Greater Greater Washington

Posts about Buses

History


Check out this 1942 DC bus and streetcar map

DDOT posted this 1942 map by Capital Transit to help people navigate around the city by bus or streetcar:

Fares were 10¢ or 50¢ for six. You could buy a monthly pass for $1.25. And unlike today, you could transfer for free between bus and rail.

One block of text urges "housewives" to "help Washington's War Effort" by only "travel in business shopping areas only between" 10 am and 3 pm. That's because 300,000 people were getting to and from work outside those times.

The streetcar numbering also shows where we get today's bus line numbers (for routes that don't have a letter). Many of the lines followed routes very similar to major bus corridors today.

The 30 followed Wisconsin Avenue NW and Pennsylvania Avenue SE, and today, that's the 30 series buses. The 40 and 42 lines followed Connecticut and Columbia to Mount Pleasant, as the 42 (and 43) buses do today. The 50s lines used 14th Street, the 70s Georgia Avenue, 80s Rhode Island Avenue, and the 90s a rough circle around the central city, like their modern equivalents.

The 60 took 11th Street and ended at the north end of Columbia Heights. This matches the commercial district there today, but the modern 62 and 63 mostly use Sherman Avenue through this area and continue farther north.

The 20 route no longer exists; it followed the Potomac River to Glen Echo.

And finally, the 10 streetcar line went to Rosslyn and (with the 12) H Street and Benning Road. The eastern part of this became the X lines (X is the Roman numeral for 10).

If you're wondering whether historical streetcar precedent suggests whether the streetcar should go up Georgia Avenue to Silver Spring or to Takoma, the map is no help; the 72 cut east to Takoma while the 70 stayed on Georgia (though it ended just before the District line).

Finally, the Mall (or, at least, West and East Potomac Park) had a sort of Circulator: the Hains Point line, but only on Sundays in the summer.

Events


Events roundup: Tree care, electric buses, and more

Meet the people who care for DC street trees over happy hour drinks, then join them to help trees in Lansburgh Park. Tour an all-electric, zero-emissions bus of the future, and learn the history of Fire and EMS services in DC.


Photo by whiteknuckled on Flickr.

Join Casey Trees for happy hour: The DC non-profit committed to preserving and enhancing tree canopy will hosting a happy hour tonight from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm at Nellie's Sports Bar, 900 U Street NW. Enjoy drinks and learn more about Casey Trees' mission.

Talk about Montgomery's recent elections: Also tonight, Action Committee for Transit hosts reelected County Councilmember George Leventhal for a talk about last month's primary election as well as upcoming issues for the council. That meeting's from 7:30 pm to 9:00 pm at the Silver Spring Civic Building (One Veterans Place). Click here to learn more.

After the jump: Calling all Millennials to Bethesda, and other upcoming events around the region.

This isn't your father's public meeting: Next week, Streetsense, JBG, and Clark Construction are co-hosting Untapped Perspective to help the Montgomery County Planning Board receive feedback on their Downtown Bethesda Plan. They are in need of millennial input, so this event is geared toward 21-35 year olds who have some affiliation to Bethesda. They've got beer, food, and giveaways to make it worth your while. The event is Wednesday, July 16 from 5:30 to 8:30 pm at Streetsense, located at 3 Bethesda Metro Center. RSVP by July 14 to untappedrsvp@streetsense.com.

See the bus of the future: Come see the future in public transportation with ProTerra, makers of next-generation electric buses. ProTerra will be at several DC locations tomorrow, Wednesday, June 9th, displaying its quiet and emissions-free V2 40-foot buses. RSVP to Will Hansfield to attend.

The schedule of tours is as follows:

  • 8:30 am-10:30 am - USDOT, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE
  • 11:00 am-12:30 pm - DDOT, 55 M Street, SE
  • 1:00 pm-2:30 pm - The Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
  • 3:00 pm-5:30 pm - Union Station, 40 Massachusetts Ave NE
Learn the history of firefighting in DC: Also tomorrow, July 9, join the staff of the DC Fire and EMS Museum in the Washingtonian Room of the MLK Jr. Memorial Library, 901 G St. NW, from 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm for a panel discussion on the history of the DC Fire and Medical Emergency Service Department. Historians will discuss 150 years of DC firefighting history, and share photos and stories from DC's biggest fires. For more information contact Lauren Martino or call 202-727-1213.

Take care of trees in Lansburgh Park: Do your part to improve the health of DC's tree canopy at Casey Trees' second Thirsty Thursday event of the summer on July 10th. Weed, mulch, and water the 18 young trees planted in Lansburgh Park during its spring community tree planting season, to help them through their first few years. The event will be held in Lansburgh Park, 1030 Delaware Avenue SW, from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm.

Women bike, too: Join women's health expert and roll model Laurie from Proteus Bicycles on Sunday July 13th for a skillshare on women's health and biking. Learn how biking benefits your health and the health of our communities. Laurie will be meeting participants at the Georgetown Library, from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm.

