Staff Editorial: DC Circulator should be extended promptly to Zoo

The National Zoo is located at 3001 Connecticut Ave. NW. (Brian Kapur/The Current/October 2017)

It’s buried deep in a list of traffic-mitigation strategies for the National Zoo’s planned new parking garage: the idea of extending the DC Circulator from the Woodley Park Metro station up to the Zoo’s Connecticut Avenue entrance.

We think this would benefit both the Zoo and the District in general, and hope it can be implemented quickly.

The D.C. Department of Transportation has recently shied away from requests to extend Circulator lines, saying that longer routes are less reliable and hamper the bus system’s core focus: affordably and efficiently connecting areas of the city with consistent levels of high activity. We don’t see this issue with the National Zoo, which is bustling throughout its operating hours and which is just a half-mile from the line’s current terminus.

The DC Circulator is popular for its frequent service and $1 fares. (Brian Kapur/The Current/May 2017)

Extending this line would make the Zoo more reachable by public transportation. That’s an important goal, given that the Zoo’s proposed new 1,285-space garage is projected to be full 69 days a year. Even if the Zoo had still more parking capacity, bargain-hunters would continue to seek free parking on nearby residential streets, and additional drivers heading to the Zoo would increase local traffic congestion. These issues are reduced with each person who elects not to drive to the Zoo. Furthermore, residents and visitors who prefer not to drive will have easier access to this national resource.

Additionally, serving the Zoo would almost certainly boost ridership in general on the Circulator’s Woodley Park-Adams Morgan-McPherson Square line, connecting residents and tourists to the businesses and other local attractions along the way. And riders coming in by Metro would be able to transfer to the Circulator for the final leg of their journey at half-price fare, rather than hoofing it from the Woodley Park or Cleveland Park station.

Unfortunately, implementing this route extension is more complicated than simply driving the Circulator a few more blocks. There’s a convenient turnaround route for buses at the Woodley Park station, whereas the Zoo would need to build one for the Circulator. We’re encouraged that officials from the Transportation Department and the Zoo are all on board with the general idea, but we don’t want to see it bogged down in interminable long-term plans and complicated federal-local coordination. All parties should see improved transit connectivity as a valuable priority and work to achieve it expeditiously.