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Now's your chance to push for dedicated streetcar lanes

Should potential future streetcars on Georgia Avenue have dedicated lanes? DDOT is hosting a series of public meetings this month to help plan that route. The meetings will be a good opportunity to voice support for dedicating street space to transit.

The North-South Corridor, including 16th Street, 14th Street, and Georgia Avenue.
Image from DDOT.

DDOT's North-South Corridor will run from somewhere near the baseball stadium north to either Takoma or Silver Spring, right through the heart of Mid City DC. Planners are still working on the exact route, but the line will probably run on some combination of Georgia Avenue and 14th Street. It could also be a bus or a streetcar.

One big question is whether it will have any dedicated lanes. If you think it should, it's important to attend one of the meetings and communicate that to DDOT.

The meetings are:

  • Tuesday, February 18
    3:30-8:00 pm (presentations at 4:00 and 7:00 pm)
    DCRA, 1100 4th Street SW
  • Wednesday, February 19
    10:00 am-12:00 pm
    MLK Library, 901 G Street NW
  • Wednesday, February 19
    3:30-8:00 pm (presentations at 4:00 and 7:00 pm)
    Banneker Rec Center, 2500 Georgia Avenue NW
  • Thursday, February 20
    3:30-8:00 pm (presentations at 4:00 and 7:00 pm)
    Emery Rec Center, 5701 Georgia Avenue NW
There are many benefits to streetcars regardless of whether they have dedicated lanes or not. But giving them lanes absolutely increases their usefulness, especially in a corridor with such high transit demand.

As part of any good corridor planning, it's important to figure out where dedicating space makes the most sense. It's also a good time to advocate for terminating the line at Silver Spring, where there are more potential riders than at Takoma. This is exactly the time and place for transit activists to show up.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

Dan Malouff is a transportation planner for Arlington and professor of geography at George Washington University, but blogs to express personal views. He has a degree in urban planning from the University of Colorado, and lives in NE DC. He runs BeyondDC and contributes to the Washington Post


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Gosh, I wish they would run a metro line there.

by charlie on Feb 5, 2014 12:28 pm • linkreport

Here's what I don't understand about the opposition to dedicated transit lanes on 16th street. Whenever I drive on upper 16th street at rush hour, there are quite a few buses (though not enough!), and effectively only the left lane is free for non-buses. So you end up with classic DC driving, i.e. competitive merging to get around the buses, but effectively cars are confined to one through lane.

Wouldn't removing the near-continuous merging mean that dedicating one of those lanes to traffic would have only a negligible effect on car traffic?

by Gray on Feb 5, 2014 12:31 pm • linkreport

I will be there for sure, thanks for the heads up!

by BTA on Feb 5, 2014 12:34 pm • linkreport

I know it is a dream but wouldn't down georgia, cutting across some surface parking lots between barry and florida to vermont ave to Thomas Circle and then down 14th be awesome. I am not sure what to do in SW, as I don't connect down there too much, but obviously it needs to get down to waterfront metro and buzzard point.

by Richard on Feb 5, 2014 12:34 pm • linkreport

Yea dedicated lanes! It's a good sign that we're moving into a multi-modal transit era that they and streetcars are being considered. Adopt them.

by likedrypavement on Feb 5, 2014 12:46 pm • linkreport

Richard if anything 16th and 14th merit another line entirely. I could see it going up from 16th and K and taking U or Irving to 14th and going straight up as far as Petworth. Not sure where it would end on the south side. Always seemed like lower Foggy bottom was kind of transit poor to me so maybe there.

by BTA on Feb 5, 2014 12:53 pm • linkreport

I agree with Gray's point that 16th street has a dedicated lane for all extents and purposes, but the problem is what's the developmental potential. Georgia already has little neighborhood centers.

by Thayer-D on Feb 5, 2014 1:12 pm • linkreport

If DDOT could be convinced to dedicate a lane, why not just build out an honest-to-God, IDTP gold-standard BRT system and save the money while you're add it?

by what? on Feb 5, 2014 1:23 pm • linkreport

@what?: Save what money? Costs for dedicated-lane BRT are surprisingly close to costs for dedicated-lane streetcars.

And gold standard BRT would be nice, but I can't imagine that the sort of road and station infrastructure that would be needed for that level would be in scope for this project.

by Gray on Feb 5, 2014 1:30 pm • linkreport

@Thayer-D: That's a good point, though it's my understanding that demand for 16th street buses is quite a big higher than demand for GA Ave buses, which is why they would look there. Presumably this is because traffic moves incredibly slowly on GA.

