As part of its proposed service changes, WMATA may end the 96 Metrobus at Woodley Park, instead of its current terminus at Tenleytown. While this may make the line more reliable, it could also inconvenience riders and make the bus system less coherent.
Today, the 96 runs between Capitol Heights and Tenleytown. Planners say that ending it at the east end of the Duke Ellington Bridge, two blocks east of the Woodley Park Metro station, will make the line less susceptible to traffic delays, increasing its reliability. A new bus, the 98, would replace the missing segment, traveling between Tenleytown and U Street, while the 97 between Capitol Heights and Union Station would stay the same.
The 90-series buses have used the old streetcar turnaround at the eastern end of the Duke Ellington Bridge for years. In general, it works well as a piece of transit infrastructure. It has a layover facility for drivers and space for buses to pull out of the roadway.
Cutting the 96 at Woodley Park exacerbates the disconnection between Cathedral Heights, Woodley Park, and Adams Morgan. Many riders who may want to transfer between the bus and the Red Line, or who just want to go to Woodley Park or Upper Northwest will be stranded on the wrong side of the bridge.
The only routes that complete the connection between the Ellington Bridge and the Woodley Park Metro station are the 96, the Woodley Park-Adams Morgan-McPherson Square Circulator, and the Metrobus X3. However, the Circulator doesn’t go to Upper Northwest, and the X3 only runs during rush hour.
The transit system as it currently exists. The 96 would cut short where the high-frequency 90/92 line does today.
If WMATA wants to shorten the 96, it would make more sense to end it at the Woodley Park Metro station, or at Wisconsin Avenue, home to the National Cathedral and the 30-series buses. A timed transfer at the turnaround between the 96 and 98 would work in theory, but it would be difficult for WMATA to make it reliable. After all, the traffic problems that cause 96 to have delays now would still hit the new routes.
Cutting the 96 at the streetcar turnaround will make neighborhoods east and west of Rock Creek Park even more disconnected than they are today. While the turnaround has served its purpose for decades, WMATA should examine ways to bring the 96, as well as the other 90-series routes, across the bridge to Woodley Park.