Photo by ElvertBarnes on Flickr.

DDOT presented its ten-year plan for the Circulator at a public meeting last Thursday, but opposition to ending service on the Southwest Waterfront route dominated the meeting.

Many residents felt “blindsided” by the decision to suspend service on this route and one woman called it “the worst bait and switch practice I’ve ever seen.” DDOT ended service on the route April 1.

Southwest Washington is the smallest quadrant of the city but has a high number of elderly and disabled residents, according to many who spoke at the meeting. These residents rely heavily on the Circulator, especially as an alternative to the 70s Metrobus line, which many residents feel is unsafe.

DDOT held its first semi-annual DC Circulator public forum on March 17th, but there was no discussion at that time of ending service on the Southwest Waterfront route. However, the 10-year Circulator development plan recommends ending service on the route due to low performance. Boardings per hour decreased from 2009 to 2010 while cost per revenue hour increased.

Some in attendance challenged DDOT’s data on this route. Desir&eeacute;e Urquhart, Director of Government & Community Relations for Arena Stage, said the regional theater was closed for 10 months during DDOT’s study period from January-December 2010. She said the data do not reflect the increased ridership from the newly reopened Arena Stage, which is a major attraction for folks inside and outside the community.

Other residents said the data do not reflect higher ridership during Nationals games and suggested expanding service on the route to connect with the Union Station-Navy Yard route via M Street SW. Another resident wants the route to serve Howard University more directly.

In addition to projects near the ballpark, future development of the Southwest waterfront could turn the neighborhood into a major activity center. A main goal of the Circulator is to connect multi-use activity centers in the city. The plan does call for reinstating the route at some point in the future.

Critics included Alexander Padro from ANC2C, which includes parts of Shaw, Chinatown and the Mall. He called the end of the Waterfront route “shortsighted” and said his ANC would discuss a resolution to oppose cutting this service.

The plan would also add several new routes and raise the fare to $2 cash, $1.50 SmarTrip. While most of the comments at the meeting focused on keeping the Convention Center-Southwest Waterfront route, some in attendance had questions about other routes.

Trudy Reeves from ANC3C suggested running the Woodley Park-Tenleytown route on Wisconsin Avenue to complement Metrobus service on that corridor. A former ANC commissioner from Columbia Heights said the Adams Morgan-Woodley Park line should connect lower Ward 4 with upper Ward 1, including Washington Hospital Center and Howard University. An open house preceded the public comment portion of the meeting, but no comments during the latter part concerned fare hikes or any other proposed routes. 

Riders can comment on DDOT’s proposal until April 8th.

This article originally said the Convention Center-Waterfront Circulator had already been canceled. DDOT is proposing to suspend it but has not yet done so. The Mall route was the one canceled on April 1.

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Jamie Scott is a resident of Ward 3 in DC and a regular Metrobus commuter. He believes in good government, livable communities and quality public transit. Jamie holds a B.A. in Government from Georgetown University and is currently pursuing a Masters in Public Policy at Georgetown.