Greater Greater Washington

Transit


An "Abe's to Ben's" Circulator could connect tourists to DC neighborhoods

The National Park Service plans to create a new Circulator route around the National Mall. NPS and the city could also improve transit options to nearby neighborhoods with a line from the Mall to Foggy Bottom, Dupont Circle, and U Street.


Our proposal for the "Abe's to Ben's Circulator." Click for an interactive map.

The Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANCs) for Foggy Bottom and Dupont Circle have voted to ask NPS and the city to consider such a route, which we have nicknamed the "Abe's to Ben's" or "A to B" route.

The planned Mall Circulator route, which NPS plans to fund in part with revenue from new parking meters along the Mall and in West Potomac Park, is an excellent beginning and will improve transit accessibility to some of DC's most popular attractions.

At the same time, the route, which goes east-west along the Mall to and from Union Station, doesn't give tourists an easy path off the Mall and into the neighborhoods to support our local businesses.

More than 4 million tourists visit the Vietnam Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial, two of the most popular landmarks, each year. But the area still has poor transit service, with little Metrobus service and the nearest Metro station ¾ of a mile away.

Our proposal

The "Abe's to Ben's" line would begin at the triangle in between 23rd Street NW and Henry Bacon Drive, by the Lincoln Memorial. The bus would then travel north along 23rd Street and provide service to the State Department, Columbia Plaza, and George Washington University's main campus before meeting up with the Blue and Orange lines at the Foggy Bottom-GWU Metro station at 23rd and I Streets.

From there, it would proceed up New Hampshire Avenue and around Washington Circle to the southern entrance to the Dupont Circle station on the Red Line. It would continue around the circle to 18th Street and travel north to U Street before heading east to the U Street Metro station, the Green and Yellow lines. It could then end near the African-American Civil War Memorial (linking Park Service sites at each end) or Howard University.

This Circulator route would improve transit connections for both residents and tourists, providing a one-seat ride between the Mall, downtown, and mid-city neighborhoods. It would provide a direct connection to all 5 Metro lines, a crucial reliever of core Metro capacity and an alternative during service disruptions.

It would also restore bus service on the east side of Dupont Circle which ceased two years ago when Metro re-routed the L2 away from 18th Street. With this proposal, all of the bus pads that were installed as part of the streetscape project on 18th just a couple of years ago can serve a purpose again.


An L2 bus (formerly) stops on 18th Street. Image from Google Street View.

What about other routes?

DDOT's 2011 Circulator master plan envisions extending the current Rosslyn-Dupont route to the U Street and continue the National Mall route up 23rd Street and over into Georgetown by way of Pennsylvania Avenue.

There are better ways to expand service. An extension of the Mall Circulator into Georgetown would be redundant with the 31 Metrobus, but with less utility since the 31 serves the entirety of the Wisconsin Avenue corridor up to Friendship Heights.

Extending the Rosslyn-Dupont route, on the other hand, raises issues about service reliability and neglects to serve Foggy Bottom and the National Mall. The current route already must traverse congested L and M through Georgetown and the West End.

Our proposal introduces a more direct, less traffic-choked connection to the Blue and Orange lines for Dupont and mid-city residents, while implementing service in areas of Foggy Bottom that don't have good transit service.

Our proposal isn't perfect. We're not transit professionals; we're community activists looking to improve connectivity between our neighborhoods in a way that reduces automobile dependence and hopefully serves many of the city's goals.

We know, for instance, that there many not be enough demand for Circulator service on the National Mall at 11 pm on a Saturday, but there may be a lot of demand in U Street and Dupont Circle. We also would love to extend this route proposal farther east to Howard University, with its transit-dependent student population. We welcome suggestions as to how to resolve these, and other, potential dilemmas.

Next steps

Tonight, February 25th, DDOT will hold its semi-annual forum on the Circulator, where members of the public can comment on future service. This is a critical opportunity to ask agency officials to consider our proposal.

Despite the long road and uncertainty that lies ahead, we feel that this idea is one worth sticking with and fighting for. It would benefit residents, workers, and tourists alike, while providing benefits for local businesses and inducing additional tax revenue for the District.

Now that the National Park Service has changed the rules of the game, it's time to examine the opportunities, and provide better transit options for everyone.

Patrick Kennedy is a senior at George Washington University, majoring in political science. He is serving his first term as an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner in Foggy Bottom, and was recently elected to be the chairperson of ANC 2A.  
Mike Silverstein is a member and former chair of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2B, in Dupont Circle. He is retired after a 30+ year career at ABC News. 

Comments

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Can someone explain to me the difference between the Circulator and a Metrobus route?

by alurin on Feb 25, 2014 10:30 am • linkreport

The circulator is run by DDOT and Metrobus is run by WMATA.

