During the morning rush hour, Metrobus carries 50% of all of the people traveling on 16th Street NW towards downtown DC, despite using just 3% of the vehicles. However, it still gets stuck in traffic.

How people use 16th Street. Images by the author.

It will come as no surprise to regular riders of the Metrobus S1,2,4, or MetroExtra S9, but ridership has grown tremendously in recent years on 16th Street, from just over 16,000 riders per weekday in 2008 to about 20,500 this year. To keep pace, Metro has added lots of new service, most notably the S9 limited stop service in 2009.

In fact, Metro has added so much rush hour service on lower 16th Street that buses headed towards downtown DC now operate more frequently than any transit service in the region, including Metrorail, with buses arriving an average of nearly every 90 seconds.

Multiple S-Line buses crawl during rush hour near 16th and Irving Street NW.

And these buses move a lot of people. A recent analysis found that at the maximum load point, at rush hour into downtown DC, Metrobus services combine to carry about half all the people through the corridor with just three percent of the vehicles and using only eight square feet of available street space per person. These statistics are all the more impressive considering that buses currently have no priority over cars to improve travel times and reliability, leaving riders stuck in traffic.

By allocating roadway space on 16th Street based on the highest capacity and most efficient modes, dedicated bus lanes could allow bus speeds to increase, improving the travel times for riders. That could attract new riders, further increasing transit mode shares in heavily traveled corridors like 16th Street.

Fortunately, Metro is working with the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) to develop a new transit signal priority system for 16th Street that will help buses communicate with traffic signals and improve reliability and travel times. Metro will also work with DDOT to investigate the potential for exclusive bus lanes through the development of Metro 2025.

You can also provide your comment on exclusive transit lanes and other priorities through the District’s Move DC Plan, which will map out surface transit improvements like these as a part of a long range transportation plan for the city.

Crossposted on PlanItMetro.

Jonathan Parker works in WMATA’s Planning Office and lives car-free in Columbia Heights.  He graduated from North Carolina State University and is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners.