WMATA recently announced that they’re looking to improve bus service on 16th Street. There’s another public meeting on September 23; be sure to visit the Metrobus 16th Street Line page for details.
They’ve already had one public meeting (PDF) on July 15, and the attendees broke into small groups to discuss the current problems with the route (mostly bus crowding, bunching, schedule adherence and travel speed issues). According to a recent Washington Post article, Metrobus operates about 75% “on-time” for all routes, defined as between two minutes early and seven minutes late. There’s probably a high amount of variability between lines.
I have some observations about Metrobus operation in general and this line in particular, based on looking at the ridership data I received from WMATA.
There are places along the line where there is low ridership as well as close stop placement. For example, why are there bus stops at Webster, Allison and Buchanan? Could the stop at Allison (ridership of 46 per weekday) be eliminated? Does it speed up a bus line more to eliminate a stop that has extremely low ridership, like at 16th & Leegate (12 riders per day, in the northern portion), or to combine two moderate-ridership stops like 16th at Newton and Oak Streets (ridership about 380 per day, each).
Something that would likely increase average speed and reduce bus bunching would be to shift some of the Metrobus lines to “proof of payment” systems. With this, people riding the bus are required to purchase a ticket off of the vehicle, or to posses a valid pass or transfer. According to the public meeting report, 27% of riders board with a flash pass, and 22% of riders are boarding with a free bus transfer. Occasional random inspections and hefty fines would be required to keep people honest, but on the whole this would speed buses tremendously, because people who had valid fares could board by any door. If half of the riders have already paid, why make them enter through the front door?
Another thing I’ve seen (one example was in Amsterdam’s streetcar system) was to put a one-way gate at the front of the vehicle. This was just a spring-loaded gate with a “do not enter sign” on the back, that encouraged people to use the rear door to exit. It didn’t impede boarding the car, because you just pushed it aside. Exiting through the front door was possible (just pull the gate toward you), but it reminded people that the front door was for entering, and to use the rear door instead.
Last, they could replace the line or one of its “sisters” (there are parallel lines on Georgia Avenue as well as 14th Streets, I believe) with a streetcar. Streetcars accelerate faster and can hold more people, are usually set up for multiple-door boarding, and can be connected together in multiple-car consists, further boosting capacity.
The data from WMATA concerning northbound daily total ridership is presented in the Google Map below. Each place marker is labeled with the total boardings and alightings for that stop. The bus symbol represents stops with over 750 boardings and alightings in the northbound direction. Red markers are 500-750, yellow 250-500, green 100-250, blue 50-100, light blue 25-50, and purple markers less than 25.
(Crossposted from Infosnack).