Greater Greater Washington

Here's how bus lanes might fit on 16th Street

Transit advocates want bus lanes on 16th Street, and DDOT's latest MoveDC plans call for them, but at a recent community forum, Ward 4 Councilmember and mayoral candidate Muriel Bowser expressed skepticism that they're possible.

Here's how they might be able to work.


Image by the author using Streetmix.

Yes, 16th Street really is that wide

16th Street is 50 feet wide, curb to curb, for pretty much its entire length. But those 50 feet are arranged in three different configurations, depending on the location.

North of Arkansas Avenue, 16th Street has two lanes in each direction with a raised median down the middle. The presence of that median makes this section the hardest to change.

Between P Street and W Street, 16th Street only has four lanes and lacks a median. But it's still 50 feet wide. The four lanes are just excessively wide.

Between Arkansas Avenue and Park Road, 16th Street's same 50-foot width is split into five 10-foot lanes. This section is the most informative, and illustrates how a bus lane might fit in.


Two sections of 16th Street. Same width, different lane configurations.
Image by the author using Streetmix.

Flexible lanes are the key

There are many demands on 16th Street. Residents want on-street parking. Drivers want two lanes open for cars in each direction. Transit riders want bus lanes.

Ideally we could accommodate all that on one street and still keep it pedestrian-friendly. But with exactly 50 feet to work with, compromises are necessary.

At off-peak times, both car and bus traffic on 16th Street moves pretty well with just one lane in each direction, leaving the curbside lanes for on-street parking. It's only at rush hour that more lanes are really necessary.

The solution so far has been to restrict parking at rush hour, allowing the curbside lane to carry traffic at peak times. But north of Arkansas Avenue and south of W Street, where 16th Street is configured with only four total lanes, that solution leaves out a dedicated bus lane.

Using the five lane configuration, however, allows the curbside lane to become a bus-only lane at rush hour, while leaving the center reversible lane as a 2nd general traffic lane. For the most part, everybody gets what they want.

Theoretically, DDOT could apply this configuration to the existing five lane stretch of 16th Street more or less immediately. And although the median north of Arkansas Avenue is hard to change, restriping the four lane section south of W Street should be relatively easy.

And while a peak-period bus lane between P Street and Arkansas Avenue might not be as great as a full busway all the way from Silver Spring to K Street, it would still be one heck of an improvement over current conditions.

Will this actually happen?

Of course, what's theoretically possible and what's practically achievable aren't always the same. DDOT would need to study this much more closely before implementing it.

One potential holdup is that 10 feet is awfully narrow for a bus lane. Usually bus lanes are 11 or even 12 feet wide. But 10-foot lanes seem to be working now between Park and Arkansas, so why not further south as well?

A pilot project on the existing five lane section might help determine if this is a workable configuration. Dupont Circle ANC Commissioner Kishan Putta suggested a pilot project in December. According to Putta, DDOT staff "said they were interested." That's certainly encouraging.

As for Bowser, she sent this statement in an email to Ken Archer, who had tweeted about the news:

I never said I don't support bus lanes. As I recall, I believe I said I don't think it would work on 16th Street; though I was not responding to any specific proposal. My response was based on my many years of observing traffic patterns on the corridor-- but not actual data. I went on to say, which has unfortunately not shown up in your tweets, that signal prioritization is a strategy on the books, with funding that needs to be implemented. As I mentioned to you, I'm happy to review and consider an actual dedicated bus lane proposal that proves to help the most people.
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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This seems like a good proposal, but given the current lack of enforcement of parking restrictions on 16th during rush hour, I am concerned that a bus-only lane becoming the default stopping/parking/delivery lane during that time.

I'm not sure why DC is so lax about rush hour parking enforcement when it's an easy problem to outsource to for-profit tow truck fleets -- I wonder if it has something to do with the lack of a convenient tow lot?

Or how about putting enforcement cameras on buses, as SF Muni has done?

by Matt C on Jan 23, 2014 10:38 am • linkreport

They should also extend peak hour in the evening. How about 7 or 7:30PM?

by Republic on Jan 23, 2014 10:39 am • linkreport

FYI, here's the FULL VIDEO of my Q/A with Councilmember Bowser on buses (credit to David McAuley): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rVgNplfADtk&sns=em

To be fair to Councilmember Bowser, she did say, "Will we have dedicated bus lanes? I think at some point we will. Whether it be 16th Street, I'm not sure. I think there are probably some roadways that can support it."

