Greater Greater Washington


Circulator/Metro map version 2

I've updated the Circulator/Metro map. Thanks to everyone who submitted helpful comments.

Click to enlarge and see full map.

Changes since the last version:

  • Realigned the lines around Georgetown to be more accurate. (Jasper, Dave)
  • Clarified that the Georgetown Metro Connection eastbound uses L Street instead of M between Pennsylvania and New Hampshire.
  • Split the 24th St stop on the "yellow" Circulator since the two directions stop a block apart.
  • Adjusted the area around Columbia Heights to show that the westbound Circulator stops one block south of the Metro station. (MichaelDC)
  • Adjusted the area around Gallery Place to show that the H Street shuttle picks up on H Street.
  • Renamed some of the stops on the waterfront. Thoughts? Ideas for better names? (Tivonia)
  • Modified the text box to show that the H St shuttle is only every 30 minutes, but that the X2 is a good alternative along the same route. (Michael, Mony)
  • Added names for the non-Circulator shuttles. (Adam S)
  • Other minor adjustments and corrections. (Adam, Jimmy D)
Here's the printable PDF.
David Alpert is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Greater Greater Washington and Greater Greater Education. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He loves the area which is, in many ways, greater than those others, and wants to see it become even greater. 


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It's hard to tell on this map (and on the official Circulator one) where the southern start/end point is for the Waterfront/7th St line. I understand that in theory it's just a continuous loop, but the buses must have some place at either end of the loop to stop and wait to get back on the 10-minute schedule. Does anyone know where this place is down by the waterfront?

by Zach on Apr 4, 2009 4:25 pm • linkreport

Zach, I took the bus down that way once and it paused at Water Street until it was back on time.

by Adam L on Apr 4, 2009 10:19 pm • linkreport

LA does a pretty good map that shows the transit lines that have 12-minute headways or better. How hard would it be to do a bus map like that? We have the GTFS data, but I admit I don't have the talent with programming to even write some code to get a list of the applicable lines together.

by Michael Perkins on Apr 4, 2009 11:48 pm • linkreport

I'll be working on getting that together (and quite a bit more, if I can) for the next month, Michael.

Would you be interested in lines that run <12min headways, or corridors that combine several lines to achieve <12min headways? That's one of my next decisions.

by Squalish on Apr 5, 2009 10:00 am • linkreport

I think this map is too clutter and thus useless for tourists. The reason subways are more user friendly is that once you are in the station, you can't miss where it is. Even if you get confused and are a bit lost, you are confined within the station and thus there are limits. With the buses, yes you can show me they are near the station, but just because I have found gallery place metro, does not mean I am anywhere near the circulator or H st shuttle stop. With the multiple exits things can still be confusing. Making a relatively simple map more complicated might intimidate tourists, and they will think the whole system is complicated.

I think you should make a bus map, using these lines and other major routes (those at 12 minute headways as suggested above) and on that map show where the transfers to the metro are.

Part of the complication is the routes themselves. I would try to limit the routes on one way streets. I would set up as many stops as possible directly across the street from each other. I would get rid of about half the stops on the K St circulator.

by nathaniel on Apr 5, 2009 12:11 pm • linkreport

We desperately need buses that run on 10 or 12 minute headways on Wisconsin Ave. Even with the changes they made to the 30 line, we still have two or three buses bunching and then 30 minute waits. Only the 31, which runs from Foggy Bottom to Friendship, is somewhat on schedule. The bunching is caused by the 32 and 36, which have 12 mile runs, to catch up to their schedule. Eliminate schedules and give us a bus every ten minutes.

by Trudy on Apr 5, 2009 12:12 pm • linkreport

Adam is correct; the nominal southern terminal for the Waterfront/7th St. Circulator is the stop dubbed "M/Water St." on this map (though in fact the stop is on Water Street just north of 6th, a few dozen feet southwest across a church lawn from the corner of 6th and M).

by cminus on Apr 5, 2009 12:53 pm • linkreport

@Squalish: That's great that you're working on it. If it's a work in progress I'd start with the lines that are more frequent than 12 minutes. Once that's done, you can start looking at combinations of lines that come every 12 minutes. The LA map only has the former.

