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Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority

Transportation Nation

Following Public Pressure, Metro Will Add More Bus Service to DC's Busiest Corridor

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Commuters at 16th and U Streets NW

Commuters at 16th and U Streets NW

Additional morning rush hour service is coming to Metro’s busiest bus corridor in Washington after the Dupont Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commission took commuters’ complaints to the transit authority.

The S bus line on 16th Street NW, a historic gateway into downtown D.C., is struggling to meet ridership demand. Buses are often packed before reaching the southern stretch of the route and cannot squeeze additional passengers aboard, leaving rush hour commuters waiting in long lines at bus stops in Columbia Heights, Adams Morgan, and near Dupont Circle. Some commuters eventually give up and hop in taxis.

“I went out to the bus stops and I saw taxicabs pull up to the long lines, seeing a business opportunity and offering to take them downtown, because the buses weren’t working for our city,” says Kishan Putta, a commissioner on the Dupont Circle ANC.

Putta tried to solicit commuters’ concerns on Facebook and Twitter but drew his largest response the old fashioned way: he put up posters at bus stops asking commuters to contact him.

“We took those stories and those complaints to Metro and they agreed to meet us,” in January, Putta says. “They had to admit in public this is a big problem.”

Putta provided the following example of a typical commuter complaint about crowding on the S line.

“I actively chose to walk 45 minutes to work during every day this week rather than take the bus despite the temperatures in the teens and howling winds,” the commuter’s complaint said. “On the one day when I decided it would be better for my health and well-being to take the bus I waited at the bus stop for 20 minutes.”

“Just this week it has taken me 45-50 minutes to get from 16th & V to 14th & I, and anywhere from 4 to 6 buses have passed the stop each morning because they are too crowded to accept any more passengers,” another complaint said.

Metro has been aware of S line bus crowding for years but its efforts haven’t kept up with growing ridership. In 2009 the S9, which makes limited stops on 16th Street NW, was added during morning and evening rush hours to alleviate crowding.

“Bus ridership remains strong especially with all the new residents moving into the district,” says Metro spokesman Dan Stessel. “There are new residential units along this corridor and so we want to make sure we are providing service for the folks who want it.”

Stessel says Metro has yet to decide on a name for the new S service, but says it will begin on Monday, March 25. An additional bus will arrive at 16th Street and Harvard NW every 12 minutes from 7:30 to 9:15 weekday mornings. A total of nine additional trips will go down 16th Street, then left on I St to 14th Street. Then the buses will head back to Columbia Road NW. The extra capacity will carry between 400 and 500 commuters on a busy morning.

“This issue didn’t just crop up two months ago. We’ve been working on the S line and broader issues related to the S line for more than a year now,” Stessel says. “That said, the relationship we’ve had over the last two months with the ANC has been nothing but constructive.”

“I will take my hat off to Metro,” says Putta. “They were responsive. We worked together on coming up with possible options.”

Still no answer to 16th Street traffic

Putta concedes that while the additional morning rush hour bus service will help move commuters south on 16th Street, the district faces a bigger task in mitigating the corridor’s notorious traffic congestion.

“As with a lot of these long-term solutions, you would need to do a transition so that you would hopefully get less people driving. And of course, the physical limitations of the road are definitely an issue,” says Putta, referring to the possibility of creating a bus-only lane on 16th Street during rush hour.

Metro’s Stessel says the transit authority is working on a solution.

“It’s an ongoing dialogue that we have not only with DDOT but with all of the jurisdictions,” Stessel says. “A major milestone will be achieved about a year from now when we launch what is true BRT (bus rapid transit) in the region for the first time. That will be on the Virginia side of the river in partnership with Alexandria and Arlington.”

The Route 1 Transitway will run buses every six minutes in dedicated lanes from Braddock Road in Arlington north to Crystal City.

“We hope that will spark other jurisdictions to consider, if not true BRT, perhaps traffic signal prioritization or more bus lanes,” says Stessel. “From a public policy perspective, if you have a vehicle that has 50 people in it, that really should get priority over a car that has one person in it.”

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Transportation Nation

GAO Criticizes D.C. Metro Board For Micromanagement

Thursday, June 30, 2011

(photo by Kate Hinds)

(Washington D.C. - WAMU) The board of directors that governs Metro, the D.C. area's public transit agency, is too involved in day-to-day decisions and doesn't have proper oversight, according to a Government Accountability Office report released today.

The GAO investigated Metro's governance structure after a string of safety and reliability problems, including a rush-hour train collision two years ago that killed nine people and injured dozens more.

It found that, unlike many corporate and public sector boards, Metro's board was heavily involved in the minor details of the transit agency. Board members made decisions about "hiring and firing employees," approval of "minor personnel policy," and detailed decisions such as "station tiles, bicycle facilities and transit car seat colors."

This micromanagement, the GAO report states, is a result of inadequately defined roles and responsibilities for the board.

The GAO also found that, unlike most other big city transit agencies, Metro's Inspector General doesn't have the authority to investigate board members for allegations of wrongdoing.

In the aftermath of the 2009 crash, nearly every aspect of Metro came under intense scrutiny, and the board of directors was no exception. The National Transportation Safety Board criticized it for contributing to a deficient safety culture. And several regional leaders - including Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, and D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray - are currently in talks to make radical changes to the board's structure.

Metro's board is trying to preempt that, and it's currently in the process of changing its own bylaws. “This new board is hard at work meeting multiple parallel demands, including improving safety and system state-of-good-repair to better serve our customers,” said current chairman Catherine Hudgins. It will "continue to embrace change and advance many governance improvements that substantially strengthen our role as a regional policy and oversight organization."

To read the full GAO report, click here.

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Transportation Nation

Sorry Superman, Can't Change Here: D.C. Metro To Eliminate Phone Booths

Thursday, January 13, 2011

(Washington D.C. - David Schultz, WAMU) D.C.'s Metro announced this morning it will eliminate almost all of the 1,074 pay phones in its train stations.

The reason why shouldn't be surprising to anyone who has ever seen someone who appeared to be talking loudly to themselves but was actually using one of those tiny Bluetooth thingies in their ear: cell phones are pretty prevalent nowadays. It seems like everyone has one. Yes, everyone.

Long, long ago, you had to find a phone booth (and a quarter) to make a phone call. Now, if you have a cell phone, you just have to find something to say - and even that's not always necessary.

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