I'm not sure if DC would be willing to consider the combination of signal prioritization and dedicated lanes that would be needed to move transit through, but if they were GA would be a great route. If only because it would pass by the new Walter Reed development, not to mention plenty of other places ripe for redevelopment.

by Gray on Feb 5, 2014 1:33 pm • linkreport

By bus ridership the S and 50 lines carry over 34,000 trips a day already so a dedicated lane is a no brainer there. There isn't much redevelopment potential that hasnt been mostly realized already. Eventually a streetcar would be merited on ridership alone.

The 60 & 70 lines carry about 26,000 trips a day with significantly more redevelopment potential in some areas to the extent that they could probably surpass the 14th and 16th st ridership.

Those are all the FY12 numbers so they are probably higher now.

For reasons that have been discussed before both lines have the potential to capture a small portion of existing metrorail ridership using congested downtown stations because some people just wont take the bus even if its faster. On the other hand it may pick up some new people that will take the street car instead of driving for the same reason though I'm guessing that will be a smaller share.

by BTA on Feb 5, 2014 1:39 pm • linkreport

Whatever route the city chooses, I can't imagine it not going up to Silver Spring. Not hooking up with that hub that will soon (please) have a purple line defeats the whole notion of a citywide transportation network that can benefit the most people possible.

Back to the routes, they could have both Georgia and 16th, with a BRT on 16th being more of an express, but I agree, getting a dedicated line on Georgia will be interesint to say the least.

by Thayer-D on Feb 5, 2014 2:12 pm • linkreport

Ok, so my crazy thought from yesterday leaving work (14 and L area):

For the roads that DC would put a street car on (in this hypothetical 14th St but hell maybe also K), what if the road became just one way? 14th St downtown is incredibly wide, but (car drivers fear) not wide enough to be an effective north/south car corridor and a bus/streetcar corridor (with parking too).

So, what if 14th St. (or K) was one way? Then, 2/3 or 3/4 of the 14th (or K) could be dedicated to cars (remove parking during rush hour) heading north or south (or east or west), and the remaining 1/3 or 1/4 could be streetcars going in both directions.

As part of this reconfiguration, 15th or 13th streets would need to become one-way going in the opposite direction of 14th (and likewise I or M would need to be contra flow to K), and again parking would need to be removed to carry the full rush hour traffic in that direction.

I can see drivers liking the idea of very large traffic sewers in each direction and therefore being less likely to raise hell when lanes on 14th St. transition to transit.

by JDC on Feb 5, 2014 2:13 pm • linkreport

@Thayer-D: I definitely agree with this.
Whatever route the city chooses, I can't imagine it not going up to Silver Spring. Not hooking up with that hub that will soon (please) have a purple line defeats the whole notion of a citywide transportation network that can benefit the most people possible.
Stopping the line at anywhere other than SS simply because SS isn't in DC would be a great sign that no new cross-jurisdiction collaboration is possible.

I also think that a dedicated-lane streetcar on Georgia and BRT, or at least a dedicated bus lane, on 16th would be phenomenal.

by Gray on Feb 5, 2014 2:35 pm • linkreport

Why is it taking DDOT so long to come out and recommend a dedicated bus lane, at least in the peak direction, along 16th St NW?

Maybe more riders need to be told that DDOT is the hold up? I think a lot of S bus riders think that Metro is the hold up on this.

by Transport. on Feb 5, 2014 2:36 pm • linkreport

I would posit that at least some of that blame could be laid at the heels of Ms Bowser and her constituents. I wouldn't be surprised either if the idea had gotten bad feedback from our Maryland neighbors and we have to accept that implementation of our mass transit policies are largely contingent on a lot of funding coming from outside of the city. My experience is that in terms of plates it's about 50/50 DC and MD in the morning.

by BTA on Feb 5, 2014 2:42 pm • linkreport

I think the streetcars would be better served if they went to Silver Spring station instead of the Takoma Station. The area around the Takoma station simply does not have the space for a streetcar.

by pewpew on Feb 5, 2014 3:03 pm • linkreport

I think they will, they are just trying to negotiate the details with Montgomery County. I've seen at least one official map (maybe WMATA) showing a Silver Spring route.

by BTA on Feb 5, 2014 3:50 pm • linkreport

@ Thayer, pewpew & Gray

Is there any reason we can not have streetcars go to Silver Spring & Takoma both had them before so why not both again ?


