14th Street's 54 bus is great, but we could get even better service for the corridor.  Image by BeyondDC licensed under Creative Commons.

The buses that run up and down 14th Street NW (the 52, 53, 54) are among the most popular in DC. 14th Street has grown tremendously in population and in number of businesses, but faster bus service hasn’t followed even though there’s a great idea on the table. With your help, that can change!

Sign the Petition!

What’s the problem? What’s the best solution?

There are two major problems with 14th Street bus service: there isn’t enough service and the existing service is slow.

Riders sometimes has to wait 20 minutes or more for a bus during rush hour and much longer during other non-peak time. That shouldn’t happen in a major city anywhere, and especially not in a key artery with tens of thousands of residents and nearly 14,000 businesses.

When the buses do arrive, they tend to take a long time to get where they’re going. The 52, 53, and 54 buses stop a lot— nearly every block for stretches. Combined with congestion, signal timing, and stop location, this makes them much slower than they could be.

A few years ago, WMATA and DDOT studied these issues and recommended a new bus line, the MetroExtra 59, to help solve the problems. The line would provide limited-stop service (which non-transit planners call an express buses).

These are where the MetroExtra59 would  stop Image by Peter Dovak used with permission.

The 59 would begin as a rush-hour service and if successful would run more often. The 59 bus won’t solve all the problems but, as we have learned with other similar routes (the G9, S9, and 79, for instance), adding this kind of service makes a big positive impact. It would get people where they are going faster and would reduce wait times for everyone.

If it’s such a good idea, why hasn’t this happened yet?

The biggest roadblock to 59 bus service is funding: In the five years since the plan was proposed, it hasn’t ever had champions who fought successfully to get it included in the budget.

The good news is that there is no opposition. In fact, many DC Councilmembers have already come out supporting the route, including Councilmembers Brianne Nadeau, Brandon Todd, Robert White, David Grosso, Elissa Silverman, and Charles Allen. Mayor Muriel Bowser has said she’s open to the idea. Also, several ANCs have already endorsed the plan.

When will the city decide whether to add the 59?

The Mayor’s team takes feedback from various city agencies and will work during February and early March to prepare a draft budget for the council in late March. The key decisions about whether to include the 59 in that draft will happen soon.

That means now is the perfect time to weigh in encouraging the mayor to include 59 funding in her budget proposal. Inclusion in the mayor’s proposal is the avenue with the highest likelihood of eventual success.

What can I do?

Momentum for this idea is building, but key city leaders have yet to take a formal position. We need to show them that this is important to residents, businesses, and community organizations.

Sign the petition. It’ll take less than 30 seconds!

Sign the Petition!

Zach Teutsch is an ANC commissioner and the chair ANC 4C, which covers Petworth and parts of some adjacent neighborhoods. He is committed to affordable housing, economically and racially diverse communities, thriving neighborhoods, and smart urbanism. He lives in Petworth with his wife and daughter.