That said, I don't see why we can't pilot-test this in the current 5-lane section (Arkansas to W) as the author suggests (great piece!). That's what I asked for in my testimony to the WMATA Board (http://www.kishanfordc.com/metro-testimony-12-18-13/) where I indeed referenced the current/existing 16th street bus lane proposal that Move DC has drafted. (Yes, we would have to accommodate drivers wanting to make right-hand turns; perhaps they would be allowed to use the right lane only for that purpose.) Maybe it will work – maybe it won't – But we at least should test it out... Don't you agree? What's the harm in testing it? (by the way, did you guys see Slate's Matt Yglesias' piece this week on this 16th Street issue: http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2014/01/21/bus_lanes_the_way_forward_for_urban_transit.html)

BUT, I DO WANT TO ADD that I do respectfully disagree with statements that there's not enough room to add buses for the hundreds of riders who are waiting/freezing and watching bus after bus pass by full. After we pushed WMATA last year, they added a new short-run rush-hour route (http://wamu.org/news/13/03/19/commuters_may_finally_be_able_to_catch_an_s_line_bus ; http://washingtonexaminer.com/article/2525167) in a loop from columbia heights to downtown. It's been a big success: those new buses are full of people who would otherwise be getting passed by. But with its popularity and the population growth, the route has 1000+ more riders than one year ago (over 21,000 per day!). And more buses could decrease traffic – a bus takes up far less space than the 10-15 cars/cabs needed to transport the same # of people. That is why I asked for more/larger buses in my testimony (http://www.kishanfordc.com/metro-testimony-12-18-13/). I know that costs money. But there would be significant revenues to be gained. Even just 2 or 3 more buses added to that short-run rush hour loop would be very helpful in scooping up passengers stranded by full buses that start in Maryland! For the future, I do want to research whether DC (not WMATA) could try putting a "local"-Circulator-style bus in that corridor (Circulators. like streetcars are owned by DC, not by WMATA). But for the time-being, we just need more rush-hour capacity ASAP. I know this is true everywhere, but these wait-times are really too much for these residents – their commutes are TOTALLY UNPREDICTABLE (5 minute wait one day, 35 minute wait the next day). The problems occur everyday. But not always to the same people everyday. But most people who write me say it happens to them almost every day...

FYI - Good news: In my December testimony (http://www.kishanfordc.com/metro-testimony-12-18-13/) I also asked WMATA to hire more street-level managers to keep the buses flowing efficiently, and to make sure riders move all the way back to accommodate more passengers (I have heard frustrations that sometimes buses pass by with only a few people standing). I have recently heard that this is now going to happen. I think that will help at least as much as the signal-prioritization project mentioned. That project might have some system-wide benefits, but won't noticeably help the average rider struggling to access a bus...

Wow, long comment - maybe I should just write a separate piece on this, huh? But, in any case, I will continue working on this. If you would like to get involved, there are some different ways to help. Please email me at: kishan.putta@dupontcircleANC.net – and send me your experiences with these buses (and when/where you are attempting to board them)... THANKS!

by Kishan Putta on Jan 23, 2014 10:47 am • linkreport

Thank you for being genuine and honest about the quotes unlike the Breakfast Link write-up was. This post is a good starting point.

by selxic on Jan 23, 2014 10:47 am • linkreport

Lack of parking enforcement? I ride the 16th Street buses every day (though from Euclid south) and I rarely encounter cars parked in the rush hour lane.

by MLD on Jan 23, 2014 10:47 am • linkreport

Where there is immediate ridership demand (buses get full already), why not run more buses, more often than every 20 minutes and improve shelters and make a pedestrian bridge for MD Seminary/GA ave? Is it because these wouldn't be so controversial that such ideas aren't pushed as hard?
http://www.wmata.com/bus/timetables/dc/s1-2-4.pdf

by asffa on Jan 23, 2014 10:50 am • linkreport

As I recall, I believe I said I don't think

She should just have stopped there.

by Jasper on Jan 23, 2014 10:51 am • linkreport

To make the illustrations more accurate, rather than some bushes on the sidewalk, they should show 20 people huddled on the curb in the freezing rain, waiting an interminable time for the next bus that can fit more passengers!

by Gavin on Jan 23, 2014 10:54 am • linkreport

Bowser's clarification is still pretty troubling. A. She doesn't really explain why she don't thinks bus lanes will work. B. because she's still ignoring the fundamental point of how people are actually traveling along the corridor.

These things aren't unknowable.

by drumz on Jan 23, 2014 10:55 am • linkreport

Where there is immediate ridership demand (buses get full already), why not run more buses

A. These buses come way more often than every 20 minutes during peak.

B. Not sure what GA Ave/Seminary Rd has to do with 16th street. Also, a pedestrian bridge there would not be used; it would represent a pretty big detour for people. Traffic has to stop for cross street traffic so people can easily cross at street level then.

C. Adding bus lanes increases average bus speeds, which allows you to make more runs per hour with the same number of buses/drivers. Meaning you can add more service without increasing costs; running more buses would cost more both in terms of buying vehicles and paying drivers to operate them.

by MLD on Jan 23, 2014 10:56 am • linkreport

But isn't the biggest problem the section north of Arkansas, where there's a median?