For combinations of routes, I think they have to have some key characteristics which make them function as a combination:

1. They share the same route exactly over the segment in question. No deviations or alternate paths are allowed. Once the two lines branch in different directions, for example the 3A and the 3B, that's the end of the line as far as the 12-minute map is concerned.

2. The lines have to utilize the same stops or the maps have to denote the stops that work for the 12 minute service. For example, the 90/92 and circulator both travel along 8th street SE but as far as I know don't really share stops except at G street and L street. The point is that someone should be able to go to a bus stop on the route and get a vehicle traveling that route within 12 minutes, and know which lines "count".

Feel free to email me offline to discuss (click link on my name). I can try to help you with this if there's any tasks that are tedious, like reading through bus schedules or maps. What's your output going to look like? A Google Map?

by Michael Perkins on Apr 5, 2009 10:35 pm • linkreport

That's what I'm aiming for, but I have yet to get down and dirty with the GMaps API. I have some ambitious ideas, but a lot of technical stuff to learn in the next month in order to implement them. Initial interest is in an off-map topbar timeline which shows a "train schedule"-like format for lines selected and line icons for buses at stops selected, while having a sidebar legend which shows the most prominent lines in the mapview and a time-selection box to filter what shows up on the map by service level at a time, and/or frequency.

The difficulty of simply figuring out which parts of the WMATA PDF map are functional at a given time was where I got the notion.

Given what I said in the other thread about opening up a GPS feed, I don't think I could turn down offering GPS-location versus scheduled-location data on the map & timeline eventually, but since GPS isn't currently available both are out of the scope of the project for now.

Creating an actual trip planner is also out of the scope of the project due to complexity, though I leave open the possibilities that I'll include a way to manually select a multi-line route, or that I'll incorporate what Transit spits out, if the TOS allows it.

I'll probably end up having multiple levels of detail at different zooms - there are hundreds of thousands of lines for the GMaps API to draw. It's possible I'll generalize multiple lines together at a high zoom level.

Side question - Has anyone figured out, or seen somewhere it's been figured out, how to do side-by-side different-colored parallel lines (like the Orange/Blue line) in Google Maps? Is there an easy way people are accomplishing it for multilining in Beck-style diagrams even in desktop graphics programs?

by Squalish on Apr 6, 2009 1:17 am • linkreport

Incidentally - I'm going to need some interim non-automated projects just to learn how to work with the data. Regarding the 12-minute headway map... pick a time of day & day of week you would like that demonstrated, and I'll see what I can do as an interim proof-of-concept before delving into time selection or timelining. ETA in a week or two.

by Squalish on Apr 6, 2009 1:26 am • linkreport

@Squalish: I'd say either noon or 9pm on a weekday gives a good impression of how frequent non-peak bus service runs. The point of the map is to highlight the bus service that's pretty good "all the time". I don't think late night (midnight to 3am) or weekend service is as good an indicator, though if you have time mid-day Saturday or Sunday maps would be good too.

LA's spec is "12 minutes or better on weekdays throughout the day"

by Michael Perkins on Apr 6, 2009 7:19 am • linkreport

This map is perfect. Submit to metro and warn them you will widely publish their refusal to replace the regular metro map with this one.

[They don't need to do a complete one-time replacement, they can just replace as they replace].

by Jasper on Apr 6, 2009 10:01 am • linkreport

Sorry, another correction: The 14th St Circulator picks up and drops off at 14th and Irving (eastbound), and 14th and Columbia (westbound), not 16th and those streets.

by Jimmy D on Apr 6, 2009 11:12 am • linkreport

Jimmy: It actually stops both places. There's a stop on 14th (that's the "Columbia Heights" stop) and then another pair on 16th for Mt. Pleasant.

by David Alpert on Apr 6, 2009 11:29 am • linkreport


The "Columbia Heights" stops on the Circulator aren't on 14th. They're on Irving (eastbound) and Columbia (westbound), just west of 14th St. The bus also stops on Mt. Pleasant at Irving (eastbound) and on Columbia at 16th (Eastbound).

I live in Woodley Park, am a frequent rider, and love the new service. Also, well done on this map.

by Josh Barro on Apr 6, 2009 5:14 pm • linkreport

At any rate adding the bus lines to the map will complicate things depending on how many different circulators we eventually get, how will you tell the subway from the buses apart esp. if in the future you added the street cars on there also.