Do you know of an upcoming event that may be interesting, relevant, or important to Greater Greater Washington readers? Send it to us at events@ggwash.org.

Transit


The DC region lost 60 miles of bus lanes. It's time to get them back

Prior to 1976, the Washington region had at least 60 miles of bus-only lanes, with even more proposed. This map shows where they were.


Image from WMATA.

On the map, from PlanItMetro, the red lines show existing bus lanes as of 1976. Blue and black lines show proposals that never materialized. The network reached throughout DC, Northern Virginia, and into Maryland.

Unfortunately, all the bus lanes were converted to other purposes after the Metrorail system was built.

It's no coincidence or surprise that some of the old bus lanes were on the same streets where they're now proposed again, like 16th Street and H and I Streets downtown. Those are natural transit corridors, with great need for quality service.

Will we ever get this system back? The region is off to a good start, with moveDC's 25 miles of proposed transit lanes, and the upcoming Crystal City Potomac Yard Transitway. But the 60-mile system from the 1970s shows we still have a lot of work to do.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

Transit


BRT comes to Northern Virginia on August 24

The first bus rapid transit line in the DC region will officially begin service on August 24.

The "Metroway" route will run from Crystal City to Braddock Road, partly in mixed traffic and partly in a dedicated transitway. A later phase to open in 2015 will extend the route to Pentagon City, and shift more of it into dedicated lanes.


Route 1 Transitway under construction in Alexandria. Photo from the City of Alexandria.

Metroway is a joint project between Alexandria, Arlington, and WMATA. Alexandria and Arlington are building the transitway in two phases, and WMATA will operate the buses.

For now, only the Alexandria phase is ready. Arlington's phase just began construction and should be finished next year.

But rather than wait until 2015 to start service, WMATA will begin running buses in August, and simply run in mixed traffic through Crystal City until Arlington's phase is complete.


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

Metroway will run every 6 minutes at peak times, dropping to every 12 minutes at midday and every 20 minutes on weekends.

Arlington will eventually convert its portion of the route to streetcar.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

Bicycling


Videos show bus love, bike hate

Triangle Transit, in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area of North Carolina, has a clever set of videos to publicize their bus service and its advantages:

The series of videos emulate the campy style of the classic soap operate, but to tell you that it's easy to pay the bus fare, they have real-time arrival information on smartphones (above), or that Triangle Transit buses can use the shoulder to bypass traffic on highways.

On a less smile-inducing video note, one Alabama man has gone around videotaping his drives, in which he shouts epithets at cyclists along the road (who are doing nothing wrong).

As Michael Keith Maddox passes a cyclist, he says he "ought to run him in a ditch," and he's "going to hurt one of them one of these days." In one of the clips in this mash-up he shouts, "Ride your bicycle, you piece of crap," and in another, he revs his engine as he passes while cackling, "That scare you, boys?"

Based on the videos, the county sheriff arrested Maddox, who also apologized on Facebook. But every day some people come across a bicyclist on the road who is doing nothing except trying to get from one place to another, yet have a similar, if more subtle, reaction.

Transit


Compare the area's rail and bus systems

Washington area is lucky to have so many transit options. But how they differ? Metro created an infographic that compares the area's current (and some future) rail systems as well as several levels of bus service:

Click on the image for a full-size version. What surprises you about this information?

Transit


Million dollars no more: What's in and what's out of Arlington's redesigned Columbia Pike bus stations

Arlington has redesigned and value-engineered a series of transit stations proposed along Columbia Pike, after the original prototype drew criticism for costing a lot and not adequately keeping out the weather. The new design is both less expensive and more effective.


The new design. All images from Arlington County.

Controversy and review

Last year Arlington unveiled the first of a planned series of "super-stop" bus stations along Columbia Pike, near the intersection with Walter Reed Drive. The prototype cost nearly one million dollars, outraging many in the community who felt it extravagantly expensive for "just a bus stop."

But that wasn't the only criticism. The prototype's angled roof and undersized rear and side panels don't offer much protection against the elements.

Arlington heard the outrage and suspended further construction to review the design. The review came out last week, and proposes a new design that's significantly cheaper, but also better in a number of ways.

The new design


Elevation (top) and plan view (bottom) of the new design.

Like the prototype, the new design includes a large glass canopy and glass walls, seating, displays with real-time arrival information, and platform-like curbs.

Unlike the prototype, the canopy is a simple boxy shape that's cheaper and easier to manufacture, more flexible to multiple configurations, and better at keeping out rain and snow. The roof is lower and slopes more gently, meaning rain will have to be falling nearly sideways to get in from the front.

From the back, the rear panels extend higher, closer to the roof. They leave a much smaller gap between the wall and roof, adequate for air circulation but much less prone to let in rain or snow.

Likewise, the side panels are more carefully placed, boxing in the waiting area more effectively.


