KISS our buses
When evaluating these buses, WMATA should keep in mind a very simple principle: Keep It Simple, Stupid (KISS). Our bus map is hugely complex, and as a result, most people only know the one or two lines that they take every day to commute. Everyone else avoids buses, except maybe the Circulator.
One great thing about the S lines is that, outside downtown, I always know where the bus will be: 16th Street. When I wanted to go visit a friend near 14th and Spring Road, I didn't have to scrutinize the Metro map: I just walked over to 16th, found the nearest stop, and rode it to Spring Road. Coming back, I repeated the process in reverse.
Too many of our lines have few buses at long headways, while one street over, there are other buses also arriving occasionally. It'll help both commuters and casual users alike if we combine more of these lines into high-frequency trunk lines, as San Francisco has done. Some people will have to walk an extra block, but the time savings will make up for it.
For example, say you want to go from Georgetown to Dupont Circle. You can wait at Wisconsin and Dumbarton for the G bus (which runs every 10 minutes at the peak, every half hour middays and weekends) or at Q Street for the D2 (10 mins peak, 21 mins midday, up to 24 mins weekends) or the D1/3/6 (typical wait 10 mins peak, 20 middays, 30 weekends). If you're going from Dupont to Georgetown, you might come out of the Metro and see a D2, but it's better to wait around 20th and P where all the lines come together briefly.
Before I lived in DC, Greater Greater Fiancée (then just Greater Greater Girlfriend) and I wanted to do just this. We looked at the map, saw the G2 line going from Dupont to Georgetown, took Metro to Dupont, and then discovered we'd have to wait over 20 minutes for the next bus. If we'd known, we could have walked a few blocks to get a D.
This is silly. We should consolidate the D and G onto a single street for as much of the route as possible. And we should designate one spot on Wisconsin Ave in Georgetown, and one spot at Dupont Circle, as a sort of "bus focal point." Put it on the maps (even the Metro maps) and post prominent signs nearby showing people where it is. At this focal point, every bus going between the two locations should stop. Ideally, other lines in other directions would stop very close by. Put a nice shelter there. When we can start buying real-time displays, put the first ones in these station.
Then it will be clear: if you want to go to Georgetown, go to this spot. If you're taking the Metro, you can see which stop to get out at to get there (there should be another focal point around Farragut, of course). Create similar focal points at other major destinations and Metro stops. And in between the focal points, for people not traveling between two focal points, keep the lines together as much as possible so that nobody has to wait a long time while anther, alternative bus passes by just a block away.
The public meeting on the D buses is tonight, 6:30-8:30 pm at the Department of Housing and Community Development, 801 North Capitol Street, 8th Floor. You can go and give your opinions on this issue, or submit comments online.
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