Greater Greater Washington

On 16th Street, the cost of not adding bus lanes is $8 million a year

The Metrobuses on 16th Street NW carry half of all traffic during peak hours, using only 3% of the vehicles. But buses share street space with cars. If they had their own lane, WMATA could save close to $8 million a year.


Photo by Damien [Phototrend.fr] on Flickr.

It goes without saying that it costs money to run buses. But it's less obvious that the speed of a bus is directly related to the cost of providing the service. Simply put, if we double the speed of a bus, we can provide the same service for half the cost. Or for the same cost, we can provide twice as much service.

Bus lanes are one of the tools we can use to make buses move faster and be more efficient. On 16th Street, since buses carry such a large proportion of the users of the street, bus lanes are a perfect tool. Talk of a bus lane has even made it into the mayoral race, though it's not entirely clear how strongly each of the candidates would support it.

Saving time

WMATA's Priority Corridor Network study looked at several corridors, including 16th Street. It determined that, if nothing changed, by 2030 a bus would take about 40 minutes to get from Silver Spring to McPherson Square. However, if there were a bus lane, buses in 2030 would be able to cover the same distance in just over 20 minutes.

That means a bus lane would cut transit travel time in half. It would also mean that a bus rider could cover the distance between Silver Spring and downtown DC faster than a motorist, which would make transit more competitive.

But even with one fewer lane, estimates show that motorists' travel time wouldn't increase significantly. With the bus lanes, a 2030 car trip would be 4 minutes longer than without them.

Saving money

Right now, it costs $16.1 million dollars each year to run the 16th Street buses, the S1, S2, S4, and S9. Bus lanes could cut those costs in half. And that means there's an opportunity cost of not installing the lanes. That cost is about $8 million dollars a year.

Of course, because the 16th Street Line is a regional route, that money wouldn't all go back to the District's coffers. It would go back to all the jurisdictions. DC would save about $3.3 million, Prince George's would save about $1.4 million, and Montgomery and Fairfax would save about $1.1 million each.

The District should support bus lanes on 16th Street not only because it's good for transit users. They should also support the bus lanes because they represent a more efficient use of the space (remember, buses move 50% of the people on 16th Street already). But just as importantly, the District should support bus lanes because there's a real monetary cost to the region for not supporting them.

Matt Johnson has lived in the Washington area since 2007. He has a Master's in Planning from the University of Maryland and a BS in Public Policy from Georgia Tech. He lives in Greenbelt. Hes a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners. He is a contract employee of the Montgomery County Planning Department. His views are his own and do not represent the opinion of his employer. 

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Not only that, but if the District decides not to allow bus lanes on this important corridor, I want DC to reimburse Virginia for the extra costs this bus line incurs.

Also, if the bus line goes faster and attracts more people, I would expect the number of people riding it to go up, and the cost recovery ratio to improve.

by Michael Perkins on Mar 12, 2014 2:55 pm • linkreport

Isn't the complaint about the 16th buses the crowding, not the timing?

Given the velocity of buses on 16th below U in the mornings and evenings, I'm not sure you can even fit anymore.

Clearly, what 16th needs is a streetcar.

by charlie on Mar 12, 2014 3:11 pm • linkreport

@charlie: Do you believe there is no relationship between overcrowding and the number of buses/hour on a route? I'm going to guess that having 20 buses/hour instead of 10 buses/hour would help to reduce crowding. Or would you say that change only addresses timing, and has no effect on overcrowding?

by Gray on Mar 12, 2014 3:15 pm • linkreport

Apropos the topic: Coalition for Smarter Growth's 16th Street bus lane happy hour tonight at JoJo Restaurant and Bar at 16th and U St. 6:00 - 8:00 PM tonight

by BTA on Mar 12, 2014 3:16 pm • linkreport

That's not the complaint, charlie. One complaint is that there are not enough buses going through at rush hour despite the fact that it's probably about 30 an hour holding upwards of 50 people each, resulting in people getting passed by full buses. One way to remedy that would be to put more buses through, especially some that only do the lower half of the route where demand peaks around Irving-U st. The other complaint is that the trip is longer than necessary due to high congestion. Reducing bus congestion has the nice effect of making runs faster and allowing WMATA to put more buses through per hour providing more rides for people rather than waiting, effectively killing the two birds with one stone.

by BTA on Mar 12, 2014 3:22 pm • linkreport

Isn't the complaint about the 16th buses the crowding, not the timing?

Bus lanes will increase the number of vehicles per hour that pass by a stop. By increasing the speed of the transit vehicles, they can complete more runs in the same amount of time. That is increased capacity.

by MLD on Mar 12, 2014 3:23 pm • linkreport

They really do need to get this implimented. It is moronic to have 50% of the people (in 3% of the space) competing against the other 50% (car drivers) who take up 97% of the road space. It would also improve drivers experience too. Its win for everyone.

by corey on Mar 12, 2014 3:30 pm • linkreport

I think a much simpler place to start would be to simply ban parking on 16th St at any time of day. Sure, it's a rush hour zone, but inevitably someone's not going to move their car in time, bottlenecking traffic down to one lane. If this doesn't satisfactorily improve bus service on 16th St, *then* I think it would be appropriate to consider a bus lane.

Plus, even at night it's ridiculous and unsafe to have 16th St parking (particularly but not only above U St), way too common on 16th to be cruising along and suddenly you're aimed at the back of a parked car.

by Jason on Mar 12, 2014 3:36 pm • linkreport

Great. Also run electric lines down the bus lanes and reduce the bus emissions in the city even more.

by Dan on Mar 12, 2014 3:39 pm • linkreport

I think a much simpler place to start would be to simply ban parking on 16th St at any time of day. Sure, it's a rush hour zone, but inevitably someone's not going to move their car in time, bottlenecking traffic down to one lane.

The problem isn't cars illegally parked in the curb lane. Most days there aren't any as they tow them elsewhere. The curb lanes are already clear of cars for the most part and that obviously isn't solving the problem.

by MLD on Mar 12, 2014 3:40 pm • linkreport

Sorry, I should have been more clear. 30 buses an hour during rush hour sounds about right -- that is a bus every two minutes.

What are you going to do with a bus lane -- a bus every minute?

by charlie on Mar 12, 2014 3:44 pm • linkreport

Great article putting this issue into monetary figures! I think rush hour bus lanes is a definite must...along with cameras to catch violators parking in the rush hour lane. If the street sweepers have cameras, so can buses (I get that there are many more buses and street sweepers): http://dcist.com/2014/03/street_sweeping_dc_fine.php. That and the rush hour lanes need to be changed from 4-6:30 to 4:30-7, if not 5-7:30. Who leaves work at 4pm?!

by 7r3y3r on Mar 12, 2014 3:59 pm • linkreport

Sorry, I should have been more clear. 30 buses an hour during rush hour sounds about right -- that is a bus every two minutes.
What are you going to do with a bus lane -- a bus every minute?

Clearly it's not "about right" since there is crowding.

