Proposed Metrobus service changes see mixed reactions

A 96 Metrobus heads south on Wisconsin Avenue NW near the Tenleytown Metro station. (Brian Kapur/The Current/September 2017)

Proposed changes to Metrobus service received mixed reactions at a recent public hearing held by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.

The Sept. 26 hearing featured 45 or so witnesses from across the region, including about four who commented on several planned changes affecting bus service in Northwest.

The changes are part of Metro’s “State of Good Operations” process, which amends services and routes to improve efficiency and reliability in accordance with ridership density and new infrastructure. Jim Hamre, Metro’s director of bus planning, said the proposals aim to improve service reliability, reduce overcrowding, serve newly developed locations and accommodate changing roadways. Most changes would go into effect in June.

In Northwest, one contentious proposal involves truncating the 96 Metrobus line at Wisconsin Avenue and Newark Street instead of continuing the route to the Tenleytown Metro station. Though for many years the 96 terminated at McLean Gardens, the construction of Cathedral Commons led to the temporary extension of the line.

Metro says that overly long routes can too easily fall behind schedule, and that Wisconsin Avenue has ample alternative options. But opponents, including Ward 3 D.C. Council member Mary Cheh, argued that planned projects including the redeveloped Fannie Mae headquarters and the new Idaho Avenue family shelter need easy access to the Metro station.

“Discontinuing service to the Tenleytown Metro not only is a disservice to the neighborhoods along this route, but also fails to account for the increased — and ever more increasing — density along this corridor,” Cheh wrote to Metro. “In the coming years, more residents who rely on public transportation are expected to live along this corridor.”

A more popular change affects the H1 line, currently a rush-hour-only route between Brookland and the National Mall that passes through Columbia Heights, Adams Morgan, Dupont Circle and Foggy Bottom. Metro proposes to add all-day service in both directions.

Patrick Kennedy, chair of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2A (Foggy Bottom/West End), lauded the idea, citing a high demand for more frequent service between dense commercial and residential areas.

“What we have seen is a change in the ridership patterns and change in the neighborhoods all along the route. … Jobs are located in more diverse locales than they were. We see shopping that has become a major regional attraction in Columbia Heights, and densification of residential,” Kennedy said at the hearing.

The hearing featured little comment about the other proposed Northwest Metrobus changes.

In the 14th Street NW corridor, Metro intends to add a new limited-stop 59 bus between the Takoma and Federal Triangle Metro stations. Meanwhile, the existing 52, 53 and 54 routes would be revised with less frequent service and with new access to the burgeoning Southwest waterfront. These changes would go into effect in December.

Metro has also proposed changes to the 62 and 63 route, which heads south from the Takoma Metro station through Petworth. The proposal would increase service that would continue south to the Federal Triangle station rather than stopping at Georgia Avenue-Petworth, and tweaks the route in Logan Circle.