I don't really understand what you're proposing for that section. Are you saying we should pave the median rather than take any space away from cars?

by Gray on Jan 23, 2014 11:04 am • linkreport

@Kishan Putta

Respectfully, I don't think adding a Circulator service or more buses/routings is really a long-term solution. I'm glad that the new short-route that was added has been a success, but I wonder if WMATA is just putting them out there on a schedule or trying to use those buses to clean up from bunching - i.e. sending them out in front of a group of bunched buses. DDOT and WMATA need to work together to put bus lanes on at least part of the route - Arkansas to P would probably be most beneficial.

by MLD on Jan 23, 2014 11:06 am • linkreport

@MLD, it depends what time you ride. Rush hour restrictions end at 9:30, but you will find people stopping in the curb lane after 8:45, and parking after 9.

by Matt C on Jan 23, 2014 11:06 am • linkreport

Agree with @MLD, I have not personally observed a lack of enforcement. The few times I've seen unoccupied vehicles parked illegally they were being hooked by the District's own wrecker. What I have seen however is drivers idling in the curb lanes with their flashers on, and cabbies very deliberately trawling for fares, causing backups.

Great article and comments. I believe the pilot proposal has potential. This corridor is really crying out for a beefed up form of transit.

by dcmike on Jan 23, 2014 11:09 am • linkreport

I think dedicated bus lanes are great, but why are we focusing on a corrider that has fairly good access to metro already? How about North Capitol, an area with zero close by metro stops? To be clear, every area where lots of people are using the bus should have a dedicated bus lane, but in terms of priority, start where people have no other option but to ride the bus if they don't want to drive or take a taxi. That's where you'll see the most dramatic results.

by jcbhan on Jan 23, 2014 11:14 am • linkreport

@jcbahn, North Cap doesn't have the population density nor the traffic problems that 16th experiences. It seems the densest portions of that corridor do have pretty good Metro access, with Fort Totten and Takoma.

by dcmike on Jan 23, 2014 11:20 am • linkreport

North Capitol probably just needs more frequent service during peak for starters. There is a 1/2 hour window where buses come every 8 minutes but that could be expanded.

Increasing the efficiency of buses on 16th via dedicated lanes could allow WMATA to actually use fewer buses on that corridor, which means those buses/drivers could be directed to other corridors that need them.

by MLD on Jan 23, 2014 11:20 am • linkreport

Also, if they implement the contraflow bus lane on H street the 80 could use that for part of its route (and it could be routed off K to H), which would make it much more reliable in general.

by MLD on Jan 23, 2014 11:25 am • linkreport

BUS BARNS!

I forgot to mention the need for replacement garages. Both Northern and Western garages are over 75 years old and need to be replaced with modern bus garages that can accommodate the longer, articulated buses and modern repair facilities (otherwise, the much-needed addition of more articulated buses will cost much more $/time than they should - they will have to travel longer distances to start their routes...)

@MLD - agreed: we need long-term solutions like bus lanes, garages, and prioritization (can be enforced with cameras on random buses for cars not just turning right...? also, morning rush-hour towing seems pretty robust on 16th - haven't watched for evening towing...)

BUT, i was just thinking of short-term solutions that can ALSO be done to help these people this winter -- while pilot testing is debated, and studied, and finally tested in segments, and studied and debated again...!

@Gavin, I want to "LIKE" your post (as in FB), but since I can't, I will just re-post your quote:
**To make the illustrations more accurate, rather than some bushes on the sidewalk, they should show 20 people huddled on the curb in the freezing rain, waiting an interminable time for the next bus that can fit more passengers!**
(although, i do appreciate the great explanatory diagrams here)

Only after the event occurred last week, did I find out that 5-lanes is possible all the way from Arkansas to P. Wish I knew that when I asked my question (instead I was still thinking that many would counter-argue that bus lanes would hugely increase gridlock for cars or would disrupt dozens more parked cars). This 5-lane finding/proposal is very good news and you can count on me to ask everyone I can about it.

Let me know if you'd be interested in getting involved or at least interested in sharing your thoughts/experiences.

THANKS,

Kishan
kishan.putta@dupontcircleANC.net
http://www.kishanfordc.com/metro-testimony-12-18-13/

by Kishan Putta on Jan 23, 2014 12:04 pm • linkreport

Yes! Yes! Yes! Bus lanes on 16th street during rush hour, in the direction of the rush, from Spring down to P or K, with bus lane enforcement! It's about time. The S is so overcrowded that to not do this is absolutely ridiculous. I also think that parking is an issue and maybe they should be a lag between when parking is illegal to when the bus lane starts. That gives trucks a half hour to trawl for scofflaws.

by dc denizen on Jan 23, 2014 12:43 pm • linkreport

@dcmike Bloomingdale isn't dense? Eckington isnt' dense? Neither have any metro access whatsoever. And what happens after McMillan gets redeveloped? It pays to think ahead on these things so people who move into these neighborhoods feel comfortable doing so without a car. As of right now, despite being so close to the core, you likely need a car in those neighborhoods because buses are so unreliable and N. Capitol is so backed up.

