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H St. Shuttle continues through year

The H Street Shuttle, a free, city-funded service designed to ferry restaurant and bar patrons to businesses while the burgeoning Northeast corridor is torn up to install a streetcar line and wide sidewalks, will continue through the end of 2010, the District Department of Transportation said this afternoon.

The H Street Streetscape project is 82 percent complete, according to DDOT's Dashboard. A truck loaded high with streetcar tracks arrived at the northern stretch of H Street NE on Friday, preparing to begin installation on the west side of the street. Tracks are already ensconced in fresh, smooth pavement on the east side.

But the streetcar won't actually start running until spring of 2012, officials said this week.

The shuttle runs much the same route as the X2, Metro's most-used bus line, but it zips along speedily with few stops. It's also cleaner and quieter--and free.

Some objected to a taxpayer-funded bus charging no fares as it ferried those with disposable income to places where they would spend it, as others trekked the same route for standard fare.

As Washington Post columnist Colby King contended, "Access to H Street by Metrobus may not be the problem... There seems to be a perception that some of Metrobus's X2 clientele can be, shall we say, a little rough around the edges."

In fact, some did begin using the bus as a connector from 7th and H streets NW in Chinatown, where rowdy youths have been known to congregate, to the Minnesota Avenue Metro, without patronizing the businesses along H Street. There were a few instances of violence on the tiny bus itself, turning it into a sort of cage match.

After a fight on the bus was recounted on the blog Frozen Tropics,, a commenter identifying himself as the operating manager for the H Street Shuttle wrote:

"In several instances the shuttles have been egged, shot at with a Bibi gun and attempts to flatten the tires have occurred. Therefore our drivers walk a delicate line when dealing with the riders of the H Street Shuttle."

The shuttle, funded by a council earmark, has already been discontinued and restarted due to funding issues.

It's not the only instance of a neighborhood coming to rely on a service that was always intended to be temporary, as users of the Southwest Shuttle-bug can attest.

In the end, the shuttle is likely to terminate in the new year, getting businesses through the bulk of construction but not carrying patrons all the way through until the streetcar arrives. Nonetheless, the service will have served its purpose of mitigating the worst of the torn-up sidewalks, and H Street will emerge from the shuttle's run with many more businesses, and more foot traffic, than when it began.

By Luke Rosiak  | October 25, 2010; 5:30 PM ET
Categories:  Commuter Bus, Transit  | Tags:  h street shuttle  
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