplates going ahead with some changes, though there would be more of a public process first to decide exactly what that would be.
Driving southbound, one lane becomes a left turn lane at W Street, and a lot of drivers either don't know or try to use that to jump ahead. All scenarios consider starting signs earlier and a physical separator as well.
Limit parking: There are 535 parking spaces in this area now. Ten would go away to lengthen bus stops in all scenarios. Right now, parking is not allowed along the peak direction during rush periods, and in some places is not allowed in either direction during rush.
In scenario 1, there would also be no parking midday (when parking really constrains the buses which have to merge into traffic), but still parking in the off-peak direction mornings and evenings. Scenario 2, the full-time bus lane, would have no parking except for 10 pm to 7 am, when people could park in the bus lane.
Scenario 3, the part-time bus lane, would have no parking on either side during morning or evening rush periods (to make room for the bus lane) but still allow it midday. However, in all scenarios the middday period would not start until 10 am, versus 9:30 today. The many pieces of each scenario are complex, but summarized here (page 22).
Use Arkansas instead of Missouri (scenario 1): Buses driving to or from the bus garage on 14th Street now go north to Missouri Avenue and then south again on 16th. Instead, they could use Arkansas Avenue, just south of the bus garage, increasing reliability.
The team wants to hear from residents before they start running the scenarios through the traffic models. They're interested in strategies they might not have included and feedback on the ones they did.
There will be four "pop-up" events, where people can stop by, ask questions, and give feedback without having to sit through a long meeting. They are:
- Wednesday, October 7, 5:30-7:30 pm at 16th Street and Spring Place, NW
- Wednesday October 14, 4-6 pm at 16th and L
- Thursday, October 15, 5:30-7:30 pm at 16th and U
- Saturday, October 17, Noon-2 pm at 16th and Irving
People who want to ride a bike north-south along the east side of DC's central business district and in Shaw could soon have a new protected bikeway to do it. A new study recommends four options, including 6th Street NW, 5th and 6th, or 9th.
The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) has been studying options for a bikeway to connect areas between Florida and Constitution Avenues. This bikeway would connect central DC neighborhoods, downtown, and the existing major east-west bikeways like the one on Pennsylvania Avenue.
This area has high levels of bicycling and many popular destinations but a distinct lack of quality bike facilities. Currently, 7th Street has the most bicycle traffic, but usage is pretty evenly spread out. 5th stands out because a large number of people ride south on 5th despite the road being one-way north.
DDOT planners studied an assortment of designs, considering every street between 4th and 9th. They first eliminated 4th and 8th because they were discontinuous streets. After a round of data gathering, where they looked at parking, parking utilization, auto and bicycle traffic, transit, potential pedestrian conflicts, cost, loading zones, events, and institutions along the route, they eliminated 7th Street because of heavy transit and pedestrian usage; they didn't want the bikeway to become an auxiliary sidewalk.
Data on transit ridership (left), pedestrian volume (center), and Capital Bikeshare usage (right) in the study area. Images from DDOT.
During this whole process, they have also been involved in a public outreach effort, meeting with institutions, businesses, churches, council staff, and other stakeholders. With data screening complete, there are four alternatives which they have made public and plan to discuss at an upcoming public meeting. After that, they will narrow the alternatives to three, which will get more intensive study and planning before choosing a preferred alternative sometime this winter.
Here are the alternatives:
5th and 6th couplet: Alternative 1 would place a one-way northbound protected bikeway on the east side of 5th Street up to New York Avenue and a painted bike lane north of that. A one-way southbound bikeway would go on the west side of 6th.
This would remove a travel lane on 6th north of New York and a parking lane south of there. On 6th south of New York Avenue, the bikeway would be adjacent to a rush hour travel/off-peak parking lane converted from what is now a southbound travel lane. While DDOT considered using angled parking on 6th, that didn't make it into the final design.
One-way on on each side of 6th Alternative 2, would replace a travel lane in each direction on 6th Street with a one-way protected bikeway on each side. South of New York Avenue the bikeways would be adjacent to a rush hour travel/off-peak parking lane.
Bi-directional on 6th: Alternative 3 would remove a northbound travel lane north of New York Avenue and a parking lane south of New York and would convert a northbound travel lane to a rush hour travel/off-peak parking lane to make room for a bi-directional protected bikeway on the east side of 6th. This is similar to what exists on 15th Street (though the one on 15th is on the west side).