And so what if there is a bus every minute if it can be done with the same number or a fewer number of buses?

by MLD on Mar 12, 2014 4:10 pm • linkreport

I don't understand what we're arguing about charlie. I'm telling you from experience it's not enough buses. These aren't clown buses that can accomodate infinite people. They need more bus space availability whether you accomplish it by more buses, faster trips or both. However, only the faster trips has the added benefit of getting people to their destination earlier as well as getting them on the bus. Adding more buses is considered a detriment without the lanes because there is a lot of congestion caused mostly by sharing the lanes with cars.

by BTA on Mar 12, 2014 4:26 pm • linkreport

You're talking about reducing one of the busiest streets in DC from 4 lanes for cars to only 2 lanes and keeping it 2-way. I get that one of the goals is to make car drivers as miserable as possible, but that's a lot of additional cars that would be coming up 15th Street and making those of us around it miserable. We're just slowly getting 15th calmed down from the freeway entrance pro-growthers in the past tried to turn it into. 13th would be the other street which would get much additional spun-off car traffic.

I'm all for dedicated lanes but this proposal needs to be about the 16th/14th transit corridor maximizing benefits and minimizing negative effects as much as possible. And also about getting the most consensus from residents.

It's not that complicated but it's also not this simplistic.

by Tom Coumaris on Mar 12, 2014 5:09 pm • linkreport

@Tom Coumaris

You used a lot of words but I don't actually see an alternative plan. What else do you propose?

It's not going to drive that much traffic to 15th - 15th ends at Irving and then you are dumped right back into the same 16th St traffic. How would that much more traffic go to 13th - it only has one lane in each direction. What WILL happen is people will take the bus instead of driving because the bus will now be way more convenient.

It does minimize negative effects - auto travel times after the project will be 4 minutes longer than before the dedicated lanes. Is that so bad?

by MLD on Mar 12, 2014 5:19 pm • linkreport

Oh, and I'll point out that under "minimizing negative effects as much as possible," you should include the CURRENT negative effect which is the constant complaints about how you can't get on a bus because of crowding.

by MLD on Mar 12, 2014 5:22 pm • linkreport

There are not enough buses run about. That's just not enough for the demand. More buses vs. faster trips - People want to get on first buses available. They don't want to be left behind and wait (maybe hopelessly, because that one might be full, too) for the next bus.
If it's a big slowdown, then perhaps they should ban parking on 16th altogether, but those affected will scream - (sorry, temples and churches.)
About your proposal - there's also only 2 lanes each direction on parts of the street (As seen in Google Earth of 1890 16th St. NW). There's not room. Whether driving a bus or a car, people need to be able to get around situations safely and reasonably, and they can't well when there's only one lane. Neither buses or cars, even with their own lanes can go fast through this city, not legally or safely.
Also, what would what you propose cost?

by asffa on Mar 12, 2014 5:22 pm • linkreport

You're talking about reducing one of the busiest streets in DC from 4 lanes for cars to only 2 lanes and keeping it 2-way.
Yes, it's very busy and that slows the buses down. This is a plan that doesn't slow down the buses.

I get that one of the goals is to make car drivers as miserable as possible,
No. Only if you're trying to paint as negative a picture as you can of the proposal.

but that's a lot of additional cars that would be coming up 15th Street and making those of us around it miserable.

I brought this up the other day. But when you take away a lane of traffic, some of the traffic just dissappears permanently. Especially when you're investing in transit along the same corridor.

http://contextsensitivesolutions.org/content/reading/disappearing-traffic/

I'm all for dedicated lanes but this proposal needs to be about the 16th/14th transit corridor maximizing benefits and minimizing negative effects as much as possible.
Benefits:
Money saved through more efficient transit operation
More people moving through the corridor via transit

Costs:
Car trips may be a few minutes longer.
Less parking

Yes, obviously this should be studied a bit more but nothing you've said really indicates that once "studied" we'll have a vastly different result than the conclusion from the facts we already have.

http://ntl.bts.gov/lib/1000/1100/1165/00778490.pdf

by drumz on Mar 12, 2014 5:27 pm • linkreport

There are not enough buses run about. That's just not enough for the demand. More buses vs. faster trips - People want to get on first buses available. They don't want to be left behind and wait (maybe hopelessly, because that one might be full, too) for the next bus.

Faster run completion and faster trips equals more buses. They are the same thing.

If it's a big slowdown, then perhaps they should ban parking on 16th altogether, but those affected will scream - (sorry, temples and churches.)

They already ban parking during rush hour, which is the problem time for crowding. It isn't enough.

About your proposal - there's also only 2 lanes each direction on parts of the street (As seen in Google Earth of 1890 16th St. NW). There's not room.

I ride by there every day - there are 4 lanes including the rush-hour no-parking lanes.

Whether driving a bus or a car, people need to be able to get around situations safely and reasonably, and they can't well when there's only one lane. Neither buses or cars, even with their own lanes can go fast through this city, not legally or safely.

So we shouldn't have any streets in this city that have only one lane in each direction available for cars? I hope you don't ever use the majority of streets in the city, which are in this configuration. 18th, 13th, P, Q, R, S, T - all are one lane per direction. And the idea isn't to have buses running 50mph along these lanes - it's to clear the lanes so that the buses aren't slowed down by people merging in and out, cutting buses off, etc. The bus only has to average 20mph to make the 20-minute travel time along the corridor.

Also, what would what you propose cost?
Very little, considering all you have to do is put up signs, stripe the lanes, and enforce it. Probably all of that is easily paid for by the $8m in savings per year in operating costs that Matt mentioned.

by MLD on Mar 12, 2014 5:29 pm • linkreport

It does minimize negative effects - auto travel times after the project will be 4 minutes longer than before the dedicated lanes. Is that so bad?

That's a very misleading number. It would make the average trip over the course of the day 4 minutes longer. You would be squeezing all of the car traffic into half the space- arguing that that would only have a minimal effect on drivers during rush hour takes some chutzpah. It's like the capacity numbers for trains or buses- the routes that may be jam packed during rush hour may only be listed at having reached 25% capacity or so, because the earlier stops, when the train or bus hasn't yet filled, are counted to. So even though the trains are too full for other people to get on, those lines are theoretically not at full capacity. You're massaging the numbers to gloss over a problem that you don't want to confront.

Not everyone is in a position to use transit. It does not work for everyone, or even most, as currently constituted- I notice a lot of privilege in this crowd, many don't seem to realize that a lot of their glorious, transit friendly walkable neighborhoods are really quite expensive. Quite a few people live in places where to take transit, they would have to take two buses, or a bus and a train, over quite a bit of distance, with really long headways if they miss the bus or transfer, or live far out where they can actually afford a house. Transit usually takes longer than driving, even for those of us who choose to take it. But for many people and poor neighborhoods especially, it takes much longer. In many such situations, driving makes much more sense. Poverty has shifted to the suburbs over the last few decades- most poor people don't live in the city core any more- they've been priced out, and they're often in places where transit is much less useful.

You need to maximize the overall efficiency of the system, and for that you have to accommodate drivers. Balance. 16th Street is a ridiculously congested corridor, and dedicated lanes for buses might be nice in some instances, but they would be an absolute disaster for traffic there. A streetcar would work. A metro line is what actually needs to happen.

This can't be driven by ideology, and that's what I see here. An absolute hate for cars and drivers, and a desire to create a less efficient transportation network just to punish those drivers, entirely due to ideology. Maybe it's not malice, maybe it's just ignorance. But on the 16th street issue particularly, I see a whole hell of a lot of people here who refuse to entertain any level of complexity or balance.

