The 59 route. Image by Peter Dovak.

Since November of 2016, riders, allies, ANC commissioners, and Greater Greater Washington have been advocating for the 59, a bus that would operate similar to an express route along 14th Street NW. On Tuesday, the DC Council approved funding for the bus.

Riders have faced overcrowded and insufficient service on 14th Street for years, even as the area has experienced tremendous residential and commercial growth. Reviving a previously-shelved WMATA proposal from four years ago, advocates have been asking officials to fund a 59 limited stop service line to supplement the existing service available. The new service would dramatically cut transit times for many workers and neighbors, as well as help reduce congestion overall along the route.

The budget was approved on Tuesday, with councilmembers confirming that the 59 funding was part of it.

In addition to $1.2 million for the 59, the budget also includes $800,000 for the W4, a bus line that runs between Deanwood and Anacostia in Wards 7 and 8. That money will go toward studying and implementing increased W4 frequency.

The new budget will include funds for expanded W4 service. The W4 runs from Deanwood to Anacostia. Image by WMATA.

Mayor Muriel Bowser and the majority of the DC Council who publicly endorsed the idea deserve a lot of credit. Councilmembers who publicly advocated in favor of 59 funding include Brianne Nadeau, Brandon Todd, Jack Evans, Elissa Silverman, David Grosso, Charles Allen, and Robert White.

As I have said throughout the campaign, in a city with a growing population, it’s essential to use that money to invest in making all District residents’ lives better. The 59 bus will shorten commutes, improve the environment, reduce congestion, improve public health, and help our city grow. These benefits will accrue to longtime residents and newer residents, young and old, and those of all races. Those are just the kind of investments DC needs.

Neighborhood leaders played a huge role here

I believe this is the most concerted, broad effort ever undertaken by Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANCs) to improve bus service in a particular corridor. Hopefully it’s the beginning of a trend toward collaborative ANC work to improve transit across the city.

ANCs often focus narrowly on their own jurisdictions, and it is challenging and time consuming for one commission to work with another. All commissioners involved are unpaid elected officials, and since the work is uncompensated, commissioners generally have full-time jobs as well, many have families and all have other community commitments. Given all the competing demands on their members' time, it’s rare for large numbers of commissions to come together and advocate for the same thing. In this case, ten commissions advocated for better bus service on 14th Street.

Map of ANCs who passed resolutions in favor of funding the 59 bus. Image by Peter Dovak.

This is a great example of the power of coming together and working toward an achievable result. Hopefully it is just the beginning of focused, smart advocacy for improved bus performance and funding.

Thanks to everyone who was involved in this effort! Take a second and send a tweet to thank our city leaders now!

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.