by jcbhan on Jan 23, 2014 12:50 pm • linkreport

jcbhan I definitely disagree. U St north really only has good green line access which is inconvient to where most people are going on the S buses, namely K/14th area west for Farragut/Foggy Botom.

by BTA on Jan 23, 2014 12:54 pm • linkreport

Kishan, thank you for all of your hard work advocating for us 16th Street bus riders. With the growth in popularity of 16th Street's surrounding residential areas, the 16th Street buses during rush hour are a large problem. Many (or rather, almost all) pass by without stopping to pick up commuters at very full bus stops (U Street sometimes nears 30+ people). Passing buses only escalate the problem as more people congregate. This problem will continue to grow as numerous new, large apartment complexes open in the area. Bus lanes will help, but more buses and street-level managers need to be added to help curb this problem and get people to work on time and out of the elements. I personally switched bus routes and choose to walk further now in order to avoid the 16th Street bus issue all together. While no longer a rider, it's great to see that this has become a priority item!

by Jill on Jan 23, 2014 12:54 pm • linkreport

Also if you put them all on metro they are transferring at Chinatown or Lenfant which are mad houses already. We need to help decongest metro stations by moving people already in DC onto buses where convenient.

by BTA on Jan 23, 2014 12:55 pm • linkreport

Interesting idea, I like it. North of Arkansas Ave, I don't think the dedicated bus lane would be needed - rarely is there a major traffic backup until you get to Spring Rd. Furthermore, the bridge between Arkansas and Spring slightly narrower than the rest of 16th, and I am very dubious that it could support five full lanes. In addition, the turn lanes on 16th St north of Arkansas are critical to keeping traffic flowing, especially during the evening rush hour - if you had a lane of traffic that had to be fully stopped whenever someone turns left (which happens quite a bit), it would severely clog up traffic.

The majority of the backups are in the northern half of Columbia Heights, between Spring and Harvard. A dedicated bus lane in that area would be wonderful.

by Matt on Jan 23, 2014 12:58 pm • linkreport

I still think HOV/bus/right turn lane could be an option but I'm not sure that would be low enough volume or that it would be enforceable when there are that many allowed users. Based on my casual observation about half the people on 16th have MD plates so DC needs to just suck it up and do something for its residents for once.

by BTA on Jan 23, 2014 1:48 pm • linkreport

@Jill - I completely agree. And I'm happy to do it. I've seen the crazy crowds at U street -- roving desparately from one bus to the next -- I took this photo right there for WAMU, actually:
http://wamu.org/news/13/03/19/commuters_may_finally_be_able_to_catch_an_s_line_bus

ps- feel free to Tweet anytime @kishanputta

by Kishan Putta on Jan 23, 2014 2:04 pm • linkreport

@Dan Malouff - just a suggestion that you flip the "Between P Street and W Street" and "Between Arkansas Avenue and Park Road" paragraphs so that it reads North to South, like the diagram.

by 7r3y3r on Jan 23, 2014 2:30 pm • linkreport

Technical comment: Ten foot wide bus lanes are pretty tight for a 102 inch wide bus with mirrors that extend out further.

by steve strauss on Jan 23, 2014 2:31 pm • linkreport

@Steve Strauss
Steve, what do you think about the author's point that buses are already driving on 10-foot lanes farther north where there are 5-lanes:

**Usually bus lanes are 11 or even 12 feet wide. But 10-foot lanes seem to be working now between Park and Arkansas, so why not further south as well?**

by Kishan Putta on Jan 23, 2014 2:45 pm • linkreport

I'm all for having a dedicated bus lane on 16th Street from Arkansas to P St. If and when this happens I wouldn't be surprised if the 21,000 S route bus ridership quickly increases to 30,000+.

In the mean time, for people living on this corridor who feel like they have a lack of reliable transportation options, I'm a big advocate of biking to get downtown.

Most of my friends who don't bike point to safety concerns as the top reason they don't bike. I'm the first to admit that biking in DC can be intimidating. The thing that most helped me overcome the fear of urban bike riding was taking a Traffic Skills 101 course offered by the League of American Bicyclists. WABA - DC's bike advocacy organization - now offers similar courses for people of all skill levels, including those who never learned to ride a bike.

Admittedly, winter is not the most appealing time to try biking (I took metro myself today due to the cold weather).

If anyone is hesitant to try biking, but is willing to give it an attempt, feel free to DM me on Twitter (@GeraldF_PE) and I can help you figure out a bike route that may meet your needs in terms of safety, comfort and efficiency.

by Gerald F on Jan 23, 2014 3:14 pm • linkreport

MLD about the buses coming way more often than every 20 minutes - Look at the bus schedule in the link I provided, and focus. No, they don't, not for each route.

by asffa on Jan 23, 2014 8:03 pm • linkreport

If there are portions of 16th Street that are more crowded than others what about skipping them and going along 14th, 13th, Beach Drive, Piney Branch Pkwy/RD or Blagden Ave.

