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Buses Are The Thing This Year

A transit authority committee this morning is looking at a staff proposal to greatly expand the region's express bus services. But it's just one of a bunch of bus developments likely to expand commuters' options.

-- Maryland is going to expand service on nine of its commuter bus routes to and from Washington.

-- Separately from its express bus proposal, Metro is working with local jurisdictions on a proposal to speed bus trips by opening up road shoulders for their use.

-- Virginia maintains that a key element of the HOT (high occupancy or toll) lane projects on the Beltway and I-95/395 is to support improvements in commuter bus services. The buses would use those express lanes for free.

-- On June 30, Metrobus is going to overhaul service on one of its longest and most popular routes across Washington in an innovative program that could serve as a model for other routes.

-- The Metro Bus Priority Corridor Plan under discussion today focuses on the highest ridership routes. In her story, Lena describes the premise this way: Metro has about 1,500 buses in its fleet; it has 171 bus lines. The 24 priority corridors represent 14 percent of the lines but serve about 220,000 daily Metrobus riders, or about 50 percent of the total.

Buses are going to play a pivotal role in easing the region's congestion. These projects aren't cheap, but they're vastly less expensive than the proposed heavy rail extension through Tysons, or the Purple Line transitway in the Maryland suburbs. Plus, they're a lot faster to set up.

The tricky part, of course, is to set up ways to speed the bus trips -- ways like dedicated lanes or traffic signal controls -- so the buses don't wind up stuck in traffic with solo drivers.

Is there a downside? Or is this the sort of thing you're looking for when you think about ditching the car and taking transit?

By Robert Thomson  |  May 22, 2008; 7:13 AM ET
Categories:  transit  
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I already ditch the car whenever I can. If there were priority bus service on the J, Q2, S, and C2/C4 lines, as discussed in Lena Sun's article, I'd ditch it more. Especially the S buses - it's just so frustrating to be on a bus making every stop along that route late at night when all you want to do is get home and go to sleep.

Posted by: Lindemann | May 22, 2008 8:09 AM | Report abuse

The bus lane downtown on 9th Street is generally ignored by drivers because it would be near-impossible to use that road otherwise due to all the double-parking on the side opposite the bus lane, especially when the valet at Zaytinya is parking cars. Parking is allowed on both sides of the street, so people using the valet stop in the left lane of traffic. If people stayed out of the bus lane, traffic would be reduced to a single lane, so most people ignore the "bus only" signs. Can't say I blame them. If you want to have a dedicated bus lane, you have to take away some of the on-street parking and then find a way to create a physical separation between the bus lane and the other lanes--something like the new 9th Avenue bike lane in New York:

Posted by: Rich | May 22, 2008 8:51 AM | Report abuse

This is great news. Express bus service into the district and between suburban locations is the only efficient way to serve areas that are not dense enough to support fixed rail. That is, most of the DC metropolitan area.

I hope the transit planners can execute this plan before "rail to dulles" sucks all the transit money out of the system.

Posted by: Tom | May 22, 2008 12:56 PM | Report abuse

In DC and Virginia buses don't have to stop at red lights and get a free left turn on red and things like that. Does Maryland allow that too?

Posted by: nova | May 22, 2008 1:33 PM | Report abuse

red = go

Posted by: Maryland driver | May 27, 2008 5:20 PM | Report abuse

What about the horrendous wait time between buses? It's often unpredictable, even on the priority corridors, waiting can be a minute or fifteen. There are studies showing that when people don't know long they'll be waiting, they feel like they're waiting longer. Furthermore, if you have to be somewhere by a certain time, and there's the risk that it'll take substantially longer, a rational individual has to build in that extra time and leave earlier - thus wasting the time between expected travel time and worst case travel time. Is there any attempt to improve wait time? Or is the theory that everything is due to too many stops, instead of not enough buses? In bus - dependent cities like Luxembourg and Paris, buses run like rush-hour metros - there's no published schedule, but there are enough that a bus arrives every 5 minutes.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 30, 2008 1:13 PM | Report abuse

I see on the MTA website that a couple additions to the 915 and 929 routes are still listed as tentative schedules. Were these approved by the Board of Public Works? I see several other routes are listed as ready to go on July 1. I'm wondering because I normally take the 929 route because the first bus heads into Washington much earlier than the first 915 route, but if there was an earlier 915 route, I would take it because it would head closer to where I work. I need to get back to Columbia by 5 PM to pick up my daughter from day care, so the earlier the better.

Posted by: Chris G | June 1, 2008 10:51 PM | Report abuse

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