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Transit part of community revival plan

Today's exhibit A for transit as community developer: H Street.

The District plans to restore the free shuttle bus service along H Street NE, serving the re-emerging neighborhood known as the Atlas District, writes Post reporter Yamiche Alcindor. [See story.] The Fenty administration announced that it would restart the service by Dec. 21.

The shuttle, which connected the Gallery Place and Minnesota Avenue Metro stations via H Street and Benning Road, was a convenient link, and the price was right for the riders. But it was also small, and very expensive to operate, so it stopped running Sunday when the government subsidy ran out. D.C. Council member Tommy Wells and other community leaders worked to get the service restored, and the District now says it will find the money to help through its Department of Transportation.

The shuttle is a nice idea, but I hope its operation will be rendered unnecessary by improvements in the corridor's regular bus line. Metro's plan to upgrade service on the X buses along H Street and Benning Road is a better solution than a heavily subsidized public-private partnership. Even better will be the day when streetcars run along that route, but the money for that has yet to be found, even though tracks are being laid.

The Metrobus plan should arrive first. The X buses are notorious for slow, unreliable service. Plus, many riders say they don't feel secure when using the buses. The plan Metro is developing would counter the problems in these ways:
-- Add a limited- stop service that would speed up travel times to the most popular stops and the transfer points during peak periods. These buses would run every 15 minutes.
-- Use the longer, articulated buses for the X2 to ease crowding.
-- Enhance supervision and improve driver training to improve reliability on the X1.
-- Increase the presence of undercover transit police on the buses and work with the schools to improve the behavior of young riders. Make more extensive use of closed circuit cameras.

Those are among Metro's targets for next fall. That seems like an awfully long time to wait but, as drivers and bus riders know quite well, the H Street-Benning Road corridor also is undergoing an extensive reconstruction designed to improve traffic flow and pedestrian safety as well as to beautify the corridor. Benning Road should be done by the end of this month, but H Street work will continue till the summer of 2011. Some of these bus service improvements won't really be effective until the street improvements are done.

Once all the elements are in place, the initial bus service improvement should be followed by an expanded hours for the limited-stop service. Other strategies -- which could be applied on other heavily traveled lines as well -- include better traffic management through the use of coordinated signals, bus lanes and traffic control officers.

By Robert Thomson  |  December 8, 2009; 1:19 PM ET
Categories:  transit  | Tags: District Department of Transportation, Dr. Gridlock, Metrobus, streetcars  
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I would note that WMATA is also considering new standards for its bus stop spacing--widening the distance between stops to between .2 to .25 miles (or about two blocks apart instead of the current one block or so). This measure, if implemented, would also act to speed buses across the city--including the X-2.

Posted by: kreeggo | December 8, 2009 4:01 PM | Report abuse

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