Is it possible to run a bus along Rock Creek Parkway & Beach Drive; I haven't been along Beach Drive in some years so I do not recall if there are any low bridges but what about running a bus route on it.

What about a bus routes that goes from 16th Street to Blagden Ave to Beach Drive, Porter St, Klingle Rd, Adams Mill/Irving or Park/Mt Pleasant back to 16th Street skipping everything between Emerson St & Park Rd

by kk on Jan 23, 2014 9:30 pm • linkreport

The bus lane needs to be 11 feet wide. Have you measured a full size or intercity bus and the side mirrors lately? And also note that the side mirrors are not always high. I’ll say one thing about all this discourse and that is that the level of caring and thoughtfulness on this site is great (or greater).

by AndrewJ on Jan 24, 2014 5:33 am • linkreport

@asffa
MLD about the buses coming way more often than every 20 minutes - Look at the bus schedule in the link I provided, and focus. No, they don't, not for each route.

[Deleted for violating the comment policy.]

The majority of users of the S buses during rush hour are indifferent to which "route" they take. South of Alaska Avenue the S2 and S4 are the same route; during rush hour those buses have a combined 8-minute headway. Add in the short-turn buses and below Missouri Ave there is a bus showing up every 3 minutes - and that doesn't even count the S9 express (6 buses per hour) or the S1 (6 to 12 buses per hour in AM rush).

[Deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by MLD on Jan 24, 2014 8:31 am • linkreport

Being for more frequent buses isn't anti-transit.
You're deciding for those riding that they don't care which route they take to excuse misleading people about the frequency of buses. This has happened before when I mentioned Q bus frequency and crowding. News flash- people do care if the bus line they need is running often. They need buses that go to their destinations.
[Deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by asffa on Jan 24, 2014 8:59 am • linkreport

The problem is political. We have growing transit use on this corridor, which is cutting traffic and increasing overall accessibility. Fantastic! We should be asking, "how can we provide better, faster bus service?" Instead, we are saying, "this proposal won't work because XX". That is poor leadership and needs to change.

In addition to bus lanes, here are some concrete proposals for improving bus service on busy corridors:
1) run articulated buses
This would nearly double the capacity per bus, and fewer people get passed, without increasing labor costs.
2) Consolidate local stops OR switch more local service to express service
There is very little reason for buses to stop every block or two, except to serve the small number of people who have a very hard time walking. In Europe, bus stops are spaced roughly every 500m, which is roughly every 4-5 blocks in DC. In DC, however, stops are spaced roughly every 200m, or every 1-2 blocks.
3) Off-board fare collection.
There is no need for people to pay when on the bus. Many bus systems, including NYC, use proof of payment systems in their routes, which allows people to board at all doors on each bus. This saves TONS of time, especially when using articulated buses which have 3 doors.

by TransitSnob on Jan 24, 2014 9:00 am • linkreport

Being for more frequent buses isn't anti-transit.
You're deciding for those riding that they don't care which route they take to excuse misleading people about the frequency of buses. This has happened before when I mentioned Q bus frequency and crowding. News flash- people do care if the bus line they need is running often. They need buses that go to their destinations.

They need buses that go to their destinations, and you don't understand what those destinations are. Very few people

The service is designed the way it is so that there is maximum frequency along the parts where most of the trips are taken. Do you think they just throw buses out there with no rhyme or reason? There is no way you can slice and dice that schedule to find a trip that only comes once every 20 minutes during rush hour - even the stops at the split parts of the S2/S4 routes have service every 15 minutes. Your assertion that buses only come "every 20 minutes" is untrue.

by MLD on Jan 24, 2014 9:16 am • linkreport

The S buses would be a great place to pilot off-board fare payment and all-door boarding.

by MLD on Jan 24, 2014 9:22 am • linkreport

@kk:
Is it possible to run a bus along Rock Creek Parkway & Beach Drive[?]
Definitely not. Both are way too narrow and curvy for buses. Not to mention that there are stops along 16th street that get heavy usage, which wouldn't really be true on RCP/Beach Drive.

by Gray on Jan 24, 2014 9:26 am • linkreport

@MLD

Actually the s2/4 do come every 20 minutes sometimes; just glancing over the schedule the buses come every 16 minutes in rush hour not 15 and 20 or 30 minutes at other times on weekdays and up to every 40 minutes on a sunday

by kk on Jan 24, 2014 9:44 am • linkreport

@kk

The discussion is about bus lanes and crowding during rush hour. I think more frequency on the weekends would be great but that's not really the discussion we've been having here.

by MLD on Jan 24, 2014 9:47 am • linkreport

But you're a transit corridor !!!

This is a perfect example of why people around here are sick of "smarter" people telling us we're a transit corridor. Transit here is appallingly bad. The slammed-in-your face door problem, especially in bad weather, is also prevalent on 14th and yet a GGW story said we had DC's best transit.

The problem is capacity not speed (which is what dedicated lanes are usually about). To the extent capacity can only be gained by dedicated or semi-dedicated lanes,they're needed. Politically, Ward 4 auto commuters are a problem, although it's odd they weren't on the 15th Street cycle lane.

