Photo by DDOTDC on Flickr.

After receiving public input from over 500 online rider surveys, four Citizens Advisory Panels, and several town halls, DDOT has released a map of recommended new Circulator bus routes.

Officials hope to make these a reality over the next 2 to 3 years if they can get funding from the DC Council, though in the current budget climate the chances may be remote.

Which routes should get Circulator service and which should not? Circulator has been so successful that residents from many neighborhoods have clamored for service, and some Councilmembers have proposed legislation mandating certain routes. Still, the Circulator should not serve every bus route.

DDOT originally conceived Circulator service as a way to bring tourists from the monumental core into the city’s neighborhoods to dine and shop. The new plan chooses routes that connect major “activity centers” in the District not linked by rail transit. Each route would have limited-stop buses running every 10 minutes, continuing the current Circulator brand.

“Activity centers” are defined as areas with timely and sizable change in land use that are or will be built out by 2020, containing more than 1 million square feet of residential and commercial space, and a mix of uses, as well as “main street mixed-use corridors.”

DDOT’s study recommends 10 new and extended routes, based on four different priority-ranked maps generated by the citizens’ advisory panels:

Click to enlarge.

The three that seem to make the most sense are extensions of existing Circulators: bringing the Rosslyn-Georgetown-Dupont bus to 14th and U via New Hampshire Avenue , extending the Waterfront-Convention Center route east on M Street to the Navy Yard and Nationals Park, and bringing the Union Station-Navy Yard bus up into NoMa, perhaps serving the New York Avenue Metro station.

Also sure to generate high ridership are a Waterfront-Dupont Circle via the Mall and Farragut Square link, a U Street NW-Florida Avenue-North Capitol Street-H Street NE bus (perhaps to be shortened to connect with the streetcar at Union Station), an Anacostia-Skyland-Minnesota Avenue link, and a Brookland-Tenleytown link via Hospital Center/McMillan, Petworth, Columbia Heights, Adams Morgan, Connecticut Avenue and Van Ness.

One of the four maps produced by a Citizens Advisory Panel. Color indicates priority level.

DDOT also anticipates altering these routes as the streetcar system is built out. Some of them overlap with planned streetcar routes.

Rider surveys identified friendly professional drivers, service frequency and limited stops as the three most-liked aspects of Circulator. The top three improvements users cited were longer hours, more weekend service and bringing the Circulator stop at Union Station closer to the Metrobus stop. Riders also like the interior configurations of Circulator buses as they are.

First Transit — the private company that has a contract to run Circulator buses for a flat rate of $71 per bus per hour, including driver’s labor, maintenance and cleaning — will assist in the operational planning of any new routes.

Of course, all of this is contingent upon securing the necessary funding. That’s a challenging prospect given the city’s budget shortfall. If you like these plans, let Mayor-elect Gray, Chairman-elect Brown and your Councilmembers know that you want to see these transit improvement plans, along with the streetcars, come to fruition.

Malcolm Kenton lives in the DC’s NoMa neighborhood. Hailing from Greensboro, NC and a graduate of Guilford College (BA) and George Mason University (MA, Transportation Policy), he is a consultant and writer on transportation, travel, and sustainability topics and a passionate advocate for world-class passenger rail and other forms of sustainable mobility and for incorporating nature and low-impact design into the urban fabric. The views he expresses on GGWash are his own.