Drivers aren't going anywhere folks. Find a way that balances the needs of transit riders with the needs of drivers. Dedicated lanes doesn't do that. Think of something else. Fortunately, there are options like streetcars staring us in the face.

by Zeus on Mar 12, 2014 5:44 pm • linkreport

Balance

What is balanced now? 50% of the commuters are on overcrowded buses that take up 3% of the roadspace. I don't know how many times I've waited at Park & 16th for a bus, only to have it come late and then so packed it won't stop. Meanwhile, all these drivers, each one person per car are taking up 97% of the roadspace. How is that balanced? I think this bus lane is what will make 16th street balanced in terms of commuting. One person taking up 100 sq feet of road space is not balance.

by dc denizen on Mar 12, 2014 5:51 pm • linkreport

Not everyone is in a position to use transit. It does not work for everyone, or even most, as currently constituted

I find it fascinating that in DC, riding the bus is the bourgeois activity while people who drive have no other choice. That's especially rich on 16th street which has the metro on either end.

You need to maximize the overall efficiency of the system, and for that you have to accommodate drivers.
What's innefficient about dedicating roadway space to a vehicle that carries 50% of the people with just 3% of the total number of vehicles on the road?

This can't be driven by ideology, and that's what I see here. An absolute hate for cars and drivers, and a desire to create a less efficient transportation network just to punish those drivers, entirely due to ideology.
I think its your ideology that is showing. Anyone arguing that this plan exists solely to "punish drivers" is thinking in terms of "cars first". Especially when drivers wouldn't even be punished based on the data.

This does not punish drivers at all. It makes things better for them actually. Especially for drivers who can now more reliably switch to taking the bus.

Drivers aren't going anywhere folks. Find a way that balances the needs of transit riders with the needs of drivers.

Again, this plan does balance things.

Think of something else. Fortunately, there are options like streetcars staring us in the face.
Great, and when we talk about streetcars, the exact same accusations that this is a "war on cars" comes up and that streetcars are even worse than buses because they're on rails.

by drumz on Mar 12, 2014 5:58 pm • linkreport

There are 100 alternatives to be thought of with a minimum of thinking outside the box. We went through this on the 15th St cycle track and it turned out so much better because of the input and alternatives.

For one, IF you're going to do 16th, prepare for not diverting 50% of the present autos to parallel streets. One way would be to make 16th switchable one-way during rushes. I'm sure there's plenty of other alternatives that could be thought of.

IF nighttime parking for residents and businesses is really important on 16th think of only doing BRT during rush hour, which is the only time it makes sense anyway. Why do we need dedicated lanes at midnight?

The short-routing up 15th of 7 bus trips per morning has been fine and not bothered anyone. Expanding this concept could be a full or partial alternative.

The crowding problem, as previously shown on GGW, is from Columbia Heights south in this transit corridor. If necessary to acceptance, being reasonable on dedicated lanes above Columbia Heights may be necessary.

The commuter use on 14th and 16th is largely fungible. The two lines run parallel a few hundred feet apart and those of us who live between them would take whichever is more reliable and fastest. 14th has 4 lanes of traffic all day and two lanes with metered parking spaces. There are no rush hour traffic lanes. It would be nice when the streetcar comes to 14th if there were already dedicated transit lanes on it and those 24-hour metered parking lanes aren't that important. Of course dedicated lanes could only work on 14th up to Columbia Heights.

And there's plenty of more compromises and alternatives that could be thought of with a little effort.

Thinking this out to mitigate disruptions and gain acceptance may not cause the misery some desire but otherwise this proposal is going no where. I understand the appeal of simplicity in theory but reality usually isn't so simple.

And no, I don't believe that when you cut out half the car lanes on one street most car commuters all of sudden get religion and switch to buses instead of taking parallel streets. Wish they would, know they won't.

by Tom Coumaris on Mar 12, 2014 6:07 pm • linkreport

No one argues that everyone will switch to the bus. Some will, others will metro or Marc others will take another road (and not just 14th but RCP and other routes).

I'm not wishing for the traffic to go away. I'm saying that when they've looked at other places in a variety of different schemes, traffic hasn't increased on other routes when a lane was taken. This is based on data, a survey of several studies.

It's reasonable then, to assume or predict that you won't see commensurate traffic increases on parallel streets.

by Drumz on Mar 12, 2014 6:35 pm • linkreport

I agree that dedicated bus lanes on 16th would be a good idea but this article oversimplifies the case it makes in a couple obvious ways:

First, buses may carry 50% of the people, but that is not a complete definition of "traffic." Streets are also used for deliveries and emergency services, which buses do not carry. This doesn't necessarily make bus lanes a bad idea, but it does make defending them a bit less of a slam dunk.

Second, cutting bus travel times in half would probably not cut the fuel costs in half, so a more thorough analysis of the cost savings is called for.

by jimble on Mar 12, 2014 7:17 pm • linkreport

By 2030? It already takes 50+ min to get down 16th from Silver Spring to McPherson during the morning rush!

by Ezekiel on Mar 12, 2014 9:33 pm • linkreport

@Tom
For one, IF you're going to do 16th, prepare for not diverting 50% of the present autos to parallel streets.
They won't be diverted - some traffic can be handled by the remaining lane, and some people will switch to the bus. A few will forego their trip.

IF nighttime parking for residents and businesses is really important on 16th think of only doing BRT during rush hour, which is the only time it makes sense anyway. Why do we need dedicated lanes at midnight?
Pretty sure that's not part of the plan, and the plan is rush-hour lanes with parking at other times.

The crowding problem, as previously shown on GGW, is from Columbia Heights south in this transit corridor. If necessary to acceptance, being reasonable on dedicated lanes above Columbia Heights may be necessary.
The crowding comes because buses are bunched up, which is due to congestion north of Columbia Heights. That's why the lanes are needed there and that's actually where there is plenty of space!

Of course dedicated lanes could only work on 14th up to Columbia Heights.
And that's why it's not a serious proposal.

Thinking this out to mitigate disruptions and gain acceptance may not cause the misery some desire but otherwise this proposal is going no where. I understand the appeal of simplicity in theory but reality usually isn't so simple.
I don't desire misery. I desire 50% of the road space for 50% of the people traveling on the road. And if you make buses more reliable and less crowded then that share will shift even more toward the bus.

And no, I don't believe that when you cut out half the car lanes on one street most car commuters all of sudden get religion and switch to buses instead of taking parallel streets. Wish they would, know they won't.
There is a ton of research out there that says the exact opposite - when road space is taken away the traffic doesn't clog parallel routes.

Seriously, Tom? You complain about the bus situation ALL THE TIME. And yet the solution that is so damn obvious is just too scary? Give me a break!

@jimble
First, buses may carry 50% of the people, but that is not a complete definition of "traffic." Streets are also used for deliveries and emergency services, which buses do not carry.

Ahh yes, the usual "but emergency vehicles and deliveries!" They are a minor part of traffic during peak periods - the vast majority are single-occupancy autos used for commuting. Few delivery vehicles are traveling this corridor at rush hour because - surprise! - it's congested!

Second, cutting bus travel times in half would probably not cut the fuel costs in half, so a more thorough analysis of the cost savings is called for.

Labor is BY FAR the largest part of transit costs - around 2/3 for bus - fuel is a minor cost. Cutting travel times in half lets you run the same service with half the vehicles (and half the drivers!) so that would cut costs in half.

by MLD on Mar 12, 2014 10:29 pm • linkreport

@Tom Coumaris

Also, I guess you've changed your tune in the past month:
http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/21599/nows-your-chance-to-push-for-dedicated-streetcar-lanes/#comment-219271

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

by MLD on Mar 12, 2014 10:31 pm • linkreport

17th Street and 15th Street run parallel to 16th a couple hundred feet away each with 3 lanes one-way. If you take half the cars off 16th I don't trust they're going to switch to transit instead of going 200 feet out of their way.