The circulator routes are also meant to be more simple in their routing and they don't operate on a fixed schedule. Instead they just try to operate based on vehicle spacing ensuring a steady flow of vehicles rather than running the risk of bunching.

by drumz on Feb 25, 2014 10:35 am • linkreport

While I don't see much a "plan" for circulator -- in terms of what it is supposed to do -- this is a horrible idea.

You need shorter lines -- which makes sure that you can keep the headway. Have fun running a circulator line through (in no order) -- the wrong way up NH, Dupont Circle, Washington Circle, and then U st.

by charlie on Feb 25, 2014 10:37 am • linkreport

Many people in DC have really bad access to transportation. Foggy Bottom, U St. and Dupont Circle do not. I don't see why this is necessary.

by TakomaNick on Feb 25, 2014 10:42 am • linkreport

drumz is substantially correct. I would add though, and this is important for our purposes, that a lot of the difference is rooted in branding. Many tourists and new residents find the Metrobus system with its timetables to be confusing. The Circulator, with its limited stops, predictable (short) routing, $1 fare, and distinct buses, has proven to be much more appealing for those that would be turned off by traditional Metrobuses.

"While I don't see much a "plan" for circulator -- in terms of what it is supposed to do -- this is a horrible idea.

You need shorter lines -- which makes sure that you can keep the headway. Have fun running a circulator line through (in no order) -- the wrong way up NH, Dupont Circle, Washington Circle, and then U st."

Charlie, New Hampshire Avenue between Washington Circle and M Street will be converted to two-way traffic within the next month or two. That will eliminate the current one-way section, and allow buses to traverse the entire stretch between the Circles. Also, the total distance covered by this route is comparable to the currently-operating Circulator lines, so I'm not sure what you mean by "shorter lines."

"Many people in DC have really bad access to transportation. Foggy Bottom, U St. and Dupont Circle do not. I don't see why this is necessary."

It's worth noting that they don't have "bad access" to transportation because they're all dense neighborhoods where the percentage of people using transit is high. I would also add that Foggy Bottom lacks access to north-south transit options, while Dupont Circle and U Street aren't connected in any way currently.

What's more, if you look at the current Circulator plan -- new service is planned to be introduced to these areas anyway. So it's getting new transit options regardless. The question is how we can plan for new service in a way that doesn't introduce redundancy and is of the highest possible utility for our residents, workers, and tourist guests.

by Patrick Kennedy on Feb 25, 2014 10:59 am • linkreport

@Charlie:

"The wrong way up NH?"

At the completion of the New Hampshire Avenue Streetscape project this spring, New Hampshire Avenue will revert back to two-way traffic between M Street and Washington Circle. There will be no "wrong way" any more.

by Mike Silverstein on Feb 25, 2014 10:59 am • linkreport

In a city like DC, radial, horizontal, vertical routes are essentially the way to go. That said I think you can make a strong case for a circular routes or a couple of right angles like this where this is strong demand and no direct route. I've actually played around with mapping this exact route though I took it over and up Rhode Island with a mind toward commuters. I expect this route would get round the clock ridership because of the mix of uses.

by BTA on Feb 25, 2014 11:06 am • linkreport

Alternatively you could go north from U St. Lord knows there is always ridership up here.

by BTA on Feb 25, 2014 11:09 am • linkreport

charlie, not sure where your issue is coming from. I've taken the rush hour S1 down 16th st many a day and its always packed with the gills with people that are trying to get to Farragut/Foggy Bottom Ward 1, there is definite demand. On the other side I'm sure a lot of people are looking for better ways to get to the U St corridor from Dupont/Foggy Bottom. Right now I usually walk or cabi between those areas because transfers make it unappealing.

by BTA on Feb 25, 2014 11:13 am • linkreport

I remember reading study after study saying Metro would run their H1 route all day. This Circulator essentially provides this connection but along U St vs Columbia Road. If Metrobus is going to take forever to make changes than go ahead and let Circulator have this. Circulator seems to be able to add routes much faster than Metro bus.

by Transport. on Feb 25, 2014 11:44 am • linkreport

This makes an incredible amount of sense, both in terms of improving existing transit connections for residents and making it easier for tourists to get from the mall to some of our great neighborhoods. If DDOT is not already working on such a route, your proposal should get them started on it.

by dno on Feb 25, 2014 11:49 am • linkreport

There is an end to the "New Hampshire Avenue Streetscape" project? I am sure somebody is going to tear it up again.

And yes, a horrible idea turning NH two way. Thanks.

@BTA; since that is my daily commute I know it well. The point isn't demad. It is understanding what you are trying to accomplish with a transit system.

