Every day 33 bus routes converge on H and I Streets in downtown DC, making it the busiest bus corridor in the DC region. According to a WMATA report, a contraflow bus lane on H Street would dramatically improve travel times for both transit riders and car drivers.

Potential H Street contraflow bus lane. Image from WMATA.

At peak times, one bus per minute travels along H or I. At off-peak, it’s a bus every two minutes. Today, all those buses mix with car traffic on both H and I Streets, which slows them down. Meanwhile, all those buses make several stops to pick up and unload passengers, which slows down car traffic trying to use the same lane.

Moving all the buses to H Street, which is less congested, and giving buses in the westbound direction a separated lane, would speed up both modes.

Since H Street is one-way going east, westbound buses would need a contraflow lane. There are no contraflow bus lanes in the DC region today, but they do work well in other cities around the US.

Contraflow bus lane in Pittsburgh. Picture from BeyondDC.

In its report, WMATA also studied bus lanes on both H and I Streets, as well as a traffic management alternative that wouldn’t provide bus lanes, but would optimize traffic signals for buses. All the alternatives improved bus travel, and all of them either improved or maintained current car travel. But the H Street contraflow alternate provided the best combination of benefits, for relatively low cost.

Ultimately DC owns these streets, so the decision to actually implement bus lanes on them rests with the District, not WMATA. But Metro’s report could push DDOT to begin its own study process.

Seems like a good idea.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

Dan Malouff is a transportation planner for Arlington and an adjunct professor at George Washington University. He has a degree in urban planning from the University of Colorado and lives in Trinidad, DC. He runs BeyondDC and contributes to the Washington Post. Dan blogs to express personal views, and does not take part in GGWash's political endorsement decisions.