Just because someone's for dedicated lanes doesn't mean they have to be for doing them stupidly or with intent to cause misery for anyone.

by Tom Coumaris on Mar 12, 2014 11:03 pm • linkreport

and when I said "can we get them tomorrow?" I was saying that we have a crisis situation on 14th and 16th where people can't get on buses and telling them to wait on some far-distant possible, maybe dedicated lane is like saying "Let them eat cake". They need extra capacity now and if Metro can't find it Metro is horrible and being manipulated by ideologues wishing to cause misery to get their ultimate objective. What is Metro's plan for until there's dedicated lanes and what's it's Plan B if there aren't any?

by Tom Coumaris on Mar 12, 2014 11:31 pm • linkreport

Streets are also used for deliveries and emergency services, which buses do not carry.

Emergency vehicles are allowed to travel in bus lanes.

by Eric on Mar 13, 2014 5:47 am • linkreport

They need extra capacity now and if Metro can't find it Metro is horrible and being manipulated by ideologues wishing to cause misery to get their ultimate objective.

Well that's totally reasonable to only accept a plan if it can be in place literally tomorrow and dismissive of anything that make take a little while.

Plus, your ire should be directed at DDOT as well (who are also run by ideologues?).

17th Street and 15th Street run parallel to 16th a couple hundred feet away each with 3 lanes one-way. If you take half the cars off 16th I don't trust they're going to switch to transit instead of going 200 feet out of their way.

This would be a valid point, if these are the only options someone has from traveling from somewhere north of downtown. But they aren't. And again, when you take away a lane, some traffic dissappears permanently.

When they pedestrianized times square, traffic actually sped up in midtown.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/05/nyregion/in-bloombergs-city-of-bike-lanes-data-show-cabs-gain-a-little-speed.html?_r=0

Here's one from portland,
http://streetsblog.net/2010/04/22/in-portland-construction-cant-kill-a-bike-lane/

And all those other ones.

In order for the city to make any significant progress in reducing car trips, it must start re-dedicating lanes for transit, cylists, and pedestrians. It's not even worth it to respond to the criticism that the goal is to make things "miserable" for drivers because that's pure demagoguery meant to confuse the public rather than enlighten them.

by drumz on Mar 13, 2014 8:15 am • linkreport

17th Street and 15th Street run parallel to 16th a couple hundred feet away each with 3 lanes one-way. If you take half the cars off 16th I don't trust they're going to switch to transit instead of going 200 feet out of their way.

Those streets only exist south of Florida and south of Irving, respectively. The congestion problems are further North. How is that much traffic going to divert to 17th if the cars have to slog through 16th to get there? It's too bad you can't "trust" what reality has demonstrated time and time again.

Just because someone's for dedicated lanes doesn't mean they have to be for doing them stupidly or with intent to cause misery for anyone.

So what is the non-stupid solution? You still haven't proposed one that deals with the problem where the traffic congestion actually is (north of Irving)!

I was saying that we have a crisis situation on 14th and 16th where people can't get on buses and telling them to wait on some far-distant possible, maybe dedicated lane is like saying "Let them eat cake".

It's only a far distant solution because certain people (*COUGH*) continue to insist that there are other, better, fairy dust unicorn solutions out there that won't cause any "misery" for anyone at all. The Metrobus study in 2008 recommended dedicated lanes. The PCN report in 2010 recommended dedicated lanes. DDOT is going to study dedicated lanes. 16th street used to have a dedicated bus lane! It's not "let them eat cake," it's the actual solution to the problem.

by MLD on Mar 13, 2014 8:38 am • linkreport

What is Metro's plan for until there's dedicated lanes and what's it's Plan B if there aren't any?

Looks like DDOT is finally getting around to installing the signal priority they got money for in ARRA in 2010. So that is part of Metro's plan as well - installing the equipment for that.

People on this site have explained again and again why just adding more buses won't help things. The buses run inefficiently because of the traffic and that leads to bus bunching, long waits, and empty space on some buses. There are already 42+ buses running on this corridor during the peak hour.

by MLD on Mar 13, 2014 8:43 am • linkreport

"17th Street and 15th Street run parallel to 16th a couple hundred feet away each with 3 lanes one-way. If you take half the cars off 16th I don't trust they're going to switch to transit instead of going 200 feet out of their way.
Just because someone's for dedicated lanes doesn't mean they have to be for doing them stupidly or with intent to cause misery for anyone."

if its so easy for drivers to divert to alt routes, then it sounds like this plan really isn't causing misery for the drivers. sounds like the concern, in that case, is with misery for people who live and walk on 15th street, who prefer to keep the traffic on 16th. But there are, of course, people who live and walk on 16th, so I would guess that misery is a wash.

And if even a few drivers DO shift to the bus, then its less net misery for residents and peds, since its less auto traffic.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 13, 2014 9:26 am • linkreport

The 16th Street buses were a disaster this morning. It took 50 minutes to get from 16th and Colorado to 16th and K St, and that was on an "express" bus. Probably one half to two-thirds of people waiting for buses were getting left behind by the time the bus got to Columbia Heights. People were forced to stand in sub-freezing temperatures while bus after bus passed them by. This situation is completely unacceptable. We need dedicated lanes. Anything else is lipstick on a pig.

by David G. on Mar 13, 2014 9:41 am • linkreport

"But even with one fewer lane, estimates show that motorists' travel time wouldn't increase significantly"

This is ridiculous. At 11pm this is probably true. At 8am, no way.

by David J on Mar 13, 2014 9:54 am • linkreport

@davidG , I feel like people over exxagerate how many times a bus passes them. It is usually rare that 2 busses in a row are max capacity. I was standing at 16th and euclid this morning around 9AM and there was 4 busses there (an S9, S2, S1)they were kinda crowded but still was able to pick everyone up and (i got on s1), and we didnt have to turn anyone down the whole trip. it still does drive me crazy how i live so close and i could walk to work in the same amount of time it takes me to ride the bus down but oh well, when its cold im going to take the bus.

by corey on Mar 13, 2014 10:05 am • linkreport

@corey

This morning I got on the 5th bus that arrived at 16th & U - this was around 8:05AM. Two that arrived did not pick up any passengers, the other 2 picked up 5 or fewer, and at a HUGE time cost to cram them on. The 5th bus had only the seats full, but a bunch of people looking for an S1 (this was an S2) were left behind at the stop.

Maybe I will make up some makeshift signs and post them at stops. If you need an S1 and things are very crowded, just get on whatever bus you can and ride to 16th & K, then get off and either start walking or wait for an S1. The S1 gets uncrowded at K. Likewise, if you don't NEED an S1, consider taking a different bus to help the crowding.

by MLD on Mar 13, 2014 10:13 am • linkreport

@corey

you do realize that 9am is the tail end of rush and that most people are at work by then?

by sk on Mar 13, 2014 10:13 am • linkreport

Tom Coumaris - thank you for making sense. There's no good motivation here to do things the damaging, costly, expensive and stupid way, perhaps to divert money away from other road construction (in Gaithersburg as happens in MontCo.) or to punish drivers.
People should listen I think to your suggestions.
And hopefully nobody can wave "disappearing traffic" theory at any bad and costly plan and sway anybody.

by asffa on Mar 13, 2014 10:25 am • linkreport

"This morning I got on the 5th bus that arrived at 16th & U "

Or walk. It is a nice one to Farragut.