Layman has it better:

http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2014/01/semi-reprint-methodology-for.html

by charlie on Feb 25, 2014 11:49 am • linkreport

@Transport - maybe because Metro needs to do Title VII reporting about changes, thus lots of research? Does DDOT have to do Title VII reports?

by JDC on Feb 25, 2014 11:52 am • linkreport

This is clever. Most days I just walk to Dupont from U St but it's a real pain when carrying heavy stuff. I wish you well in trying to get DDOT to listen!

by yup yup on Feb 25, 2014 12:04 pm • linkreport

The 2011 DC Circulator 10-year plan http://www.dccirculator.com/Home/About/Circulator10YearPlan.aspx suggests a Navy Yard/SW/Dupont line via the Mall. I think that would be a better fit as it would serve areas that are not a particularly easy trip via existing bus and metro lines, could divert a lot of auto traffic at the new Wharf development, and would connect existing Circulator lines. I suppose it could go to U street after that, but I don't see a huge advantage, as longer lines would require more buses to get the same frequency of service. I'd rather see those buses used along the 14th Street line to deal with the crowding there, especially during rush hours.

by sbc on Feb 25, 2014 12:09 pm • linkreport

As a foggy bottom resident, this line would be much welcome. Right now there is no direct transit way to get from foggy bottom to north DuPont/U St.

by Gil on Feb 25, 2014 12:24 pm • linkreport

Extending the Rosslyn-Dupont route, on the other hand, raises issues about service reliability and neglects to serve Foggy Bottom and the National Mall.

If the Abe-Ben idea means scrapping the extension of the Rosslyn-Dupont line to U ST, it's a bad idea. There are a lot more people going from the R-B corridor to U St than from the Mall to U St.

Also, the Ros-Dup line goes pretty close to Wash Circle. There's also another line that goes through the circle. So, it's not like Foggy Bottom is totally neglected.

by Falls Church on Feb 25, 2014 12:28 pm • linkreport

@Transport, Metro in fact proposed doing mid-day runs of the H1 as part of their last proposed service adjustments package. Our ANC (2A) actually passed a resolution in support of that service enhancement. I'm not sure whether they intend to go forward with it at the end of the fiscal year, however, as I know that they were re-considering some of their proposed changes -- particularly related to the 30s. All things equal, I believe that the Circulator is a better fit for this concept, but I'll take any kind of transit improvement that improves connectivity to the mid-city.

@charlie, they had better not be tearing up New Hampshire again soon, as Mike and I have spent more time than I care to remember dealing with the complications of the present, 18 months-and-counting streetscape.

@JDC, I'm quite confident that DDOT has to follow the same Title VI guidelines as WMATA. The semi-annual Circulator forums related to the master plan are a component of this, I believe.

@sbc, I don't see these routes as mutually exclusive. The route you reference has a lot of utility, but it serves a different route and different demographics. The changes that we are seeking deal with this route versus two others in that master plan: One which entirely duplicates the 31 Metrobus, and a planned extension of the Dupont-Rosslyn Circulator. I'm also not sure that additional buses on 14th Street will solve much of the problems with that corridor: Thomas Circle and the narrowed street in Columbia Heights practically guarantee unreliable service in mixed traffic.

by Patrick Kennedy on Feb 25, 2014 12:38 pm • linkreport

@Falls Church, the folks coming from the Rosslyn/Ballston corridor can access the same Metro line at Foggy Bottom and likely get to their destination more quickly via this Circulator, due to traffic conditions that the current route encounters via congested streets in Georgetown and the West End. What's more, the westbound version of that route runs along M Street -- which is quite removed from Foggy Bottom.

At most times of the day currently, it takes nearly as long to get from Foggy Bottom to U Street walking as it does via transit. On the other hand, folks traveling all the way from Virginia to U Street currently can get to their destination much more quickly via Metro than they ever could with a route extension.

by Patrick Kennedy on Feb 25, 2014 12:44 pm • linkreport

I think I might like this better if it continued up 18th to Columbia instead of turning onto U Street -- the heart of Adams Morgan honestly has pretty bad north-south transit connectivity right now because of the 90s buses turning onto U Street at the bottom of the hill and the ungainly discontinuous street grid making it harder to get over to 16th for the S buses (and of course no L2 on 18th anymore).

by iaom on Feb 25, 2014 12:51 pm • linkreport

Great idea. I think the link between GWU and U st. would be a huge draw for GWU students on the weekend. The service would appeal to tourists during the day, and commuters and students at night.

You might run into an issue with the local ANCs as they reached an agreement with GWU that the food court in GWU's Ivory Tower cant advertise, and it would be the closest stop for tourists to get off for food, thus would draw the crowds the ANC didnt want. The better transit links hopefully would be enough of a sweetener to prevent concerns

@Patrick Kennedy, as someone who lives on U st. and frequently goes to Foggy Bottom, you are absolutely right. Its 30 minutes to walk and 30 minutes to metro.

by psoccer55 on Feb 25, 2014 1:01 pm • linkreport

@psoccer55, the ANC that I chair in Foggy Bottom unanimously supported this route concept, so we're all good from that perspective. There were many in the neighborhood who wanted to restrict the external accessibility of Ivory Tower's retail offerings when the building opened, however the venues are open to the public now -- and the retail venues are even displayed on the 23rd Street side of the building. Obviously, as an internally-focused food court, you can say that the space isn't exactly well-designed to attract tourists and outsiders who don't know that the food court exists, but the signs on 23rd are at at least something of an indication.

