Creative Fixes for Bus Line
The Metrobus line with the highest ridership runs between Friendship Heights in upper northwest Washington and the District's far southeastern border, carrying about 20,000 riders a day.
The routes along Wisconsin and Pennsylvania avenues that make up the 30s Line can be as long as 14 miles, and despite the high ridership, the buses are slow and the schedules unreliable. Metro has looked at this problem before, but no action resulted. The obvious solution was to break up the lengthy line into shorter routes, but that wasn't popular with people who depended on the bus to take them farther than the proposed cutoff for their segment.
A better idea: Since June, Metro has been with the District Department of Transportation and with many of the people who actually ride the buses to reorganize the service. Planners held community meetings and listened to what riders had to say.
They found the top three issues for riders were bus bunching (you wait a long time, then three buses in a row pull up to your stop), unreliable schedules and crowding. Those are pretty typical concerns among bus riders, but they become exaggerated on a long line that passes through more than 130 traffic signals in the congested heart of the Washington region.
The planners are going to tell a Metro board committee on Thursday morning that they want to do three things with the 30s Line: Maintain long distance service, add two limited stop services during rush periods and create some neighborhood connector routes supporting the main line. Three routes on the line would be eliminated: the 30, 34 and 35.
Metro staff will ask the board to review the service plan and approve two public hearings on it, which probably would be held in March. If the Metro board winds up giving final approval to the plan in the spring, the enhanced service could start in July, about a year after the planning started. [See Post map of route.]
And it isn't just about having more buses. The plan also calls for improved supervision along the line, so that managers will know about and respond to delays. Customer communication is a high priority. Drivers will be trained to handle the routes they'll be driving.
This program is likely to increase the Metrobus budget by $400,000, which would be picked up by the District Department of Transportation, just as it supported the Metro Extra limited stop buses that improved service along Georgia Avenue.
It's not only a promising plan but also a promising way of managing a transportation problem. "What do you need this bus to do?" James Hamre, a Metro senior planner, asked an audience of riders back in July, as the project got underway. I hope this works. It sure would be nice to extend this kind of thinking throughout the transit system.
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