And again, it sounds mostly as if people below U can't find a bus that has spots. Running more buses form a different starting point would seem to be the solution -- say a Circulator model with one or two stops.

by charlie on Mar 13, 2014 10:31 am • linkreport

@DavidG

There was an accident a 495 and Wisconsin today. 495 was a parking lot going west, and as a result, TONS more people took GA Ave/16th going south, when otherwise they would have gone over to Connecticut or Wisconsin.

Traffic is so close to capacity that an accident 10 miles away can screw up 16th street that bad.

by Kyle-w on Mar 13, 2014 10:35 am • linkreport

Or walk. It is a nice one to Farragut.

I walk sometimes, but it is a lot slower than taking the bus. If it is a nice day and things look dire, I usually walk (or bikeshare) instead. This is also around 8AM so the crowding is not a problem - most people who have problems are taking later buses. And today it definitely would not have been a nice walk - that's why everyone is taking the bus!

And again, it sounds mostly as if people below U can't find a bus that has spots. Running more buses form a different starting point would seem to be the solution -- say a Circulator model with one or two stops.

Adding more buses is really only a very temporary solution. Because of bus bunching it is very hard to manage crowding and hard to allocate the capacity properly.

Do people not understand that the bus lanes would serve several purposes?
1. Alleviate crowding now
2. Provide for the future by allowing MASSIVE increases in bus capacity.
3. Make transit more competitive with driving and therefore more popular.

It's as if people are completely ignoring that the city and metro should have a goal of "more people on transit." Moving more people with the same cost and the same amount of road is a win for the DC region economically going forward.

by MLD on Mar 13, 2014 11:00 am • linkreport

Just wait until DDOT is replacing the 16th Bridge over Military Rd this year. Add 15+ minutes to each bus trip along the corridor.

by just wait on Mar 13, 2014 11:17 am • linkreport

I have been looking for comments about where exactly the crowding begins. The buses are almost never crowded above Spring Street NW. The southbound buses fill up between the bus stop past the bridge after the Crestwood Apartment and Columbia Road. Metro knows this.

That is why it doesn't make any sense to put more buses or a light rail above the 3900 block of 16th St NW. This conversation is about every block below that block. A solution would be more Circulator routes that can turn around at Spring St and U St.

by Steve G on Mar 13, 2014 11:36 am • linkreport

@Steve G:
The buses are almost never crowded above Spring Street NW. The southbound buses fill up between the bus stop past the bridge after the Crestwood Apartment and Columbia Road.
You do realize that a bus that is half full before it reaches Arkansas is well on its way to filling up, right? In reality, many of them are even full by that point. I guess it's accurate to say that they're not yet "overcrowded," but that doesn't mean that the overcrowding is entirely due to stops south of there.

Moreover, given the combination of congestion and ridership above Arkansas, it takes forever for buses to reach this point. This is how the northern section of the route makes it incredibly difficult to run more frequent buses, and leads to overcrowding on the southern portion of the route.

That is why it doesn't make any sense to put more buses or a light rail above the 3900 block of 16th St NW.
In fact, this doesn't follow at all.

by Gray on Mar 13, 2014 11:48 am • linkreport

We need the bus lanes now and a Metro line tomorrow. These are not mutually exclusive transportation improvements.

I ride the S9 from Silver Spring to M Street every day until Congress restores the transit subsidy. I tend to feel kind of bad for all the people in Columbia Heights/Mount Pleasant/Adams Morgan riders who can't get on buses. My S9 was standing room only after its first stop in Shepherd Park. It was full by Missouri Avenue. It was crammed full by the Lion Bridge over Piney Branch. We were only able to pick up as many passengers as we dropped off from Spring Road all the way down to M Street. Every stop from Shepherd Park down to M Street had between half and a whole bus load of people waiting, most of which we couldn't pick up.

Tom Coumaris, those people getting on a bus are more important than your ill-informed fears about traffic on 15th Street when that street doesn't start until Irving while the 16th Street traffic starts in Silver Spring.

We need a new Metro Line there long-term. 16th Street is only getting more popular as is Silver Spring. 15,000+ at present is not quite heavy rail numbers but it's not too much of a stretch to think it'll get to the 60,000+ numbers if you have the most popular form of transit serving the corridor.

by Cavan on Mar 13, 2014 11:48 am • linkreport

@ Steve G

In the past, WMATA has proposed starting buses just north of Spring Road at Arkansas Avenue to provide short route service on 16th Street but the residents of Arkansas have been strongly opposed to any buses operating on their street.

by Douglas Stallworth on Mar 13, 2014 11:58 am • linkreport

My understanding from the map of the North-South Corridor study that was reprinted here was that the problem is from Columbia Heights south:

http://greatergreater.com/files/2014/nsstreetcarcongestion.pdf

I've already given off the top of my head a half dozen fairly easy solutions to potential problems.

The 14th/16th lines need a common solution. Improvements on either will help capacity on the other as it's largely the same user pool. I think with the traditional N-S corridor in DC being Columbia Heights down 14th, with the streetcar coming to 14th and needing dedicated lanes, and with no rush hour traffic lane, 14th would be much easier and better to get a dedicated lane on. If the dedicated lane is absolutely needed north of Columbia Heights maybe there's a street to cut over to 16th.

But the 16th Street choice below CH is going to need a lot of compromises and refinements. I don't see it happening if the proponents are too inflexible.

And the carrot-vs-stick concept is way over-represented by the stick crowd in too many discussions. Build a really good reliable transit system and people will use it. But be careful not to inconvenience any more people any more than absolutely necessary.

by Tom Coumaris on Mar 13, 2014 12:40 pm • linkreport

Many years ago, I was a bike commuter from Adams Morgan up to a job in Silver Spring and rode up 16th Street every morning. The huge amount of cars coming down 16th Street were overwhelmingly carrying one person - the driver. I'm sure the traffic has only gotten worse since that time. I would love a solution to 16th Street that really made driving much less attractive, and feasible, and drove more folks to transit. Nice to see the discussions on bus lanes and streetcars!

by Todd on Mar 13, 2014 12:50 pm • linkreport

I get on the S9 at Colorado or Buchanan and never have problems getting a seat. Of course, I sometimes have to crawl over someone who sits in the outer seat to the inner seat because that person wants to hog both seats.

Secondly, the 16th St Corridor Metro Line above Spring will never be an option as light rail is already planned for Georgia Avenue, the 16th St median strip is too new to be removed and high density areas in Silver Spring is already well served by the Red Line. The Ward 4 area simply doesn't have enough population density to qualify for an underground line. That discussion keeps being brought up by disgruntled Federal employees and has already been aired and shot down by Metro.

As for the the "people" of Arkansas Ave issue, there is a bus barn at 14th and Decatur where a bus can turn around easily. Arkansas Ave at 14th St becomes a high density secondary merge route (if you understand what that means) and buses would not add much more to the commuter traffic already connecting with Georgia Avenue.

by Steve G on Mar 13, 2014 1:10 pm • linkreport

My understanding from the map of the North-South Corridor study that was reprinted here was that the problem is from Columbia Heights south:
http://greatergreater.com/files/2014/nsstreetcarcongestion.pdf

This says nothing about traffic congestion, only about bus stop use.

It may seem counter-intuitive to you, but the places with the most bus stop crowding are not actually the places where dedicated lanes are needed the most. Dedicated lanes north of Columbia Heights are absolutely needed, and are needed more than lanes south of Columbia Heights.