by Patrick Kennedy on Feb 25, 2014 1:10 pm • linkreport

18th could probably use more transit but it might be a bit redundant with the 42 and the S buses both of which are pretty frequent.

by BTA on Feb 25, 2014 1:14 pm • linkreport

For some reason people seem to think it's hard to get from 18th to Dupont; in reality the 42 is a 5 minute walk from the north parts of 18th, and the south parts are close enough to just walk. It would be that much more convenient if there were a bus along 18th, but there just isn't enough demand to support it given the other great bus routes (42/43, S's) that are so close.

by MLD on Feb 25, 2014 1:24 pm • linkreport

I have some concern about mentions of duplicating 31 service. I would like to see the 31 replaced with a Circulator that ran every 10 minutes from Foggy Bottom to Tenleytown. I have kids in strollers so the Circulator works much better than a MetroBus. The current Circulator route that goes up Wisconsin does not go far enough (the proposal up to Cleveland Park on Wisc would be nice) and is not reliable enough sometimes because it comes from way over at Union Station. The 30s service is not as reliable as it could be because of the long routes (32/36) and the 31 is not frequent enough to fix that. The MetroBus 30s study that I think is currently going on could help.

by GP Steve on Feb 25, 2014 1:28 pm • linkreport

charlie -- thanks for the cite. I hear that DDOT is looking at creating service metrics or at least, starting the discussion.

wrt "this proposal", tourists for the most part don't give a f* about the neighborhoods, despite all the work of people like CulturalTourismDC and proponents like me.

The issue of tourists getting to the neighborhoods isn't about adding Circulator service, as the Navy Yard Circulator illustrates.

Tourists will get to neighborhoods if we market neighborhoods and most important if they feel that there is stuff to see and do (e.g., see _Capital Assets_ by Kathy Smith). For the most parts, our neighborhood commercial districts aren't all that great for tourists from a retail standpoint. So it's the nightlife time only that potentially is marketable. Then it's Georgetown vs. the other potential areas (Adams Morgan, Dupont Circle, H St., 14th&U). It might be ok for now to let tourists be intrepid.

But to create a transit line "to get tourists to U Street" is to court failure.

The biggest problem with "marketing" to tourists is that you have to do it every day, because they turn over every day. It's a market "development" matter of major proportion.

If such a line is to be successful, not the Mall one but the section to U Street there has to be a lot of demand between the two end points.

In e-talking with someone who sent the Hatchet article to me when it was first published, I said why not take the Metro to Woodley Park and then take the Circulator from there. I mention this only because the likelihood of a lot of demand between Foggy Bottom and "U Street" is minimal.

Of course, it can be tested to prove whether or not it would be successful. None of these kinds of services seem to do all that well in DC (Adams Morgan Link, H Street shuttle) or the suburbs (Falls Church).

But hell, if it were to get a lot of ridership, go for it. I don't see how it would though. The problem is for Foggy Bottom area people to get to U Street. But the in-between areas have a lot of options. And U Street isn't a huge destination anyway.

Especially when people in Foggy Bottom can take the blue-orange line or walk to Farragut West and take a Circulator that gets to U Street.

by Richard L. Layman on Feb 25, 2014 1:49 pm • linkreport

if you're into tourist oriented transit, read:

http://ntl.bts.gov/lib/44000/44300/44348/Report_on_urban_visitor_transportation_services.pdf

It's a lot better than speculation without grounding in knowledge.

My piece about Mall transportation and visitor services covers a lot of the issues also:

http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2013/04/parking-under-national-mall-should-be.html

by Richard L. Layman on Feb 25, 2014 1:51 pm • linkreport

richard layman

Quibble - George, the local bus that failed in Falls Church, was terribly routed, with lots of stops and circuitous routings to specific apt buildings. I recall hearing it was faster to walk.

Meanwhile DASH bus in Alexandria is quite successful, IIUC.

Anecdotes are not data, but I've had people from out of town who do like the neighborhoods. These are not once in a lifetime tourists from far away, but families of young people living in DC, people from Baltimore, etc, who come often enough to want to get beyond the standard tourist sites. Of course often these folks come with their cars as the live within a few hours drive of DC. Probably not really a market for circulator buses from them.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 25, 2014 1:56 pm • linkreport

@Richard, well, I was really looking for your piece on intra-neighboorhood and levels of transit.

I'll differ with you in that there is some demand from U st to Foggy Bottom -- namely me. And a few others.

But this is just another case of people pushing for "more transit" options without thinking for why it would work.

