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Metro plans 99 express bus on new route to Dupont

Earlier this month, I described DDOT and WMATA's study of the District's third-busiest Metrobus line and the recommendations that riders, survey respondents and forum participants gave for service improvement.


Could buses soon be going this fast on Florida Avenue? Photo by C@tch on Flickr.

This week, in a final series of public meetings, the study team presented the recommendations it will make to DDOT and WMATA's Board of Directors.

The biggest proposed improvement is the addition of a limited-stop bus, numbered 99, which would run from Anacostia Metro to Dupont Circle. It would follow the same route as the current 90, except on the western end.

The 90 turns right from westbound U Street onto 18th Street and continues through Adams Morgan to Calvert Street and ends at the Duke Ellington Bridge near Woodley Park Metro. The 99, instead, will continue from westbound U straight to Florida Avenue, then turn left on Connecticut and right on 20th Street. This would require a left turn exemption for buses at Florida and Connecticut, where left turns are currently not permitted.

The study team decided to change the western end both in anticipation of more likely commuting patterns and to provide a direct bus connection from the U Street corridor to Dupont Circle.

The 99 bus would make roughly a third the number of stops that the 90 currently makes. Initially, it would only run during peak periods (6:30 to 9:30 AM and 3:30 to 6:30 PM) on weekdays, and if it is well-received, it would likely be extended to include mid-day hours.

However, the 99 bus will not be able to achieve time savings over the local buses without street design improvements. The proposal focuses on reconfiguring 8th Street NE/SE.

It recommends adding transit signal priority, which can delay reds and extend greens for buses. Additionally, many stops would be relocated so that they are at the far side of intersections. With the repositioning of stops and the removal of some parking spaces, the 99 will have more opportunities to pass local-stopping 90 and 92 buses.

Another key improvement, which may cost more to implement than adding the 99 bus, is recalibrating schedules. This will require running more buses and spacing them so that they arrive within the advertised intervals. This will address the problem of bus bunching and will mean many riders won't have to wait as long at the stop.

The study team is also proposing the following:

  • Adding dedicated bus lanes on U Street NW and on Florida Avenue between 8th and 2nd Streets NE.
  • Redesigning the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Ave & Good Hope Rd. SE to allow the 92 bus to more easily make the left turn.
  • Adding new bus shelters.
  • Replacing and illuminating posted schedules.
  • Better training drivers so they are more familiar with the route and available transfers and points of interest.
  • Having Metro Transit Police officers aboard more buses.

Design concept for the new "traffic circle" at the intersection of New York and Florida Aves. NE. Original from DDOT, modified by IMGoph.
Also discussed at Tuesday's meeting was the rerouting of the southbound 90s buses imposed after DDOT's redesign of the intersection of Florida Avenue and New York Avenue NE.

A WMATA official informed me that this was an operational decision made for safety reasons after it was determined that buses could not make the forced right turn from southbound Florida Avenue onto First Street NE while staying in one travel lane. The alternate routeright on North Capitol Street and left on New York Avenueseems to increase travel time.

The implementation has been problematic as well. Some bus drivers still continue on Florida Avenue and there is no signage at the southbound bus stop at Florida and P Street NE to indicate that it is no longer served.

WMATA anticipates the change to be permanent unless DDOT cuts back the curb at Florida and 1st to allow a bus to turn easily. The Florida and P stop will likely be moved to eastbound New York Avenue at 1st Street.

A DDOT official who was present indicated that a curb replacement is not likely to happen soon, and explained that the redesign of the intersectionwhich may actually be slowing trafficwas done primarily to enhance pedestrian safety.

Given the changes we have seen to other high-traffic bus routes after studies were completed, it is safe to bet that life will begin to get easier for 90s riders over the course of next year.

Malcolm Kenton lives in the DC neighborhood of Bloomingdale. Hailing from Greensboro, NC and a graduate of Guilford College, he is a passionate advocate for world-class passenger rail and other forms of sustainable transportation, and for incorporating nature and low-impact design into the urban fabric. The views he expresses on GGW are his own. 

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Rerouting the 90s buses onto North Capitol Street and New York Avenue would be terribly unfortunate. The route is already painfully slow due to the excessive number of bus stops. Adding distance as well as the painful left turn from North Capitol to New York Avenue will make the ride even slower than it already is.

