[box][featured]During the morning rush hour, half of commuters on 16th Street NW ride Metrobus. But because the corridor is so congested with cars, buses get stuck in traffic — making them less reliable, more crowded, and a bigger headache than they should be. [/featured]
A dedicated bus lane operating during rush hour in the peak direction would keep buses from getting stuck in traffic. Buses in dedicated lanes would avoid traffic delays, move at increased speeds, and arrive on time. This means more reliable, regular service, and less overcrowding for riders.
That next step is a ‘Transit Priority Study’, which will examine various ways to improve transit service along 16th Street – including implementing dedicated bus lanes. The study is taking place through much of 2015. While we wish DDOT had started this process earlier, we are pleased to see it moving forward. It’s a necessary step before a solution like dedicated rush hour bus lanes can be implemented – so now is the time to start the process without any more delay. [line]
In December 2015, DC officials unveiled their draft preferred solution (from three they released in late September) for better bus service on 16th Street. The centerpiece is dedicated, rush hour bus lanes all the way from Arkansas Ave NW to H Street downtown. September’s alternatives were:
- Alternative A: Would add off-board fare collection and bus-only queue jumping lanes at busy intersections like 16th and U NW
- Alternative B: Would create all day dedicated bus lanes in both directions between Arkansas Ave and H Street NW from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
- Alternative C: Would create a dedicated rush hour bus lane in the peak direction from 7 to 10 a.m. (southbound) and 4:00 to 7:30 p.m. (northbound)
After completing the modeling, DDOT announced this week that they believe one hybrid alternative – one that includes dedicated rush hour bus lanes in the peak direction – is the best way to move forward. This “preferred alternative” is a hybrid of all three original alternatives, and includes off-board fare payment, all-door boarding, bus stop consolidation and a handful of other features. You can see more details from DDOT’s announcement.[line]
DDOT will run their hybrid “preferred alternative” through the computer model. This will help determine how much time each rider is predicted to save as well as the effect – anticipated to be very low – on car traffic.
After the modeling is completed, DDOT will share the results at a public meeting on January 21, 3:30 – 8:00 pm at the Washington DC Jewish Community Center, 1529 16th Street NW.
Don’t worry, you won’t have to attend a five-hour meeting! You’ll be able to stop by anytime. The presentation will be repeated twice, at 4:00 and 7:00.
After gathering public input, the next step would be implementation. That means the next few months will be critical to demonstrating public support and ensuring DC implements the dedicated lane rush hour service, and other improvements.
Your continued involvement is essential. Our major DC focus in January will be keeping you informed of progress, next steps, and what is needed to turn this great idea into a reality. [line]
- Check out the presentation from our Better DC Buses forum
- Read the draft proposals
How would the lane work?
The lane would run from Arkansas Avenue south to downtown for 2.7 miles. From Arkansas Avenue to U Street, during rush hour, there’s no parking in either direction during rush hour now, this doesn’t take any parking away. South of U Street, the street could be restriped from the current 4 lanes to 5 lanes to allow 1 bus lane, 2 lanes of mixed traffic, and keep the non-peak side the same – with one lane for traffic, and one lane for parking.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Is this ever really going to happen?
A: With your help, yes! A dedicated rush hour bus lane is already identified as the best next step for 16th Street by a DDOT study. It’s also part of the long term vision in the city’s MoveDC transportation plan.
Q: How long would the bus lane be? Will it fit along the whole corridor?
A: The proposed bus lane would run from Arkansas Avenue south to downtown (H Street NW) for 2.7 miles. The road width can accommodate 3 peak-direction travel lanes and 2 non-peak direction lanes along the entirety of this stretch.
Q: Will bicycles be allowed? How about taxis? Can cars turn right?
A: Yes for bikes; probably no for taxis; and yes for right turning vehicles. For taxis, a more detailed study will determine if they would interfere with the purpose of the transit lane to reduce delay for buses.
Q: What else is being done or could be done to make bus service work better on 16th Street?
A: The big improvement started when Metro added the limited-stop S9 bus in 2009. With this service, ridership soared by 25%. Recently, more buses were added for the lower and most crowded segment of the route. Metro is also beefing up supervisors along the route who help smooth out service. Within 2 years, DC will implement transit signal priority, which keeps buses from getting stuck at intersections by red lights. Off-board fare collection, starting and enforcing rush hour parking restrictions sooner, and running more articulated (extra long) buses would also reduce delay and increase capacity.
Q: Will it take lanes away from cars? Will it take away parking?
A: From Arkansas Avenue to U Street, during rush hour, the curb lane would be repurposed as a dedicated bus lane, while keeping the other 2 lanes for mixed traffic in the peak direction. Since there’s no parking in either direction during rush hour now, this doesn’t take any parking away. South of U Street, the street could be restriped from the current 4 lanes to 5 lanes to allow 1 bus lane, 2 lanes of mixed traffic, and keep the non-peak side the same – with one lane for traffic, and one lane for parking (see picture).
Q: How will it impact traffic congestion for cars and trucks?
A: Motorists will experience slightly more traffic congestion at some intersections, but overall capacity for people using the corridor will increase and will serve unmet demand. Cars and trucks will still move through 16th Street corridor within acceptable congestion levels, based on DDOT and industry standards for levels of traffic delay.
Q: How will the transit lanes be enforced?
A: First, a bus-only lane is distinguished by running enough buses on it. The current number of 16th Street rush hour buses is 27-37 buses per hour, which is considered to be sufficient to claim the lane from mixed traffic. Signage and pavement markings will tell all users that the bus lane is for buses only (bikes will be okay). Second, traffic control officers (TCOs) and police patrol-based enforcement are generally used for enforcement which results in a moving violation for the offender. Automated photo enforcement is used in London, New York and Sydney. New York, Paris, and San Francisco are piloting on-board bus cameras. The current fine for parking in a bus lane or zone in DC is $100. However, DC does not have a law against driving in bus-only lanes. This would need to be changed to ensure enforcement of bus lanes. [clear][/box]