Maybe having something like all subways lines on the map are black on the outside and blue/orange, green/yellow, red on the inside and have the circulators red on the outside while gold, green, pink, purple etc. and so on and so forth for every type of transit.

For example this

you have the

DC Transit

metrorail as a black line with the line color in the middle of the outerline,

when two lines are running together there represented as a line that is checkerboard like with the different spaces, the colors of the different lines or you have a line that goes back and forth between the two colors

dc circulator as a red line with the line color in the middle of the outercolor

dc tram whenever there built as a light blue line with color in the middle to determine which line

This way you easily and quicly tell which line is which.

by Kk on Apr 6, 2009 7:14 pm • linkreport

Don't forget the 16s. I agree with the remark that if multiple routes will be used to establish the 12-minutes-or-less headway, they need to run the *exact* same routes and hit all of the same stops. This is effectively true for the Pike between Navy Annex and roughly South Dinwiddie Street... what you'd do with the mix of routing to Pentagon or Pentagon City, I don't know.

by Beau on Apr 8, 2009 2:43 pm • linkreport

I've done the 12 minute map thing for a couple of lines here:

comments are welcome and encouraged. email me offline if you want the method/criteria I used or if you want to pitch in.

I think I might do this over in Google Earth so it can be exported to KML.

by Michael Perkins on Apr 8, 2009 2:57 pm • linkreport

KK - thanks for the elaboration, outlines are now my fallback, since I found a computationally expensive javascript widget that should allow bicolor lines when I finish modifying it.



Part of the problem with the project so far - WMATA did not implement what turned out to be an optional shapes file in the GTFS feed.

So we have the stops but not the route in between them.

I'm trying to figure out how to get past that limitation now, even if it involves learning ESRI Data Analyst.

Would the bus routes still be useful as a Google Map if they are graphically represented as point-to-point routes going directly from one bus stop to the next, rather than traveling over the intervening roads?

Tracing the intermediate road data is something that could potentially be crowdsourced, as it involves maybe 20-60 man-hours of work if I can come up with a framework for splitting up the route connections. I need to see how well/fast ArcGIS' data analyst works first - I may end up doing individual stop-to-stop routefinding from each of the 25,000 stops to the next.

It looks like their service levels are separated into "general" and "current week" conditions, and they don't have any calendar data up further on than the week the data is posted. So that option is out.

How would one optimally define/generalize "frequency" for a scheduled bus route? (total line stoptimes per 30 minutes / number of stops)? What about when stops are used on only a fraction of trips on a particular line? It gets very complicated very quickly, and I don't think I'm going to even attempt multi-line consolidation for now... unless I change my object model to use line segments rather than stops.

by Squalish on Apr 8, 2009 3:24 pm • linkreport

I also agree with the general comment that decipherability is beginning to become an issue with a map like this. In order to be truly useful, it will still have to resemble the Metrorail map to the point where it would be immediately recognized as an echo by anyone who's used the system... yet somehow less cluttered than this. Could mean thicker lines for rail, thinner for bus... or a different style for labelling the stops... it's something to think about if/when the project evolves.

by Beau on Apr 8, 2009 3:51 pm • linkreport

The problem with schematic maps is that they don't tell you where you are in relation to real life.

by Steve Strauss on Jun 29, 2009 12:44 pm • linkreport

Good job, maybe NYC transit system map could be a good example to relate the location of bus/metro to a specific point of the city. Metro map is not really designed in scale with reality. Downtown DC Metro stops are closer and farther as they go toward suburbia. NYC maps also changes scale for Manhattan Island, where there is more detail. Maybe incorporating the city blocks in the DC area (slightly zoomed in)and keeping a more simple detail for VA and MD.

Just in case, the reason for using NYC example is that I've been able to use there system and navigate the city pretty well. I lived in DC and now will go to NoVa and people (at least me) try to avoid buses. My impression, it is the lack of information that holds people from using them. Some say that learning and education comes through repetition, if you see metro maps everywhere with details of the bus routes, people could be more encouraged to use the service.

Keep the good work :-)

by Werner on Dec 14, 2009 6:37 am • linkreport

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