The fact DC taxpayers are paying for such pitiful service deserves a mini-revolt against Metro by DC. We shouldn't be subsidizing suburban commuters while DC residents have to walk in the cold and rain.

by Tom Coumaris on Jan 24, 2014 10:07 am • linkreport

agreed. They need to reduce the number of stops on the S-Bus line. It is rediculous when 1 person gets off the bus which holds up 40 other people. They need a stop every 3 blocks maybe 4. That way there would be less frequent stops faster turn around. Everyone is going to K street in the morning. It is people who are inbetween metro startions (i.e me i live on Chapin St and its a 10 min walk to metro and i work near farrugut west) the bus makes sense for me to take all the way down to the white house. Eliminating stops is the only way to improve service. Sorry you are gonna have to walk an additional block or two, but i walk 5-7 min to my stop every morning. deal with it

by corey on Jan 24, 2014 10:25 am • linkreport

Again, this doesn't go far enough. It continues to place transit on a sub-par footing with autos at non-peak hours.

What's actually needed are 24-hour bus lanes. Where transit always has the right of way and cars-be-damned. All this peak-hour service/flow/lane/etc. only reinforces the idea that transit exists solely for the purposes of taking people to 9-5 jobs, when clearly that's not the case (and it would be even less the case if good service were provided at all times).

And we need them in both directions. Gives buses one lane in each direction and give cars one lane in each direction. Where possible, add a second car lane in peak directions at peak time. And permanently end on-street parking. Roads are for moving; not for stopping in.

by LowHeadways on Jan 24, 2014 10:28 am • linkreport

With regards to the question about lane width if you look at the graphic with the street profile there is no reason all 5 lanes are 10 feet wide.

I live on a 30 foot wide street with busy 2 way traffic and cars parked on both sides and it is tight but traffic still flows each way (unfortunately).

Assuming the parked cars are taking up 6 feet each that is leaving 9 feet for each direction of moving traffic on my street.

So make the car travel lanes on 16th St 9.5 feet wide and the bus lanes 11 feet wide - it is not the DDOT standard but the cars and buses will be travelling in the same direction so there should be minimal conflicts.

If in fact you have 50 feet to work with I'd make the right most lane buses and right turns only at all times, the 2nd inner lane cars and the center lane a turn/queuing lane.

And if you think about it that configuration is not really that far from the current rush hour configuration - there are a lot of buses (and illegally parked cars & taxis) in the right most lane while the left most lane is already often blocked by turning vehicles.

You would simply be clarifying where everyone is supposed to be and hopefully cutting down on the endless lane jumping typical idiot suburban drivers do which will also make things safer.

Unfortunately this doesn't leave room for bikers but it also isn't out of the question that the right lane becomes a bus, bikes and right turn only lane (which they have in Ocean City MD and it actually seems to work) and the high number of bus stops to me suggests the speed differential between bikes and buses is not likely to be that great except for the problem of climbing the hill just north of U.

And really DC should be looking at doing this on other high frequency bus routes like Wisconsin & Georgia & maybe even Connecticut Avenue which doesn't have the high frequency buses but has the density to support them.

And this has been stated many times but it really is this simple - higher speeds for buses means greater capacity which means lower operating costs all of which will attract more riders which also happens to be a good thing for drivers.

But LowHeadways really gets to the heart of the issue/conflict - DC's transportation policy really needs to focus on using scarce roadways for mobility and not parking and we need politicians to firmly be in that camp and it doesn't reflect positively on them when they don't get that which is the case here with Bowser and was previously the case with Cheh and the CP Service lane and Gray/Orange and the M Street Cycletrack.

by TomQ on Jan 24, 2014 11:50 am • linkreport

corey -"Sorry you are gonna have to walk an additional block or two, but i walk 5-7 min to my stop every morning. deal with it" Thanks for explaining how much you (perhaps as a male facing less street harassment) and probably young and fully able-bodied don't mind walking further. Why not talk "bootstraps" too.
There is probably a higher percentage of disabled bus riders than in the general populace. The bus is an important way to get around for them. Apparently, many think it is just so much more important that say wealthy "choice riders" with other options get around slightly faster by reducing stops or making stations to serve only priciest locations than caring about the current ridership.

by asffa on Jan 24, 2014 3:24 pm • linkreport

@asffa,

This is a choice to be made here about what kind of transit system we want for our city. Do we want a system that has the shortest walks to our destinations but slower service and lower capacity or one with longer walks but faster service and higher capacity? There is no right answer, but we should certainly understand all of our options before deciding.

by TransitSnob on Jan 24, 2014 3:38 pm • linkreport

TransitSnob When I ride the bus, I'd rather the bus driver pick up the guy waiting for it, and take the time they need if the person's disabled, than the bus to hurry up and move on to "save" a projected fraction of time. Most riders want said courtesy for themselves, and are willing to give that to others.

