A Bus Named Desire – What We Heard at StreetsCamp 2015

July 9th, 2015

In part 2 of the series, StreetsCamp participants had a number of ideas to make buses better – all buses, not just Metrobus.

A Bus Named Desire - Comments from StreetscampA Bus Named Desire was the question of the day at Metro Planning staff’s StreetsCamp session last Saturday. We asked what participants thought would make a better bus – from any perspective. What are the things that transit agencies and local jurisdictions could do speed up buses, increase the level of comfort for potential riders to ride the bus, change service, etc.

Here’s what we heard, grouped by topic:


  • Bus lanes, bus lanes, bus lanes (WMATA note – there are some great corridors for these. Please also let your city/county know you think they are important. They own and operate the streets!)
  • Bus routes that offer better connections to destinations far from Metro stations
  • Take station relocation and system redesign seriously. Build partnerships with community organizations. (WMATA note – both a regional approach, as well as line by line, are underway!)
  • Consolidate stops on every line to save time and money. Buses don’t need to stop every block.
  • More frequent off-peak service
  • Add express service from Maryland suburbs


  • Empower local residents to advocate for missing connections (e.g. sidewalks, bridges, crosswalks) to bus stops and trains stations. There aren’t many champions for the most underserved places.
  • Protected bus shelters in all bus stops (WMATA note – there are 20,000 bus stops in the region, so it is a work in progress!)
  • More real time arrival boards at bus stops (WMATA note – they are coming!)
  • Pay fares with your phone on or off-board. (WMATA note – we are piloting a new payment program to pay fares with smartphones or chipped credit cards)
  • Develop proof of payment system (using smartphones or off-board fare payment)
  • More partnerships with local stores to top up SmarTrip. This might enable reductions in people using cash to pay fares (WMATA note – this also is coming with the arrival of the new payment program)

Maps and Usability

  • Better bus maps on-line – the pdfs are clunky
  • Enlarged bus route maps at every stop to give people a sense of where the bus is going, prior to boarding.
  • Develop and publish a map of frequent (only) bus routes so that riders know what/where they are
  • Coordinated Nextbus and Google maps would be helpful in making last minute bus trips and bus planning
  • Add better stop signage near Metro stations so that people know what their options are
  • Better maps!

 Bus Fleet


What do you think? What gets your vote?


Related Posts:

  1. The Prophet
    July 9th, 2015 at 16:56 | #1

    Make bus routes that are bus “lines”, not a spaghetti soup of twisting route and meaningless names. “S2” what does that even mean? I never ride the bus primarily because I want to go from A to B in a straight line without zig zagging all over the city. I realize some routes like this are necessary, but dedicated buses lines going up and down CT Ave from CC circle to Farragut Sq. ONLY “The Connecticut Line”, Wisconsin Ave from FH Metro to Georgetown Only “The Wisconsin Line”, and Mass Ave from Ward Circle across the city ” The Massachusetts Line”, to name but a few. Few stops, no turns, names that mean something. Get me where I want to go, with few stops and with names that tell me something.

  2. Michael
    July 9th, 2015 at 17:37 | #2

    @The Prophet
    Thanks for the comment. Have you seen the work we’ve published on our Metrobus 2.0 study?


  3. Alexandrian
    July 10th, 2015 at 10:19 | #3

    Please consider an express version of the 10B between Old Town and Ballston. The current 10B winds interminably through various neighborhoods with far too many stops and is always, in my experience, 20-30 minutes behind schedule. It takes well over an hour to go from Braddock Road to Ballston by bus; I can drive in 20 minutes.

    Aside from Metro – which takes 9 stops, requires a change, and costs $3.65/$2.85 – there is no public transit between Old Town and central Arlington except the unsatisfactory 10B. If WMATA is unable to address this, perhaps ART and DASH could join forces somehow.

  4. 7r3y3r
    July 10th, 2015 at 11:42 | #4

    @The Prophet Bit of trivia – the bus naming convention is a relic of the streetcar lines: the numbered lines were originally streetcar lines, the lettered lines have always been bus lines (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Metrobus_routes_(Washington,_D.C.))

