The Washington, DC region is great >> and it can be greater.


DDOT identifies future Circulator routes

After receiving public input from over 500 online rider surveys, four Citizens Advisory Panels, and several town halls, DDOT has released a map of recommended new Circulator bus routes.

Photo by DDOTDC on Flickr.

Officials hope to make these a reality over the next 2 to 3 years if they can get funding from the DC Council, though in the current budget climate the chances may be remote.

Which routes should get Circulator service and which should not? Circulator has been so successful that residents from many neighborhoods have clamored for service, and some Councilmembers have proposed legislation mandating certain routes. Still, the Circulator should not serve every bus route.

DDOT originally conceived Circulator service as a way to bring tourists from the monumental core into the city's neighborhoods to dine and shop. The new plan chooses routes that connect major "activity centers" in the District not linked by rail transit. Each route would have limited-stop buses running every 10 minutes, continuing the current Circulator brand.

"Activity centers" are defined as areas with timely and sizable change in land use that are or will be built out by 2020, containing more than 1 million square feet of residential and commercial space, and a mix of uses, as well as "main street mixed-use corridors."

DDOT's study recommends 10 new and extended routes, based on four different priority-ranked maps generated by the citizens' advisory panels:

Click to enlarge.

The three that seem to make the most sense are extensions of existing Circulators: bringing the Rosslyn-Georgetown-Dupont bus to 14th and U via New Hampshire Avenue, extending the Waterfront-Convention Center route east on M Street to the Navy Yard and Nationals Park, and bringing the Union Station-Navy Yard bus up into NoMa, perhaps serving the New York Avenue Metro station.

Also sure to generate high ridership are a Waterfront-Dupont Circle via the Mall and Farragut Square link, a U Street NW-Florida Avenue-North Capitol Street-H Street NE bus (perhaps to be shortened to connect with the streetcar at Union Station), an Anacostia-Skyland-Minnesota Avenue link, and a Brookland-Tenleytown link via Hospital Center/McMillan, Petworth, Columbia Heights, Adams Morgan, Connecticut Avenue and Van Ness.

One of the four maps produced by a Citizens Advisory Panel. Color indicates priority level.
DDOT also anticipates altering these routes as the streetcar system is built out. Some of them overlap with planned streetcar routes.

Rider surveys identified friendly professional drivers, service frequency and limited stops as the three most-liked aspects of Circulator. The top three improvements users cited were longer hours, more weekend service and bringing the Circulator stop at Union Station closer to the Metrobus stop. Riders also like the interior configurations of Circulator buses as they are.

First Transit—the private company that has a contract to run Circulator buses for a flat rate of $71 per bus per hour, including driver's labor, maintenance and cleaning—will assist in the operational planning of any new routes.

Of course, all of this is contingent upon securing the necessary funding. That's a challenging prospect given the city's budget shortfall. If you like these plans, let Mayor-elect Gray, Chairman-elect Brown and your Councilmembers know that you want to see these transit improvement plans, along with the streetcars, come to fruition.

Malcolm Kenton lives in the DCs NoMa neighborhood. 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 GGWash are his own. 


Add a comment »

1) That second map links to the DDOT website. I'm guessing you meant for it to link to an enlarged version of the image?

2) I really like the proposed Adams Morgan - H St line. The fact that it hits the NY Ave Metro, NoMa, and Union Station are a nice touch. However, because it doesn't extend into the residential neighborhoods south of the river, I suspect that ridership would be somewhat less than what we currently have on the 90/92/93 lines. Also, there are only so many buses and streetcars that you can ram through H St at any given time. I'd also suggest extending it a few blocks south to Eastern Market...

(In fact, I'd love to see WMATA find a new alignment for the 90s that makes the Dave Thomas Circle detour a little less awkward, and also provides better connectivity to the NY Ave Metro/NoMa.

by andrew on Nov 9, 2010 9:44 am • linkreport

They've gotta figure out a better naming system. Each route is currently known as "the circulator". For example, there are signs in Georgetown for "the circulator" and it is unclear which route stops at which station.

by A on Nov 9, 2010 9:56 am • linkreport

How would the Rosslyn-Georgetown-Dupont route extend to 14th and U via New Hampshire Avenue?

