Screenshot from TransitCenter video.

This summer, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) installed a temporary bus lane on Rhode Island Avenue NE to help move both regular buses and shuttle buses faster while that section of the Red Line is shut down.

Inspired by the quick turnaround, national bus advocacy organization TransitCenter made a video about the project and advocacy effort behind its implementation.

The video presents a positive but honest take on the temporary bus lanes. Many neighbors and advocates have been frustrated by the regular stream of cars driving and stopping in the lane. There are a lot of ways to address this, anything from clearer signage or paint, to physical barriers on the road, to more intense enforcement.

However, some of those options are less feasible for a temporary installation like these. DDOT’s Chief Project Delivery Officer Sam Zimbabwe also describes the lack of a “bus lane culture” in DC: drivers are just not very used to dedicated bus lanes in our region and it will take time to shift expectations and norms.

Nonetheless, especially as the District is moving towards more and more dedicated bus lane, the video shows how these pop-up lanes are a step forward. Perhaps the biggest success of this project has been the speed in which it was implemented. GGWash and local neighbors began advocating for these lanes in February of 2018, and they were painted by the end of July.

The speed of the process was a good learning moment for District agencies, and a clear example to advocates about what is possible for future efforts.

Let’s hope DC’s agencies continue to use Rhode Island Avenue’s lanes as a learning experience, and apply those lessons to the next set of planned lanes. As transit advocates, let’s also look for more of these quick strike opportunities and push for even more dedicated lanes in our city and region!

David Whitehead is the Housing Program Organizer at Greater Greater Washington.  A former high school math teacher and a community organizer, David works to broaden and deepen Greater Greater Washington’s efforts to make the region more livable and inclusive through education, advocacy and organizing. He lives in Edgewood.