Everybody wants a Circulator
During the DC Council's debate over the bill to replace the Georgetown Blue Bus with a Circulator, Councilmembers started to chime in about wanting Circulator service in their own Wards.
Mike DeBonis, who was Tweeting the meeting, covered the saga in 140-character bits:
mikedebonis Harry Thomas Jr. wants comprehensive plan to bring Circulator (aka 'new private limo service') across town. Especially Ward 5!
mikedebonis Yvette: 'I haven't seen more than five people on a Circulator bus.'
Others chimed in:
sherrieindc CM Thomas refers to the Circulator as the 'private limousine' service for certain DC residents...what's wrong with WMATA-clean it up????
amorrissey @mikedebonis @davestroup while we're at it, can we get a Circulator route to the shore? i really hate driving there every summer.
IMGoph tell them to invest money in the streetcar system-the circulator is just a stalking horse for it.
RegBazile Transit svce based on whims of pols has no pax? Shocking!
IMGoph at least kathy henderson won't be able to accuse him of not trying to get for ward 5 what ward 6 has...
sherrieindc has a very good point. We have a comprehensive bus network, the Metrobuses. They provide transit to most neighborhoods in the region and virtually all in DC. If we need to improve transit in various wards of the city, we should improve those.
That said, Circulator buses do play a valuable role: they are more attractive to riders who aren't regular commuters. It's a simple system with a few lines on relatively simple routes, running easy to recognize vehicles that charge a fare that doesn't require change or a SmarTrip.
They're good for getting people to major nightlife destinations that aren't on Metro, like Georgetown and Adams Morgan, or getting people around areas with high rates of walking, like 7th Street across the Mall or around the Mall itself (if only the Park Service allowed that). It would be even more powerful if DC started promoting a combined map to residents and tourists.
It'd be great if Historic Anacostia, Minnesota-Benning, and Fort Totten were big tourist destinations one day, but that evolution should happen around Metro stations or the development that streetcar lines could bring, and is a ways off in the future.
There is a transit plan for all wards (mostly excepting Ward 3), and that's the streetcar plan. As IMGoph pointed out, the Council's eagerness for upgraded transit citywide should focus on the streetcars, not the Circulator.
More broadly, the fragmentation of our region's buses into numerous operators across jurisdictions brings problems. The buses aren't all on one map. The schedules aren't necessarily coordinated. Technology improvements like NextBus rolled out on Metrobus don't apply to the others. And sometimes, jurisdictions have cherry picked popular and potentially profitable bus routes and take them away from Metro.
On the other hand, various bus systems do create some opportunities for competition. It's similar to the way federalism gives states a chance to experiment and innovate in various areas of the law. ART can try out a different kind of service, or Ride On can try working with Google Transit, without the huge Metrobus system having to do it.
It's terrific that Councilmembers are so interested in improving transit service. If they want to move beyond mere posturing, they'll think about the best ways to actually improve their wards' transit, whether that's a red Circulator, a blue Metrobus Express, a streetcar, or something else.
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