For dedicated lanes any street/road that has room should automatically get them period; K Street NW, Benning Road NE, North Capitol NE/NW, Rhode Island Ave,

Instead of making new routes we should just convert some Metrobus routes to Streetcar routes regardless of development opportunities the public good is worth more and all routes that are made up of former streetcar routes

What we should do is convert the 70/74/79, S1/2/4, 52/3/4, X2/3, 90/2, 96/7, D6, 42, P6, 82, L2, E3, N6, A8/48 & B2 all into streetcar lines. They were all made up from portions of the former Streetcar lines so why not again!

by kk on Feb 5, 2014 4:57 pm • linkreport

Why should DC subsidize Silver Spring, rather than help connect the Walter Reed Development to the Takoma/4th St business corridor, which has several hundred new rental and condo units coming online?

by MH on Feb 5, 2014 5:25 pm • linkreport


Because DC residents already work and shop in Silver Spring, or go there to transfer to the Red Line or buses to Bethesda and College Park, as it's one of the region's largest transit centers. And besides, if the streetcar went to Silver Spring, Montgomery County would have to pay its fair share as well.

by dan reed! on Feb 5, 2014 5:28 pm • linkreport

Maybe the extra cost of operating a bus line or streetcar line of a certain headway without a dedicated lane compared to with a dedicated lane should be determined and published. If DC isn't willing to provide the dedicated lane, then DC should pay the extra costs to Metro, or the bus line should be considered non-regional.

This would apply to the other jurisdictions, but the problem is worst in the congested core. Speed up your buses with dedicated lanes, or pay for the difference.

by Michael Perkins on Feb 5, 2014 5:44 pm • linkreport

Why should DC subsidize Silver Spring, rather than help connect the Walter Reed Development to the Takoma/4th St business corridor, which has several hundred new rental and condo units coming online?

Why should MD subsidize DC by providing weekend MARC service to Union Station? The region needs to think regionally.

by Richard on Feb 5, 2014 6:22 pm • linkreport

@MH, agree.

DC has had decades of retail leakage. Recall that some people wanted Walter Reed to be relegated to being a bus barn. And people talk about streetcars as a means of revitalizing areas, but yet in this case, let's push to take it out of the district to a place that doesn't need revitalization.

by Bob See on Feb 5, 2014 7:59 pm • linkreport

All great but in the meantime can we please finally get more buses on the 16th and 14th Streets lines. Please.

Dedicated lanes are normally an aspect of improving speed and encouraging new riders. We have the riders; they just don't have enough buses.

I won't be thrilled that the bus I can't get on is in a dedicated lane and goes faster.

by Tom Coumaris on Feb 5, 2014 8:18 pm • linkreport

@Tom: With dedicated lanes the buses can come more frequently with the same number of buses, so you'll get more service for the same cost.

by Michael Perkins on Feb 5, 2014 11:05 pm • linkreport

@Tom Coumaris

How many times do I have to say it before it sinks in? Dedicated lanes means more service because when the buses can complete their runs faster, they can start another run sooner, and complete more runs in the same amount of time. So the 10 runs an hour you could do before becomes 12 runs and instead of a bus coming every 6 minutes one comes every 5 minutes. That's more service!

Your constant harping about "dedicated lanes whatever, we need MOAR BUSES" doesn't help - it's not like WMATA can just snap its fingers and instantly have more buses. That requires more funding, and a contract for more vehicles, etc.

by MLD on Feb 6, 2014 8:28 am • linkreport

Dedicated lanes are normally an aspect of improving speed and encouraging new riders. We have the riders; they just don't have enough buses.

More than anything else, dedicated lanes are about efficiency.

In mixed traffic, you get to the point where you can't just add more buses, but you need to change some other aspect of the equation.

by Alex B. on Feb 6, 2014 8:59 am • linkreport

I'm 200% for dedicated lanes. Can we get them tomorrow?

In the meantime there's an emergency situation of hundreds (at least) of Metro passengers standing in cold and rain not being able to get on a bus because enough aren't coming. Could we send some extra buses until this situation is remedied by dedicated lanes, monorail, or whatever?

