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Circulator routes need user-friendly names

As DDOT looks to add new routes to the Circulator bus network, the agency should devise a simple and catchy naming system to designate each route.

Photo by M.V. Jantzen on Flickr.

Metrorail uses colors. Metrobus and suburban bus systems use simple numbers or letter-number combinations (42, E6, 38B, etc.). Existing Circulator routes, on the other hand, are only known by their endpoints, like Georgetown-Union Station or Dupont-Georgetown-Rosslyn.

If any of these routes are extended to other destinations, or new routes share termini with existing ones, knowing which bus is the right one will quickly become confusing for riders. It's already cumbersome to talk about each route, and along M Street in Georgetown, riders often board the wrong bus.

Current maps, and the NextBus system, use a different color for each Circulator. But if people start referring to the Union Station-Georgetown Circulator as the Yellow Route, it may become confused with Metro's Yellow Line, which follows a different path.

Boulder, Colorado solves this problem with cute names like the "Dash" and the "Jump." DDOT should also devise a unique naming scheme. Here are some possibilities:

Single letters: No other transit system in the region uses single letters to designate routes; all the local bus systems other than Metrobus seem to use just numbers. Circulators could simply be lettered in order starting with A, omitting I and O to avoid confusion with the numbers.

Routes could be known as "Circ-A," "Circ-B," etc. Drawback: These don't give any line much distinctiveness, or create a strong mental association between a line and a letter. And would there be confusion between the a "D" route and the D series of Metrobuses (D2, D6, etc.)?

Famous people associated with DC: How about taking the Duke Ellington and transferring to the Alex Ovekchin? Drawback: Streets, bridges, neighborhoods, parks, and other elements of the city's infrastructure already bear these names. But if, for example, the Duke Ellington route crosses the Duke Ellington Bridge, then the name would make sense.

Trees or flowers: DC already has streets with plant names (the fourth alphabet in the District's northern tip), but there are many that aren't used in the city. Short names would be ideal for simplicity. Would you like to ride the Oak, Elm, Ash, or Birch Circulator?

Federal agencies: Name each route after a federal agency, preferably one on the given line. The Union Station-Navy Yard bus could become the DOT Line; the Georgetown-Union Station bus (since it passes through Foggy Bottom) could be the State (Department) Line. Drawback: agency names, for the most part, lack a certain pizazz.

Short verbs, a la Boulder: How about the Georgetown Jumper, or the 14th Street Flyer? Drawback: too silly for DC?What naming schemes do you like? What would you add?

Malcolm Kenton lives in the DCís 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. 


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Boulder's names are too silly for Boulder, yet alone DC. I don't like them.

by Alex B. on Apr 5, 2011 10:50 am • linkreport

Hmm. Just call the Rosslyn-Dupont one the blue bus?

by charlie on Apr 5, 2011 10:54 am • linkreport

It's more important that the fares could double.

by Jazzy on Apr 5, 2011 10:56 am • linkreport

Really? Most of these are counterproductive - the current names describe the destinations, which seems...i dunno...useful? Maybe tourists need cutesy names, but DDOT doesn't really see circulator as a tourist mover anymore. For locals, I've never seen anyone get on the wrong circulator - how hard is it to read the front of the bus?

PS Also see Jarrett Walker on names.

by reader on Apr 5, 2011 11:09 am • linkreport

Go to georgetown.

Almost every tourist confused the Rosslyn/Dupont with the Union Station bus. Bus driver has to spend 5 minutes explaining. I see it happen 2-3 times a day.

Problem is compounded by toursits using old information from last year about "Georgetown Blue Bus".

by charlie on Apr 5, 2011 11:21 am • linkreport

I think they should take on alliterative animal names. It'd be awesome. One could be the Panda Passage. Another the Lion Line. Cheetah Chase. The possibilities are endless and endlessly amusing and memorable.

by Mark on Apr 5, 2011 11:22 am • linkreport

I think this is a solution in search of a problem.

by Lou on Apr 5, 2011 11:26 am • linkreport

No, this is a real problem. I ride the Union Station-Navy Yard on fairly often, and it's not uncommon for visitors to get on looking to go to, say, the Holocaust Museum. Last week on my way to Union Station, it happened three times on one trip.

