DDOT Confirms Circulator Service Cut

Yesterday DDOT’s spokesman John Lisle confirmed that the Wisconsin branch of the Circulator has been slated for elimination. Lisle offered a list of reasons why they decided to do this. GM will list and analyze each of these reasons:

  1. The Circulator Whitehaven extension carried 2 percent of the entire Georgetown-Union Station route’s ridership but was responsible for 15 percent of its cost.
  2. Response: We’ll have to take their word for these stats. Do you want to know why we’ll have to take their word? Because they didn’t hold any public meetings to present the proposed service cut. It’s been announced fait accompli. It hasn’t even really been officially “announced”.

    Without being presented with the underlying numbers it’s impossible to argue with this statement. What does it even mean? How does one stretch of road cost more than another? How does that compare with other segments on the route?

    Moreover, how does that ratio compare with the Navy Yard Circulator route? By most accounts that’s been an abysmal failure. (Perhaps that’s simply fitting since the route is designed to service Nationals games). But GM doubts the ride from M St. to Social Safeway is nearly the money pit that the ride from Union Station to Nationals Park is. But we won’t know because they didn’t make that information public.

  3. The elimination of the extension to Whitehaven will allow the Circulator to reduce the number of in-service buses, which will lower the overall cost of providing the service.
  4. OK, maybe. But cutting service is almost always going to save some money. So what? The question is whether the cut is fair and justified. The Wisconsin Ave. corridor has be decimated with bus service cuts. Surely they save money, but at what point do we recognize that the bus system is designed to move people around, not simply serve as budget cut fodder.

  5. These cuts are made necessary due to budgetary considerations. The Circulator was forced to make reductions to its budget just as many other programs were across the District government.
  6. Again, it’s a question of fairness. DDOT rolled out a huge expansion of Circulator service several months ago, including the Navy Yard line which GM doubts has been a success. Why should we be burdened with such a huge reduction in service right in the wake of a huge cut of service on the 30 Series?

  7. DDOT and WMATA staffs have worked together to enhance and improve the 30’s lines to make them a viable public transportation alternative for residents and visitors to Georgetown. The revised 30’s lines provide scheduled headways of 10 minutes or better all day, every day between Friendship Heights and Foggy Bottom via Wisconsin Avenue and M Street with a span of service from 5 a.m. to 2 a.m.
  8. This is just not true. The 30 Series had much more frequent service through Georgetown before the major changes in 2008. Prior to the changes, buses came every 3-5 minutes. Moreover, that 10 minute headway number they mention includes the 31, which only goes to Foggy Bottom. That’s not very useful for Georgetowners. The changes were made to improve the ride of long distance riders from either end. Georgetown was a problem for the planners, not a target audience.

    The fact is that if they cut the Circulator extension, the Wisconsin Ave. corridor will have seen a net reduction in service of at least 70%. Before the 30 Series changes, there were about 20 buses an hour through Wisconsin Ave., all of which took you all the way downtown. If they cut the service, there will only be 6 buses an hour.

    Cutting service that severely makes people less likely to use the service since it becomes less reliable. GM firmly believes that if they merely extended the route just a few blocks up to Glover Park and with the re-opening of a new and improved Social Safeway, ridership on the leg would increase significantly.

  9. The residents in this area/segment of Wisconsin Avenue have a choice of two cross-town services offered by the 32/36 lines that run from the Friendship Heights Metro, along Wisconsin Avenue, via Georgetown, to Downtown and then onto SE Washington. They also enjoy the 31 bus line service that travels from Friendship Heights Metro, along Wisconsin Avenue via Georgetown to Washington Circle.
  10. See 4 above.

  11. All these services are currently being evaluated as part of the 30s and 70s Bus Service Evaluation scheduled to conclude in November 2009. One of the current considerations is the extension of the 31 route to service the Downtown beyond Washington Circle.
  12. Even if they extended the 31 to downtown, we’d still have less service than before. What DDOT is not acknowledging is that the Circulator extension replaced a Blue Bus route. That route is gone now and it’s unlikely to be recreated.

    It bears repeating: the 30 Series changes were bad for Georgetown. Our service was cut back significantly for the benefit of other neighborhoods. That has to be considered when looking for budget cuts now.

  13. Georgetown residents who want to go downtown also have the option of the frequent rush hour service on the D series buses via Q Street and the G2 route which operates across P Street with free transfers to north-south bus routes.
  14. GM loves the D series. He rides it every day. But it simply serves a much different purpose than the Circulator. It is primarily a feeder line to Dupont. More importantly, its off-peak service is not very frequent. That is the main appeal of the Circulator: it comes every 10 minutes regardless of the time of day or day or the week.

    And forget about the G2. It comes way too infrequently to satisfy any but the dedicated or the dependent.

  15. Congestion along Wisconsin Avenue continues to be an issue. Since implementing the extension up to Whitehaven, we have been challenged with maintaining the 10 minute headways that is the foundation of the Circulator brand. In addition, the increased service provided by the 30’s lines eliminates the need to layer additional Circulator service on top of a much improved Metrobus service.

There has absolutely not been an “increased service provided by the 30’s lines”. There are fewer 30’s series buses per hour going through Georgetown since the changes took place.

Also, if congestion is the problem, it’s terribly depressing that DDOT thinks cutting a popular bus line is the answer. If there are bottlenecks, cut parking at the bottleneck. Or better yet, build bus lanes. You know, like the ones you’ve decided to build already. Cutting bus service will probably put more people in cars, which will increase congestion.

In Conclusion:

Upper Georgetown has more than “taken one for the team” already. Cutting the Circulator extension would result in a net reduction of bus service to upper Georgetown by 70%. If anything, DDOT should be thinking about tying together upper Georgetown and Glover Park by extending the Circulator a few blocks. But lacking that, it is unfair and short-sighted to cut the Circulator service.

Please DDOT and Mayor Fenty, reconsider this decision.



Filed under Transit

5 responses to “DDOT Confirms Circulator Service Cut

  1. i think you’re doing a fantastic job covering this, and i don’t want to be a downer, but i think you’re up against the wall on this topic. the city has made up their mind and stuck their fingers in their ears. unless you can get jack evans to somehow help you out here (and maybe even mary cheh) i don’t think there’s hope. and he’s not exactly known for his transit advocacy.

  2. Andy

    I often wonder why there is no link between Glover Park/Upper Georgetown and the Woodley Park Metro. The neighborhoods between Glover Park and Woodley park I am sure would love a frequent metro connector. Perhaps abandon the Navy Yard Metro during the off season and make a year round route from Whitehave St., up Wisconsin to Cleveland (via Garfield) to Calvert and the Woodley Park Metro. I know its not a bus service down town and not a replacement for this cut but its a good option on what to do with all those extra Circulator buses that now dont’ have a use – yet are already purchased.

  3. Ken Archer


    Any idea what part of DDOT made this call (e.g. Planning? Engineering?)? I can’t imagine that Chris Ziemann, the DDOT rep for GTown who is part of the Planning division, supports this. He favored the Wisconsin bus lane that is part of the Georgetown Transportation Study recommendations that DDOT paid $500,000 for (apparently that was money well spent).


  4. GM

    No I don’t know where it’s coming from. I agree that Chris is great, but I imagine this is more from the bean counters, whoever they are.

  5. Pingback: Where We Live: Glover Park » We Love DC

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