District Funding Shortages Likely to Delay Free Metrobus Plans 

Visions for a new transit plan in downtown D.C. share a common goal: easy flow of public and private vehicles, bicycles and scooters along with safe pedestrian experiences in crossing streets and accessing their vehicles in nearby parking areas and accessing stores and outdoor dining areas throughout the city. Various transit reform plans have been on the D.C. Council’s agenda for years. Plans have inevitably garnered different levels of support, often based on ideological concerns.  

According to analysts quoted in the Washington Post recently, D.C. Mayor Bowser favors plans that will emphasize easing transit into the downtown in ways that will benefit the entire city and revitalize its “Comeback” economic recovery plan. This includes designated throughfares, such as K Street NW, that would be reconfigured to ease the passageway of various modes of transportation from cars to busses, trolley and cable cars, bikes and scooters – electric and other. Bowser’s “K Street Transitway” was in its final design phase and intended to alleviate traffic congestion on the mile-long corridor of K St. – some eight of its busiest blocks. The parallel service roads along both sides of K Street are to be eliminated and public busses would be given an exclusive lane, perhaps down the middle of the street. Metro General Manager Randy Clark said the plan was a key part of Metro’s effort to redesign its bus network for the first time in 40 years.  

But last week the D.C. Council’s transportation committee voted to pause the K Street Transitway project, shifting its funds instead to a “Metro for DC” project of targeted services for lower-income residents and workers. This plan includes free bus services for anyone from anywhere traveling on public transportation bringing them into the city. The idea made headlines throughout the D.C. Metro region. Who doesn’t like free?  

But Clark said the transitway and free bus service programs were competing projects. Turns out that when Mayor Bowser pointed out there was no longer enough money in the D.C. budget to fund free incoming bus service to everywhere in D.C., proponents including Ward 6 Council Member Charles Allen proposed shifting funds from the K St. Transitway project to the free Metrobus project. Now the whole concept has gone regional seeking support from jurisdictions outside D.C. in Virginia and Maryland. “It’s pretty clear we’re going to have to delay the free bus idea for a year,” concluded Council Chair Phil Mendelson.  

On May 1, the Georgetown, Burleith, Hillandale Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC2E) spent almost a half-hour talking about the impact of the delayed K Street Transitway and free Metrobus projects. But their main concern was on proposed changes to the area’s Metrobus and Circulator routes. A new map showing changes to a merged and more efficient routing of the D2, D6 and G2 busses was discussed. Changes in the routes of the electric-battery-operated city Circulator busses were also of concern. The busses currently transport Georgetowners to points west as far as Sibley Hospital and Arlington, and east to Union Station, and past the Capitol and the Senate office buildings and beyond. A proposed map shows most of the area covered by combining bus routes with fewer but more frequent stops. Fares – free or not – will probably be decided by the combined regional jurisdictions.  





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