Bi-directional on 9th: Alternative 4 is like Alternative 3, but on 9th Street. A northbound travel lane north of Massachusetts Avenue and a parking lane south of Massachusetts Avenue would disappear, while a northbound travel lane would become an rush hour travel/off-peak parking lane. This would make room for a bi-directional protected bikeway on the east side of 9th. The southbound bike-bus lane would remain.
Bike planners are looking at numerous factors in deciding which to eliminate next. All the alternatives have similar expected travel times for cyclists, so that will not be a factor. But they will be considering turns across bike facilities, pedestrian intensity next to the bikeway, the amount of protection along the facility, and other safety factors.
As one example, the Verizon Center often shuts down a lane on the west side of 6th Street for loading for shows. That could be an obstacle for Alternative 2. There may be similar challenges in other spots for the other alternatives.
The planners will look at which designs affect buses the least, and how to deal with the unique parking needs of churches to accommodate their loading and unloading requirements, large event needs, funeral needs, etc.
Alternative 1 provides the least protection. DDOT has decided not to remove on-street parking in residential areas, which limits 5th street to painted bike lanes north of New York. Another consideration for 5th Street is that it has fewer stop lights, but more stop signs and some speed bumps.
In Alternative 4, 9th is one-way south of Massachusetts, so northbound cyclists would be going the opposite direction from car traffic, meaning it would suffer from the same light timing issues as 15th Street does. Timed lights on 15th mean people riding north hit more red lights than on a typical street.
DDOT has a website with all the designs which is accepting comments. The team is planning a public meeting soon, but haven't settled on details. If a final design is chosen this winter, work could begin before the end of 2016.
Which design do do you think is best?
Does this map look like the Metro map we know today? It's a direct ancestor.
Peter Lloyd, who writes the blog Metro Map Art, included this in a book he wrote about designer Massimo Vignelli. Vignelli notably created the 1972 version of the New York Subway map, which simplified the shapes of the lines into only verticals, horizontals, and diagonals.
Today's Metro map uses those same orientations, while New York moved away from it toward a more curved, partially more geographically accurate version. But Vignelli also worked with Metro architect Harry Weese, designing the iconic pylons outside stations, the original signs inside, and more, including the above map.
But Vignelli was not the designer who created the final map. That was Lance Wyman, a designer with a much less severe aesthetic. Lloyd visited an exhibit about Wyman's design in Monterrey, Mexico. The exhibit contains early sketches for the Metro map which strongly resemble the Vignelli map but also the modern one.
As you can see, the colors changed, and so did the names for the ends of lines (that, of course, not being the designers' doing). Nutley Road is now Vienna, Ardmore is New Carrollton. Greenbelt Road became just Greenbelt when planners moved the station closer to the Beltway. Initial plans to split the now-Yellow line to Franconia and Springfield (then Backlick Road) became one unified Franconia-Springfield station.
Another hallmark of Wyman's work is the use of icons in wayfinding. As Lloyd explains, Wyman initially proposed having icons for each station, and in fact that's a reason the map has large circles and fat lines.
According to Lloyd, Vignelli led an effort to reject the icon concept.
Metro's service evolves as well
The map also has changed as the system grew beyond the initial plans. In 2011, Metro hired Wyman to redesign the map to fit in the Silver Line. The latest issue of Washingtonian looks at changes in the region over the years, including Metro; Angie Hilsman created this animated GIF of Metro service growth based on maps I drew:
These maps show the service patterns, not the actual maps in stations; as the system was constructed, the maps instead showed the then-planned lines with broken lines and empty circles for as-yet-unbuilt tracks and stations. You can see the full set of these images in this slideshow:
Casey Anderson, the chair of Montgomery County's planning board, says he wants the best bike plan any place US city has ever seen. The county's interactive Cycling Concerns Bicycle Atlas is a tool for gathering the feedback it needs to make that happen.
The primary goal of the County Bike Plan is to move from a world where only 1% of the population feels comfortable riding (high stress roadways) to one where those who tolerate moderate (10%) or low stress (50%) also feel comfortable riding. Importantly, it also recognizes that there is a substantial minority that will never get on a bike.
This effort began with the Second Great MoCo Bike Summit, and has been part of a series of community meetings where Board Chairman Casey Anderson and planner David Anspacher led attendees through a discussion of common cycling issues and defined the
Unlike a similar atlas unveiled in Fairfax County this spring, which asked cyclists to identify routes they'd like to see bike lanes on, Montgomery's map asks users to note problem areas within the county's existing network, such as poor or missing connections, unsafe sewer grates, and concerns with road conditions.
