DC’s H and I Streets NW Bus Lane Study

Metrobuses in congested traffic on Eye Street NW during the PM Peak

The Washington, D.C. region continuously ranks as one of the most congested metropolitan areas in the nation.  Metrobus plays an important role in connecting residents to activity centers and alleviating traffic on arterials.  However since Metrobus vehicles operate within mixed traffic, Metrobus service experiences delays and reduced travel speed on a daily basis.

To improve the effectiveness and reliability of bus service, WMATA and DDOT recently initiated an operational analysis to explore bus-only lanes along  H and I Streets NW, one of the busiest bus corridors in downtown Washington, DC.  The study team recently completed the existing corridor conditions assessment and applied VisSim, a multi-modal traffic simulation tool, to identify and quantify the congestion impacts on buses as well as other roadway users, including pedestrians, bicyclists and private vehicles.

The assessment concluded that

  • Bus service is abundant in the H and I Street corridor, as shown by the rectangular boxes in the VisSim video.   There are 51 buses operating in the AM Peak hour and 49 buses in the PM peak hour, including Metrobus, DC Circulator, OmniRide, and Loudoun County Transit.   The combined bus service carries approximately 40% of person throughput on I Street in the PM Peak, but only accounts for 2% of vehicle traffic.  Despite such productive service, buses travel at a speed that is 50 percent slower than regular traffic even after excluding the dwell time at bus stops for passenger boarding and alighting.

    Existing bus transit services along the H, I and K Streets downtown corridor

  • This corridor also carries heavy pedestrian and bicycle traffic.  As many as 2,000 pedestrians per hour are observed crossing H and I  Streets at 17th Street NW.  Bicyclists are active on H Street NW, with as many as 212 bikes per hour were observed H Street at Jackson Place.  The 15th Street cycle track, which intersects H Street at Vermont Street and Madison Place,  is heavily used by bicyclists.
  • I Street (westbound) currently experiences severe congestion between 15th and 17th Streets NW.   This congestion is primarily due to the lack of capacity to make a left and right turn from the corridor with conflicting pedestrian movements, resulting in extended bus delay.  Delays are more pronounced if north-south traffic blocks the H Street through traffic during certain signal cycles.

Please click the simulation video here to see the PM peak hour conditions on H and I Streets.

Upon the completion of existing operating conditions assessment, the study team will explore bus-lane options, including concurrent flow and contra-flow bus lanes, and assess the bus lane impact on all other travelers in the corridor.  Once options for improving bus travel time have been developed, the study team will begin outreach with stakeholders and the community to gather feedback on the alternatives.

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  1. Ginger
    August 7th, 2012 at 12:20 | #1

    The article says the video shows PM peak conditions, but the title of the video says it’s showing AM conditions. Also, the video would be more useful if it had the time shown somewhere.

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  2. Michael
    August 13th, 2012 at 12:21 | #2

    @Ginger

    Sorry about the confusion, Ginger. We had a problem with the original video pasted into the post and in fixing it we accidentially put in the AM Peak video instead of the PM Peak. This problem has been fixed. You’ll also note that the new video has annotations, spotlighting the traffic conditions of greatest interest.

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  3. Dave
    August 17th, 2012 at 13:42 | #3

    Once in a while, I make a mistake driving on I Street (on weekends) — I do get into “traffic jam” between 15th and 17th Street — sometime I blame bus drivers not pulling into the bus stop and sometime I blame the traffic light system is not running properly. Personally, i think it’s more of a traffic light system — it’s impossible to get DDOT to resolve this — they do not have any qualified staff or engineer people or know understand the traffic system.

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  4. Tony
    September 17th, 2012 at 11:24 | #4

    This is a great idea that is long overdue. After living in places like Pittsburgh and London that have dedicated bus lanes to both encourage mass bus transit and reduce delays, I always wondered why DC’s bus system lacked such lanes. Indeed, the few times I’ve taken the bus around DC it’s been a terrible affair since it usually gets locked up in traffic. I now take metrorail more and bike/walk where the rail doesn’t go to avoind the traffic that buses must contend with around DC. DC desparately needs to build dedicated bus and bike lanes, so as to encourage other transportation modes than the automobile.

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