Rebuilding a Bus Line
Metrobus's 16th Street Line is the third most heavily used in the system, after the 30s Line across Pennsylvania Avenue and the 70s buses that run up and down Georgia Avenue. About 45 of those riders, speaking for many more of the 16,000 who use the route daily, met with planners in a church basement on Tuesday night to talk about how to correct some of the problems troubling the line.
Many readers will recognize them: The buses are crowded, the printed schedules for the S1, S2 and S4 don't match the arrival times, and when the buses do arrive they tend to come two or three at a time.
Those complaints were voiced frequently at the meeting in Columbia Heights, but they weren't the only ones. Riders also talked about the design of the buses and the design of the route. Some would like to have bigger buses that accommodate more passengers -- buses with rear doors that open more easily. And they'd like to clear cars from the most congested part of the route, either by banning parking on 16th or creating a bus-only lane. Some want fewer bus stops to speed the trip.
An 8.5-mile trip on the 16th Street Line from Silver Spring to Foggy Bottom can take 55 minutes, or longer during peak travel times. A Metrorail trip would take about 25 minutes during the morning rush.
The buses run into congestion right away coming out of Silver Spring Station on Colesville Road, then they have to work around the 16th Street traffic circle at the D.C. border. Travel eases after that till the buses reach Spring Street and enter Columbia Heights and Mount Pleasant before spreading out into the congestion of downtown Washington.
Money is available to make some fixes, as happened last month on the 30s Line. Some of the fixes might be similar. For example, Metro could create a limited stop service for riders traveling longer distances and some shorter routes for people who are going from neighborhood to neighborhood. Metro could keep a route that serves everyone.
Planners from the transit authority and the District Department of Transportation are going to take the ideas they heard last night, combine them with their own and the experience they got working on the 30s Line, then hold another public meeting in September to share their thinking.
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