What works for circulator is the level of service, which would not last long here with two traffic circles to deal with.

by charlie on Feb 25, 2014 2:17 pm • linkreport

AWITC -- DASH is the Alexandria bus service and has more than just tourist routes, doesn't it?. I haven't ridden it I don't think or only a couple times, but I don't think it it's the same kind of service.

and wrt what are called "cultural heritage tourists" I am exactly that kind of tourist, so I know how that kind of tourism works. We stay in vrbo.com places or bed & breakfasts almost exclusively (with an occasional splurge at a boutique hotel), so it is like you are living in a neighborhood, not visiting.

Plus you will not find a bigger consumer of "visitor centers" and locally-produced publications than me. I check them out in almost every place I go, so I tend to get a pretty ground level exposure to a place (although I am sure I miss plenty).

It might be that I just have resident fatigue and it's hard for me to see the uniqueness in our commercial districts. But most of them can't compare to say Chestnut Hill in Philadelphia. Even the little shopping district in Mount Airy Philadelphia is more unique than most districts here (see http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2013/12/food-co-ops-as-potential-anchors-of.html).

The smaller districts in DC don't compare to Frederick or Hampden in Baltimore or Carytown in Richmond.

It is getting better though, no question. But if I had to choose between Alexandria or Georgetown vs. any other local district for shopping at a tourist, I'd be hard pressed.

by Richard L. Layman on Feb 25, 2014 2:21 pm • linkreport

@Charlie I agree with you that it feels like more transit when we really need better transit (bus priority, frequent shorter corridor service, etc).

by GP Steve on Feb 25, 2014 2:21 pm • linkreport

charlie -- I think there is demand too. Like you I don't think there is demand for 6 buses/hour.

And the best routing in terms of speed -- Florida Ave. (which is the way I bike to that area and Georgetown) -- is not the best route in terms of generating ridership.

It's actually a pretty short walk for Dupont Circle area residents to get to U Street... or a ride on the S bus?

by Richard L. Layman on Feb 25, 2014 2:58 pm • linkreport

"AWITC -- DASH is the Alexandria bus service and has more than just tourist routes, doesn't it?. I haven't ridden it I don't think or only a couple times, but I don't think it it's the same kind of service. "

Yes, DASH is mostly non-tourist routes - but like DC circ, its non-WMATA provided, short routes, smaller buses, etc. DC Circ is in fact the only non-WMATA bus service DC has - it can serve for local routes in lieu of WMATA - does it have to be tourist focused only?

DASH runs one tourist focused route, a free "trolley" style bus from the King Street Metro to the watefront - its important because of Old Towns geography, where the key attractions on the waterfront are far from the nearest metro station. There is enough critical mass of commerce along King Street that subsidizing it seems to be worthwhile for City of Alex.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 25, 2014 3:05 pm • linkreport

Richard, I'd argue a bit if only because a lot of DC tourists are based in the Dupont area so I could see a bus that goes to the Mall or U st being useful for them. I've definitely seen a number of people get on the 42 bus on a Saturday or Sunday morning and start asking the bus driver for directions (probably because they were told the bus was more direct to the White House than metro) and I almost feel like Metro knows to run the patient drivers during those times. I suspect there is a small, steady stream of demand from GWU and I know commuters would take it. So yeah I don't think calling it a tourist bus is really correct but I don't think it would fail on that note either.

by BTA on Feb 25, 2014 3:13 pm • linkreport

Also again with all due respect I'd suggest DC has a lot of younger tourists in the 20-30 range that do want to go both to the Mall and to U st. Maybe I'm biased because they are the type of strangers my friends and I are likely to engage in conversation but either way I run into plenty of them.

by BTA on Feb 25, 2014 3:28 pm • linkreport

The other reason I brought up DASH is that George was similar to it, in that it was a local jurisdiction run service to connect to metro. AFAIK George was never tourist focused.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 25, 2014 3:34 pm • linkreport

... When I am a tourist elsewhere I use transit. It's why I get insights into how to run transit better here for the tourist segment.

Comparatively cheap tourist transit passes are a start (e.g. a week's SF MUNI transit pass is $29 and it includes the cable cars or it can be rolled into a multi-attraction pass). Info that tells people how to get places via transit really helps. Neighborhood-commercial district specific brochures really help. The Montreal visitor guidebook is organized by neighborhood, which is really good.

I argue for transit wayfinding info at main transit stations in the core. The announcements on the system run by Colonial Williamsburg call out specific tourist destinations--which ours do not.

WMATA does have a tourist brochure, as do many other systems.

- http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2012/08/transit-riding-as-customer-service.html

I know that tourists use buses. The problem with this proposed service is time shifting. U street is likely to draw some ridership, not a lot, but some, of tourists AT NIGHT. While the Mall service will draw ridership mostly DURING THE DAY. Running the full route during the day will be empty on the U Street run (like the Navy Yard Circulator...). Plus running to U Street and back will slow the service down considerably requiring more buses to maintain headways.

FWIW, another tourist oriented bus service I came across recently is in Gettysburg. The problem is that I think it is inadequately marketed, especially because most of the tourists going there are likely unfamiliar with buses/transit. But it covers much of the area to the point where you wouldn't really have to have a car to get around to many of the sites and you can get around the town as well.