Wouldn't it be possible to install a low corner curb rather than inconveniencing hundreds of bus riders each day?

by Eric Fidler on Sep 27, 2010 2:11 pm • linkreport

The left turn exemption at Connecticut and Florida is likely to make a bad situation worse. This intersection already backs up because of cars making legal left turns just after the intersection on to 21st Street (or the perhaps less legal 'U' turn they make in conjunction with the odd configuration near 21st street which permits them to then make a legal right turn on to Connecticut Avenue. I suspect the bus stopping in the middle of the intersection waiting to make a left turn on to Connecticut is going to not only back up traffic, but more seriously get cars 'caught in the box' at that intersection. Because of the many spokes to this interesection and the width of Connecticut Avenue, this is one intersection where it is especially hard for a driver to gauge if they can clear the intersection before the next red light.

Now I do have one simple question ... Wouldn't someone going from Anacostia to Dupont Circle (or vice versa) be much better off taking the Metro? I understand the need to have 'local' buses running everywhere, but it seems that a bus is no longer 'local' if it is running from one side of the city clear to the other ... and where there is Metro available, as is the case here, the service seems like a poor second to the Metro. I.e., why even have this bus in the first place ... and not instead have more locally focused buses?

by Lance on Sep 27, 2010 2:25 pm • linkreport

@Lance

Just because a bus runs from one side of the city to the other doesn't mean all, or any, or even a significant portion of its riders are riding the entire length. This is true for almost any bus line. But if enough people are riding on a bus route on overlapping segments, then it makes sense to have one route rather than different local routes that people have to transfer between.

And just as an example, this bus makes more sense for some people than the metro for plenty of trips. Going from Adams Morgan to Eastern Market is about 30 minutes on the 90s bus. It's longer than that on the Metro when you consider that you have to walk to the metro station and probably will wait 10 minutes while changing trains.

by MLD on Sep 27, 2010 2:50 pm • linkreport

I'm with Lance here. What "commuting pattern" are they talking about? The 90s are great for a number of well-traveled routes throughout the city. They provide the only good north/south connections through the western end of Capitol Hill, and a straight shot from Cap Hill and Trinidad to the U St corridor and Adams Morgan (and is often a better way to get to the Green line than boarding a Red Line train, and transferring at Chinatown). But... DuPont? Really?

Unless it's a money issue, I can't see why anybody would take this painfully slow route across town, rather than transferring to the Red Line at the NY Ave Metro.

The bus system was not designed for, is not priced at, and is not an efficient means of making long-distance crosstown trips, particularly when they are paralleled by existing Metrorail routes. The 90 corridor is already too congested.

And, speaking of which, can you actually imagine dedicated bus lanes being enforced on U St? Some of the improvements listed are great ideas that should be implemented immediately, regardless of the addition of an express route -- signal-priority and putting the stops on the far side of intersections should be a no-brainer. Electronic Next Bus signage should also be installed at some of the busier stops along this route. It also might not hurt to reduce the number of stops along Florida Ave...like others have mentioned, the bus makes far too many stops in its current setup.

by andrew on Sep 27, 2010 2:51 pm • linkreport

@andrew

Because the route isn't designed to get someone from New York Avenue Station to Dupont, it's designed to get someone from 14th and U to Dupont. Or to New York Avenue Station.

Like MLD said, no one rides from one terminus to the other. People don't assume that Metro riders ride from Glenmont to Shady Grove, why would they assume that bus riders would ride from Anacostia to Dupont?

by Alex B. on Sep 27, 2010 2:57 pm • linkreport

There might not be any demand from NY Ave to Dupont because of Metro, but what about the U Street corridor to Dupont? There isn't a single bus route that connects those two.

by MLD on Sep 27, 2010 2:58 pm • linkreport

@MLD, Okay ... I see what you're saying ... especially about the connections. I guess what bothers me though is that if the focus is on getting from Anacostia to Dupont (or vice versa), do the planners maybe lose sight of the actual 'local' uses in between? I mean, you could probably get this bus to Dupont from Anacostia a lot quicker by having it take the Southeastern Expressway and then come up the Rockcreek and Potomac Parkway ... BUT it would lose all appeal for 'local' transist users inbetween the two end points. While my example may be the extreme, I think we're already hearing from someone above about the ramifications to them because of this change. It just seems it would make sense to focus on 'local' routes and where it makes sense use the same bus to go along these routes in a connected fashion where possible. Visually, this would mean that instead of taking a shoe lace and stretching it between the two end points, you take it and wind it around all the 'middle points' ... creating a zig-zagging route that is more concerned with the 'between' points than with the end points. Yes, that would mean that some folks would now find it easier to walk to the Metro and take that for long distances (which is what the Metro was designed for after all), but for most folks it would mean a better 'local' ride. Just some thoughts.

by Lance on Sep 27, 2010 3:01 pm • linkreport

@Lance

I am not seeing the part where anyone is emphasizing "getting people from Anacostia to Dupont fast" over the local uses of this bus. I think the point here is that improving speeds along the entire bus line makes the bus more convenient, more desirable, and cheaper to run. That means more people will want to ride it.

