SafeTrack’s Surge 2 Bus Shuttle Proves Bus Rapid Transit Can Work Here

June 28th, 2016

The shuttle buses at Eastern Market during Surge 2 are arriving every two minutes at rush hour, and are moving nearly the same number of people as 3 lanes of Pennsylvania Avenue SE.  This shows how much we can achieve by giving buses priority – lanes, signal priority, and more – on busy streets. 


Commuters transferring from shuttle buses Eastern Market station (photo by author)

For the last week, Metrobus has been operating bus shuttles between Eastern Market and Minnesota Avenue and Benning Road, to provide alternatives around SafeTrack Surge 2 while we rebuild tracks and infrastructure on that segment of Metrorail.  While still moving less than half the the riders as what Metrorail normally moves, the shuttles are moving an impressive number of people:

  • In the morning rush hours, buses are arriving at Eastern Market every 2 minutes on average
  • Shuttle buses are delivering 1,800 people per hour to Eastern Market between 8:00 and 9:00am.  This is about the same as the number of vehicles that 3 lanes of Pennsylvania Ave. SE typically moves (1,500-2,000 vehicles per hour per direction, according to TPB Regional Transportation Data Clearinghouse).
  • Around 16,000-17,000 people per day are riding the shuttles, or about two-thirds of the number of vehicles driven through the corridor in a day (25,000 average annual daily traffic)
  • Traffic Control Officers from DDOT are critical to this operation, ensuring that everyone moves safely and efficiently

This shuttle operation can teach us some important lessons about what buses can do in this region. While this temporary operation has relied on several features that we cannot likely sustain forever, including significant staff support on the scene and free fares, we could achieve gains similar to this permanently with smart investments.  Giving buses their own lanes, adding fare machines at bus stops to allow riders to pay before they board, giving buses priority at traffic signals – all of these can help buses run faster and more reliably.

And this isn’t some temporary blip. Many Metrobus lines already out-perform Surge 2’s shuttles each and every day, making them obvious candidates for investments that we’ve proposed.  Along H and I Streets NW, and on 16th Street NW, buses arrive nearly every minute on average – twice as frequently the shuttle operation for Surge 2. In fact, we used to have over 60 miles of bus lanes!

(video by author)

What routes or corridors do you think are ripe for transit priority treatments?  What has been your experience using the bus bridges during SafeTrack Surge 2?

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