Better differentiation on routes would be very helpful.

by TimK on Apr 5, 2011 11:34 am • linkreport

Great idea, Malcolm.

For those of you who think this isn't something that needs to be thought about, from now on, don't use numbers, letters, or colors to describe any of our transit infrastructure.

Try to describe to someone how to get down 14th Street from Columbia Heights to the Bureau of Engraving.

"Yeah, so what you want to do is take the Takoma (but sometimes only Colorado Avenue) - Columbia Heights - Metro Center - Engraving bus or the Takoma (but sometimes only Colorado Avenue) - Columbia Heights - White House - Engraving bus. Or you could go down to the Metro and take the Greenbelt - Mount Vernon Square - Branch Avenue train or the Fort Totten - Mount Vernon Square - Huntington train."

That's soooo much simpler than saying, "take a southbound 52 or 54 or take the Green or Yellow lines southbound and exit at L'Enfant Plaza." #NOT

What happens when you have multiple overlapping routes that have different service patterns? Let's look at Georgia Avenue. We have at least 3 different overlapping bus routes:

  • the Silver Spring - Shaw - Archives (local)
  • the Silver Spring - Archives - Half Street (local)
  • the Silver Spring - Shaw - Archives (limited)

It's a lot easier to refer to those as the 70, 71, and 79 (Georgia Avenue/7th Street Line).

by Matt Johnson on Apr 5, 2011 11:37 am • linkreport

No, this is a real problem. I ride the Union Station-Navy Yard on fairly often, and it's not uncommon for visitors to get on looking to go to, say, the Holocaust Museum. Last week on my way to Union Station, it happened three times on one trip.

Better differentiation on routes would be very helpful.

Sure, it would be helpful - but that doesn't mean it's going to prevent a tourist who doesn't really know where they are going from getting on the wrong bus.

by Alex B. on Apr 5, 2011 11:41 am • linkreport

Alex: It won't prevent a tourist from getting confused, but it will help a lot. The Circulator is a brand. A lot of people hear "take the Circulator" and think it's one bus. To some extent, that's been a value; instead of dealing with differentiating the F92, 61Y, and 81 buses, just take "the Circulator." But there are 5 Circulators. Being able to say "Take the Circulator" and have that identity clearly displayed on maps and vehicles really would help.

by David Alpert on Apr 5, 2011 11:43 am • linkreport


@TimK, how would changing the name to 34B make it easier for people to find the Holocaust Museum?

Why do people want to make Circulator into a WMATA bus service?

10 years from now, a new bus service will be introduced that offers simple point-to-point neighborhood connections in the city at an affordable rate. People will cheer at how amazing and new the model is.

by beatbox on Apr 5, 2011 11:43 am • linkreport

Names don't have to be cutesy. Look at the London Underground system for an example. We could have the Central Line (Georgetown-Union Station), the Trans-Potomac Line (Rosslyn-Dupont) The Mall Loop Line (Smithsonian-NGA), the Millennium Line (Convention Center-SW Waterfront), the Klein Line (Union Station-Navy Yard), and the Tree Line (Woodley Park-McPherson)

by Stanton Park on Apr 5, 2011 11:49 am • linkreport

I don't think the problem is the names. It is the design of Circulator. What was one bus has morphed into 5, and frankly, they are confusing.

Having the georgetown-union station info on the side of every bus isn't helping either.