The new design, showing more effective side panels

The new design eliminates one of the most controversial elements from the prototype, an underground heating system that melts snow and ice. But with this improved canopy and wall layout, fewer elements will get into the station in the first place.

Another major improvement is that real time information will come in multiple ways: On a large main display to one side, and also on displays hung from the roof. The hanging displays will be easier for waiting passengers to see from afar.

And all of this comes via a relatively inexpensive standardized tool kit.


Tool kit of standardized parts.

Since the pieces can fit together any way Arlington wants, they'll use different configurations at different locations. There will be longer stations with more seating at bigger corners, and smaller ones at more constrained sites.

If the new tool kit proves effective, Arlington may even use some of the same pieces elsewhere, such as in Crystal City.

Arlington is planning to move ahead with construction of the new design at 8 locations up and down Columbia Pike, with more coming after that. The county expects the next 8 stations to be open by 2017.

Transit


16th Street will get another bus upgrade, but only a dedicated lane will really fix it

Metro has added more buses to the 16th Street "S" line, but ridership just keeps rising, the buses are crowded, and they're seriously bunching. A dedicated lane is the best solution, say WMATA planners, but in the meantime, they're going to add articulated (or "accordion") buses along the congested corridor.


Photo by Kishan Putta.

At a forum on bus service Wednesday organized by the Coalition for Smarter Growth, WMATA bus planner Jim Hamre said that Metro will put standard-size buses on the Y line, on Georgia Avenue in Montgomery County, in order to shorten the headways. That will free up some articulated buses for 16th Street.

(Technically, Hamre said, the articulated buses from the Y will serve the 70s line on Georgia Avenue in DC, and the "artics" which ply the 70s line now, which are based at the Northern Bus Garage on 14th Street, will now run on the S line. The Northern artics are older, so Georgia Avenue in DC will enjoy newer buses. The artics moving to 16th Street are slated for replacement next year.)

These steps could make a small dent in a big problem, but Hamre and others argued that only larger steps such a dedicated bus lane and signal priority will really make the buses move smoothly and better serve the massive numbers of riders along 16th Street.

Hamre also pointed out that DC had a dedicated bus lane on 16th Street in the past, but it and other bus lanes were removed when Metro opened. At the time, people believed that the then-new system would reduce the demand for bus service. (And perhaps it did for a time, but now it is crowded too, and many people don't live right near Metro.)

Joseph Barr from Parsons Brinkerhoff was also part of the forum, and talked about his experience with buses in New York. He cautioned that there is no perfect solution or checklist, but some small changes can go a long way. New York added some bus lanes and shortened dwell timesthe time the bus sits at a stopby adding kiosks at some stops so riders could pay before boarding.

Barr said that DC could use an off-bus fare system more efficiently than New York, since there are already better fare systems like the SmarTrip card to speed the boarding process. Sam Zimbabwe from DDOT said this was a good idea, provided it does not block limited sidewalk space or obstruct riders boarding the bus.

Everyone agreed that the bus service on 16th Street is so popular that has become very frustrating for riders. Metro, working with a limited fleet of buses, is trying to find small steps, but 16th Street really needs more significant changes to improve bus service. That requires some good planning and, most of all, political will.

Transit


Why a bus lane might help cars too, in one simple picture

This is what 16th Street looks like on a typical weekday morning. Good luck navigating it, as either a bus rider or car driver.

Streamlining this mess of buses with a transit lane could speed up traffic for everyone.


Bus bunching on 16th Street. Photo by Kishan Putta.

More than half of all people traveling on 16th Street at rush hour use the bus. It's DC's most successful bus corridor. But that success comes with a down side: There are so many buses that they bunch into bus traffic jams.

That's a problem for both bus riders and car drivers. Instead of being able to catch a bus every two minutes, transit riders have to wait a long time for a clump of several buses to arrive all together, almost like a single long train. Most of the buses are full, but eventually one near the end of the "train" may have enough room for more passengers to board.

That's inefficient, slows down the line, reduces overall capacity, and adds unnecessary operating expense.

And it's just as bad for car drivers. Imagine being stuck behind that clump of buses in a car. That's a traffic jam, no two ways about it.

And this is why a bus lane on 16th Street could potentially help everyone. If that bus traffic jam can be streamlined into a bus lane, buses will move faster and stay better organized, and cars won't have to contend with roaming clumps of disorganized buses spilling into every lane.

Theoretically DDOT should be able to add a bus lane without sacrificing any car lanes. But even if sacrificing a car lane is necessary, that still may improve car traffic simply by virtue of eliminating bus jams.

It's worth trying.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

Support Us

How can our region be greater?

DC Maryland Virginia Arlington Alexandria Montgomery Prince George's Fairfax Charles Prince William Loudoun Howard Anne Arundel Frederick Tysons Corner Baltimore Falls Church Fairfax City
CC BY-NC