by asffa on Jan 24, 2014 3:54 pm • linkreport

@asffa,
I try not to speak for "most riders". I certainly have plenty of friends and acquaintances who will walk farther to catch an express route that stops less frequently, but I have no idea if they are "most riders" or not, and I sincerely doubt that you do either.

by TransitSnob on Jan 24, 2014 4:00 pm • linkreport

TransitSnob I support creation of express routes as well as adding more buses, sent more often, where they're usually full. I don't think there has to be a loser.

by asffa on Jan 24, 2014 4:37 pm • linkreport

This is nothing new. For 30 years I can remember (at least) buses on 16th and 14th are full during bad weather and won't let people on below Florida Ave. No one really cares because the transit people get their salaries and the government people don't ride transit.

The snide rebuke is always that there's a metro 3 blocks from 16th and U and people could walk there. Let them eat cake. But Metro doesn't go to where people here need to get to enough to make it worth fooling with it. Metro's all but worthless here.

The nerds look at the map and see all the transit routes bi-secting the neighborhood and rail lines running under it and call us a "Transit Corridor". In fact we're a transit desert because all that transit flowing around us often can't be used by locals.

If you want to live in this neighborhood you better be able to afford to take a taxi wherever you need to go. That's the reality.

by Tom Coumaris on Jan 24, 2014 6:11 pm • linkreport

Tom Coumaris Plus people who'd say "Just use the Metro" must be going to bed weeknights early, because the last trains run out well before the Metro stations close at 12pm.

A little thing most people wouldn't notice - Metro requires people to go in person into town to their office during their weekday work hours when their disability office is open to get a disabled access card. This inconvenient situation has to be done within 30 days of a doctor filling out their Metro form. If the form was filled out 90 days ago, it's "expired" and they refuse the person their little 30 cent discount and card. Does that seem reasonable?

by asffa on Jan 26, 2014 12:18 pm • linkreport

@ asffa

How is that a big problem instead of just complaining; many offices be it for government, schools, colleges, businesses or WMATA (Metro is not the name of the Association that runs Metrorail & Bus).

Do you expect the office to stay open late for you ? Why should they; they give you the hours you take your a** there doing those hours.

If you need to do something you make the time to get it done. If that means taking off or something so be it many people do that every single day for millions of things on this planet. Having a month to do something is quite reasonable what need is there for 90 days ?

It sounds like you are quite bitter about this for some reason and this has nothing to do with the topic at hand bus lanes on 16th Street.

Second Metrorail does not close at 12pm it closes at 12am and the last trains run well after that it all depends on where you are starting and ending. I take the last train every night and the last trains leave their starting point between 11:22 and 11:36 those trains actually get downtown around (Metro Center or Gallery Place) after 12:00am and the last trains don't get their terminals until between 12:40 and 12:50

by kk on Jan 26, 2014 11:29 pm • linkreport

@Tom Coumaris

Wow, what a negative outlook. I live along 16th and take transit all over this city. It is actually one of the most transit-rich parts of the city - buses that go all over the place, metro a 10-15 minute walk away for longer trips.

You're right that Metro is not really an alternative for those trips along the S bus routes - a large portion of riders are going to the area around Farragut Square. But to say you need to take a taxi to get wherever you need to go is ludicrous.

by MLD on Jan 27, 2014 8:19 am • linkreport

RE: Disability cards

Plenty of offices have weekend hours - the DMV for example. Not sure how many people are signing up for new disability ID cards on a weekly basis, but you'd think they could give you the ability to make an appointment for a time outside those hours (which are pretty restricted). Alternatively, why can't you scan and send in those documents? Why do you have to go in-person?

by MLD on Jan 27, 2014 8:23 am • linkreport

FYI, This comprehensive piece about the 16th Street Buses is on CBS Radio today

http://washington.cbslocal.com/2014/01/26/metro-buses-overcrowded-on-popular-16th-street-route/

Metro Buses Overcrowded on Popular 16th Street Route

LANHAM, Md. (CBSDC) — It’s the busiest bus corridor in the District: the S line runs up and down 16th Street from Silver Spring to Farragut Square. The line is so busy, that passengers are routinely left stranded during the morning rush. And the solutions for fixing it could forever alter your commute, whether you take the bus or not.

Residents along the corridor brought the problem to Metro last year. Metro followed through by adding three extra buses to do three loops on the busiest section of the route between Columbia Heights and Farragut Square.

That idea worked at first, but soon enough the morning rush crunch was on again. Dupont Circle ANC Commissioner Kishan Putta says there are 1,000 more riders now versus a year ago.

“D.C.’s population has just been going up and up, and more so in the core of the city. 16th Street epitomizes the core of the city,” Putta says, adding that the problem is double-edged. “We increased rush hour service so more people had the confidence to take the bus in the morning and more people are moving into the area.”

Jim Hamre, Metro’s director of bus planning, says the transit agency has been chasing the demand of 16th Street with capacity.

