The G9, a new bus line that would run along Rhode Island Avenue from Mount Rainier into downtown, could become a reality if the DC Council decides to fund it this week. The G9 would give residents in the corridor a much-needed way to get downtown by transit, which their neighborhoods were built around in the first place.

Right now, only the infrequent G8 (the line in red) runs along Rhode Island Avenue between the Metro stop and downtown. Images from WMATA.

Right now, the neighborhoods surrounding the nearly four miles of Rhode Island Avenue that run from Bloomingdale to Mount Rainier, Maryland are connected by only a single, weaving local bus route, the G8, which is characterized by less frequent service (especially off-peak) and an indirect route at its eastern end.

Still, the G8 is usually packed to capacity during rush hour because it’s literally the only bus line to downtown from most of these neighborhoods (except Bloomingdale, which also has the notoriously late 80 bus). That’s because all inbound bus routes on Rhode Island Avenue from the Maryland border terminate at the Rhode Island Avenue Metrorail station.

This service map means residents of the Rhode Island corridor going almost anywhere have to make multiple transfers or use “minor” bus routes, except for the lucky souls in Eckington and Brentwood who work on the Red Line.

After studying this corridor in 2014, WMATA proposed the G9, a limited-stop MetroExtra route, as a solution. While the G9 would only run during rush hours initially, it would be faster than the G8 because of limited stops and would supplement supply to relieve crowding. Ultimately, the G9 could be transitioned from being Metro Extra to being a full seven-day service.

Most vital for residents living east of Brentwood, the line would provide the first direct transit connection to points west and downtown in years, restoring a historic connection and energizing the blossoming Rhode Island Avenue Main Street.

The proposed G9 route.

However, non-regional routes are paid for by the corresponding jurisdiction, which means the G9 must come out of DC’s budget. Now, the DC Council’s Committee on Finance and Revenue is considering the G9 in the FY 2017 budget. The comment period is open until the end of this week.

Neighborhoods along Rhode Island were built for transit like the G9

The original L’Enfant Plan for DC stopped at Florida Avenue.

In the late 18 and early 1900s, many neighborhoods north of Florida Avenue, like Eckington, developed as streetcar suburbs. Just before the turn of the century, a streetcar line from Eckington to what’s now Mount Rainier opened, giving way to transit-oriented development along the Rhode Island Avenue corridor.

By the 1950s, myriad streetcar lines had consolidated into DC Transit, and the 82 line ran from 5th and G Streets NW (near the modern-day Verizon Center), out Rhode Island Avenue NE, all the way past College Park.

With the collapse of the streetcar system, communities along Rhode Island lost the transit that linked them, and that made them viable in the first place.

But the riders are still there

When you build places to be transit-oriented, residents will demand transit. Even with its pitfalls, the G8 is typically packed to capacity during rush hour.

In fact, G8 demand along the Rhode Island corridor has grown at nearly double the rate of overall Metrobus ridership. The weekday average ridership on the G8 in 2011 was 3,571, but by May 2014, it was 4,221 — an increase of 18.2%. Overall Metrobus ridership during the same span rose 10.0% (while demand on the “major” 80 bus declined 4.3%).

The G9 would help people get to western downtown, specifically.

For Rhode Island Avenue residents who work in western parts of downtown, the G9 would create shorter, faster connections between work and home.

Currently, Metrobus options for residents who work west of 17th Street NW and north of K Street NW (i.e. West End, Golden Triangle, Dupont Circle) are limited to the infrequent G2 crosstown bus that starts in LeDroit Park, the slow and meandering 80, or taking the G8 to the end of its route at Farragut Square.

Since the G9 would connect to Rhode Island Avenue as far west as 13th and 14th Streets NW — whereas the G8 connects at 11th and 9th — office jockeys who work in the northwest portion of downtown could get off or board several blocks further west while spending less time on the bus.

You can help make the G9 happen

The G9 would make it a whole lot easier for residents along Rhode Island Avenue to travel between neighborhoods and to downtown. It’d make a big positive difference for people in Ward 5 and Mount Rainier, but also in Wards 1 and 2 as well.

If you think the G9 running on Rhode Island Avenue is a good idea, tell the DC Council your story this week. You can submit written testimony or just write an email to the members of the Committee on Finance and Revenue, who include Ward 2’s Jack Evans (the chairman) and Ward 5’s Kenyan McDuffie, and their respective staffs, until this Friday, May 13.

You may also want to email the mayor’s office (eom@dc.gov) and spread the word on social media.

Update: It turns out the Committee on Transportation and the Environment recently had oversight on funding WMATA local transit, and did not include funding for the G9 bus route in its budget recommendations. Transportation Committee member Jack Evans (who is, incidentally, chairman of the aforementioned finance committee) expressed support for the G9 during the hearing.

There’s still an opportunity to fund the G9. The Chairman of the DC Council, Phil Mendelson, has authority to modify the budget. Should you want to advocate for this, email Chairman Mendelson and his staff, and cc: your councilmember (especially if you’re in Ward 5 or Ward 2) and the mayor’s office, to ask that funding for the G9 be included in the budget.

Tracy Hadden Loh loves cities, infrastructure, and long walks on the beach looking for shark teeth. She holds a Ph.D. in city and regional planning from UNC-Chapel Hill. By day, she is a data scientist at the Center for Real Estate and Urban Analysis at George Washington University. By night, she is an activist, a law enforcement spouse, and the mother of a toddler. She served two years representing Ward 1 on the Mount Rainier City Council in Prince George's County, MD.

Andrew Dupuy advocates for public funding of active transportation in states across the country. In a previous life, he was a press secretary and direct mail consultant on numerous electoral campaigns and a policy analyst for several Texas state legislators.