Last week, for the second time in less than two months, a Megabus was involved in a crash on H Street NE that shut down the busy thoroughfare for several hours. Is this an H Street problem, or a Megabus problem?
On April 26, a Megabus driver plowed into a DC Streetcar station at 3rd and H Street NE, causing damage the DC Department of Transportation says could take months to repair. Then, on Friday morning, a Megabus crashed into a van on H Street and set off a dozen-plus vehicle collision. Thankfully, nobody was seriously injured.
Intercity bus operators like Megabus have increasingly utilized H Street NE in recent years because it provides a quick connection between the Union Station Bus Terminal and New York Avenue (which they use to reach I-95). But should these large intercity buses be operating there at all? I floated these questions to fellow GGWash contributors.
Joe Fox pointed out that the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York has a direct ramp connection to the Lincoln Tunnel, allowing buses to serve the downtown terminal without having to operate on busy city streets. Could DC have the same thing?
I don't think that Union Station was originally designed to be a bus terminal; the Greyhound Station on New York Ave was still going strong when Union Station did its big renovation in the ‘80s. I wonder if there could be an extended ramp for buses only added to the project that will deck over the tracks in a few years, it could connect the Union Station garage (which is elevated fairly high off of H Street) directly or indirectly to New York Ave. It's 3/4 mile to get there, but I'm not sure where you could put a support without blocking Metro or intercity train tracks.
David Cranor questioned why these buses needed to operate on H Street at all:
Frankly, I'm surprised they don't just avoid it all by operating out of New Carrollton or Greenbelt anyway. They could do more round trips per day, and it wouldn't take the average person that much longer to get where they're going.
Payton Chung asked why buses couldn’t use North Capitol Street to access Union Station from New York Avenue, and Dan Malouff replied that such a change might just mean crashes moving from one road to another:
Union Station is our intercity bus terminal for better or worse, and its entry is on Hopscotch Bridge. We're not changing those base conditions.
The only relevant question here is North Capitol vs H Street. Why use H instead of North Cap? I haven't the foggiest but why not? A Megabus could just as easily take out a North Cap bus shelter.
Bryan Rodda weighed in:
Presumably the intercity bus operators believe H Street is faster, so that's why they use it. Both streets are on DDOT's approved bus/truck routes in DC, so the operators aren't cheating the system in some sort of way by using H St instead of North Cap.
The growth of intercity bus traffic, plus the lack of any other good east-west option likely plays a role in the amount of truck/bus traffic on H Street. East Capitol, Independence, and Constitution are all restricted on the Hill, which makes a pretty big gap between H Street NE and M Street SE as an east-west route for buses/trucks trying to get to/from downtown.
What do you think about the safety of intercity buses operating on H Street NE? Let us know in the comments.