Image by Arlington County licensed under Creative Commons.

Recently Metro unveiled the latest proposed changes to the Metrobus network which includes a major restructuring to the 16 series bus lines on Columbia Pike in Arlington. The long-awaited restructuring is aimed at simplifying and improving bus service in the corridor.

The changes are based on Arlington County's 10-year Transit Development Plan, which includes a number of planned bus initiatives for the county. The most significant of these is a "Premium Transit Network" for Columbia Pike.

To make up for the streetcar project cancelled nearly three years ago, the County's plan includes increased frequency, especially on the weekend. It also implements an improved and more cost-effective version of the now-scrapped Super Stop, with features like near-level boarding, real-time arrival information, and off-board fare collection.

However, one the most overlooked benefits of the streetcar would have been its simple, accessible service pattern. Currently, there are ten different routes on the 16 line, each with different operating times, service levels, and destinations. It's a bit daunting to figure out the most efficient route, and the complex timetables may intimidate some riders.

Image by the author.

The Premium Transit Network is attempting to improve accessibility by simplifying the number of routes on the 16 line to as few as four. Currently these changes are up for the riders' review and consideration.

There are proposed changes to nine of the ten Columbia Pike routes, divided into two groups:

16A, 16B, 16E 16J, 16P, 16X

  • Option 1: Would increase service on the 16A to operate every day. The 16J and 16P would be eliminated. The 16E and 16X would be consolidated into the 16B with evening and peak service extensions into the District. To speed up travel times, both the 16A and 16B would have limited stops within Arlington County, similar to the existing 16X.
  • Option 2: Would not make any change to these existing routes, but would implement limited stop service within Arlington County for the 16A, 16B and 16J.

16G, 16H, 16K

  • Option 1: Simplifies these three routes into just the 16H, which would run seven days a week and be extended at both ends – north to Crystal City, and south to form a loop around Skyline City. Coverage lost from the elimination of the 16G and 16K in Columbia Heights West would be replaced by Arlington Transit service.
  • Option 2: Same as Option 1, but also retains the 16G, which would similarly be extended to Crystal City.
  • Option 3: Same as Option 2 without the southern extension of the 16H, leaving its terminus at Skyline City unchanged from what it is today.
  • Option 4: Would not improve or eliminate the 16H or 16G, but would drop the 16K which currently only operates in the very early mornings on weekends.

It can be difficult to parse these changes with so many routes being altered. Here is a graphic that helps visualize the effects of both Option 1 proposals:

Image by the author.

The end result is a less intimidating and easier to understand service pattern, on par with other Metrobus lines around the region.

Image by the author.

While these changes are far from the original streetcar plan, these improvements would likely have a noticeable positive impact on travel in the corridor. Hopefully Arlington County will continue these improvements with higher capacity buses and dedicated lanes to help inch the service closer to a full bus rapid transit system that could keep up with the growth on Columbia Pike.

What do you think of these changes? If you haven't yet be sure to submit your comments on these and other proposed Metrobus changes to WMATA. You have until October 2nd, so make your voice heard.

Peter Dovak is a graphic design contributor for Greater Greater Washington. A Kentucky native, he has lived in Arlington since 2011 while working as a project director for a company specializing in promoting high-speed rail and maglev projects.