How much would it cost to wrap a bus in plastic to color-code it?

by charlie on Apr 5, 2011 11:51 am • linkreport

Please nothing cutesy. People just need to learn to pay attention to the destination sign, just like they should on Metro. If any naming convention is used, let it be something simple like colors. Then the colors could be used on the sign as cues for which buses serve a specific stop. But that's assuming, as with the destination signs, that people read!

by Omar on Apr 5, 2011 11:51 am • linkreport


Alex: It won't prevent a tourist from getting confused, but it will help a lot. The Circulator is a brand. A lot of people hear "take the Circulator" and think it's one bus. To some extent, that's been a value; instead of dealing with differentiating the F92, 61Y, and 81 buses, just take "the Circulator." But there are 5 Circulators. Being able to say "Take the Circulator" and have that identity clearly displayed on maps and vehicles really would help.

I don't disagree - I'm just saying Tim's example isn't a very good one to prove that case. You could say to that couple "take the Metro," too - that won't prevent them from getting lost. No matter what, they still need to get on the right bus/train.

The Metro is very simple to navigate and I see first time riders (not just tourists) get confused all the time. You can't completely idiot-proof the system, that's my point.

The current Circulator system isn't the greatest, there certainly is some confusion with the overlapping routes in Georgetown - but the naming of routes based on the key destinations they serve is central to the entire mission of the Circulator - to serve these busy activity centers with a high level of service.

by Alex B. on Apr 5, 2011 11:51 am • linkreport

@Omar, you don't need to read to see color.

by Tina on Apr 5, 2011 12:01 pm • linkreport

The current circulator names seem fine.

They run in a mostly straight line along a mostly-obvious route to their destination.

The only thing I'd change would be the Woodley Park-McPherson route. I'd add either 'via 14th St' or 'via Columbia Heights' to the destination. After all, many people refer to it as the 14th St Circulator.

by andrew on Apr 5, 2011 12:04 pm • linkreport

Give the destinations, but also name each route after a President.
Honest Abe, George Washington, Teddy Roosevelt or FDR (but not both), Thomas Jefferson, and Ronald Reagan. That'll make it easy for the tourists and the slow-witted. And with a couple of Republican names in there, maybe the Republicans on Capitol Hill will be a little more willing to help kick in some funding. (We can dream, can't we?)

by Mike S. on Apr 5, 2011 12:14 pm • linkreport

@Alex B,

In my case, the tourist couple got on at Eastern Market and asked the driver when the bus stopped at the Holocaust Museum. Obviously, the best way for them to have done that would have been to hop on the Metro and take it to Smithsonian stop. At this point is was too late, as the bus was already moving. I told them to get off near Capitol South and use the Metro.

As we drove over there, I asked why they were on the Circulator, and they said that they heard the Ciruclator went around the Mall and was easy to use (compared to WMATA bus presumably).

And here is the problem. We need a name besides the Ciruclator to tell people. Telling folks "take the Circulator" leads to just the sort of confusion I described, see weekly, and others have dismissed here. We branded the Circulator as an easy to use bus, and then split it into five parts.

I don't want to get cutesy either, but Mall Loop, Capitol Hill Route, K Street Corridor, etc. might be easy ways to differentiate what Circulator people should take.

by TimK on Apr 5, 2011 12:17 pm • linkreport

Sure, but my point is that "take the Metro" is just as useless as "take the Circulator." If the problem is that people perceive Metro as a system but the Circulator as a single route, that's one thing - but the Circulator has become a system, not just a route.

If those tourists had gone on nothing but 'take the Metro' instead, they still would have needed more information to complete their trip. Which line? What stop? Which direction do I go? That's my point about being unable to idiot-proof the system.

Yes, there could be more clarity in the Circulator nomenclature, but let's not overstate the problem here.

by Alex B. on Apr 5, 2011 12:24 pm • linkreport

It would also be handy if Circulators actually properly displayed their final destination. It also should fit on the front of the bus. A problem with the Rosslyn-Dupont bus is that both ways, Georgetown keeps flashing by. I mean, what other way are you gonna get from Rosslyn to Dupont? Via Alexandria? A problem with cutesy names is that you still don't know which way it's going. Tourist often have no clue which way they're facing. You can't blame them, because that tourist guide explanation about DC's beautiful grid is useless when you're on Prospect and Potomac NW. Or on the intersection of CA St, FL Ave, Seaton and Champlain.

by Jasper on Apr 5, 2011 12:34 pm • linkreport

I like the idea of just calling Circulator routes "Circulator 1," "Circulator 2," "Circulator 3," etc... There is no one number bus route designation by WMATA in the District. Everything is at least two digits/characters.