The fact this emergency has been going on for so many years and the "let them eat cake" attitude of saying let them wait for whatever future transit fix might, maybe come is exactly why Metro must be the world's worst major transit system and is absolutely incompetent.

by Tom Coumaris on Feb 6, 2014 10:35 am • linkreport

I don't think WMATA has the buses. And my understanding is that procurement, manufacturing, and delivery of new transit buses has a multiyear timeline, which would only happen after funding is approved.

by BTA on Feb 6, 2014 11:17 am • linkreport

To answer your questions, @Tom:
I'm 200% for dedicated lanes. Can we get them tomorrow?
Could we send some extra buses until this situation is remedied by dedicated lanes, monorail, or whatever?
Not without significant funding.

So can we move on from this odd argument now that we've established the facts?

by Gray on Feb 6, 2014 11:35 am • linkreport

Tom Coumaris I agree with you. Every time someone says bring more buses more frequently for busy routes, put shelters at the stops, etc. - all things that are generally millions less per mile than BRT, instead of support and help in the here and now, we hear about hugely expensive idealized visions.
BRT visions that usually deliberately leave more people unable to get the bus by their homes in a plan to "speed things up" or run new routes that don't meet current ridership.
What about buses that go the way people need them. I don't think most people on 16th street are offended cars are also using the same lane as their bus. Rather likely more offended left by the curb because they can't get on one because somebody says the obvious need for more buses and bus shelters must wait.. wait.. wait. No, it doesn't have to wait for an idealized "gold standard" nonsense of a future to be fixed. Those proposing it must are anti.

by asffa on Feb 6, 2014 12:04 pm • linkreport

BTA who is opposing this funding approval? Who is against more buses on 16th street right now? (Or more likely who is holding such improvements back in support of a future billion dollar plan?)

by asffa on Feb 6, 2014 12:08 pm • linkreport

Nobody has proposed BRT for 16th Street. They have proposed setting aside curb lanes for bus use only during rush hour. So nobody is waiting around for the "gold standard," people are advocating for what is basically the logical minimum next step to improve this bus corridor. More buses will only get bunched up because they are getting stuck in traffic created by people driving.

I don't think most people on 16th street are offended cars are also using the same lane as their bus.

Perhaps that is because they don't realize that half the people moving along 16th street are in buses, but they are held up by the 90+% of vehicles that are cars. Perhaps they would be offended if they realized that if we set aside half the lane space for half the people (people on buses) then their commutes would be much faster.

by MLD on Feb 6, 2014 12:22 pm • linkreport

Also, admitting that there are funding and time constraints in planning for solutions is not "abandoning" or "ignoring" riders. It's the opposite.

by drumz on Feb 6, 2014 12:26 pm • linkreport

MLD There would have to be more buses before there's a problem with them getting "bunched up."
Too many here seem to spend more focus towards taking away car lanes than getting people the transit rides they need - right now - and that is ignoring riders.

by asffa on Feb 6, 2014 2:29 pm • linkreport

@asffa @Tom Coumaris

Trust me, I've ridden the S buses (or at least tried to) in the morning enough times to know that it's not an either/or situation.

1. We need dedicated lanes, without a doubt. This would drastically improve run times and allow buses to complete a trip and do another one far more quickly. Where we might have 10 trips an hour possible in current traffic conditions, that could easily jump to 12 or 14 just by giving buses their own right of way. It would allow frequency to be increased and for that frequency to not depend on traffic. This, in turn, could push even more people into the bus (because it's now "look at their privileged means of transport! So much quicker than driving!"). And that leads us to:

2. Capacity upgrades, including additional buses, larger buses, and hopefully eventual rail replacement. But buying more buses will also require additional or expansions of existing bus garages and depots, which are simply full. We could buy more buses but we'd literally have nowhere to put them. We could buy articulated buses to replace standard ones, and the garages would still be full because the artics take up more space. But we do need to build bigger and more (and hopefully prettier) bus garages. No one's saying we don't; just that in terms of the expense required, bus lanes are far easier to accomplish.

TL;DR First do more with the same; then do more with more.

by Low Headways on Feb 6, 2014 5:28 pm • linkreport

Again- I'm 200% for dedicated lanes. Sooner the better. But in the meantime...

I can't believe Metro is so messed up that there aren't any buses that can be diverted from little-used routes to this portion of these on 16th and 14th. The current short-routing remedy on 16th is only adding 9 additional trips south of Columbia Heights every morning.

