Greater Greater Washington

Alexandria's Metroway BRT: Open and carrying passengers

The DC region's first Bus Rapid Transit line opened this weekend. Metroway runs from Crystal City to Braddock Road, using a transitway along Route 1 in Alexandria.


All photos by Dan Malouff.

The transitway runs down the center of Route 1, with one lane in each direction. Stations are on either side, in medians separating the transitway from the general lanes.

The Metroway buses themselves have a unique brand and paint scheme, but are otherwise similar to other WMATA Metrobuses.

But Metroway isn't the only route that uses the transitway. Any Metrobus route traveling down that stretch of Route 1 can use it.

The transitway stations are more comparable to light rail stations than normal bus stops. They're larger, have better protection against the elements, more seats, raised platforms, and better information. Unfortunately so far they lack real-time arrival displays or pre-pay.

For now, the Metroway is only really BRT for part of the Alexandria portion of its route. The Arlington portion of the transitway is still under construction, so the bus runs in mixed traffic through Arlington for now.

But in 2015, new sections of transitway and dedicated bus lanes will open in Arlington, making Metroway even better.


Metroway initial route (left) and route starting in 2015 (right). Map from WMATA.

Visit the full Flickr album to see more photos.

Support us: Monthly   Yearly   One time
Greatest supporter—$250/year
Greater supporter—$100/year
Great supporter—$50/year
Or pick your own amount: $/year
Greatest supporter—$250
Greater supporter—$100
Great supporter—$50
Supporter—$20
Or pick your own amount: $
Want to contribute by mail or another way? Instructions are here.
Contributions to Greater Greater Washington are not tax deductible.

Dan Malouff is a professional transportation planner for Arlington County, but his blog posts represent only his own personal views. He has a degree in Urban Planning from the University of Colorado, and lives car-free in Washington. He runs BeyondDC and contributes to the Washington Post

Comments

Add a comment »

exciting, but right now it looks like a lot of empty space and low density around it(with some construction that should help)

None of it looks like a place I would want to walk around

by Richard on Aug 25, 2014 12:18 pm • linkreport

I had a chance to ride it earlier today though I was the only one on the bus after the bus left the Target shopping center. As traffic was light on Route 1 and moving faster it will be interesting to see how it does during the rush hours.

by Lucas on Aug 25, 2014 12:22 pm • linkreport

any price on those bus stations vs the arlington super stop?

I haven't been to Potomac yards in a while but the changes look staggering.

by charlie on Aug 25, 2014 12:22 pm • linkreport

The total density within a quarter mile or so is already pretty significant, though its growing. Though its mostly autocentric uses immediately on the west side of Rte 1 (except for some medium dense residential closer to four mile run) once you go a couple of blocks west you are in Del Ray. On the east side you have the Potomac Yards mixed use development. It looks bit hostile because so much of it is still a construction site, but there are already pockets of relatively dense new housing within it.

by CrossingBrooklynFerry on Aug 25, 2014 12:25 pm • linkreport

I live a couple of blocks from Route 1 on the Del Ray side, so I definitely plan to use this for commuting. The timing is a huge upgrade over the 30 minute wait between 9A buses to Crystal City.

Question for those who have ridden this: does anyone know where the E Glebe northbound loading area is? I know there is a bus shelter for southbound buses at E Glebe, but I didn't see one on the northbound side.

by billy on Aug 25, 2014 1:08 pm • linkreport

Does the 9A also use the transit way ? if so whats the purpose of Metroway since the 9A lost many of its stops if its also using the transit way ?

by kk on Aug 25, 2014 1:27 pm • linkreport

The pictures make this area look more sparsely populated than it actually is. There are lots of neighborhoods within walking distance of this route (I lived in one), and the more frequent bus service is a HUGE improvement over the 9A. Even if it's not a destination for people reading this post, it's a huge destination for people who live and work here and need to buy groceries, have dinner, go to Target, go to the movies, etc.

by Sarah on Aug 25, 2014 1:33 pm • linkreport

exciting, but right now it looks like a lot of empty space and low density around it(with some construction that should help)

I guess some people would prefer that transit come after an area is fully developed.

by Scoot on Aug 25, 2014 1:51 pm • linkreport

Something like this, then light rail, from Pentagon City area to Ft. Belvoir would be a huge advancement. In exchange for the use of eminent domain for true BRT corridors (I recognize in old town it would have to share traffic in most places) along the Hybla Valley area, VA should upzone a lot of those areas and make them more interesting to developers.

by JDC on Aug 25, 2014 2:00 pm • linkreport

An additional question to someone with more knowledge of the traffic in that corridor: besides the fact that dedicated lanes are always ideal, are any of the non-dedicated lanes segments a real big problem? i.e. will the traffic in the non-dedicated lanes by Potomac Shopping center still cause significant delays, thus mitigating against the speed achieved by dedicated lanes north/south of that segment???

by JDC on Aug 25, 2014 2:03 pm • linkreport

Your move, Montgomery County. I hope our elected officials (and others throughout the region) are making plans to ride Metroway as they make plans to bring BRT to their communities.

by dan reed! on Aug 25, 2014 2:04 pm • linkreport

I just wish they would have thought to take this concept and run it all the way to Rosslyn. That might have been am useful alternative given the paucity of Blue Line trains for those of us who live on the Orange/Silver Lines and work on the Blue Line and vice versa.

by Susan Reed on Aug 25, 2014 2:14 pm • linkreport

@kk - I wouldn't expect the 9A to use the dedicated bus lane for the stretch of Route 1 where the routes overlap, in part because the 9A needs to stop frequently. The purpose of the Metroway is to provide more frequent bus service along Route 1, and reducing the number of stops is one of the things that allows that to happen.

by billy on Aug 25, 2014 2:24 pm • linkreport

I live west of Route 1 and will be taking the Metroway frequently. I'm generally in favor of light rail instead of BRT like in the Columbia Pike corridor debate. I must say though that with all the strategies on display with Metroway and those planned in the near future, this is pretty close to the light rail experience. On my inaugural trip yesterday I saw an Alexandria police officer pulling over a car in the median separated lane. I don't know if the car inadvertently ended up there or was trying to skip the limited traffic. The bus paused for a minute, backed up a few feet and then went around the traffic stop. A light rail vehicle would not have this flexibility.

by ryan on Aug 25, 2014 2:40 pm • linkreport

As a resident of south Arlington who frequently goes to the parts of Alexandria along Route 1, it was extremely cool that this was not only built in my lifetime, but built in just a few years.