This seems to work in Reston where they have the RIBS (Reston Internal Bus System) circulator system with routes RIBS 1, RIBS 2, RIBS 3, RIBS 4, and RIBS 5 seperate from Fairfax Connector regular routes. (FFX runs RIBS.)

by Transport. on Apr 5, 2011 12:42 pm • linkreport

The Circulator was never just "one bus". From the start it had at least two lines: the GT-US line and the Conv-SW line.

by TM on Apr 5, 2011 12:57 pm • linkreport

Alex B,

I think our points are closer than they appear in the mirror.

The problem is real and repetitive. The example I saw (last Thurs, btw) was one of three on that very route I took. Nor was that day an isolated experience. You're telling me why it shouldn't be a problem. I'm telling you that it is, and continues to be an issue.

Not a global warming/homeless/whatever issue, but an easy to solve problem. Just break the Circulator up into "lines" so it's easy to differentiate.

by TimK on Apr 5, 2011 12:58 pm • linkreport

Anyone who hasn't become familiar with the Circulator routes needs to see clear, memorable designated names for each route.

The names need to be repeated over and over visually, on signs, on the sides of buses, on pamphlets, on the Circulator's website.

Whether it's A, B, C, or 1, 2, 3, or something like "Union Georgetown," and "Woodley McPherson," is less significant than making the names distinct, clear, rational -- and repeated to make them memorable.

by Dennis Jaffe on Apr 5, 2011 1:05 pm • linkreport


If you want to introduce some order, have odd numbers be cross town and even numbers be north-south (generally).

Or if you insist on colors:

DC-Yellow (Y)
DC-Blue (B)
DC-Red (R)
DC-Green (G)
DC-Orange (O)
DC-Purple (P)

by ah on Apr 5, 2011 1:07 pm • linkreport


The point of the current naming system, however, is that the very name of the route (e.g Dupont-Georgetown-Rosslyn) tells you more information than just the abstraction of, say, DC-4.

You don't need to know what color or number the line is to know where it goes - the Dupont route goes to Dupont.

No, it's not the best nomenclature in a wider system, but it does have value - particularly given the route structure the Circulator uses.

by Alex B. on Apr 5, 2011 1:31 pm • linkreport

For naming, I like the DC-## prefix as long as the destination of the route is displayed along side... DC-3 Woodley Park / DC-3 McPherson Square, etc.
Whatever they do they need to remove the current external bus design and replace it - I have seen dozens of people get on a Woodley Park circulator thinking it would take them to union station because "the bus said union station on the side"...

by Matthew on Apr 5, 2011 1:37 pm • linkreport

What if we forget the fact that the Circulator is a bus, or that metro is a train, or the soon there will be streetcars along H Street. Instead of trying to give each type of tranist its own Route Designation system, how about treat everything as one regional system, and devise wayfinding and route designators that are universal, regardless of the physical form transit it might be. Maybe everything north to south contains common leter or color, or etc. So whether its metro or a bus. If you want to go north or south, you're looking for things that are yellow, or if you want to go east to west, you're looking for things that are red. Treat all of it as one whole.

by JF on Apr 5, 2011 1:40 pm • linkreport

Charlie makes an excellent point: all the route naming in the world won't help if the Circulator buses still have that big yellow arc on the side saying "Georgetown ... Union Station." Tourist or not, it's legitimately confusing to have the side of the bus say that it's going one place and the electronic display say it's going somewhere else. Either we need to scrap that design completely, or else give each bus route its own wrapping that lists the major stations on that route.

by tom veil on Apr 5, 2011 2:07 pm • linkreport

"The only thing I'd change would be the Woodley Park-McPherson route. I'd add either 'via 14th St' or 'via Columbia Heights' to the destination. After all, many people refer to it as the 14th St Circulator."

