How about one of these on H Street NW? Image by NACTO licensed under Creative Commons.

Should buses going east-west through downtown DC get stuck in traffic, or move more quickly? If you said “quickly,” your voice is needed this Thursday at a public meeting for DC's “Downtown West Transportation Study.”

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) is looking at changes to H Street past the White House (between New York and Pennsylvania avenues) and then Pennsylvania Avenue west of the White House. It's really two studies in one: On Pennsylvania, planners are thinking about ways to improve the sidewalk (like the attractive green planted areas/stormwater basins you see in a lot of new sidewalks, like in NoMa or near 15th and W NW), and looking to include a protected bikeway. For H, the project is considering a contraflow bus lane.

A contraflow bus lane would let buses drive west on one lane of the road which otherwise is one-way east. Buses which use H and I, such as the 30s, 40s, S, and X buses, would then travel both ways on H through one of the most congested sections of the route. It would help these buses be a reliable, relatively speedy way to travel instead of sitting gridlocked in rush hour traffic.

Also, this could speed up cars on I Street by moving buses from the heavily-congested I over to H. My experience has been that I (westbound) is more congested than H (eastbound), so this could actually balance out the traffic better (though the study will hopefully shed some more light on this).

Earlier studies from WMATA and DDOT considered a lot of bus lane alternatives on H and/or I, and ultimately recommended this for further study. Now DDOT is doing that further study, but if it's to gain approval, riders of buses on H and I, residents, and others need to speak up for the lane. We're hearing that some businesses along the road, whose buildings have things like parking garage entrances, are not enthusiastic. It's important that the whole city's and region's travel needs don't suffer.

A protected bikeway on Pennsylvania Avenue would also be fantastic. DDOT is considering a two-way bikeway on one side of the street, or a pair of protected bikeways on each side. Either way, Pennsylvania Avenue is a great place for a bikeway, because while it used to be a large avenue carrying traffic right past the White House, with it closed past 17th Street it's now wider than it needs to be for the traffic it carries.

The meeting is Thursday, July 20, 6:30-8 pm at GWU Funger Hall, 2201 G St NW, Room 222. Take the Metro to Foggy Bottom or use one of the 30s buses, some of those that will most benefit from the lane!

Can't make it? Contact DDOT using the form below to register support for an H Street NW bus lane and a protected bikeway on Pennsylvania Avenue!

David Alpert is Founder and President of Greater Greater Washington and Executive Director of DC Sustainable Transportation (DCST). He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. Unless otherwise noted, opinions in his GGWash posts are his and not the official views of GGWash or DCST.