As GM wrote in June, the city is proposing to chop the Wisconsin Ave. leg of the Circulator bus. GM reflexively rejected this proposal. And perhaps that’s the correct position, but there are some possible alternatives that could make it a worthwhile trade off. Let GM know what you think of them.
The city’s argument (as expressed by DDOT) for ending Circulator service up Wisconsin Ave. is that it is causing the entire line to fail. The original promise of the Circulator was that it would come every ten minutes. It does not meet that goal anymore. And the city largely blames traffic on Wisconsin Ave. for that failure. If the bus turned around at M St., DDOT argues, it would gain back a lot of the time lost.
Additionally, DDOT argues that the supposedly ridership on Wisconsin Ave. further justifies cutting it.
As GM mentioned, his initial reaction was to reject this proposal. If any traffic is hurting the Circulator on Wisconsin, it’s mostly coming from below M (and along K) and cutting service above M won’t address that. Additionally, ridership is always worse at the end of a line, particularly one that doesn’t end at a node. Maybe if the city complied with the Council’s legislation that ordered the line extended to the Cathedral, ridership would pick up.
That is still true. And fighting the change based on these arguments is a fair option.
However, the Circulator service will continue to degrade if nothing is done about the delays. Adding more buses is not an option right now since there is neither a lot of money for it, nor is there a bus depot to put them in. (This is part of the reason extending the line is not on the table right now). And while it is distasteful that DDOT has made it a zero-sum game, cutting the Wisconsin Ave. leg would allow them to extend the Rosslyn-Dupont route to U St., which is a highly underserved connection.
But simply cutting the leg would be all loss for Georgetowners, particularly those living above P St. The Circulator supplements the 30 Series through this corridor. This is a fact that DDOT actually considers a negative for the leg. In other words, the Circulator is supposed to be a special simplified service to connect activity nodes. It’s not meant to simply duplicate WMATA bus lines. But the fact that it does duplicate the service means that cutting it would significantly reduce bus options for this corridor. And the 30 series is often overcrowded and bunched as it works its way through Georgetown. So, yes, the Circulator largely just supplements the 30 Series service, it is an essential supplement.
But it points towards a possible alternative: what if the city create a new 30 Series line to replace the Circulator service lost? It could be a new line that only goes from Georgetown to Foggy Bottom, and thus avoids the crowding a delays that challenge the main 30 Series routes. Moreover, it could be extended up to the Cathedral without adding too much to the delays or crowding, thus finally delivering the additional northbound service.
So imagine a new route (call it a 39 route) that goes every ten minutes from the Cathedral down through Georgetown to Foggy Bottom and back. Is this something you’d be interested in? Or would the loss of the Circulator be too much? Some obvious reasons to object would be that the 39 would be more expensive than the Circulator, not allow strollers, nor provide service east of Foggy Bottom. Would that be too much to accept in exchange for a more reliable Circulator service, new Circulator service to U St., and more service to the Cathedral?
This is just a proposal that GM has heard kicked around. It’s not an official DDOT proposal, but it is something that could be possible.