Personally I think the 90s buses are a perfect example of a route where planners have looked at local routes and combined them into one bus service. This route is definitely more concerned with the local destinations than the end points - that's why the bus doesn't run on the SE expressway and up Rock Creek Park.

by MLD on Sep 27, 2010 3:22 pm • linkreport

I think rerouting the 99 to Dupont vs sticking with the current 90s corridor is a mistake. Why? Because the 90s corridor has been a continuous transit corridor for decades, maybe even 100 years, and there are a lot of established patterns of travel along it. Making an express route but having it bypass one existing end of the corridor and go somewhere else seems silly. It would be like making the S9 go to Fort Totten. It's just wrong to send it to Dupont, well served by transit, instead of up into Ward 1 (the ward with the highest residential density and highest non-auto commute share*).

* Facts from memory, sorry if they're wrong.

by Michael on Sep 27, 2010 3:30 pm • linkreport

Has WMATA released any documents showing the proposed changes to 8th St NE/SE? It's extremely heavily parked from Gallaudet down to Eye St SE.

by Dave on Sep 27, 2010 3:48 pm • linkreport

  • Florida Avenue/U Street to Dupont Circle is an excellent idea but getting there via Connecticut Avenue is going to be a decidedly non-express experience. Might it be better to run it along New Hampshire Avenue or up/down 18th/19th Streets?

  • The current "interim" route of the 90s down North Capitol Street and up New York Avenue is a nuisance (though apparently inevitable) mostly due to the difficulty of making the L turn onto New York Avenue and then getting through a block's worth of vehicular backup from there to Florida Avenue. Why not turn instead onto N Street NE (thereby making a better connection to the Metro as well as improving service to the ATF fortress compound) by way of getting back onto Florida Avenue?

by intermodal commuter on Sep 27, 2010 3:56 pm • linkreport

They should extend the 90 or 92 over to Woodley Park Station aleast or even back to Mclean Gardens

What good has that New York Ave/Florida Ave/1st Street circle done every single day that area is horrible no matter what time it is and I never recalled many cars turning to go on New York Ave from Florida Ave from the get go.

by kk on Sep 27, 2010 4:52 pm • linkreport

What if one of the 90 routes turned up 14th St to go to Columbia Heights?

by andrew on Sep 27, 2010 8:15 pm • linkreport

@Eric: Unfortunately, the reroute is all but permanent unless DDOT can find extra money to make a retrofit to an intersection they just spent a good chunk of cash on.

@Lance & andrew: The 99 bus would still stop at all the major stops along the current 90 route. I live near Florida Avenue & North Capitol Street, and if I were going to Dupont Circle at rush hour, taking the 99 would probably take the same amount of time as walking 10 minutes to New York Avenue Metro and taking the Red Line. Same for folks going from 14th & U to NoMa or Eastern Market. If the bus is that inefficient, then why are the buses so crowded?

I don't think bringing one of the 90s up 14th to Columbia Heights is very likely. The transfer at 14th & U between the 90s and the 50s and Circulator is already fairly convenient.

@Michael: The reasoning behind going to Dupont is to provide a connection that currently isn't served by transit. Currently the only bus between Shaw/Logan Circle and Dupont is the infrequent and often slow G2.

@Dave: For whatever reason, the illustrations of 8th Street they showed us at the public meeting were not posted online. Hopefully they will be part of the final recommendations report, which should be released publicly.

@indermodal: Good suggestions. I asked about the possibility of turning left on N then left on 2nd St NE. The only reason they can't is because the right turn from 2nd back onto Florida is blind and tight. DDOT may eventually install a traffic light there, which would make such a routing possible.

@kk: I asked about that too. They said the bus waiting area around Woodley Park Metro is too congested at rush hour to allow room for more buses, and I'm assuming ridership on the 96 between Woodley Park and McLean Gardens isn't enough to warrant additional service.

As I mentioned, the redesign of New York & Florida Aves was done for pedestrian safety reasons. DDOT is well aware that it has worsened vehicular traffic to a degree. I only hope that Wendy's can be lured into a ground-floor space in one of the new NoMa developments (maybe the Capital Gateway planned for the northeast corner of NY & Fla) so its current location can become a fountain or small park.

by Malcolm Kenton on Sep 27, 2010 10:08 pm • linkreport

Thanks for this great piece. A new 99 link U St to Dupont Circle is more than welcome as many of us U Street residents only have the choice of walking since there's no direct bus service. U Streeters have been talking about this link for a long time.

by ccort on Sep 28, 2010 8:10 am • linkreport

99 bus! Yes Please!

by carrie c on Sep 30, 2010 12:55 pm • linkreport

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