Metro proposes new Wilson Bridge bus service
As part of its round of service changes for June 2014, Metro has proposed rerouting the NH1 line, which serves National Harbor, to run across the Wilson Bridge to Old Town Alexandria. The new service could help connect communities on both sides of the Potomac that aren't always easy to go between by transit.
Two routes serve National Harbor today: the Metrobus express NH1 between the Branch Avenue Metro station and National Harbor, and the Prince George's County Transit route 35 between Southern Avenue Metro and National Harbor.
Metro's proposal would instead send the NH1 to King Street station in Alexandria. The distance between National Harbor and Branch Avenue is about the same as to King Street. But King Street is located in a much more vibrant area than Branch Avenue, meaning guests and residents of National Harbor may find the altered routing of the NH1 more helpful.
Workers at National Harbor who live on the Virginia side of the Potomac will also benefit greatly from this service. Those who live in Maryland or Southeast Washington will still have access to Southern Avenue via route 35. During late evenings and weekends, when the 35 does not run, the NH1 will also serve Southern Avenue.
When bus service first began at National Harbor, the service operated from Southern Avenue. This was an important link for workers at the isolated resort. Southern Avenue station has more bus lines, and is more convenient to neighborhoods in Southeast Washington.
But in 2009, Metro rerouted the bus to Branch Avenue at the request of National Harbor. Some argued that this was so visitors wouldn't have to transfer at Southern Avenue, which is located in a less affluent area. With a more express routing over the Beltway, workers were now forced to travel farther out of the way using multiple bus lines or the more expensive Green Line to reach the NH1.
In response, Prince George's started the 35, which restored the connection to Southern Avenue and stops in the neighborhoods along the way.
In addition to linking National Harbor and Alexandria, the rerouted NH1 has the ability to restore a service lost in 2004. Prior to June of that year, the N11 and N13 routes linked Branch Avenue and Suitland stations to King Street. This allowed riders from southern Prince George's to easily reach jobs in Alexandria, while residents of Alexandria could reach jobs at the Suitland Federal Center without going downtown.
These routes only ran during rush hour. The N11 connected Branch Avenue to Alexandria in the morning and the N13 connected Alexandria to Suitland. The buses ran the opposite direction in the afternoon.
Without those lines, riders now have to ride all the way to L'Enfant Plaza and change. Many people making the commute probably drive the shorter distance over the Wilson Bridge instead.
The NH1 will not completely restore this convenient connection. However, it will allow riders to use transit between Southern Avenue and King Street by using the Prince George's 35 and the NH1 and transferring at the Oxon Hill Park and Ride. Riders from other routes running along Indian Head Highway, which include the D13, D14, P17, P18, P19, W15, and W19 routes, will also have that option.
Ridership on the N11 and N13 was apparently not high enough to justify the lines back in 2004. However, transit connections across the Potomac outside of downtown would shorten trips for many riders.
If the NH1 is successful in attracting riders, hopefully Metro will consider adding other routes to connect destinations across the Potomac from each other.
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