Greater Greater Washington

New 16th Street buses will run from Columbia Heights

WMATA has settled on a route for its new 16th Street short turn bus. The new service will run every 13 minutes from Harvard Street to downtown DC, from 7:30-9:15 am. It will begin on March 25.


Selected route. Image by the author.

The new route is intended to relieve extreme overcrowding on the southern portion of 16th Street during the morning rush.

Previously, WMATA had only considered running the route as far north as Meridian Hill Park. Metro bus planner Jim Hamre says that had been based on the assumption that only 2 buses would be available. Since 3 are actually available, they can go a little further north and maintain frequent enough service to make a difference.

Hamre announced the new plan at last night's Dupont Circle ANC meeting. Commissioner Kishan Putta, who organized earlier community meetings to push for the the change, then introduced a resolution of support, which the ANC approved.

The route will not be called the S3, as I originally thought. It will simply be called the "S2 Short." For riders on 16th Street, it will look like any other S2.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

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Dan Malouff is a professional transportation planner for Arlington County, but his blog posts represent only his own personal views. He has a degree in Urban Planning from the University of Colorado, and lives car-free in Washington. He runs BeyondDC and contributes to the Washington Post

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Why the flip does this thing run up 14th on the return trip? Wouldn't 15th make a bit more sense?

by Nick on Mar 14, 2013 11:35 am • linkreport

Thank you to all the residents who attended our community meetings with Metro and who I met at busstops and who sent me hundreds of emails with your concerns and ideas -- and to my ANC colleague Noah Smith. Your passion and productive (rather than critical) spirit helped us finally address this long-standing problem.

Thank you also to Metro and director Hamre for their responsiveness and thoughtfulness to address this problem quickly. And for their acknowledgement that this is a first temporary step toward addressing the longer-term urban growth issues we will be facing in years to come.

Our Advisory Neighborhood Commission will be submitting our resolution of support for this plan and residents can contact us with any questions. I look forward to hearing what you think about all this -- and to your hopefully improved rider experiences in April -- I will be away on travel the week of the 25th, but will visit the busstops in the mornings of the week of April 1st and hope to see out there (not waiting too long, I hope!!!!)

Thanks again to everyone involved.

Kishan Putta
Commissioner
Dupont Circle ANC
kishan.putta@dupontcircleANC.net

by Kishan Putta on Mar 14, 2013 11:38 am • linkreport

PS- Thank you to METRO for coming out to our ANC meeting last night to announce the plan to our residents. It was the 3rd weeknight in 10 weeks that they came to visit us and we greatly appreciate their time and assistance.

by Kishan Putta on Mar 14, 2013 11:41 am • linkreport

@Nick

It goes up 14th because basically there is no easy way to both stop at Lafayette Park AND go up 15th. The multiple turns involved to get back onto 15th probably burns all the time savings from using 15th for 6 blocks.

by MLD on Mar 14, 2013 11:41 am • linkreport

Going around Thomas Circle and dealing with 14th Street construction congestion is going to slow that route down.

by Tom Coumaris on Mar 14, 2013 11:44 am • linkreport

@MLD

Solid point. However, I think it would actually only require one turn, right?

http://goo.gl/maps/IorZ7

The bus turns right from 16th onto H, and stops at Lafayette. It would then have to cross 4 lanes to turn left onto that little section of Vermont - but then it could proceed the whole way up 15th to U St.

Getting across those 4 lanes on H would be impossible at rush hour though - the bus will have a tough enough time turning left onto 14th.

by Nick on Mar 14, 2013 11:51 am • linkreport

So this will only be for the morning rush, and won't be used to supplement outbound trips for the evening rush?

by Gray on Mar 14, 2013 11:52 am • linkreport

Oops. The bus turns LEFT from 16th onto H. Turning right there would be LOL

by Nick on Mar 14, 2013 11:52 am • linkreport

@Nick

The bus is not really able to get across 4 lanes of traffic in the 150ft from the stop to turn onto Vermont. That is why it can't be scheduled that way.

Why will turning left onto 14th be so bad? H is one-way so you don't have to worry about oncoming traffic.

Dan tweeted last night that WMATA was saying they have already been experimenting with this short-turn situation, so I assume they know what is possible.

by MLD on Mar 14, 2013 11:56 am • linkreport

When I rode the S line, there wasn't much of a problem in the PM rush.

by Michael on Mar 14, 2013 11:56 am • linkreport

Meanwhile, is 14th in Columbia Heights so crowded that it's better to go left on U to 18th to Harvard Street rather than staying on 14th as far as Columbia Road? I know Hamre has said that buses get jammed up a lot on 14th, but I thought that was at Park where the plaza is.

by David Alpert on Mar 14, 2013 12:01 pm • linkreport

David,

Turning left across southbound traffic at 14th & Columbia is very difficult even during non-rush times. That, coupled with the clogged traffic on Columbia wesbound, is probably the reason for the change.

by JS on Mar 14, 2013 12:09 pm • linkreport

>>So this will only be for the morning rush, and won't be used to supplement outbound trips for the evening rush?

Correct. The pm rush isn't as bad. It's crowded, sure, but they rarely if ever have to leave passengers standing at stops. In the am I typically have to watch several full buses go by before I can get on one, even to stand.

by BeyondDC on Mar 14, 2013 12:15 pm • linkreport

@MLD Dan tweeted last night that WMATA was saying they have already been experimenting with this short-turn situation, so I assume they know what is possible.

Yeah, I can second that Hamre said at the ANC 2B meeting last night that WMATA has been quietly experimenting with the different route possibilities for the past few weeks, so they're not just guessing as to what would work best.

