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Local D.C. Bus Service To Both Grow And Contract, Riders Not Happy

Friday, April 01, 2011 - 01:33 PM

DDOT got an earful from angry riders of its Circulator bus service.

(Washington D.C. - David Schultz, WAMU) The District of Columbia began operating its own local bus service in 2005. It's called the Circulator.

The idea behind the Circulator was not to supplant the regional bus service provided by Metro, the local transit authority here, but rather to supplement it. The Circulator was meant to be a way to encourage people to go from the District's bustling downtown area to nearby economic "activity centers," as the city called them.

The buses were brand new and, thanks to shorter routes and limited-stop service, they come every ten minutes. Also, Circulator fares are 25 to 50 cents cheaper than the buses run by Metro.

By all accounts, the Circulator was an instant hit. Ridership boomed, new routes were added and City Council members began clamoring for the Circulator to come to their respective wards.

So it's surprising that the District is now scaling it back. Beginning today, the Circulator route that went around the National Mall is eliminated. And D.C.'s Department of Transportation, or DDOT, is proposing more route cuts, in addition to a 50 cent fare hike, for later this year. This would equalize the Circulator's fares with Metro's.

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Marti Ann Reinfeld, a planner with DDOT, says the Circulator is a work in progress. While some of its routes have been successful - very successful - others, such as the National Mall route, haven't. She says the District plans on adding several more Circulator routes in the next few years as they get more data and refine exactly what this bus service is and could be. As for the fare hike, Reinfeld says that was planned since the Circulator's inception almost six years ago.

How are Circulator riders reacting? For that, check out this WAMU story. (Spoiler alert: they're not happy.)

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