New Hampshire becomes one way after T Street, so unless the Circulator makes a right on T, left on 16th, right on U, it wouldn't work. A better route would be to travel down 18th Street and make a right on U.

by Daniel on Nov 9, 2010 10:14 am • linkreport

No Circulator service further up Wisconsin Avenue to Glover Park and Cleveland Park? Seems like they've missed a big opportunity -- and failed to meet a glaring need...

by Brian on Nov 9, 2010 10:16 am • linkreport

Daniel: Good point. I think that's a better route, since it would also get people to the restaurants and other businesses on 18th.

by David Alpert on Nov 9, 2010 10:18 am • linkreport

Great ideas, but if DDOT keeps creating more Circulator routes people are going to figure out that they're riding a bus after a while. Once that happens, some of the specialness will be gone.

by aaa on Nov 9, 2010 10:25 am • linkreport

To be clear, it seems these are corridors that have been identified, not routes.

The actual routing that the bus will take to get from Dupont to U Street is TBD. The point is that the service will connect those activity centers.

by Alex B. on Nov 9, 2010 10:27 am • linkreport

I thought a major selling point of the Circulator was its simplicity. If you have a ton of routes, and the routes aren't simple, the system itself loses its simplicity.

Am I alone on this?

by Tim on Nov 9, 2010 10:30 am • linkreport

I suspect that the extension to 14th and U is just a general route and not a specfic one (ie it will follow some other route to get there). The same can be said of the new Georgetown route which cuts diagonally through a part of Georgetown without any diagonal streets. It's also sort of odd that that new line (the dark green one) would terminate at Q st. There's not really a good turnaround spot or waiting area for the buses there. Just generally speaking that green line seems unnecessary. There are already two Circulators in Georgetown that link up with the three nearby metro stops. And then east of Foggy Bottom, is there really a lot of demand for a bus along Constitution? Unless they're thinking about priority bus lanes, I don't see much utility there.

by TM on Nov 9, 2010 10:36 am • linkreport

My guess is that green one would be an extension of the Mall circulator. If the Park Service ever gets its head out of its ass and allows some transit there, instead of just having a loop, it seems that they are thinking 2 east-west circulators, one which then goes to Arlington Cemetery and one to Georgetown.

by David Alpert on Nov 9, 2010 10:45 am • linkreport

@Tim, I do see your point. This map is starting to look like a baby Metrobus map, and there may become a point that the Circulator and the Metrobus compete for customers. Frankly speaking, I think that would light a fire under Metrobus to improve service and reliability. However, that may be a problem as the Circulator was meant to complement Metrobus, not run it out of business.

by Daniel on Nov 9, 2010 10:59 am • linkreport


You are spot on. The beauty of circulator is the simple, predictable straight line routs. Whenever I see these twists and turns it looks like a metrobus map and looses some of its effectiveness. Remember, it is suppossed to be tourist friendly as well. My general rule would be "If it deviates from a straight line by X number of blocks, add an additional line.

by beatbox on Nov 9, 2010 11:08 am • linkreport

Extending the Rosslyn-Dupont ex-blus bus line would be a mistake.

The original intent was to bring people into Georgetown from the two nearby stations (and Foggy Bottom, too, when the BB served that line).

Moving it into Dupont Circule, and then New Hampshire (or as proposed here, 18th) means you are going into three very busy areas -- which means more delays and more buses to do the same route.

What might be more helpful it split it into two lines -- keep the Rosslyn/Dupont and add a Dupont-U st. Not a one bus solution, but if you want one bus run a metrobus -- which can take more people.

by charlie on Nov 9, 2010 11:30 am • linkreport

What about Glover Park? I don't understand why DDOT refuses to expand the Georgetown circulator up four extra blocks where it could serve an entire neighborhood and tons of people!! I'm on the north end of Glover Park right now, walking all the way down to Whitehaven is a trek and there's no easy way for us to get to downtown without the circulator.

by AT on Nov 9, 2010 12:27 pm • linkreport

I am highly in favor of extending the Circulator from Georgetown/Dupont to 14th and U. Extending this route would succeed in bringing people to and from each of those areas via public transit. Currently it is very difficult to get from U Street to either Georgetown or Dupont via public transit, and this deters those residing in each of these areas from going to the others. With each of these areas offering different types of retail, dining and entertainment options, there is a need to connect each of them with an express transit route like the Circulator. With 2/3 of that route already in place, extending it is an easy solution.

by Anonymous on Nov 9, 2010 12:32 pm • linkreport

These Circulators will serve a different purpose, however; while the streetcar will stop frequently, the new Circulators will be quicker, limited-stop service.

Is it true that the streetcars will stop substantially more frequently than the Circulators? It seems this would make them a lot less useful.

by Tom on Nov 9, 2010 12:34 pm • linkreport


Is it true that the streetcars will stop substantially more frequently than the Circulators? It seems this would make them a lot less useful.