The signage needed to be way better, more like Annapolis.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/rllayman/151543125/

by Richard L. Layman on Feb 25, 2014 3:47 pm • linkreport

Perhaps this shown route so be extended to say Federal Triangle from the Lincoln Memorial.

Current the area between 15th Street & the Potomac River bound by Pennsylvania Ave & Constitution Ave has horrible transit service; only one bus runs in the area constantly the 80 Metrobus. That way you would serve under-served areas with transit more than just to the Mall.

by kk on Feb 25, 2014 5:04 pm • linkreport

There used to be a 46 busline which more or less followed this route (it went to Mt P instead of U, basically it followed the 42 route and then went down NH). It was killed off in the early 90s, then seems to have been brought back at some point as part of the H1. The old 46 carried very few passengers during off peak hours--I know because I used it for the GWU libraries. The H1 seems very successful in this segment and it would be interesting to see how off-peak service goes now, although with Trader Joe's coming to 14th Street, a big reason for riding this bus will go away.

by Rich on Feb 25, 2014 5:13 pm • linkreport

Patrick
folks traveling all the way from Virginia to U Street currently can get to their destination much more quickly via Metro than they ever could with a route extension.

This is true and an advantage of your idea for anyone connecting to the circulator from the orange line. However, leaving VA aside, the loser in cancelling the Ros-Dup extension to U St is Georgetown. They lose bus access to U and unlike Foggy Bottom don't have a metro option. Furthermore, there's likely more demand (and no metro alternative) for U to Gtown and Dup to Gtown trips than from those originations to FBottom.

by Falls Church on Feb 25, 2014 6:03 pm • linkreport

That's a very valid point Falls Church which may even sway my opinion now that I think about it.

by BTA on Feb 25, 2014 6:08 pm • linkreport

Besides the State Department, I don't see any big ridership generators south of GW. Extending the Rosslyn-Georgetown-Dupont route up NH, once construction is done, has already been vetted, costed, and makes a lot of sense.

The bigger question is: why haven't 11 of the 12 route ideas identified in the now three-year-old Circulator TDP happened?* DDOT has done these open houses touting the same ideas over and over, with "these are for the future." I get that things like streetcar plans are complicated, but these are bus routes. The TDP identifies six "near-term" implementations by FY2015, including the Dupont-U Street extension, the Navy Yard-NoMa extension, the Mall routes, and the Dupont-Southwest-Southeast route.

So... besides the Mall routes, what's the status on these?

* The one exception is Barracks Row-Skyland, which brought Circulator to all quadrants.

by Payton Chung on Feb 25, 2014 10:02 pm • linkreport

@Falls Church, the point is fair. I certainly don't want to advocate against more service in an area where more -- not less -- is needed to satisfy demand. With that route, I think the question is whether traffic conditions in Georgetown and the West End would preclude it from being reliable as one segment, or whether it would need to be split.

Perhaps the answer is to run the route up 18th Street through Adams Morgan, as another commenter suggested. I think the important element of this proposal is connecting the Mall (during periods when service could be supported that far south), Foggy Bottom, and Dupont. From there, I'm less wedded to a particular path into the mid-city.

by Patrick Kennedy on Feb 25, 2014 11:11 pm • linkreport

If WMATA wants to do this, fine. But I don't see why the NPS should pay for this. This route minimally serves NPS visitors. Those tourists inclined to use a Mall Circulator are unlikely to use a bus to DuPont and U Street, but will take it to the Metro instead. Or just walk to DuPont which I have done as a tourist.

Not to say this route wouldn't get some use by a few tourists. But as I read this I understand you are expecting the financially stressed NPS to help DC fill a perceived gap in local bus service by extending the gap fill to the Lincoln Memorial. Again, if WMATA pays for this I think it's a great idea. But supplying transit needs to the local residents of any community should not be a responsibility of the NPS.

by Steve K on Feb 26, 2014 2:45 am • linkreport

This is a great idea. The H1 bus only travels in the morning and late afternoon for commuting and the L1 is not very frequent. There is not great bus service which travels the whole length from the mall to upper NW. It is very hard for tourists and residents to get across the city in this manner. You must take multiple buses.

by Eddie Whitehurst on Feb 26, 2014 7:17 am • linkreport

Steve, the Circulator would not be WMATA's funding responsibility. If we can tap into the new pot of parking meter revenues, should there be a surplus, that are intended to fund the currently proposed Circulator run along the Mall -- great. I think if we're linking up NPS properties, like the Mall and the African-American Civil War Memorial, the feasibility of using this pot of money is greater.