But the 16th Street choice below CH is going to need a lot of compromises and refinements. I don't see it happening if the proponents are too inflexible.

Bus riders have been plenty flexible - they take slower public transit which makes it easier for those who must (or the many who choose to) drive to do so. Bus riders were also flexible in that 16th used to have a dedicated bus lane but no longer does. Why can't auto users be flexible and just cut over to 14th where there are plenty of lanes for them?

And the carrot-vs-stick concept is way over-represented by the stick crowd in too many discussions. Build a really good reliable transit system and people will use it. But be careful not to inconvenience any more people any more than absolutely necessary.

Build a reliable transit system, but God forbid if it does anything to make driving harder at all! Road space is finite. There isn't some magical solution that will improve bus service and make driving easier too.

by MLD on Mar 13, 2014 1:58 pm • linkreport

And the carrot-vs-stick concept is way over-represented by the stick crowd in too many discussions. Build a really good reliable transit system and people will use it. But be careful not to inconvenience any more people any more than absolutely necessary.

This is exactly what this plan is. If we absolutely are never allowed to reduce the number of car lanes on any street in DC then we're never going to do much better with transit than we already are.

by drumz on Mar 13, 2014 2:10 pm • linkreport

"It may seem counter-intuitive to you, but the places with the most bus stop crowding are not actually the places where dedicated lanes are needed the most. "
Yes that is counter-intuitive, and so is not adding the Circulator or similar on the street stops that often get *bypassed* right now because the buses are too full.
I'm curious towards an explanation.

by asffa on Mar 13, 2014 2:18 pm • linkreport

Todd "I would love a solution to 16th Street that really made driving much less attractive, and feasible, and drove more folks to transit."
Looking to punish drivers through poor planning is not the way.

by asffa on Mar 13, 2014 2:21 pm • linkreport

Is making it easier for someone to take the bus "punishing" them for not driving? That's an interesting perspective.

by drumz on Mar 13, 2014 2:24 pm • linkreport

I'm just curious about how many would agree any bus-only lane portions should just be for rush hour or would try to insist that for no reason, it's got to be 24/7 even though even buses don't run weekends as often.

by asffa on Mar 13, 2014 2:27 pm • linkreport

I mean, you could try rush hour only. But if the road can handle only two lanes for cars during rush hour then why not just have it that way 24/7. That'd make it more effective in the long run and could mean you could install things like pylons and zebras that could enforce the lane without relying on cops patrolling the area.

So it wouldn't be for "no reason".

by drumz on Mar 13, 2014 2:32 pm • linkreport

Yes that is counter-intuitive, and so is not adding the Circulator or similar on the street stops that often get *bypassed* right now because the buses are too full.
I'm curious towards an explanation.

1. It couldn't be implemented immediately because the buses aren't available. You could do it in 2-3 years when the buses you procure to do it arrive.

2. The extra capacity is only needed for 4-6 hours per day, So you'd be buying a bunch of buses and paying drivers more for limited use.

3. Adding more buses on a corridor that has 42+ buses per hour at peak gives you diminishing returns. Buses already bunch up and there is little you can do to prevent it; the situation would be worse with more buses.

4. This would all cost more than the dedicated lane.

by MLD on Mar 13, 2014 2:37 pm • linkreport

I'm just curious about how many would agree any bus-only lane portions should just be for rush hour or would try to insist that for no reason, it's got to be 24/7 even though even buses don't run weekends as often.

Nobody has seriously suggested it - it's a red herring.

by MLD on Mar 13, 2014 2:38 pm • linkreport

I mean, you could try rush hour only. But if the road can handle only two lanes for cars during rush hour then why not just have it that way 24/7. That'd make it more effective in the long run and could mean you could install things like pylons and zebras that could enforce the lane without relying on cops patrolling the area.

There would always be 2 lanes for cars - at other times the bus lane would be a parking lane as it is now.

by MLD on Mar 13, 2014 2:38 pm • linkreport

drumz Enhancing bus service is not all (not even always the main goal) that some proposals may intend.

If the goal is enhancing bus service, you can't at the same time hold the goal of punishing drivers with worse traffic just to make the bus look preferable. You tear down everyone at once that way, including bus riders & you can't call that "making riding the bus easier."

by asffa on Mar 13, 2014 2:41 pm • linkreport

@asffa - right now I see no reason to implement the bus-only lanes outside of rush hour though, as I've said many times before, rush hour should be shifted back from 4-6:30 to 4:30-7 and (photo) enforced.

I look at it like this: traffic on 16th is horrible for all during rush hour. Buses, auto commuters, delivery vehicles, taxis...the lot of 'em. And with the area's population increasing, it's only going to get worse. But the street's not going to get any wider. So we need to figure out how to move as many people down 16th as quickly as possible. We could remove all buses from 16th, providing more room for cars, but (1) that's not that much room and (2) many people who used to ride the bus on 16th aren't just going to move over to 14th, they'll start driving, taking up more of the new space on 16th until there's no more space. We could spend billions of dollars building a Metrorail tunnel but neither does the ridership warrant building a Metrorail line nor can we pay for a Metrorail tunnel where it does (separated Blue line). So maybe we can make it easier to take a bus so that people who now drive will see how convenient it is to take the bus and leave more road space for those who need to drive, for whatever reason.

tl;dr version - space is finite and giving it all to cars isn't going to solve the problem.

by 7r3y3r on Mar 13, 2014 2:43 pm • linkreport

If the goal is enhancing bus service, you can't at the same time hold the goal of punishing drivers with worse traffic just to make the bus look preferable.

The only way you can come to that conclusion is if you think that the only right or correct way of getting around is by car.

It's a disingenuous position and one that actually doesn't have any interest in making anything better, just keeping things as the status quo.

The government re-allocating space for transit on a roadway is never "punishing drivers". Full stop. Especially when the punishment endured by drivers is ultimately voluntary.

by drumz on Mar 13, 2014 2:46 pm • linkreport

MLD "4. This would all cost more than the dedicated lane."
Uh yeah, they're talking 30 mil per mile on proposed routes in MontCo to "repurpose" lanes there.
(I am not saying that doesn't sound utterly wasteful and crooked somehow, because it does to me.)

by asffa on Mar 13, 2014 2:48 pm • linkreport

Uh yeah, they're talking 30 mil per mile on proposed routes in MontCo to "repurpose" lanes there.

http://www6.montgomerycountymd.gov/content/dot/MCBRTStudyfinalreport110728.pdf

Page 10: "Construction of the highest capacity BRT system with all recommended improvements would range between $2.3 and $2.5 billion (in 2010 dollars), averaging between 15.8 and $17.1 million/route-mile."

That's for a really fancy BRT system - new stations, new intersection treatments, etc.. We're talking about a bus lane. It's some paint and enforcement.

by MLD on Mar 13, 2014 3:02 pm • linkreport

drumz "Ultimately voluntary" meaning what? If a plan punishes drivers then they must have asked for it? A lot of what government chooses to do to people isn't done on their voluntary basis, rather is what happens to people within its control. And it is control - if one breaks it in protest, there is real threat of physical harm.
Sometimes the government serves the people, sometimes you follow the money and influence to see whom it serves.

I have never proposed the only correct way to get around is by car. you just made that up.

by asffa on Mar 13, 2014 3:10 pm • linkreport

MLD the estimates have gone up, and keep climbing.

by asffa on Mar 13, 2014 3:11 pm • linkreport

I have never proposed the only correct way to get around is by car. you just made that up.