Do you think? I'm always stunned by the frequency of stops when riding Metro buses. Every other block seems excessive. Convert half of those stops into "disabled-only" stops, and you've got a more efficient service.

by oboe on Nov 9, 2010 12:53 pm • linkreport

The streetcars will not stop more frequently than most Circulator buses.

The H Street Line, scheduled to open in 2012 between Union Station and Oklahoma Avenue in NE will have 7 stops on its initial 2 mile segment. That's about 1/3 of a mile between stops.

Over the same distance, the X2 Metrobus currently stops 15 times.

Streetcar stops will be located on the H Street Line at:

  • Union Station
  • 4th Street
  • 8th Street
  • 13th Street
  • 15th Street/Bladensburg Road
  • 19th Street
  • Oklahoma Avenue

by Matt Johnson on Nov 9, 2010 1:10 pm • linkreport

Human Transit has an interesting article today about how Canberra is creating a circulator-type system essentially for free by rebranding existing local bus services, and making minor schedule tweaks.

It seems like we could easily use this technique in DC, as most of the heavily-trafficked local routes run along a small set of corridors through the downtown core.

by andrew on Nov 9, 2010 1:33 pm • linkreport

I'm on the north end of Glover Park right now, walking all the way down to Whitehaven is a trek and there's no easy way for us to get to downtown without the circulator.

Really? back in the day the 30s busses used to go all the way Wisonsin Avenue - they don't anymore?

by andy on Nov 9, 2010 1:39 pm • linkreport

Great news! It is so difficult to get from U street to Georgetown. The quickest way is usually to just walk but that makes things difficult if the weather is bad or if your feet are hurting...

U Street/H Street connection would also be amazing! I like the Circulators so much more than Metro buses - they are clean, reliable, and cheap.

by SP on Nov 9, 2010 1:41 pm • linkreport

@SP 90/92/93 (and the mythical X3) will already do that. They're starting to use the new-style buses on that corridor too (which I don't particularly love, but they're clean and decently comfortable).

by andrew on Nov 9, 2010 1:59 pm • linkreport

SP there is one new way to get to U St. from Georgetown that's easier than walking. Not as great in inclement weather as a bus, but definitely faster.

by TM on Nov 9, 2010 2:02 pm • linkreport

@oboe, @Matt Johnson,

Thanks for the replies. I agree that less stops = better service, and am glad that the streetcars will hopefully offer the same limited-frequency approach to stops. Sorry if my earlier comment didn't parse right!

by Tom on Nov 9, 2010 2:07 pm • linkreport

On December 20, WMATA will implement a new limited stop peak period Route X9 service between Capitol Heights Metro Station and 13th & H Streets, NW in the H Street-Benning Road corridor with 16 eastbound and 17 westbound stops. In the H Street corridor the only stops will be at North Capitol Street, 8th Street, NE and 14th Street, NE. This will provide more reliable service with clean natural gas buses. In addition, new articulated CNG buses began operating on the Route X2 in September 2010 to relieve overcrowding on this route.

In a recently completed corridor study of the U Street-Garfield (90s) Line, it was recommended that a new peak period limited stop Route 99 service be implemented between Anacostia Metro Station and Dupont Circle. This route would have 18 stops and operate in the U Street corridor to the Dupont Circle Metro Station via U Street, Florida Avenue, Connecticut Avenue and 20th Street to the Q Street entrance.

by Douglas Stallworth on Nov 9, 2010 2:37 pm • linkreport

Some people seem to missing the fact there are already buses, particularly up and down Wisconsin, I see no need to duplicate. I also see no need to set up a competing bus system. Having lived in places in which multiple companies run lines, I can promise you it is increadibly confusing.

To me the circulator should be really simple and/or go directly to a place a someone would want to go. Not to pick on Georgetown again, but exactly what is up Wisconsin that a tourist would want to go to once they are past Georgetown.

A line that may make sense is Adams Morgan to U St to H st via the route the 90 buses go. The length of a North and South Capital streets stopping at the ballpark and union station.

by nathaniel on Nov 9, 2010 3:43 pm • linkreport

At yesterday's meeting, I mentioned that extending the "red route" from the Convention Center up to Petworth would serve as a very much-needed reliever for the 70, even if the number of stations viz. the 70 were halved - in which case it would be extremely useful as something like a limited-stop service during nights and weekends, when the 79 isn't in service.