We recognize, however, that D.C. will have to be the primary funding entity in any case for this project. It's still important to leverage opportunities like this to give toursits an easy, visible path off of the Mall to destinations in D.C. that can satisfy retail needs that are not met on the Mall.

by Patrick Kennedy on Feb 26, 2014 8:13 am • linkreport

The Abe-Ben route seems like a good idea. As this piece points out, it fixes one big problem immediately. For people visiting the Lincoln Memorial, you pretty much have to hike from the Foggy Bottom Metro by foot. And since the Lincoln Memorial is a big tourist point, it would not surprise if this new Circulator route encourages more tourist to explore other areas of the city. The Abe-Ben route also links up well with the existing Woodley-14th Circulator route.

by kob on Feb 26, 2014 9:25 am • linkreport

Service for tourists is fine, but what we who live around U Street need is a useful connection to the west. The DDOT proposed extension of the Rosslyn - Dupont route fills the bill nicely. A one-seat ride from the U Street corridor to Georgetown and Rosslyn.

by Dan Gamber on Feb 26, 2014 9:45 am • linkreport

The Circulator routes are a mix of tourist only and mass transit. This seems to be more about tourism and serving as a shuttle for GWU kids to get to U street.

What DC desperately needs is REGULAR and SWIFT cross city transit north of K street. The McPherson/Woodley Park route should extend up to Mass/Wisconsin.

by andy2 on Feb 26, 2014 9:51 am • linkreport

Or maybe just plan to extend the existing NPS circulator to Arlington Cemetary that way you can make it more accessible for people on the Virginia side and commuters from Nova might actually use it as well.

by BTA on Feb 26, 2014 10:07 am • linkreport

Question: if all existing bus routes ran at all hours - but with no more than a 6-8 minute wait for each bus (and even shorter at rush hour, obviously) - would this be needed? The connections seem to me to exist already; what's preventing them from being useful is how disgraceful our headways are, and thus how much of an inconvenience it is to have to transfer from one line to another.

by LowHeadways on Feb 26, 2014 10:17 am • linkreport

Extending the Rosslyn - Dupont metro to U Street via NH ave makes a lot more sense. To repeat the comments of others, the only big ridership sources south of Foggy Bottom are the State Department (already served by the S1 bus) and the Lincoln Memorial. Yes the Memorial is isolated from much transit but tourists are typically headed east along the rest of the mall or make the relatively short walk from Foggy Bottom. It is doubtful that simply making a bus extend from neighborhoods to memorials will inspire tourists to visit the neighborhoods... The benefits of this route vs. extending the existing Rosslyn - Dupont are very doubtful. Extending Rosslyn - Dupont would allow a one seat ride between U Street and Dupont & Georgetown (something that is sorely missing) while avoiding adding a completely new route (i.e. departing from the Circulator's benefit as a simple to navigate system) and maximizing the ridership along the route.

by Matt on Feb 26, 2014 10:36 am • linkreport

Patrick, You fail to address why the Mall meters should help fund what is mostly a local bus service. The Mall Circulator should connect the Lincoln Memorial along with the other sites tourists might want to visit (Vietnam, Korea, FDR, MLK, and Jefferson Memorials). The Lincoln Memorial is just most distant popular site accessible from the Metro, not the only one. From a tourist perspective, a Mall Circulator would connect these sites, the Smithsonian Metro stop, the Smithsonian Museums, the Washington Monument, White House, Capitol, and possibly Union Station. As mentioned above, it could also run to Arlington with stops at the Iwo Jima Monument, Kennedy grave, Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers, and the Cemetery Metro station.

The African-American Civil War Museum is already served adequately by the Metro, as it's between two fairly close Metro stops. What you want is the NPS to help pay for you and your friends to get from GWU (I hadn't noticed before that you are a GWU student) up to DuPont and Adams Morgan. Your route ends are nothing more than a subterfuge. You care little about tourists visiting the Mall by only having one stop in it. At least be honest about your intentions.

by Steve K on Feb 26, 2014 10:46 am • linkreport

Falls Church and others -- The G2 goes from the GU campus to the Howard campus area down P St. It's a 4 block walk to U St. from 14th and P. GU students don't really have a problem getting to U St. if they take the bus... (I haven't ridden that bus in many years, so I don't know what's up with its current state.)

Matt -- I agree that extending the Rosslyn-Dup. Circle line makes more sense, although I don't see much in the way of demand as discussed previously except,

I don't know the H1 bus, but interestingly, I was thinking that the U St. service if offered should be more focused on night and weekend service and not M-Th during the day.

Payton -- the TDP has lots of routes proposed, to assuage neighborhood clamoring. Few of the routes justify creation on a ridership basis. Most of the current routes don't justify the level of service given the minimal ridership.

My understanding is that DDOT is suggesting to City Council that objective service and ridership metrics be used to make decisions on such services.

That being said, transit network breadth and depth preferences may mean that certain services should be provided regardless of not meeting preferred levels of ridership to meet the desired service profile/footprint.

Circulator and NPS -- it would be easily possible for NPS to subsidize this line for the Mall serving section only. It's not an issue. They are concerned about intra-Mall mobility justifiably. But it's easy enough to separate out funding.