  5. Bargain
    July 10th, 2015 at 12:58 | #5

    Improve nextbus. Many buses do not appear on nextbus until after they start their route. So, if you live at the beginning of the route, you have to go by the schedule. But, WMATA’s stance is “We don’t have to run buses according to the schedule because NextBus will tell you when it’s coming.”

    Also, how is it that the arrival time estimate hasn’t been improved? WMATA now has years of data for how long it actually takes to go between bus stops. Even without years of data, if it takes one bus 5 minutes to go 2 blocks even though the estimate is 1 minute, maybe use that information for the bus that comes 10 minutes later and say the bus is 5 minutes away instead of 1 minute away for 5 minutes.

  6. Autumn B
    July 10th, 2015 at 13:19 | #6

    I ride the bus every day:

    Express bus routes along the larger roadways (EX: Connecticut, Mass Ave, Wisconsin, etc.) that are just straight shooting down the road – even with limited stops.

    Reduce number of stops – yes! On the L2 route, there are bus stops almost on every corner. I get the convenience, but so many stops – you can remove at least 1/3 of those stops and decrease the route time seriously!!

    Nextbus/Real Time arrivals – Nextbus is rarely accurate and the “Real Time Arrivals” signs are terrible. London does this great – why does WMATA seem to always pick antiquated and ridiculous technology for their systems.

    Don’t let people add money to their cards when boarding the bus – it can cause a huge delay at the stop, particularly when there is a line of people trying to get on the bus. No one understands how to do it and the driver always needs to give instructions. So either the bus gets delayed or the driver has to explain while trying to safely operate the bus. Either eliminate or steam line the process.

    Plexiglass or door for driver safety.

    Board front, exit back ONLY – YES! Again, this is how it is done in London and it is so much more efficient. People getting off at the front, prevent people from getting on in a timely fashion – make the routes more efficient!

  7. Gull
    July 10th, 2015 at 13:21 | #7

    As someone who rides the bus on occasion voluntarily rather than out of need, I can tell you the biggest impediment is the number of stops the bus has to make in succession often just for one person. There’s no reason to have a bus stop 300 feet from the metro bus bay I just departed from, nor except for ADA reasons is there any reason to have a stop every 200 feet along a route. So frequently the buses I ride have one person getting on or off at each stop and it quickly adds time and starts to make me motion sick. There should be some system that would let those who truly need a specific stop closer to their destination be able to call for one but otherwise space the stops out to maybe quarter mile intervals in all but the most urban of areas.

    I suppose the other alternative is to get more lines with the limited stop service. I’ve seen WMATA say they know it would be popular on the Q, Y and C lines, as it’s already popular on the J and K lines. Lets get that priority funded!

  8. Alexandrian
    July 10th, 2015 at 14:15 | #8

    I strongly agree with your and other comments that there are far too many stops.

  9. July 14th, 2015 at 11:36 | #9

    Two comments on Skyline (I ride the 28A): There too many stops on Seminary Road (eastbound, I think there are four between Gorham Street and South George Mason Drive, some within shouting distance of one another). Also, Skyline could use a central bus station. There are so many bus lines going in different directions and serving different stops! I’ve been working in Skyline for more than two years and still can’t ride anything except the 28A without looking up a timetable to see when a bus runs and which streets it travels.

  10. Larissa
    July 14th, 2015 at 22:23 | #10

    Straighten the routes and condense the stops. This will go a long way towards improving the service on every single line for $0.

  11. Vinnie
    July 16th, 2015 at 11:33 | #11

    Your list is quite comprehensive and good, I don’t have any suggestions that aren’t on there already.

    I would, however, suggest the following combinations of improvements that have synergy with each other and will help sell some Metrobus lines as a higher LOS than typical bus:

    So, for at least 1 entire []9 line (MetroExtra, I think the name is?), do the following:

    1) Install SmarTrip readers at every stop and note to riders that they should touch before getting on (note these lines have limited stops, so its feasible)
    2) Train drivers to always open the rear door at every stop
    3) Allow all-door egress and all-door boarding for non-cash customers at all stops
    4) Switch from timetable-based to headway-based scheduling, at least during AM & PM peak
    5) Once you have a few months operating data, increase service based on shorter line hauls with neutral cost impact (quicker line hauls = more hauls per given revenue hour)

    Implement all of the above at once and riders will notice how much service improves. They’ll like it and want more of it.

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