The line is already called the Woodley Park - Adams Morgan - McPherson Square Metro line. Adams Morgan is the via point.

I don't see what's so wrong about the names as they are now.

by Scoot on Apr 5, 2011 2:13 pm • linkreport

re: Boulder bus names, I agree with the above comments. I visit Boulder semi-regularly and I find the names annoying, plus the different branding of the services is very confusing.

by Phil on Apr 5, 2011 2:51 pm • linkreport

I have a few major things to add here:

1) I really like the presidents naming scheme. It's noble and memorable. Just last names, though. "Jefferson Line", "Adams Line", "Lincoln Line".

2) @Alex B re. just take metro/circulator. The difference is that the Metrorail system is a SYSTEM. You are somewhere and want to go somewhere else, you go to the nearest station where you find maps, brochures, fare tables and friendly (usually?) station managers who can get you from the best station for your departure (where you are) to the best station for your destination. And all the routes are connected into a SYSTEM with only one transfer between any two lines.

For Circulator, it's not quite a SYSTEM. You can easily just jump on the wrong bus headed in the wrong direction because routes overlap with little information other than a destination sign to help you navigate. You also can't jump on one bus and assume that you can easily connect to another bus to take you to your destination. Adams Morgan to the ballpark? Take the 14th Street circulator to the Union Station/K street circulator to the Navy Yard circulator... It doesn't work, partially because of too many transfers but also because we don't have the nomenclature to refer to transferring between routes.

3) I've been stopped on K street by a tourist wondering if that big red bus would take them to the mall.

4) It was VERY short-sighted of DDOT to keep the same "jesus fish" scheme for the expanded system. For one or two routes, it made sense. For 5 it means nothing. For one or two routes, it was almost a system map. For 5, it still looks like a system map but it lies, hinting that Georgetown and Adams Morgan are easily accessible to one another, only one stop away.

5) Perhaps #4 is a hint to how short-sighted the entire system is turning out to be. No way to differentiate between different lines, nearly reactive rolling out of new services with little outreach. Lack of a "system" or "network" approach to the lines, requiring multiple transfers to get between major activity centers.

The circulator is great, but they need to get their act together. They aren't a simple one/two line system any longer, and they need to start acting like a real transit agency, not like the rebellious start-up they once were.

by MDE on Apr 5, 2011 3:07 pm • linkreport

@Alex and Matthew - I assumed the destination would be displayed as well. As noted above, using destination names to designate routes means that the route name needs to be changed if it's extended. It's also a mouthful.

"DC-X" has the advantage of (a) containing "DC" (b) reflective of the DC Circulator and (c) does not duplicate existing WMATA bus designations.

I agree, that in the broader scheme of things it would be great if WMATA could entirely rework their numbering scheme in some coherent fashion to use, say, only numbers. Then local buses (Ride-On, Fairfax, etc.) could use separate designators (e.g., MC-1, FX-1, DC-1 and so forth.

by ah on Apr 5, 2011 3:09 pm • linkreport

How about the Circulator "A", "B", and "C" routes, etc? This is very simple and can avoid confusion with Metro's subway and bus lines.

"A" - Rossylyn, Georgetown, Union Station

"B" - Convention Center, Southwest

"C" - ...

by nwdcguy on Apr 5, 2011 3:52 pm • linkreport


WMATA actually does have a coherent bus numbering system:
Letter-Number: Maryland -> DC bus.
Number-Number: DC bus.
Number-Letter: Virginia -> DC bus.

As routes have changed over the years, some of these designations no longer actually make sense.

Similarly, a handful of letter/number combinations do make sense, while others appear to be completely random. Honestly, it probably is time for a complete rationalization/rethinking of the metrobus network, given just how convoluted it's become.

