Image by BeyondDC licensed under Creative Commons.

We bought our house in Edgewood for the Red Line. It seems naive now, but having moved to the city in 2007, my wife and I saw the Red Line as the key to living an efficient, healthy, and environmentally-friendly urban life. We even had our first kiss at the Dupont Metro. After SafeTrack “Surge #10” shut down the Brookland and Rhode Island Avenue Red Line stops for 24 days in November 2016, we thought we had paid our dues and were in the clear.

Interestingly, during that shutdown our neighborhood went multimodal. Some people took advantage of a well-timed unlimited Lyft promotion, but many used the Metropolitan Branch Trail or took the G8 bus. The G8 bus replicates part of the Red Line, running from Woodridge to Farragut West and passing both the Brookland and Rhode Island Avenue metro stops.

This summer, Metro is again shutting down part of the Red Line, this time for a month and a half. Instead of merely bemoaning the inconvenience, we should use this opportunity to experiment with other transit options that could benefit the area after track work ends.

Pop-up bus lanes offer opportunity for experimentation

Since 2016, Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie worked to establish the new rush hour G9 bus, which runs along the length of Rhode Island Avenue from Woodridge to 13th Street.

The G8 bus, which replicates, the Red Line (left), and the G9 Rhode Island Ave Limited Line, which provides faster service (right). Image by WMATA.

Then in January of 2018, ANC5E unanimously passed a Comprehensive Transportation Resolution containing a number of ideas to make it easier for everyone to get around our area. One of these was to use future Metro track work as an opportunity to pilot “pop-up” bus lanes on Rhode Island Avenue.

These pop-up lanes are designed to alleviate the impact of the surge of bus riders on existing commuters, as well as to explore the impact a bus lane might have on travel times. These experiments can be very useful: the Boston suburb of Everett, Massachusetts recently made a pop-up lane permanent, and DC has previously explored such bus lanes for 16th St NW.

Let’s make this crisis a productive one

Metro is once again closing the Brookland and Rhode Island Avenue stops this summer for 45 days from July 21-September 3. I am calling on Metro and DDOT leadership to create a temporary bus lane from Rhode Island Avenue to the Shaw Metro stops during this shutdown.

Using this crisis as an opportunity is essential to being proactive about the future of transit in our city. With all of Metro’s issues, should the best alternatives for getting around be biking for those who are able and willing, and rideshare for those who can afford it? What about people who don’t fall into those categories? Why not make buses a better way to get around the city?

Safetrack shuttle route.

While a bus lane would not solve the issues of those who are farther up the line, it would make the G8 and G9 buses a viable metro alternative for residents near the Brookland and Rhode Island Avenue metro stops. As an ANC commissioner I am particularly focused on my neighborhood, but would support additional priority lanes during the shutdown for the shuttles running from NoMa to Fort Totten or along North Capitol Street for the 80 bus.

Rhode Island Avenue is six lanes wide (thanks to being a former streetcar route) and has no parking in the far lane during rush hour. Enforcing the existing parking restriction and putting up cones during the shutdown would have minimal cost for Metro and a tangible benefit both for existing G8/G9 riders and those who switch due to the shutdown.

Using a short-term pilot is a chance to try something new that might expose problems with the idea or bring to light a long term solution we didn’t consider. Since we’ve got plenty of Metro crises, let’s not waste them: let’s use bus priority lanes for any long-term closures.

 

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Ed Garnett lives in Edgewood and currently serves as Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner for 5E01. An economist by day, as commissioner he has advocated for affordable housing, bike and bus lanes, and walkable schools and submitted an absurd number of 311 requests.