Potential Metrobus route 99. Image by WMATA.

Imagine a faster bus from Dupont to Anacostia, with stops at U Street, Florida Avenue, H Street, and Eastern Market. Similar to Metrobus route 90, but faster and better. In 2011 WMATA recommended such a line, calling it the 99. Since then, the idea has collected dust. Let's talk about it again.

DC's most important crosstown corridor

Most of DC's transit lines, regardless of mode, are radial. They connect neighborhoods to downtown. A few, on the other hand, are crosstown lines, routes that cut perpendicularly across multiple radials, connecting them to each other and providing riders who aren't going downtown with an easier neighborhood-to-neighborhood trip.

The busiest crosstown bus line in DC today is the 90s series, running from Adams Morgan to Anacostia via U Street, Florida Avenue, and 8th Street NE/SE. It crosses every Metro line, the H Street streetcar, and several of the most important radial buses. It carries 14,000 riders per day on relatively frequent buses. In DDOT's 2010 streetcar plan, this corridor was part of the ambitious 37-mile citywide rail system.

It is, simply put, one of the city's most important surface transit corridors. Call it the de facto inner Purple Line.

But it's sloooow. Except for headway-based scheduling, the 90s buses lack the most visible bus priority measures that DDOT and WMATA have introduced on other important lines. No bus lanes, and no limited-stop MetroExtra option.

At least, not yet.

The 2011 MetroExtra plan

MetroExtra is WMATA's brand for limited-stop buses, routes with widely-spaced stops that get from point A to point B faster than local buses that stop every two blocks. It's not Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), but it's a nice step up from normal buses.

MetroExtra bus on 16th Street. Image by the author.

In 2011, WMATA studied a variety of improvements to the 90s line, and among other things recommended a new MetroExtra route, the 99.

It would run both directions with a bus every 15 minutes, but only at peak times from 6-9 am and 3:30-7 pm. It would be 15-20 percent faster than local route 90 buses, speeding travel along the city's prime crosstown route.

It would improve service from East of the Anacostia into the job centers of Northwest and Northeast, and it would provide a direct bus connection from Dupont to U Street.

Why isn't it running?

If this recommendation came in 2011, seven years ago, why isn't the 99 running today?

Because it will cost at least $1.2 million annually to run, and the DC government has not stepped up to fund it. Budgets are tight, after all, and there are many competing priorities.

For example, GGWash contributor and Foggy Bottom ANC commissioner Patrick Kennedy has been advocating to make the H1 bus—another important crosstown route—run all day rather than only at peak times. That's a worthy goal too.

The good news is that advocates, including GGWash, have helped convince DC and WMATA to fund and implement other limited-stop buses within the past year. The G9 on Rhode Island Avenue and the 59 on 14th Street both started running in 2017. If Mayor Bowser supports the idea, 2018 could become the year of the 99.

GGWash sometimes organizes around issues affecting our region. Should we consider advocacy around this topic? Let us know!

Dan Malouff is a transportation planner for Arlington and an adjunct professor at George Washington University. He has a degree in urban planning from the University of Colorado and lives in Trinidad, DC. He runs BeyondDC and contributes to the Washington Post. Dan blogs to express personal views, and does not take part in GGWash's political endorsement decisions.