CSG Letter on Better Bus Visionary Network Redesign

June 16, 2023

Better Bus Network Redesign Team
Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority
300 7th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20024

Dear Better Bus Redesign Team:  

I am writing on behalf of the Coalition for Smarter Growth to share our high level comments on the Better Bus Draft Visionary Network. The Visionary Network presents a compelling vision for making regional bus service fast, frequent, reliable, equitable, and convenient. Achieving this vision requires a renewed commitment from our regional leaders to take action on our climate, housing, and equity goals by prioritizing increased investment in transit.

Transportation is the number one source of dangerous greenhouse gas emissions. If our region is going to achieve its climate goals, it is essential that we invest in public transit and tie it to walkable, bike-friendly, transit-oriented neighborhoods as a convenient, accessible alternative to trips in private vehicles. Bus service is an essential and uniquely powerful tool for increasing affordable access to jobs and opportunity.

Among the many changes proposed in the draft Visionary Network, CSG would like to highlight and commend the recommendation of higher frequency bus service and increased use of dedicated bus lanes. In addition to higher frequency bus service, the Visionary Network would expand weekend, overnight, and off-peak service. Weekend and overnight service will support the large segment of our workforce and our economy in the service, manufacturing, warehouse, and other sectors, including WMATA’s own overnight employees, and reduce the need to own a car.

Dedicated bus lanes are critical to enabling buses to be faster, more frequent, and more reliable, increasing ridership and decreasing operating costs per rider per mile. Local and state governments and their transportation departments must commit to providing dedicated bus lanes, and doing so cost effectively by converting general purpose vehicle lanes rather than through costly arterial road widening.

We also want to recognize that the Visionary Network is based on months of extensive community feedback from riders and non-riders—meaning that its suggestions are directly connected to the needs of our region’s residents. CSG was among the many groups that participated in outreach for the Visionary Network by emailing our 23,000 person email list, using social media, encouraging action by our partner groups, and hosting a webinar with over 50 attendees and a local Better Bus feedback event in Montgomery County.

It is important to incorporate community feedback and consider equity impacts as changes are proposed to the bus network, and we encourage WMATA to continue to be responsive to this as the draft network is amended to create a final Visionary Network and ultimate service recommendations. Specifically, we also recommend convening a panel of transit advocates and frequent riders to participate in the evaluation of the Visionary Network and the recommended changes you received.

Throughout this process, we heard great excitement from CSG supporters and partners on the potential for increased frequency and connectivity under the Visionary Network—truly embodying the words of transportation consultant Jarrett Walker that “frequency is freedom.” or to paraphrase fictional football (soccer) star Danny Rojas on Ted Lasso, “frequency is life!”  To meet our climate goals and enhance equity and economic opportunity across our region, we need to invest in world-class bus service that gets people where they want to go, and that people want to ride. The Visionary Network provides that vision.

You estimate the Visionary Network will require a 35% increase in operating support, but the net personal and regional economic benefits are likely substantial – improving access to jobs and opportunity, reducing employee turnover, saving families money to invest in shelter, food and education, and helping companies attract and sustain a dependable workforce.

We strongly support and call on the region’s leaders to not only meet the 35% increase in operating support and to do so on top of meeting the current projected operating shortfalls. To do so, the region’s leaders need to recognize that we must shift funding from ineffective highway and arterial road expansion to bus and rail transit, and the maintenance and operating needs of our existing transportation network.

CSG looks forward to participating in the review of the final Visionary Network resulting from this round of feedback, and calls on regional leaders to support these bus service improvements and to provide the funding necessary to make it happen by the start of FY26. Thank you.


Stewart Schwartz
Executive Director