Could buses soon be going this fast on Florida Avenue? Photo by C@tch on Flickr.

Earlier this month, I described DDOT and WMATA’s study of the District’s third-busiest Metrobus line and the recommendations that riders, survey respondents and forum participants gave for service improvement.

This week, in a final series of public meetings, the study team presented the recommendations it will make to DDOT and WMATA’s Board of Directors.

The biggest proposed improvement is the addition of a limited-stop bus, numbered 99, which would run from Anacostia Metro to Dupont Circle. It would follow the same route as the current 90, except on the western end.

The 90 turns right from westbound U Street onto 18th Street and continues through Adams Morgan to Calvert Street and ends at the Duke Ellington Bridge near Woodley Park Metro. The 99, instead, will continue from westbound U straight to Florida Avenue, then turn left on Connecticut and right on 20th Street. This would require a left turn exemption for buses at Florida and Connecticut, where left turns are currently not permitted.

The study team decided to change the western end both in anticipation of more likely commuting patterns and to provide a direct bus connection from the U Street corridor to Dupont Circle.

The 99 bus would make roughly a third the number of stops that the 90 currently makes. Initially, it would only run during peak periods (6:30 to 9:30 AM and 3:30 to 6:30 PM) on weekdays, and if it is well-received, it would likely be extended to include mid-day hours.

However, the 99 bus will not be able to achieve time savings over the local buses without street design improvements. The proposal focuses on reconfiguring 8th Street NE/SE.

It recommends adding transit signal priority, which can delay reds and extend greens for buses. Additionally, many stops would be relocated so that they are at the far side of intersections. With the repositioning of stops and the removal of some parking spaces, the 99 will have more opportunities to pass local-stopping 90 and 92 buses. 

Another key improvement, which may cost more to implement than adding the 99 bus, is recalibrating schedules. This will require running more buses and spacing them so that they arrive within the advertised intervals. This will address the problem of bus bunching and will mean many riders won’t have to wait as long at the stop.

The study team is also proposing the following:

  • Adding dedicated bus lanes on U Street NW and on Florida Avenue between 8th and 2nd Streets NE.
  • Redesigning the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Ave & Good Hope Rd. SE to allow the 92 bus to more easily make the left turn.
  • Adding new bus shelters.
  • Replacing and illuminating posted schedules.
  • Better training drivers so they are more familiar with the route and available transfers and points of interest.
  • Having Metro Transit Police officers aboard more buses.

Design concept for the new “traffic circle” at the intersection of New York and Florida Aves. NE. Original from DDOT, modified by IMGoph.

Also discussed at Tuesday’s meeting was the rerouting of the southbound 90s buses imposed after DDOT’s redesign of the intersection of Florida Avenue and New York Avenue NE.

A WMATA official informed me that this was an operational decision made for safety reasons after it was determined that buses could not make the forced right turn from southbound Florida Avenue onto First Street NE while staying in one travel lane. The alternate route — right on North Capitol Street and left on New York Avenue — seems to increase travel time.

The implementation has been problematic as well. Some bus drivers still continue on Florida Avenue and there is no signage at the southbound bus stop at Florida and P Street NE to indicate that it is no longer served.

WMATA anticipates the change to be permanent unless DDOT cuts back the curb at Florida and 1st to allow a bus to turn easily. The Florida and P stop will likely be moved to eastbound New York Avenue at 1st Street.

A DDOT official who was present indicated that a curb replacement is not likely to happen soon, and explained that the redesign of the intersection — which may actually be slowing traffic — was done primarily to enhance pedestrian safety.

Given the changes we have seen to other high-traffic bus routes after studies were completed, it is safe to bet that life will begin to get easier for 90s riders over the course of next year.

Malcolm Kenton lives in the DC’s NoMa neighborhood. Hailing from Greensboro, NC and a graduate of Guilford College, he is a passionate advocate for world-class passenger rail and other forms of sustainable transportation and for incorporating nature and low-impact design into the urban fabric. The views he expresses on GGWash are his own.