Ok, then actually support some of the transit projects that are proposed rather than worrying about how this punishes drivers. If we can never undertake anything that could potentially harm driving ("harm" defined as a feeling that you can't drive as quickly anymore regardless of evidence or other priorities) then we should begin accepting that the level of transit we have now is about as good as it's gonna get.

People rail against bike lanes because it could "punish" drivers, they rail against CABI because it could "punish drivers", they rail against the purple line or the streetcar because it will "punish drivers", they rail against metro expansions because it means we won't add 6 lanes to the Dulles Toll Road or whatever and that "punishes drivers", they rail against road tolls that are explictly there to pay for a new road project because it "punishes drivers".

It's just not a legitimate criticism of this or any project.

by drumz on Mar 13, 2014 3:21 pm • linkreport

MLD the estimates have gone up, and keep climbing.

My point still stands, they are two entirely different things.

Sometimes the government serves the people, sometimes you follow the money and influence to see whom it serves.

What is the point of our streets and our transportation system? I would think it should be to move people from point A to point B in the most efficient manner we can manage.

Putting a dedicated bus lane on 16th is not about "punishing drivers." It is about moving more people down the corridor more efficiently. The city's goal should be to do exactly that - and it should not give preference to drivers over bus riders just because compared to the status quo this seems "unfair."

I have never proposed the only correct way to get around is by car.

Forgive us for thinking that's the case; one might get that from the fact that you keep characterizing this plan as one to "punish drivers to make the bus look better." That's not the goal at all - the goal is to make bus service more efficient so the same 2 lanes of road can move more people along the corridor.

by MLD on Mar 13, 2014 3:21 pm • linkreport

It shouldn't be very hard to make 16th , or parts of it, one-way during rush to preserve the car capacity and not force cars onto parallel streets. If the dedicated bus lanes do decrease auto traffic the lanes could be switched back to two-way in the future.

Making 16th into a transit-heavy street from it's tradition as a residential street will have consequences for the future of 14th. 14th has traditionally been the heavy transit street, it's where the commercial is, and it's where the streetcar is supposed to come back to. I don't see dedicated lanes both on 14th and 16th and in fact I think BRT on 16th will effectively kill the streetcar on 14th.

BRT on 16th seems to appeal more to suburban commuters coming from Montgomery County who want a seamless fast ride to work while locals looking to get around town doing their errands prefer 14th.

by Tom Coumaris on Mar 13, 2014 3:56 pm • linkreport

BRT on 16th seems to appeal more to suburban commuters coming from Montgomery County who want a seamless fast ride to work while locals looking to get around town doing their errands prefer 14th.

And this is bad? If they're on the bus, then they're not clogging up the street with cars.

It shouldn't be very hard to make 16th , or parts of it, one-way during rush to preserve the car capacity and not force cars onto parallel streets.
Except now, instead of just cars (maybe) diverting to other streets the buses themselves have to find a way back up to silver spring (in the morning for example). That makes things more complex for riders as well if they happen to be going the other way during the day.

You're going to have to show that it'd be better operationally that way.

by drumz on Mar 13, 2014 4:08 pm • linkreport

is the goal of transit to get people quickly to work, or for local errands?

I would guess the 16th street buses are mostly commuters and mostly from DC (all those dense areas along 16th) (and folks from Moco using transit would take metrorail no?) to get downtown. The streetcar seems aimed more at folks making quick on and off to, as Tom says, make local errands. Really different transit concepts.

In the Crystal City - Braddock corridor, the street car will be aimed at that kind of local movement, while metro rail serves for longer distance commuters.

OTOH in MoCo at least some BRT lines seem aimed at on and off local riders, while the metro takes commuters, and on Columbia Pike in Arlington street cars are aimed at carrying commuters going the entire way to the metro. Perhaps why both these latter cases are controversial, as they stretch from the more proven accomplishment of each form of transit.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 13, 2014 4:13 pm • linkreport

drumz- I didn't mean make the BRT lanes one-way, just the auto lanes.

by Tom Coumaris on Mar 13, 2014 4:26 pm • linkreport

Now it's BRT? This isn't BRT, it's regular bus service in a dedicated lane.

And now reversible lanes is less complicated and hard than just a dedicated bus lane in one direction? OK.

by MLD on Mar 13, 2014 4:36 pm • linkreport

16th st is by far not the only street in the are, people can take 14, 13, 11, sherman or georgia for most of the same span anyway. It's hilarious that 2 peak only bus lanes out of more than a dozen total in that category is somehow a war on poor people in cars, which is admittedly a catchy new spin you've thought up.

by BTA on Mar 13, 2014 4:38 pm • linkreport

one way for cars makes a little more sense but as MLD points out. It's a more complicated scheme. You'd really have to show that the gains from that are worth the extra costs (including stricter enforcement).

by drumz on Mar 13, 2014 4:43 pm • linkreport

I will say that if a feasible plan can be presented some kind of broader HOV lane would probably work as well.

by BTA on Mar 13, 2014 4:50 pm • linkreport

I don't see that a few signals for one-way rush car lanes would be that expensive for a city that spends money like a crack addict or that complicated. It would preserve the amount of car capacity on 16th and avoid the possibility (probability I think) that thousands of additional cars will route onto our parallel streets. Then as soon as you're proven right and everyone switches to buses the one-way car rush could be abandoned.

Again, that's one of many possible solutions to potential problems.

Compromises and refinements don't have to be made. The square-peg-round-hole school alum can certainly keep their Mission-from-God with no compromises purity. It's good comedy. But it assures that the most we'll get is signal preference.

by Tom Coumaris on Mar 13, 2014 5:23 pm • linkreport

. I don't see dedicated lanes both on 14th and 16th

I'd agree with that -- doesn't make sense to have dedicated transit lanes on both 16th and 14th. That said, today, there are not dedicated lanes on either street. One possibility is to have a dedicated transit lane on 16th today and when the streetcar arrives on 14th, possibly switch the dedicated lane to 14th.

I also wonder if the bus lane could be used by some level of HOV vehicles without slowing down buses. Another upshot of 16th St bus lanes is that it creates a space for cyclists too as I imagine they'll be allowed in the lane.

Also, I don't remember any kind of driving armageddon occurring when they put in the 7th St bus lane through Chinatown (although, it's loosely enforced). It shouldn't cause a traffic meltdown on 16th St either.

by Falls Church on Mar 13, 2014 5:25 pm • linkreport

Again, that's one of many possible solutions to potential problems.

Sure, but I simply don't think that what you fear will materialize. That's not being obstinate, just optimistic about what DDOT is predicting and what's been observed in the past.

by drumz on Mar 13, 2014 5:44 pm • linkreport

As an alternative to a dedicated bus lane on 16th Street, I propose that we put toll booths at the DC-Maryland border on both 16th Street and Georgia Avenue with the revenues from those toll booths dedicated to road maintenance and public transportation in the District. That should improve traffic flows substantially.

by David G. on Mar 13, 2014 5:50 pm • linkreport

I think we're looking at different perspectives. One is commuters from Montgomery County and upper 16th for whom dedicated lanes on 16th makes the most sense.

The other is in-town residents from Columbia Heights and below for whom 14th is both the commercial strip and the natural route for getting around town.

My opinion is that Metro is for suburbanites and it's the in-town residents who are short-shifted on transit.

I could be wrong but I think dedicated lanes on 14th from Columbia Heights down, taking the place of metered parking, would be fairly easy to get massive support for. MetroBus, Circulator and the future streetcar could all use them. And there's still 4 lanes for cars left.

