Bus service in Ward 7. Image from WMATA.
To many living in DC, Ward 7 is that nebulous place somewhere East of the Anacostia River. What many people do not realize is that Ward 7 is a collection of distinct neighborhoods, commercial areas ripe for redevelopment, and large areas of open space. Despite all that Ward 7 has to offer, we only have three Metrorail stops, making the bus system our transportation lifeline.
If you couple our bus dependency with the low unemployment rate, you would think the residents in Ward 7 would get our fair share of resources dedicated to bus enhancements. But rarely does anyone talk about how transportation accessibility can help solve some of these employment and quality of life issues in Ward 7.
While we could create a list a mile long of issues with the bus system, it all can be summed up in two overarching issues: Inadequate service and lack of circulation.
Inadequate service: There are currently 11 routes that serve Ward 7 residents. However, as a bus dependent area, these routes fall short of meeting the transportation needs of many of the residents.
Four of the bus routes only operate on the weekday (U2, V5, X3, 39). It is not common on some of these bus routes to have headway times during PM service and the weekends as long as 40 minutes (W4, M6). Not to mention standing room only during off-peak hours.
Lack of inter- and intra-ward circulation: In Ward 7 we have two geographic barriers that impede access. The obvious barrier is the Anacostia River with only three access points across to the west. We also have Fort Dupont Park which is 375-acres of green space and forest dead-smack in the center of the ward, which limits access north
It is just as important for residents to get from the northern end of Ward 7 to the southern end, as it is for residents to go west across the Anacostia River. Any proposed bus enhancements (e.g., limited bus, circulator) will have to carry residents quickly both within Ward 7 and across the Anacostia River.
Thankfully, WMATA has given some thought about what could be done to enhance bus service in Ward 7. At the September Ward 7 Leadership Council meeting, Jim Hamre, the Director of WMATA’s Office of Bus Planning presented ANC commissioners and others with a list of nine bus enhancements that could be undertaken in Ward 7.
The enhancements would cost $300,000 to $2.3 million a year each, or a total of $8.8 million per year in all. The residents of Ward 7 would benefit tremendously if bus transportation received a higher priority by our elected officials, both executive and legislative.
In Ward 7, the bus is a connector to families, schools, jobs, church, medical assistance, recreational activities, and more. It’s also a connector that is past due for an upgrade.