The map will remain up indefinitely. The county has already started using feedback from the atlas to address immediate concerns. The plan should be complete in 2017, and it will include recommendations about specific bike facilities to be built.
Hundreds of people have already used the map,, and the county is asking them to keep it up. Users can also rate and comment other users' feedback directly on the map.
MCBikePlan (@MCBikePlan) September 16, 2015
There will be one more community meeting to discuss the Bike Plan on Tuesday, October 6, at Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda.
Since 2004, Metro has been planning to build an underground connection between Farragut North and Farragut West. The two busy downtown stations are only 400 feet apart, and a connection could provide an attractive alternative to Metro Center, currently the only transfer point between the Red and Blue/Orange/Silver lines.
People walking between the Farragut stations. They would be able to connect underground if Metro builds this connector. All images from WMATA unless otherwise noted.
This was supposed to happen in the original plan
The Red Line crosses the Blue/Orange/Silver Line twice: once at Metro Center, where passengers can transfer between trains, and again at Connecticut and I Street at the southeast corner of Farragut Square. Early plans for the Metro system called for a single Farragut Square station, with two levels allowing transfers like at Metro Center.
But the National Park Service balked at allowing WMATA to dig up the square to build a station there, since it would mean killing the old trees in the square. As a result, there are two separate stations, one at Farragut North for the Red Line and one at Farragut West for the Blue/Orange/Silver Lines.
That means that riders coming from Virginia who want to head northwest on the Red Line have to stay on the train longer, riding past Farragut and McPherson Squares and doubling back at Metro Center, the busiest station in the system.
In 2011, Metro instituted a "virtual tunnel" called Farragut Crossing that allows riders to exit one Farragut and enter the other Farragut using a SmarTrip card without incurring an additional fare surcharge. However, this free transfer requires crossing three streets (K, I, and 17th) and walking a block outside. On weekends and for wheelchair users, the transfer also requires an additional block and crossing 18th Street.
Metro officials are continuing to work on the connector because it will provide necessary congestion relief at Metro Center and will shorten many riders' trips. However, they're also planning additional improvements in Farragut North and Farragut West since the tunnel will increase usage there.
Beyond the tunnel, stations would need greater capacity
There are three primary components in the project.
The biggest element is the tunnel itself, which will stretch about 450 feet between the eastern (17th Street) mezzanine at Farragut West to the south end of Farragut North. The entire tunnel will be in the fare-paid area. In the current plans, there would be no new entrances built along the tunnel.
Another part of the project calls for Farragut North to be able to handle more traffic. This means new staircases between the central/south mezzanine and the platform, redundant street and platform elevators, and reconfigured faregates.
One of WMATA's design options also would extend the central/south mezzanine so it connects directly to the tunnel to Farragut West. That option improves circulation since it allows passengers to avoid the platform.
The final component of the project would expand capacity at Farragut West by extending the mezzanines on both the east and western ends, adding platform and street elevators at the eastern mezzanine, and reconfiguring the fare vending machines and faregates.
The project would have the added benefit of making Farragut North and Farragut West elevator-redundant stations, improving the accessibility of the system.
This would save time and ease congestion
The largest benefit is time savings for transferring riders. Without the tunnel, planners estimate that under crowded conditions in 2030 the tunnel would reduce travel time between the Farraguts from 6:14 (via Metro Center) or 7:51 (via 17th Street) to 3:19 (via the tunnel). The time savings is even greater during uncongested periods, with a reduction from 5:35 (via Metro Center) or 6:17 (via 17th Street) to 1:39 (via the tunnel).
Another advantage of the tunnel is that it would reduce crowding at Metro Center. Today, there are almost 85,000 daily transfers at Metro Center (in addition to about 56,000 daily entries and exits). Without the tunnel, the number of transfers at Metro Center is expected to climb to over 100,000 by 2030, with daily entries and exits rising to about 70,000.
With the tunnel, transfers at Metro Center would drop to around 78,000 by 2030, less than the number today. That's because approximately 26,000 riders would elect to transfer between the Farraguts rather than at Metro Center.
Additionally, the proposed improvements at Farragut North and Farragut West inside the stations could reduce congestion on the platforms.
The current arrangement of escalators at Farragut North's central and southern mezzanines concentrates passengers in the center of the platform. New staircases on either end of the mezzanine would better distribute passengers and reduce crowding.
At Farragut West, the four additional escalators would clear the platform more quickly, though they would likely increase congestion in the mezzanines.
Costs could be spread out
The project doesn't have to happen all at once. The pieces could probably be broken out, though it could be easier or less disruptive to build them together.