The figure-eight shape of the loop is presumably the best thing they could come up with to get the buses back to 16th and Harvard without getting stuck in the discontinuous and angular east-west streets in Columbia Heights (check a map of the area between 14th and 16th and Euclid and Park Road to see what I mean). Also, if I remember right, one of the ANC members indicated that they had helped arrange for needed layover parking space on Columbia Road for the buses to use.

by iaom on Mar 14, 2013 12:46 pm • linkreport

AM is a much sharper peak, I never have problems getting on a bus PM between 5 and 7. Although sometimes they are croweded they dont pass like they do in the morning. Given finite resources I definitely say put them all in the morning between 7:30 and 9.

by Alan B. on Mar 14, 2013 12:52 pm • linkreport

@JS Turning left across southbound traffic at 14th & Columbia is very difficult even during non-rush times. That, coupled with the clogged traffic on Columbia wesbound, is probably the reason for the change.

Yep, anyone who has ever ridden the Circulator bound for Woodley in the morning knows how agonizingly long the left turn from 14th onto Columbia Road and subsequent slow crawl toward 16th Street can take. The part of Columbia Road going through Adams Morgan is a lot wider too, being two-way, with more space for layovers as I mentioned.

by iaom on Mar 14, 2013 12:54 pm • linkreport

"It will simply be called the "S2 Short."

Some may be offended at calling it "the short bus."

by Mike on Mar 14, 2013 1:12 pm • linkreport

Kudos to Metro and ANC 2B for making this happen. (I haven't heard anything from ANC 1C, which this helps just as much.)

Next stop: a rush-hour bus lane on 16th.

by Gavin on Mar 14, 2013 1:36 pm • linkreport

@MLD

The turn itself wouldn't be terrible (from H onto 14th), but getting across 4 lanes of traffic would be tough (even with a block and a half to do it). H street is used as a west to east mid-downtown path by angry Virginia commuters who come off the E st expressway, go up 18th or 17th, and across town on H.

I work near this area, and buses always have a tough time getting through around lafayette.

by Nick on Mar 14, 2013 2:33 pm • linkreport

The problem with the PM rush is not the 5-7PM period, but the late night period. Anytime I've left the office or an event late at night (9-10PM) the buses are extremely crowded and often leave people stranded. What's worse is that the buses that late only come much more infrequently.

by Adam L on Mar 14, 2013 2:36 pm • linkreport

@Adam

I completely agree. The late night buses are often more crowded due to their infrequency. I semi-regularly (once a month or so) take the 70 up GA Ave from Verizon Center. This bus only comes every 15 minutes or something like that, but it is absolutely packed, even at 11:30pm. This is something that needs to be addressed.

by Kyle-w on Mar 14, 2013 2:41 pm • linkreport

1. The bus will deadhead in the northbound direction, not stopping for passengers.
2. The bus will be labeled S2 ending at the same southern terminal as S2 buses starting further north.
3. Evening rush hour ridership is less time concentrated than morning rush hour therefore no need to operate this short turn route in the p.m. rush.
4. WMATA added service in December to improve evening service on 16th Street including later p.m. service on the S9 Limited.

by Steve Strauss on Mar 14, 2013 2:44 pm • linkreport

They have added late night service and more articulated buses to the S service. If you still are seeing crowded buses that are leaving people at stops, report it on Metro's customer service site and if you have twitter, send a tweet or a picture to @wmata. That kind of follow-up is what got service increased along the corridor so far.

I have noticed that late night S service (around 8PM) has improved immensely. It used to be that the bus would regularly fill up by M street and not be able to take more people on, now I do not see people waiting at stops for long periods of time.

by MLD on Mar 14, 2013 2:53 pm • linkreport

Many thanks to our ANC representative, Kishan, for helping to facilitate this discussion with Metro, and to Mr. Hamre and the rest of the Metro staff for actively listening to residents concerns and working to improve our commute and roads. I was at the community meeting at the Chastleton and it was a constructive and collaborative discussion between local citizens and Metro, and as a local resident I really appreciate Metro taking the time to meet with us and offer multiple solutions to rectify the issues faced by commuters.

by EG on Mar 14, 2013 8:52 pm • linkreport

Would have been nice if the bus ran further North yet, perhaps to Military Rd.
The core congested area on 16th is downtown to Columbia Heights, and the road north of that is usually clear even during rush. So the new route has less utility, while maintaining most of the delays.

by Mark on Mar 15, 2013 9:31 am • linkreport

Bravo to WMATA! You guys certainly aren't perfect but this is a great example of a public transit agency working well.

by Joe on Mar 15, 2013 10:25 am • linkreport

Thanks and congratulations to Commissioners Kishan Putta and Noah Smith, whose vision and hard work made this possible.

The hope is that this new service will more than pay for itself with increased ridership. There are many, many people who will take these buses to work or to shop downtown - especially in inclement weather. It's great to have a viable public transit option that doesn't involve having to wait while buses filled to capacity pass you by.

Thanks, guys, for seeing a problem at the grassroots level and coming up with a workable, positive solution. Good job!

by Mike Silverstein on Mar 15, 2013 10:31 am • linkreport

nice job kishan putta--I don't know you, but I saw the signs you put up on the bus station waiting areas. thank you for showing what good local government can actually do.

by happy circle on Mar 16, 2013 12:54 pm • linkreport

Just putting this out there. I know this is a bus oriented article, but there are no Capital Bikeshare stations north of Park St on 16th. I live at The Woodner and the closest two are Mt. Pleasant and Park or at the Giant on Park. I live on one of the busiest, if not THE busiest corridors, in the city. Put a station close to me and I guarantee it will be used and lessen the crowd on the bus. Sayin..

by Milk on Mar 16, 2013 11:52 pm • linkreport

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