(Anybody ever ride the X3? If not, I can't blame you, because it only makes 7 trips a day westbound, and 5 trips eastbound. The X1's a bit better, but equally nonsensical because it practically traces the route of the Blue/Orange line.)

There are also places where it makes lots of sense to abandon the normal numbering system entirely, and give the damn bus a descriptive name. (Yes. I'm looking at you, B30 bus to BWI airport!)

While we're at it, let's brand the X2 as a Circulator. It meets DC's criteria for a Circulator line better than some of the actual existing Circulator lines, and could benefit from the operating procedures that apparently allow the Circulator to operate with vastly improved reliability over Metrobus.

With this hypothetical line, I'd also include the 'via' indicator to the destination sign, as 'Benning Road via H St NE' is a lot more descriptive and reflective of the line's actual ridership.

by andrew on Apr 5, 2011 3:55 pm • linkreport

@Alex B
The problem with using endpoints for the line names is that, according to the circulator plan (as linked in this GGW post), DDOT will soon add another line from Union Station to Georgetown (via North Mall), and extend the Rosslyn-Dupont line to Howard. We could always call one the Union Station-Downtown-Georgetown, and the other Union Station-North Mall-Georgetown; and rename the Rosslyn-Dupont the Rosslyn-Dupont-Howard. But DC already has a problem with hyphen abuse (see U Street-Cordoza-Civil War-etc station), and those names are completely unTwitterable.

I'd prefer DC people names (Duke, Dolly, George and Abe), coupled with a ubiquitous (semi-iconic-ish) and diagramatic network or spider map.

by Steven H on Apr 5, 2011 4:30 pm • linkreport

@Tina, however, you do have to not be color-blind to be able to use route color. Using color alone to distinguish routes is not sufficient.

by Craig on Apr 5, 2011 7:00 pm • linkreport

Consider this:

Philadelphia removed it's route names from it's regional rail lines. SEPTA's regional lines were formerly the R1-R3 and R5-R7. The R5 Paoli / Thorndale line is now exclusively referred to as the Paoli / Throndale line.

In my opinion this made the system more complex, while once asking friends to take the R5 to center city then the R1 to the airport, we have to say to take the Paoli Thorndale line (which are the terminals) to Center City (which is the other way from Paoli & Thorndale) and then take the Airport line (which doesn't only serve the Airport) They cannot use their other terminal in their names, such as Paoli-Thorndale / Center City, as every train uses Center City as the other end of their line, you then transfer to the appropriate train (although this is a unique situation to SEPTA and doesn't apply to us.) The trains can change routes as needed from Center City, becoming the Chestnut Hill West line, or the Fox Chase line, or the Bala-Cynwid line, as they all aggregate onto the same set of tracks (also unique to SEPTA, not in DC.) It thus also makes the train routing unpredictable.

Formerly the R5 towards center city was entitled R5 Chestnut Hill via City Center. Now it is the Paoli / Thordale line via City Center. Paoli & Thornale are the other way from Center City.

I strongly suggest a true route name or title beyond the destinations and waypoints. When departing Union Station, the Gold Bus to Georgetown via Downtown is fine to me. The signs are already colored separately, and that would be an relatively easy transition.

by Xavier on Apr 5, 2011 7:02 pm • linkreport

I'm inclined to agree that changing the bus wrap would much farther to solving the tourist confusion than changing the names of the routes.

That being said, I'm also in favor of route indicators that indicate the final stop instead of the start and end.

by Craig on Apr 5, 2011 7:05 pm • linkreport

Sorry, minor clarification and I couldn't find a way to edit:

The R5 the other was was formerly the "R5 Lansdale Doylestown line"

SEPTA's regional information:

Also note their variety of transit modes, the MF Line (sometimes referred to as the EL or Blue line), the Broad St Line, the Trolly Lines (also called the Surface Lines or Subway Surface Lines) and the Norristown High Speed Line (of which there are 3 lines) The system was not designed cohesively. They also have buses and paratransit was we do.

by Xavier on Apr 5, 2011 7:08 pm • linkreport

Well, Circulator does use color names for their routes: Red, Blue, Yellow, (ex-Purple mall route), and Green. I do think colors could work, but they way they are adding routes, it wouldn't work. I do like the idea of doing route numbers: Circ 1, 2, etc.

