Bus-only lane in Baltimore by BeyondDC licensed under Creative Commons.

A new “pop-up” bus lane will be coming to DC this summer, thanks to a Metro shutdown and your advocacy. Recently the DC Department of Transportation (DDOT) confirmed that in order to help mitigate effects of the previously announced Red Line shutdown this summer, they will be installing a temporary bus lane on Rhode Island Avenue NE.

Neighbors asked for this early

On February 14, Metro announced that the Brookland and Rhode Island Avenue stops would be closed this summer from July 21-Sept 3. Fortuitously, just a month earlier ANC5E had passed a Comprehensive Transportation Resolution endorsing pilot bus lanes on Rhode Island Avenue during any future track work.

Dozens of neighbors signed a petition in support of the idea, and that seems to have paid off. Metro’s release confirms the installation.

To reduce travel times, Metro has received approval from the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) to use a new dedicated bus lane along Rhode Island Ave. NE for MetroExtra G9 from North Capitol Street to 12th Street NE. The lane will operate Monday through Saturday from 7 am to 7 pm.

The bus lane itself will be a modest one, but will expedite not only the existing G8 and G9 service (recently made permanent) but also the shuttle buses between the closed stations and the special shuttle buses shown below. As you can see, the lane won’t help bus riders southwest of North Capitol, which is unfortunate.

Image by WMATA.

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 will have minimal cost for Metro and a tangible benefit both for existing G8/G9 riders and those who switch due to the shutdown.

The impact of saving five or 10 minutes of traffic for thousands of commuters everyday is great, but the real victory is in getting city leaders to implement a new bus lane, even if it’s temporary. DC still lags far behind other cities in bus-only lanes, and we should continue to press our leaders for more.

A bus map for advocacy

Hopefully this experience can also serve as a template for future advocacy, whether transportation-related or otherwise. ANC resolutions alone don’t bind WMATA or DDOT to take any action. But in this case, our ANC’s resolution served as the basis of an immediate advocacy campaign.

After several conversations with leaders from WMATA and DDOT, delivering a petition, and recieving over 60 emails from residents, it became clear that WMATA was not opposed to the idea of a pop-up bus lane but that it was up to DDOT to implement it. Given the amount of items on his plate as a then-interim and now permanent Director, I applaud Jeff Marootian for taking the time to understand the issue and for having the courage to push it forward.

Having a document like ANC 5E’s Transportation Resolution, while entirely unenforceable, was useful to point to as demonstrating the desire of the community. Let’s keep pushing for more pilot programs like this one, and take a moment to thank DDOT and Metro for their response.

Click to send a thank you note!

And on a personal note, if you’re interested in running for ANC and carrying this banner forward, please let me know — especially if you live in 5E01.

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.