For comparison, even if the ball began rolling this year on a second metro tunnel at Rosslyn, odds are it would be decades before I could personally use it and I'm liable to be dead or retired by then. And I'm still in my 20's.

by Hadur on Aug 25, 2014 2:49 pm • linkreport

@ryan

But then of course a car *couldn't* have driven on the light rail tracks....

by egk on Aug 25, 2014 2:53 pm • linkreport

@egk

I've witnessed in Baltimore on multiple occasions cars erroneously running onto the light rail tracks where Martin Luther King Blvd empties onto N. Howard Street. Worse is that they will often drive along the paved part and then "drop" into the unpaved part and get their car stuck, rendering the line immobile until they can be towed out.

by Lord Baltimore on Aug 25, 2014 3:01 pm • linkreport

@Richard

There are several established and fairly dense neighborhoods just a block or two away from this main thoroughfare (mostly used for light industrial/storage type places/smallish warehouses as a leftover from when it abutted the still-operational Potomac Yard), plus all new construction in the Potomac Yard residential development.

by Catherine on Aug 25, 2014 4:09 pm • linkreport

@Scoot: Speaking for myself, I'm not opposed to transit anywhere, really, but if the choice is between building it where there are already people (and little or no existing service) and building it in a sparse area to spark development and bring in people, I'd pick the former any time.

But that's a false choice. It should exist here and it should exist across northeast DC and in Montgomery County and literally everywhere.

by LowHeadways on Aug 25, 2014 4:10 pm • linkreport

A lot of empty space? Low density?

It's Alexandria and Crystal City, not Delaplane.

by Another Nick on Aug 25, 2014 4:17 pm • linkreport

Low just to clarify

This isn't happening well in advance of development to spark it - its happening concurrent with it or just ahead of it. Several parcels are under construction now (as is visible in the pictures, several are planned and will break ground soon, some are planned and will break ground in 3 to 5 years.

by CrossingBrooklynFerry on Aug 25, 2014 4:28 pm • linkreport

BRT is the perfect solution for connecting the dense areas where there are (or will be) metro stops to the neighboring areas that aren't dense enough to justify their own heavy rail stops.

by Falls Church on Aug 25, 2014 4:52 pm • linkreport

One of the reasons that it looks not dense in the pictures is because much of the land adjacent to the bus-only lanes is leveled in preparation for the new Potomac Yards development. Once the apartment buildings are townhouses are built (and hopefully the high rises as well), the landscape will look much different.

by Andy L on Aug 25, 2014 4:59 pm • linkreport

What happened to the WMATA-style pylon signs they were going to use here that would give the stops more of the oomph associated with a heavy rail station?

WMATA BRT pylon options

by Joey on Aug 25, 2014 5:30 pm • linkreport

As expected, the bus map on the WMATA website does not yet show the new service. It's as though they didn't know this project was happening, despite the many years of planning and construction

http://www.wmata.com/pdfs/bus/Virginia_System_Map.pdf?

by TransitSnob on Aug 25, 2014 5:58 pm • linkreport

@ billy

Yet the 9A is clearly shown in the fifth picture in the bus lane.

by kk on Aug 25, 2014 7:13 pm • linkreport

Wasn't the Arlington Potomac Yard development designed with a dedicated transitway? If so, isn't it being used? The reporting suggests that only Alexandria has dedicated bus lanes so far.

by fredsmall on Aug 25, 2014 7:34 pm • linkreport

as the map shows, once the transitway through Arlington Potomac Yard is built (the land was reserved but the concrete's being poured), the time savings will allow the line to be extended to Pentagon City.

from there, similar BRT-ish connections could be made via 110 or 395 to Rosslyn and Shirlington. that could, indeed, go some way to ease the Blue Line's woes.

by Payton Chung on Aug 26, 2014 12:03 am • linkreport

At least two more of the Potomac Yard apartment buildings will be finished by the end of the year. Two or three more could be finished next year.

There are already many new townhouses in the Alexandria part of Potomac Yard. Plus the IDA office building is on its way, along with a new Giant grocery.

Alexandria is also studying the Oakville Triangle area on the west side of Rte. 1 for redevelopment, right alongside the Metroway route.

There should be quite a lot of residential, retail and office density along the route very shortly.

by Citizen on Aug 26, 2014 12:33 am • linkreport

Good coverage, Dan. For more photos--the ribbon-cutting ceremony last Saturday (August 23), construction during the past two years, plus a ride up and down the route--see my extensive photo blog at fullertography.blogspot.com.

by John Fuller on Aug 26, 2014 8:25 am • linkreport

Add a Comment

Name: (will be displayed on the comments page)

Email: (must be your real address, but will be kept private)

URL: (optional, will be displayed)

Your comment:

By submitting a comment, you agree to abide by our comment policy.
Notify me of followup comments via email. (You can also subscribe without commenting.)
Save my name and email address on this computer so I don't have to enter it next time, and so I don't have to answer the anti-spam map challenge question in the future.

or