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Circulator plan adds new routes

By Brady Holt

Current Staff Writer

The D.C. Department of Transportation hopes to add service in Upper Northwest to the DC Circulator bus system over the next decade and to increase fares, according to a new report, but any changes would depend on public input and available funding.

The department's 10-year plan, released this month, proposes to add or extend 11 routes. The Circulator's existing six-line network is primarily concentrated downtown and on Capitol Hill, with lines reaching into Adams Morgan, Georgetown and Rosslyn.

If the plan's recommendations are adopted and funded, the first phase of new lines would be added between 2012 and 2015, including an extension of the Dupont Circle-Georgetown-Rosslyn route along U Street to Howard University; a route between Georgetown and Union Station by way of the National Mall; and the first service east of the river, into Anacostia.

Between 2016 and 2018, the system would grow to include a line that would run from Tenleytown through Adams Morgan to Brookland in Northeast and a direct connection between Adams Morgan and H Street NE. By 2020, the Tenleytown line would extend to the Georgia Avenue corridor into Silver Spring.

“The proposed corridors outlined in the plan offer new or improved connections between high-density, mixed-use activity centers, supporting economic activity and improving mobility for District residents, workers, and visitors,” Transportation Department spokesperson John Lisle wrote in an email.

The report projects an annual operating cost increase of nearly $53 million if the first phase of lines is added, plus a $20 million purchase of new buses to service those added routes. Lisle said his department is confident the District will find money for the buses. “Given the popularity and operational efficiency of the DC Circulator, DDOT anticipates continued support for the growth of the system,” Lisle wrote.

Furthermore, the plan suggests offsetting those costs slightly by increasing cash fares from $1 to $2 and SmarTrip fares from $1 to $1.50 -- for an additional $1.1 million of annual revenue.

It also calls for the elimination of underutilized service, including late hours of the Woodley Park-Adams Morgan-McPherson Square route -- on Friday and Saturday nights, buses would stop running at 2 a.m. instead of 3:30 a.m., an $80,000 savings per year -- and the Smithsonian-National Gallery of Art and the Convention Center-Southwest Waterfront lines for an annual savings of $170,000 and $2.7 million, respectively.

Under the plan, the Smithsonian line would be replaced by other routes, and the canceled Southwest Waterfront line would be reinstated when those new routes around the Mall materialize.

The number of stops on all lines would be reduced to three or four per mile, which the department hopes would improve the routes' speed and reliability.

The Transportation Department will present the details of the 10-year plan at 6 p.m. tomorrow in the Ohio Room of the Capital Hilton Hotel, 1001 16th St. NW. The full draft report is also available at dccirculator.com, at the “Planning for Tomorrow!” link; residents can also submit comments about the plan on that Web page.

This article appears in the March 30 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.