Metro Considers H/I Bus Lanes to Ameliorate Streetcar Construction

November 23rd, 2015

Construction of the K Street Transitway and Union Station to Georgetown Streetcar might result in some growing pains, but Metro & DDOT already have a remedy.

The H/I/K Streets NW Corridor is a heavily congested corridor with traffic frequently backed up and traffic jammed at rush hour. Fortunately, DDOT has approved the K Street Transitway, an exclusive two-way, two-lane median east-west transitway between 20th and 9th Streets NW, to improve the transit and traffic conditions in this corridor. The transitway would also be utilized by a future Union Station to Georgetown streetcar.

Construction of the transitway will likely take a lane or two away from an already congested corridor and Metro would need to reroute our buses to ensure safety and performance.

Current K Street bus service would likely need to detour via H and I Streets NW, but H and I Streets are at capacity!

At rush hour, cars, bikes and pedestrians all fight for limited street space along H and I streets NW.  It is common to see bottlenecks, strings of red brake lights, packed crosswalks and cars moving at a sluggish 10.8 MPH through the corridor during the PM Peak.   These delays impact our bus service along the corridor.  How much service do we have there?  A lot. 

In addition to heavy auto, bike and ped traffic, the corridor is served by 29 Metrobus routes, including 6 Priority Corridor Network (PCN) routes.  From all of this, the H and I Streets facilitate over 62,300 bus passenger trips per day. When the daily average passenger trips of the entire Metrobus system is approximately 438,000, those numbers suggest that 1 in 5 passengers have seen the congestion firsthand.

Buses per hour per roadway segment, from the 2012 final technical report on the H & I Street Bus Lanes

Buses per hour per roadway segment, from the 2012 final technical report on the H & I Street Bus Lanes

And it takes a lot of buses to move all those people.  Sections of H/I Streets are currently traversed by over 50 buses per hour during the peak periods, and more than 25 during the mid-day.   So how can we divert additional buses from K Street during construction without further clogging H and I Streets?

To make this work, we need transit priority.

WMATA and DDOT have already done the research. The 2013 H & I Streets Bus Improvements study presented us with four options for improvements, from traffic management to contraflow bus lanes on H and I Streets.  The technical report was released in September of 2013, and the PlanItMetro blog post included some cool video simulations of how these alternatives might work.

The level of person delay, bus reliability, and cost-efficiency varies between the alternatives, but adding any of the dedicated bus infrastructure alternatives to this one-mile stretch could lead to a reduction in bus travel time by 30-70% with limited impacts to auto traffic.  Most of the alternatives have benefits that outweigh costs by 2000%.

All alternatives result in lower travel time and reduced travel time variation.

All alternatives result in lower travel time and reduced travel time variation for buses.

Enact solutions now to ameliorate future construction woes on K St.

The H and I Streets Bus Improvements options would support the proposed K St Transitway and future Union Station to Georgetown Premium Transit. While DDOT considers, studies, and builds the future corridor, we can work together to improve the system right now. Dedicated bus infrastructure would maintain east-west connections and provide a low-stress alternative to stand still traffic conditions. With current average vehicle speeds as low as 3.6 mph which will only worsen with construction, investing in H and I Streets is a no-brainer.

The success of the H and I Streets bus improvements would be an example how two projects can mutually benefit each other. Metro can mitigate the congestion problems that will inevitably exist between now and when the transitway is in effect. DDOT gains comfort knowing that future construction won’t choke the corridor. And the riders? They get a more consistent, reliable commute.

It’s a win-win-win.

How would diverting buses from K Street to H/I Streets change your commute?  Do you think this is a good idea?

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  1. Brett Young
    November 24th, 2015 at 09:25 | #1

    Yes the service lanes on K need to go.
    So what is the bicycle plan in this area? Will there be a bike lane on K street? I street needs one also.

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  2. Republic
    November 24th, 2015 at 10:59 | #2

    Why don’t they run buses down the transitway? They could divert buses from H/I onto K.

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  3. Susan
    November 24th, 2015 at 16:00 | #3

    If they eliminated parking – and double-parking – on H and I Streets, especially during rush hour, it would speed things up a lot. Tow anything parked along those streets – even FedEx and UPS trucks. In this case, predatory towing might be a good thing.

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  4. Howard Marks
    November 25th, 2015 at 09:04 | #4

    I Street cannot used east of 11th Street, NW, because it is blocked at 11th Street by the Northwest Park built by the developers of CityCenterDC. From 4th to 10th, it is a two-lane street relatively lightly traveled with a triangular park creating a hopscotch pattern between 5th and 6th.

    Could someone please explain what is meant by the I Street corridor?

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  5. Jessica
    November 25th, 2015 at 12:31 | #5

    @Howard Marks
    The study corridor runs between 11th and 21st Sts NW. See Page 2 (PDF page 26) of the full report for a map: http://www.wmata.com/pdfs/planning/H_I%20Final%20Technical%20Report%20FINAL%20100913.pdf

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  6. Mike
    November 29th, 2015 at 02:30 | #6

    Why not spread buses out along H Street, I Street , K Street, L Street , M Street and N Streets instead of having all buses travel along H/I & K Streets.

    Why are there no buses that travel east/west between K Street & P Street

    For people that are traveling to or from places along M, N, O it can be a long walk if you are not coming from a street near buses such-as Connecticut Ave with the 42, 16th Street with the S buses, 14th Street with the 50’s, 11th Street with 60 routes or 9th Street with the G8/79 soutbound or & 7th Street for the 70/79

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