To those of us who live between 16th and 14th, 16th seems the really weird choice to make into the main transit route.

by Tom Coumaris on Mar 13, 2014 6:44 pm • linkreport

I think we're looking at different perspectives. One is commuters from Montgomery County and upper 16th for whom dedicated lanes on 16th makes the most sense.

I thought the problem is crowding below Columbia Heights. And I think you'd be surprised as to who uses the S buses. Check out the bus study done in 2008.

The other is in-town residents from Columbia Heights and below for whom 14th is both the commercial strip and the natural route for getting around town.

People use buses on 16th because the buses on 14th are unreliable.

I could be wrong but I think dedicated lanes on 14th from Columbia Heights down, taking the place of metered parking, would be fairly easy to get massive support for. MetroBus, Circulator and the future streetcar could all use them. And there's still 4 lanes for cars left.

They just completed a streetscape project on 14th. DDOT isn't going to tear all that up to install your curb-running dedicated lanes in place of parking. And of course, we've mentioned over and over again that there is a whole huge stretch of 14th north of Columbia Heights where there isn't room.

To those of us who live between 16th and 14th, 16th seems the really weird choice to make into the main transit route.

It already has all the transit service! And the parking restrictions during rush hour. Yeesh. I think your perspective is really off here - there is 4 miles of DC between Columbia Heights and Silver Spring, and lots of DC residents using transit. Expand your analysis beyond where your immediate area.

by MLD on Mar 13, 2014 10:28 pm • linkreport

I've ridden the 50s and S buses cumulatively 100 times. There is really no solid reason to preference one over the other based on need or ridership. That said 14th st has several metro stations along it (and probably a streetcar soon), and 16th doesnt. Therefore it seems a logical place to put the bus lanes.

by BTA on Mar 13, 2014 11:12 pm • linkreport

"""They just completed a streetscape project on 14th. DDOT isn't going to tear all that up to install your curb-running dedicated lanes in place of parking. """

That streetscape is going to have to be ripped out for a streetcar anyway. I don't think it would be hard to get the dumb "bulb-outs" removed immediately for something as important as dedicated lanes.

""" there is 4 miles of DC between Columbia Heights and Silver Spring, and lots of DC residents using transit. Expand your analysis beyond where your immediate area."""

People above Columbia Heights aren't being refused entrance to buses because they're full. Below CH is where the problems are.

by Tom Coumaris on Mar 14, 2014 12:23 am • linkreport

BTA- I think it's a safe prediction that if dedicated lanes go in on 16th there won't be a streetcar or dedicated lanes on 14th a few hundred feet away parallel.

by Tom Coumaris on Mar 14, 2014 12:32 am • linkreport

That streetscape is going to have to be ripped out for a streetcar anyway.

Why? Is that part of any current plan? Why wouldn't streetcar lanes go in the center of the street?

People above Columbia Heights aren't being refused entrance to buses because they're full. Below CH is where the problems are.

Dedicated lanes will encourage more ridership from those areas above CH because trips will be faster - this is something the city wants. And I can't believe this has to be said, but people below CH can't get on buses because they are full of people from ABOVE CH! Beyond that, most of the worst traffic congestion buses encounter, which causes slowdowns and bus bunching, is ABOVE CH. Like I said, it may be counter-intuitive, but the places where buses are most crowded is not where dedicated lanes will actually do the most good.

I think it's a safe prediction that if dedicated lanes go in on 16th there won't be a streetcar or dedicated lanes on 14th a few hundred feet away parallel.

Definitely won't happen as long as people posing as transit advocates throw out every hair-brained idea they can think of to delay, disparage, and redirect obvious plans that have been in discussion for years! If people who actually use transit got on the advocate side instead of basically boosting the fears of SOV users like we've seen here, then maybe some of these things would get done!

by MLD on Mar 14, 2014 8:29 am • linkreport

I'd just like to second what MLD said.

by BTA on Mar 14, 2014 12:12 pm • linkreport

How about double decker buses? Doesn't solve the speed problem, but it would add seats. I can't think of a reason that wouldn't help.

by mtp on Mar 14, 2014 2:08 pm • linkreport

@mtp - I don't think they'd fit through the Scott Circle underpass.

by 7r3y3r on Mar 14, 2014 2:27 pm • linkreport

@mtp:
The 16th Street buses operate out of Northern Division. Northern is housed in an old streetcar barn in 14th Street Heights.

Northern is (1) at capacity, which limits the number of buses WMATA can operate on 16th Street, Georgia Avenue, 14th Street, and other parts of northern DC; (2) unable to handle more articulated buses, meaning that WMATA can't operate longer buses, and (3) unable to accommodate double-decker buses.

by Matt' Johnson on Mar 14, 2014 2:38 pm • linkreport

How about double decker buses? Doesn't solve the speed problem, but it would add seats. I can't think of a reason that wouldn't help.

1. Would require purchasing more vehicles.
2. Would require purchasing an entirely new type of vehicle and gaining the maintenance expertise on it.
3. Would almost certainly require new maintenance facilities built to handle buses of that size.

On top of that, double-decker buses take a lot more time to load and unload.

It's not an easier solution than outfitting the current buses with cameras for enforcement and putting some paint and signs on the street to create bus lanes.

by MLD on Mar 14, 2014 2:41 pm • linkreport

I'd like to know how a bus lane would handle the variation in stops between the S9 express bus and other routes on the road. Will the S9 have to leave the bus lane constantly to pass other stopped buses?

As a daily rider of this route, I would like to see more buses, but I also actually like being on a full bus because it does not stop so frequently. I try to grab an S9 whenever possible, but if it will have to sit in a bus lane behind other buses, I'm not sure that would be an improvement.

by Becca on Mar 16, 2014 9:50 am • linkreport

To reduce traffic on 16th Street during rush hour, there needs to be an easier way for people from Silver Spring and Wheaton to get to workplaces in Northwest DC. Taking the Metro all the way around through downtown is time-consuming and expensive. By providing a direct bus route, you'd see fewer Maryland plates on 16th Street during rush hour. With less traffic, more buses could be run on 16th Street.

By the way, there was a Metrobus study a few years ago of one of the lines that run along Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring (either the Q2 or the Y bus). The study found that many people take the Q and Y buses from Silver Spring and Wheaton and transfer in downtown Silver Spring to the S9 bus. The study had recommended that the S9 be extended to Wheaton to serve passengers coming from or near Wheaton who need quick access to upper and middle Northwest DC. Does anyone know what came of this study?

by Barbara on Mar 17, 2014 10:19 pm • linkreport

The S9 extension was in the preliminary Y Line report but not in the final report.

Given the frequency of the S buses leaving Silver Spring, I have to guess that those people might be better served by dedicated lanes in DC that make the S buses more reliable. They are frequent enough that a transfer isn't much of a problem.

The other thing to remember is that a lot of these things were and are being planned with the Silver Spring Transit Center in mind. The walking transfer sucks right now because all the buses are spread out on different streets.

by MLD on Mar 18, 2014 9:13 am • linkreport

Cute simple opportunity cost calculation, but a bit one-sided. A true opportunity cost has to include what you're giving up, which in this case is either a lane of parking in an already parking-scarce city, or a lane of traffic on one of the busiest entry roads into the city. They're not conjuring this lane out of thin air.

by JH on Mar 19, 2014 10:34 am • linkreport

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