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DC Studying Bus Service Changes

The District and the transit authority are considering a plan to eliminate Metrobus Route 98, the Adams Morgan-U Street link, and switch that service over to the Circulator bus system.

This is part of a much broader effort to rethink transit service in Washington that led to a series of public meetings in September. It's called the Neighborhood Circulation Study.

We've got this huge resource in Metrorail, a system designed to move commuters in and out of the region's core. What else have we got? We've got a bus system that's still a mish-mash of lines dating to the mid-20th century, when the transit authority was forced to take over several private bus companies that were failing.

Transit planners in all the jurisdictions are thinking about the other links we need to make. In Maryland, it's the Purple Line, for east-west travel between suburban centers. In the District, it's fast bus and streetcar services to link neighborhoods with each other and with social, business and cultural hotspots that the subway can't handle.

So back to this Route 98 issue: The transit authority has scheduled a public hearing for Nov. 19 on discontinuing the Metrobus service, which the District pays for, so that the District Department of Transportation can transfer the subsidy to a new Circulator route for the Adams Morgan-U Street area in March. The 6:30 p.m. hearing, preceded by a 6 p.m. open house, is at Metro headquarters, 600 Fifth St. NW.

The Circulator, which began service in 2005, now operates three routes in the District's core. The buses are modern, comfortable, easy to use and frequent -- so frequent there's no schedule to consult. They're also cheaper to ride than Metrobus.

To discuss: Is the Circulator at risk of getting too big? Are the advantages of a small, focused service going to be lost at some point? And should we worry about creating a District-funded bus operation that competes for fares and resources with the regionally funded Metrobus system?

By Robert Thomson  |  November 6, 2008; 6:19 AM ET
Categories:  Metro , transit  
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I question the notion that there is even enough demand to justify a replacement for the 98 bus which based on my observation should be discontinued. I live on U St and I dont use any of the buses that run on it but whenever I see the 98 bus it is usually empty and they seem to run very frequently. As far as I can tell the only benefit it provides over some of the other routes is that it crosses the Duke Ellington bridge to service the Woodley Park Metro Station. Might it be more efficient to extend those other routes across the bridge without any service degradation in the U St/ Adams Morgan corridor. Not sure why it was created but I dont think most of the patrons of the corridor use the bus for clubbing or bar hoping.

Posted by: JTDCA | November 6, 2008 12:44 PM | Report abuse

From Dr. Gridlock: JTDCA, I think the city's view is that the jazzy red Circulator bus has risen to the status of a brand, and may well attract young people on their way to and from the entertainment areas when a nondescript Metrobus would not. As for my concern that the Circulator system may get too big, the opposite view is that this particular expansion would be within the original concept of opening up core areas of the city to this innovative transportation service.

Also, it takes a while to get people to change their transportation habits -- especially if you're trying to get them to use a bus.

Posted by: rtthomson1 | November 6, 2008 4:08 PM | Report abuse

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