DASH articulated bus. Image by DASH.

For decades, WMATA has run articulated buses—sometimes called accordion buses—on high-ridership lines. None of the other myriad transit agencies in the Washington region had cause to run them. Until now.

With all Blue and Yellow Metrorail service south of National Airport closed for three months this summer, thousands of riders who usually take the train are using buses instead. So many extra riders mean bigger buses are needed.

Enter Alexandria’s DASH bus system, now the first non-WMATA bus agency in the Washington area to run articulated buses.

DASH articulated bus.  Image by Stephen Repetski used with permission.

The “artics” are now ferrying passengers on the Metro-replacement shuttle routes between National Airport and Alexandria. Head over to National Airport at rush hour and you’ll likely see one.

DASH got its articulated buses used from Westchester County, NY, where they’ve been running as part of the Bee-Line bus system since the early 2000s. Bee-Line is replacing its fleet with new buses, giving DASH the opportunity to pick them up.

DASH bought about a dozen of the vintage 2001-2002 buses. A DASH spokesperson says they’re primarily for this summer’s shutdown, but that the agency “will likely keep some of them to fill in for future service expansions.”

Articulated buses are rare in Virginia, except this summer

Articulated buses are pretty common in DC and Maryland, but until this summer have been virtually non-existent in Virginia. The smaller bus agencies like DASH, ART, and Fairfax Connector haven’t needed them, and although Metrobus does have some very high ridership lines in Virginia, none of WMATA’s Virginia bus garages are designed to house or maintain them.

As a result, historically the only time you could see articulated transit buses in Virginia was during peak air travel season before the Silver Line opened, when occasionally they appeared on the 5A line to Dulles Airport.

Metrobus lines with articulated buses in 2012. Image by the author.

But this summer, even WMATA is getting in on the Virginia articulated bus game. GGWash Editorial Director Joanne Tang rode one on a Yellow Line shuttle, and GGWash contributor Alex Block spotted one on the 11Y in Old Town.

11Y articulated Metrobus in Old Town. Image by Alex Block used with permission.

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.