In my comments to NCPC on the visitor element I made the point that during WW2, bus service was provided in East Potomac Park on weekends. Now, service is available only during the Cherry Blossom Festival. And no good bus service is available to the western section, which really disserves tourists, especially older tourists going to the Vietnam Memorial, WW2 Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, etc.

AND TO BE TRULY A TOURIST-CENTRIC LINE, service to Arlington Cemetery should also be provided by a National Mall Circulator, even though it would involve crossing the border. Since NPS would be paying for it, it's not a jurisdictional subsidy issue.

by Richard L. Layman on Feb 26, 2014 11:29 am • linkreport

Here's my own route I'd put together a couple years ago, intended to avoid Dupont Circle itself and to tie into the existing Dupont-Rosslyn service. All turns appear to be feasible for Circulator buses.

https://mapsengine.google.com/map/edit?mid=zzj3WVdoABzY.kOUbcAc8rKkU

by Bossi on Feb 26, 2014 11:46 am • linkreport

@LowHeadways: In theory, reducing the headways to the point where the connections can be made and travel time shortened makes sense. The two problems that you'd still face, given the target demographics for a Circulator run, are

1) The perceived complexity of Metrobus is intimidating to a lot of people, and introducing transfers into the mix only heightens that -- particularly for folks that aren't regular transit users (E.G., tourists) and wouldn't have SmarTrips, therefore either resulting in a need to pay twice, fumble around with cash, or scramble to find some place that sells SmarTrips.

2) The introduction of a transfer doubles the possibility of the transit user encountering unreliable service -- either due to disruption or congestion. Unless the route schedule is headway-based and managed by a line supervisor, routes that run for a good distance through the CBD area are susceptible to bunching, inconsistent spacing, and other things that choice users find frustrating about transit.

by Patrick Kennedy on Feb 26, 2014 2:35 pm • linkreport

"The African-American Civil War Museum is already served adequately by the Metro, as it's between two fairly close Metro stops. What you want is the NPS to help pay for you and your friends to get from GWU (I hadn't noticed before that you are a GWU student) up to DuPont and Adams Morgan. Your route ends are nothing more than a subterfuge. You care little about tourists visiting the Mall by only having one stop in it. At least be honest about your intentions."

@Steve K: You're really through the looking glass here, aren't you? I fooled two whole ANCs, numerous other neighborhood activists, senior citizen constituents, and a bunch of commuters into thinking that my ploy to provide a cheap party bus for my fraternity brothers would benefit them, but I couldn't sneak this one by you!

In the meantime, I'll agree to disagree with you about the utility for tourists of having a direct connection between the most visited parts of the Mall, the closest Metro station, and the most vibrant neighborhoods in the District -- in addition to the other benefits that I believe this route carries for residents (including evil GW students) and workers (including the numerous federal employees that work in the vicinity of the Mall).

Have a great day!

by Patrick Kennedy on Feb 26, 2014 2:49 pm • linkreport

@Richard, your posts raise interesting possibilities. Though the southern segment of this line (below Foggy Bottom) probably couldn't be justified based on ridership numbers outside of certain periods of the day, there could be periods of time -- particularly in the summer -- where it might make sense to extend the line down past the MLK/FDR Memorials to the Jefferson Memorial and back.

In discussing this with DDOT reps last night at the Circulator forum, we talked through a number of possibilities. One official suggested that this route might make an optimal pilot for longer headways (maybe 15 minutes), rather than the current standard of 10. I think that's reasonable. Without the headways getting too out of whack, I'd just say in general that the branding and route are more important than a specific low headway to achieve the objectives of the proposal.

by Patrick Kennedy on Feb 26, 2014 2:55 pm • linkreport

I totally support the idea and need for creating better transportation options that meet the needs of both residents, workers and tourists. Having lived, walked, biked, commuted (rail, buses and taxis), shopped and worked in and around the Dupont Circle, U St, Adams Morgan, Columbia Heights, Shaw, Woodley Park, Georgetown, Foggy Bottom, Penn Quarter, Chinatown and Union Station areas, I've experienced both the ease and challenges of connecting to different neighborhoods. Unlike NYC where most of the streets have a straight east to west or north to south directions with key intersections for transit (transfers and connections), the layout of DC's streets and the existing transit system, require a bit more creativity.
Connecting workers and tourists to various neighborhoods during both the day and nights is very important especially for local businesses. It's too bad that the proposal to build a hotel at 13th and U St NW was not approved -- even more reason to develop and employ great branding and marketing plan for DC neighborhoods, particularly the ones that are at the center of this discussion. DC (the District) is becoming more of a place to live than work, the 14th St Corridor is the most densely populated part of DC and that trend is going to continue with the opening and continued development of large-scale residential properties such as Louis At 14th and even those further east on U St. It's also not about bringing folks into these areas but also allowing them to move around to other neighborhoods as everyone stands to benefit.

by USt-14thStResident on Feb 28, 2014 7:48 am • linkreport

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