In general, much like improving service to the SW Waterfront, it would make the red route a lot more useful than it is now.

by J.D. Hammond on Nov 9, 2010 3:53 pm • linkreport

Nathaniel, there are already buses that run up and down 7th and 14th Streets as well, but the red and green routes aren't going away and the 70 and 50 buses are always packed. You say "redundancy" but patrons of the 30s, 50s, 70s, and H-buses think of increased service as both improved frequency and much-needed breathing room.

by J.D. Hammond on Nov 9, 2010 4:02 pm • linkreport

For DDOTs proposed East of the River line it further amplifies our issue of lack of circulation within East of the River. Notice how the Citizens Advisory has a circular route east of the River. That route would connect neighborhoods and shopping centers.

by MIss V on Nov 9, 2010 4:26 pm • linkreport

Happy to see there is a route connecting Petworth to other neighborhoods. Would love to see one that goes Dupont-U Street-Adams Morgan-Columbia Heights-Petworth-Brookland. This would do a great job of connecting neighborhoods on the Red line to the Green line.

I'm especially excited about Adams Morgan-Columbia Heights-Petworth (included within one of the proposed routes). Currently Adams Morgan and Petworth are connected in such roundabout ways requiring metro/bus transfers that you can almost walk the 2 mile distance in the time it takes to get there on transit.

by PetworthRes on Nov 9, 2010 4:28 pm • linkreport

If anyone wishes to make comments about DC Circulator routes in person to DC Circulator staff please join us at our second public meeting.

Saturday, November 13, 2010, from 1:30 to 3:30PM, at the Benning Library, 3935 Benning Rd, NE.

Shelley Johnson
Sharp & Company (Consultant to the DC Circulator Transit Plan)

by Shelley Johnson on Nov 9, 2010 4:33 pm • linkreport

This PDF < > does a much better job of explaining the proposed changes, and Yes, the circulator route is going to extend north of Georgetown, initially to the glover/cleveland park area, and then to Tenleytown. It also shows when each route is planned to be created.

@nathaniel, you asked "What is up Wisconsin that a tourist would want to go to once they are past Georgetown?"
I'd say the Washington National Cathedral.
The circulator is necessary to improve Wisconsin congestion. The corridor is among D.C.'s slowest and with the exception of the 37, the buses can take anywhere from 30-60 minutes in rush hour to reach downtown. A format of buses every ten minutes would appeal to more people, potentially adding riders to the line.
Meanwhile, the Tenley-Brookland line seems a mess. While I like the idea of replacing the H3/4 buses, why serve the Van Ness-UDC station? NIMBYs already complain about the infrequent N8, so how could they possibly deal with a bus every 10 minutes. The concept is good, but needs refining.
I also love connecting Dupont to the Waterfront, it is an underutilized space that could use more connectibility.

by ARM on Nov 9, 2010 4:44 pm • linkreport

I know there are grand plans for development, but does SW Waterfront really need to be served by three routes?

by beatbox on Nov 9, 2010 4:45 pm • linkreport

Agree that all the Wisconsin Ave. Complainers should learn how to use the metrobus.

by beatbox on Nov 9, 2010 4:47 pm • linkreport

"Not to pick on Georgetown again, but exactly what is up Wisconsin that a tourist would want to go to once they are past Georgetown."

Nothing, but that area is home to tens of thousands of residents, and those people would benefit from a route connecting their metro-inaccessible neighborhoods to the inner core.

by Scoot on Nov 9, 2010 4:51 pm • linkreport

Why exactly is Wisconsin Ave less deserving of redundant high-frequency service than 14th Street or 7th Street, beatbox? Or are you advocating the elimination of services for those "complainers" as well?

by J.D. Hammond on Nov 9, 2010 4:56 pm • linkreport

@Scoot, there is the Cathedral
@beatbox Metrobus is slow and unreliable. 30's are frequently late and infrequent altogether outside of rush hour. Wisconsin more guilty of bus bunching than any other street in D.C. you might wait thirty minutes for a bus just to have a 32 followed by a 31 followed by a 36. All circulator routes are much better about timing.

by ARM on Nov 9, 2010 4:57 pm • linkreport

I appreciate that the 30s are congested and bunch, but I don't get why adding another bus from another company would neccisarily solve it. It sounds like what people need to do is address wmata and work to improve the service.

As to the current reduncy on 14th and 7th. If the circulator only ran on 14th I would agree, but to me the big advantage is it connects to Adams Morgan. If it didn't do that I would agree it is not needed.