The tunnel itself is estimated to cost between $70 and $73 million. The Farragut North improvements would cost around $23 million. The Farragut West construction would run about $36 million. That brings the total cost to around $130 million.
However, this study hasn't fleshed out all the issues. Metro still needs to conduct additional analysis to determine some of the structural elements and do further design work.
Funding hasn't yet been identified, nor has a timeline for construction. However, the study does anticipate the tunnel being open by 2030.
Half of drivers on Illinois Avenue in Petworth exceed the speed limit, and residents asked for traffic calming. But an analysis from the District Department of Transportation says that speeding is "acceptable." Instead, DDOT will install signs reminding drivers to stop for pedestrians.
Responding to resident concerns, the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission, ANC 4D, passed a resolution in January, saying,
Several of these blocks of Illinois Ave. have awkward intersections leading to pedestrian safety concerns. Cars are parking within signed areas but too close to the intersections, blocking the view of crossing traffic. Additionally, the lack of stop signs on Illinois at the intersections with Emerson and Farragut Streets result in speeding traffic. When combined with the difficult visibility, the community believes this leads to unnecessary accidents[sic].Illinois Avenue has just one driving lane in each direction and one parking lane on each side. The buildings are mostly row houses, some small apartment buildings, and small detached houses. There's also a public school, the Truesdell Education Campus, serving children from 3 years old to eighth grade.
A team from DDOT's Traffic Operations Administration studied the area and reviewed crash data, culminating in a report in June. The report says that from 2012 to 2014, there were 47 crashes including 19 injuries. Three of the crashes involved pedestrians and two involved bicycles.
Two of the crashes involving people not in cars happened at Farragut Street, where there is not a four-way stop or a traffic light, as the ANC resolution highlighted. The other three happened at other intersections.
The speed limit here is 25 mph, and the analysis concludes that only 52% of drivers are staying at or below that level. Another 34.2% are driving between 25 and 30 mph, while 13.8% traveling faster than that (one, it appears, clocked at 56-60 mph).
The report's language casts this as not a problem, such as by saying that 67.8% travel below 30 mph and that the average speed was 23 mph. It concludes:
Additionally, the 85th percentile speed is within an acceptable range for the posted speed. Of note, the criteria typically employed by DDOT for installation of traffic calming measures requires the measured 85th percentile speed to substantially exceed the posted speed limit, defined as exceeding by at least 25 percent (31 miles per hour in this location). Thus, while the 85th percentile speed is 4 miles per hour above the 25 miles per hour speed limit, this measured speed does not substantially exceed the posted speed limit. (Emphasis added.)In other words, while legally there is a rule that everyone has to travel below a certain speed, DDOT's policy is not to take action unless at least 15% of drivers are traveling at least 25% faster.
This is the opposite of Vision Zero
Certainly, it's fair to say that this is far from the worst street in DC for speeding or for safety. However, DC has adopted a policy called Vision Zero. The objective:
By the year 2024, Washington, DC will reach zero fatalities and serious injuries to travelers of our transportation system, through more effective use of data, education, enforcement, and engineering.The report doesn't say if any of the 19 injuries were serious or fatal, but the blasé attitude of the report toward speeding and 19 injuries is the polar opposite. It's Vision Zero, not Vision Nineteen.
Remember, the chances that a driver striking a pedestrian is fatal rises from 5% to 45% as the car's speed goes from 20 mph to 30 (and then to 85% at 40).
To eliminate— There will be a lot of ways to improve traffic safety that don't also slow down cars, but DDOT will have to also be willing to calm streets, and not just where speeding is egregious. A smaller residential avenue with a school, where the local ANC wants traffic calming, would be a good spot.
There will be a lot of ways to improve traffic safety that don't also slow down cars, but DDOT will have to also be willing to calm streets, and not just where speeding is egregious. A smaller residential avenue with a school, where the local ANC wants traffic calming, would be a good spot.
Have a tip for the links? Submit it here.
- Petworth residents complained drivers are speeding. DC says it's true, but "acceptable."
- Chicago has examples of a cheap way to bring rail transit to more people: infill stations
- Metro wants to connect Farragut North and West with a tunnel
- Here's where a protected bikeway could go on the east side of downtown
- NTSB recommends the federal government take over safety oversight of Metro
- Prince George's zombie subdivisions need to die
- The controversy over affordable housing on Florida Avenue, explained
by Tom Coumaris on A dedicated bus lane and 30 other ways to improve bus service on 16th Street