Cardinal directions seemed to work when it was just East-West and North-South, but when they introduced the Woodley Park-McPherson Square route, it wouldn't have been wise to make that North-South.

Route names work only to an extent that the route doesn't change around alot. Union Station - Georgetown has changed quite alot and Woodley Park - McPherson Square could probably be called Woodley Park - Franklin Square since the last stop is right at Franklin Square and not McPherson.

It's become apparent that Circulator has lost its original identity as a tourist trap and became another commuter bus system in the city.

Side note: DC-XX wouldn't work since Martz Virginia uses those designations for their commuter bus routes.

by K Conaway on Apr 5, 2011 8:00 pm • linkreport

I'd combine features of the London Underground and buses. Give the lines names as Stanton Park suggested and expanded, electronic roll signs showing final and intermediate destinations. (The electronic part is an improvement on London.) For loops, name the line "X Loop" and have the destination signs rotate as the bus progresses. With GPS, this is now possible.

by Chuck Coleman on Apr 5, 2011 8:22 pm • linkreport

We need to stop dumbing stuff down for idiots. If you want to do something or go somewhere you should do some research or get one of the schedules and read map.

Since none of the buses except two have the same destination there is little room for confusion.

If there is such a need to name the routes just name them 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or C1, C2, C3, C4, C5

People don't seem to get confused by Ride On, FF Connector, Metrobus, The Bus and the other systems that both have routes with the same name.

by kk on Apr 5, 2011 9:24 pm • linkreport

@kk; good point, but people are confused by bus numbering systems. The larger question is do we WANT tourists using Circulator?

Blue Bus, at some point, was almost half foreign tourists. I'd say those numbers dropped a bit in Circulator-era. However, for the K street and 14th street lines, they are crowded enough that putting (stupid) tourists on the bus is just jamming up the system.

by charlie on Apr 6, 2011 9:01 am • linkreport

you don't need to read to see color.

You'd be surprised. I've been stopped many times in the Metro to be asked which platform a certain color train is on, and there are signs everywhere. It never ceases to amaze me how much directions tourists need despite the fact that Metro routing is one of the simplest in existence and was designed with simplicity in mind. I don't think any naming convention can solve the problem this article lays out.

But maybe "read" was the wrong word. "Navigate" is more like it. The number, color, or letter you're seeing is less important than being able to apply that knowledge into something directionally useful. In that regard I'm having trouble coming up with something better than the existing destination-based names for the routes.

Numbering doesn't seem like a bad idea for shorthand. And if you had colors to match the numbers, you'd have two ways to distinguish between routes. But New York already does that for its subways, and I doubt that stops people from boarding the wrong train or asking bystanders for directions. Maybe even numbers could be east-west routes, and odd numbers could be north-south, like the Interstate system. But people have to be clued in somehow that these numbers have meaning.

by Omar on Apr 6, 2011 1:33 pm • linkreport

@ Omar

So are the Dupont Circle - Rosslyn & Woodley Park - McPherson Sq lines north/south , east/west or both ?

by kk on Apr 6, 2011 5:16 pm • linkreport

Dupont Circle-Rosslyn is mainly east-west, and Woodley Park-McPherson Square is mainly north-south. The NextBus app for iPhone already refers to the buses on the latter line as "northbound" or "southbound" even if they are technically heading east or west at any given moment. You'll see similar quirks in Interstate and highway signage.

by Omar on Apr 6, 2011 5:22 pm • linkreport

Re: the confused tourists trying to ride the Circulator in Georgetown (the only area I've seen people be confused about which bus they are boarding), if they aren't reading the big letters on the front and side of the bus announcing which Circulator route they are riding, then no name you put on the route will help them.

by Ben on Apr 8, 2011 11:52 am • linkreport

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