And if we know that it's the riders below CH not being served more buses need to be taken off the full route and diverted to only the southern part so that all riders of the route, north and south, get to share the slammed-in-the-face experience during cold and snowy days.

And this may even be an outcome with dedicated lanes; buses may still be full below CH, even if increased frequency occurs.

People in Logan, Dupont and Columbia Heights pay plenty of taxes to support Metro and deserve Metro service.

by Tom Coumaris on Feb 6, 2014 7:02 pm • linkreport

Is there a way to submit written comments if we can't attend the meetings?

by Josh on Feb 6, 2014 8:09 pm • linkreport

I can't believe Metro is so messed up that there aren't any buses that can be diverted from little-used routes to this portion of these on 16th and 14th.

That's because little-used routes already have very low frequency, so they probably only have two or three buses running on the route at a time. Moving even one of those buses to 16th means cutting that other route from 20 minute headways to 40 minutes, or 30 minutes to 45, etc. Bus service has been cut to the bone over the past 7 years; and many of the extra buses have gone to increase service along 16th.

Right now on NextBus I count 41 buses operating on the S1,2,4, and 9, and that doesn't even count the buses that are deadheading (running not in service) north on 16th to begin a run.

I also live below CH and you know what I do? I shifted my travel pattern to show up for work a little earlier so I could avoid the bus congestion. Doesn't work for everyone, obviously, but if you can I suggest it. Leaving early on those days you know will be bad is a good idea as well.

by MLD on Feb 7, 2014 8:44 am • linkreport

You can email written comments to through 5PM Tuesday Feb 11

by BTA on Feb 7, 2014 8:54 am • linkreport

MLD, on the other hand, busses often make it to Columbia Heights ~40% filled and pick up the other 60% in the next five to ten blocks. Maybe they should be starting less buses at Silver Spring or upper NW and providing more on the short route they implemented last year. Maybe also add more to S9 service to the mix too for people that are making the longer trips.

by BTA on Feb 7, 2014 9:04 am • linkreport

BTA- Exactly. It's not fair that the full buses are all on the inner leg. Send more of the assigned buses there so the problem can at least be spread among all the riders and won't be so horrible on one segment of the route.

And 14th is just as bad and needs a similar short-routing.

by Tom Coumaris on Feb 7, 2014 9:23 am • linkreport

During the height of rush hour, the split branches of S2/S4 get a bus every 15 minutes (so a bus leaving Silver Spring every 7). The majority of buses are on the short-turn route that starts by the 14th St bus garage.

Let's say you want to get to 16th & K sometime between 8 and 9AM. 36 buses pass 16th & U that will get you there. 11 of those leave from Silver Spring - the other 25 are short-turn routes of some kind. There are also 9 S9 buses during that time.

There is a crowding problem at times for sure, but I think people are underestimating the amount of competence that has gone into designing the service on 16th. They really are squeezing almost as much capacity as you can out of a mixed-traffic bus corridor. But at 8AM when I take the bus? I do not routinely encounter the crowding that people complain about. I'm not sure I've ever seen that new short-turn S2 they added have all the seats full when it gets to K st - maybe on the most frigid days or in the pouring rain. But I don't know if anyone could design a bus service that has the extra capacity to deal with those few times a month when demand is so high because people won't walk.

by MLD on Feb 7, 2014 9:27 am • linkreport

MLD- If the planning is that precise then certainly Metro should be starting more buses where the over-crowding is worst. Only 9 additional trips on the lower 16th short route in the a.m. and no short-routing on 14th is poor planning.

This is why I say that the Circulator is our one meaningful transit innovation on 14th. It services the old Columbia Streetcar line route to Columbia heights which our neighborhoods were built around. An easy way to get short distances on 14th a little too far to walk for a reasonable fare. (Watch them screw that up).

The truth is that soon after people move to this neighborhood they realize that they better be able to bike or afford taxis most places they need to get because public transit is all but useless here.

by Tom Coumaris on Feb 7, 2014 1:47 pm • linkreport

I think there should be a certain cut off where some busses will not stop in the morning until it hits M Street (at minimum). There are way to many stops on each line almost at every other light, causing one person to hold up a bus of 100+ people is not ok. walk the extra block have 5 people get on at once. problem solved.

by corey on Feb 18, 2014 1:23 pm • linkreport

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