“It’s interesting at 11 p.m. at night, 16th Street has more frequency than the most frequent service in Virginia has during the peak of the peak,” Hamre said. “Just to put it in perspective.”

There’s no question the demand exists along 16th Street. The problem is a lack of resources — both physical and financial.

“We’ve shifted a few of our articulated coaches from Georgia Avenue over to 16th [Street], so now its evening out,” Hamre said. “That’s good for 16th Street riders … not so good for Georgia Avenue riders. It’s a matter of balancing rather than actually accomplishing what we’re trying to, which is capacity for both corridors.”

The articulated buses are the double long buses that look like an accordion in the middle. Putta is quick to agree that it’s a complicated problem.

“Only 3 percent of all the traffic on 16th Street is buses, but they carry more than 50 percent of all the people that travel on 16th Street,” says Putta. “The buses are doing a helluva job, but we just need more.”

Putta says the solutions don’t necessarily have to be complex. The addition of the three buses during rush hour is an example of something that could be done right away to alleviate the problem. Another relatively quick solution is to add more manpower to the streets to help space out the buses.

Part of the broader problem on 16th Street is the bunching and gapping of buses. There is supposed to be five minutes between buses, but because of red lights and traffic it becomes a feast-or-famine situation for riders on 16th Street.

Hamre says Metro has created a new position to try and manage the spacing of the buses. Now it just comes down to hiring and training those people.

“It can take anywhere from three to five months to recruit people, select them and get them trained and in the field,” says Hamre. “Fortunately, we have a good pool of already vested and informed employees to recruit from, so we’re hopeful it will be shorter than that.”

Putta agrees that managers on the street will go a long way to solving the problem. Ultimately though, the long-term solution is probably much more complicated, and will no doubt involve changing the habits of motorists.

One possibility is the creation of an express bus lane up and down 16th Street.
“Anyone who watches 16th Street rush hour traffic can very quickly tell that buses get held up by traffic to a terrible degree,” says Putta. “And they’re carrying so many commuters who could be getting to work 15-20 minutes faster if they had their own lane. And if they had their own lane, many of those people driving could take the bus instead.”

The creation of an express lane goes beyond just Metro. Such a lane would mean cooperation from DDOT, and political cooperation from the Wilson Building. It’s an idea that at least one mayoral candidate, Muriel Bowser, has already said is not an option. Although Dan Malouff at Greater Greater Washington has broken down how it could be possible while also noting that such lanes are in DDOT’s MoveDC plan, Hamre says the idea of dedicated bus lanes is being examined.

“The District has gone through a steady process of creating bus lanes and trying to provide a real right-of-way to get buses through,” says Hamre. “That continues to be in the study process, andit’s really important for transit riders on 16th Street to be their own advocates and let the District know how they feel about that kind of a project.”

Another long-term solution is signal prioritization. That would give buses approaching a red light the priority, allowing them to navigate through traffic lights at a faster pace. DDOT is already in the process of studying the possibility of signal prioritization, but that’s a solution still very much on the drawing board.

Putta says the issue is important because if the 16th Street corridor continues to grow, there needs to be a way to get residents where they need to go.

by Kishan Putta on Jan 27, 2014 8:35 am • linkreport

Nice, great piece.

by BTA on Jan 27, 2014 8:42 am • linkreport

Wow. That CBS piece, jeez.

"These are new tax payers to D.C., they don’t necessarily deserve a plush ride to work." Kishan; I assume you meant to say "don't necessarily need a plush ride?" Let's not reinforce the old v. new divide or talk about who "deserves" what.

"The solutions for fixing it could forever alter your commute, whether you take the bus or not." That's some WTOP-grade scare quoting, for sure.

"At 11 p.m. at night, 16th Street has more frequency than the most frequent service in Virginia has during the peak of the peak.” So what, 15 minutes instead of 20? And how about frequency between 0930 and 1530, between 1900 and 2300, and all the time on weekends? It's not like they don't have the extra buses then.

"The District has gone through a steady process of creating bus lanes." LOLOLOL you mean the stripe on 7th Street? Hilarious results.

I am sick to death of "studies." Just start painting the damn lanes already and ticketing the bejeezus out of SOVs. And to hell with whatever Muriel Bowser thinks about it.

by Low Headways on Jan 27, 2014 10:36 am • linkreport

I ride down 16th st every morning and up 15h at night. Maybe the space could be better served by moving the southbound bikelane on 15th st to 16th since it can be excessively slow going counter traffic lights.

by 16thSTcyclist on Jan 28, 2014 4:49 pm • linkreport

Try 17th for biking - one-way southbound, much faster than stopping at every light on 15th.

14th has a bike lane as well.

by MLD on Jan 28, 2014 4:51 pm • linkreport

Hmm, I'll check out 17th. I should have been more clear, I meant turning 16th into a southbound, separated cycletrack, not just a regular bikelane.

by 16thSTcyclist on Jan 28, 2014 5:05 pm • linkreport

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