As to 7th st line, it ends at the convention center. While there is traffic, the route itself I don't believe is long enough for the congestion to really through off the schedule as would occur (and does with the current bunching of the 30s) if you ran all the way up Wisconsin.

I guess what I like about the current circulators is all the routes connect a metro station to a defined point of interest (Waterfront, Convention Center, Adams Morgan, Georgetown) in a very straight forward unconfusing way.

I do note if they want to rebrand some of the existing service as ciruclators that too could be good. I think from my experience competeing bus lines are really confusing for people.

by nathaniel on Nov 9, 2010 5:09 pm • linkreport


Agree that circulator timing is better, and I would like it to remain that way. Long routes is one of the reasons bunching occurs. Now if they had a separate Wisc. Ave/M st. line I would be all for it.

by beatbox on Nov 9, 2010 5:12 pm • linkreport

True, I'm sure there are many others -- I was just making the point that the system does not exist solely to shuttle tourists from one destination to another.

by Scoot on Nov 9, 2010 5:38 pm • linkreport

I've actually never seen any tourists on the 14th Street Circulator that I know of, to be honest.

by J.D. Hammond on Nov 9, 2010 5:44 pm • linkreport

They really need to approve the cross-town circulator. There has to be a supplement to the terrible service that is the H4.

by blobert on Nov 9, 2010 9:41 pm • linkreport

Why only DC proper? How about a circulator looping around Arlington Cemetery?

by Jay on Nov 9, 2010 10:09 pm • linkreport

Arlington cemetery would be a waste of funds. Unfortunately people actually visit and there is already a Metro station feet from the entrance.

by ARM on Nov 9, 2010 11:12 pm • linkreport

So with this expansion, is DC Circulator just going to become a brand name for "bus rapid transit" in Washington? It would seem that if the system is expanded significantly, the name "Circulator" isn't really appropriate anymore because its purpose is no longer to "circulate".

by Andrew on Nov 10, 2010 1:50 am • linkreport

Speaking as someone who handled Metrobus oversight for DC Government for almost 15 years (1982-1994), I confess to being glad that I lived to see DC come into what my Semi-Sainted Grandmother and her Generation called "your Right Mind."

We recommended to the District delegation to the WMATA board that they start thinking BACK IN 1984-1987 about how to "municipalize" the DC part of the Metrobus system when (not if) Metrobus began to shrink as Metrorail and locally controlled bus services in the suburbs expanded.

It was like selling bibles to atheists (with at most three notable and praiseworthy exceptions, one of whom - Tom Downs - apparently has returned to work on the Gray transition downtown.)

DC was being left holding up the entire edifice of Metrobus as all (repeat: all) the other former Metrobus "customers" localized more and more of their bus routes. Which had the effect of "throwing" an increasing share of the "sunk costs" (mostly infrastructure) for all of Metrobus back on the District.

There still remains the unresolved strategic question of how and when Metrobus gets formally reconstituted to the openly "federated" regional transit bus operation that it has been somewhat involuntarily evolving into since that first Takoma-East Silver Spring bus rattled around downtown Silver Spring, eventually morphing into RideOn, which is now the tenth or eleventh largest transit bus operation in the country. After that we had Fairfax Connector, CUE, DASH, TheBus and, finally, ARTS.

So, in the strategic sense, better the DC Circulator late than never.

Now let's start a serious City-wide Conversation (in the Hillary Clinton sense of the term "conversation") about how to euthanize Metrobus. We probably ought to call the DC-controlled system that we will have to rebuild out of it "Phoenix."

Harold Foster; AAG-ProfGeog, AICP
Acting Exec Officer
The Americas Institute

by Harold Foster on Nov 10, 2010 9:48 am • linkreport

Couldn't they decide to make New Hampshire two-way to accommodate bus service? Or even make one of the directions bus-only?

I'm really excited about some of these lines making it easier to get around the city so the system can live up to its name even more than it does now, especially Adams Morgan-H Street, Dupont-Waterfront, and the Tenleytown-Brookland connection, which brilliantly manages to include Petworth and the north edge of Howard University.

Regarding simplicity, as the Circulator adds more lines, signage will become much more important, both on the buses themselves (sometimes I see generic information like "Metro" or the wrong direction showing) and at the stops. Listing destinations is one possibility. I notice the bus display signs are capable of using color Â… are there enough colors for the number of lines being proposed?

by Anonymous on Nov 19, 2010 5:07 pm • 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)

You can use some HTML, like <blockquote>quoting another comment</blockquote>, <i>italics</i>, and <a href="http://url_here">hyperlinks</a>. More here.

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.


Support Us