Posted by: shoji | September 13, 2007

D.C. by MetroBus

I take the city bus to/from work. It’s about a sixty-minute journey door-to-door, which is on the long side considering it’s < 7 miles as-the-crow-flies. The few times that I’ve driven to work, the commute takes ~20 minutes door-to-door.

That’s a significant difference (more than an hour per day extra for a commute by bus).

Faced with this scenario, it’s easy to see why commuters choose to drive. Another is just the convenience of going at your own schedule and not the transit schedule (which often times get disrupted during rush hour).

Moreover, if I had the obligations of a parent picking up a child, the car beats public transport hands down.

One way to improve the DC MetroBus, recently ridden with fanfare by DC Mayor Fenty (who usually travels by government-issued SUV, see story below), is to create bus-only lanes. Rather than add to the street infrastructure, I propose taking an existing lane from select major routes (e.g., Wisconsin Ave, Connecticut Ave) and making a lane bus-only during rush hour.

This will infuriate car drivers.

As it stands, a trip by car will always be shorter than by bus, because cars operate point-to-point, whereas buses stop every few blocks. But imagine how much faster and more on schedule the buses would run. Those of us who are indifferent to bus transit would see a benefit to riding as the buses zoom from stop to stop. Some cities, like NYC, have had bus-only lanes for many years.

To assuage the car-going public, perhaps we can make the bus-only lane an HOV lane?

via The Truth About Cars

Parking the SUV — Temporarily –
How would Mayor Adrian M. Fenty travel 2.1 miles from the John A. Wilson Building to Cardozo High School on Clifton Street NW for a news conference in which he was to tell residents to protect the environment and leave their cars behind?



  1. As someone without a car, I rely solely on the public transit system to get around in the cold winter months in Boston. And, I agree, nothing is worse than sitting on a bus while stopping in traffic AND at bus stops, diminishing your few hours of leisure time (sometimes dramatically, especially if you’re trying to commute during Boston Red Sox craziness). I am all for instituting bus only lanes. But, as someone who recently transitioned into a city cyclist (and in the spirit of being environmentally conscious, a common theme between cycling and public transit), I would like some thought to be given to protecting cyclists in the design of these lanes. As a bus has to stop every few blocks, it makes sense that the bus-only lane would have to be a lane closest to the curb. Bus-only lanes, in this setting, would share space with cyclists who are riding along the curb as well. And, although this is very similar to the common current set-up, which is definitely not ideal, there are key differences:
    (1) Buses, free of traffic congestion, would be traveling much faster in these right-hand lanes than they do currently. The right lane would become the fast lane during rush hour.
    (2) With the present set-up, buses will routinely change into an inner lane to pass
    a cyclist and give her more breathing room on narrow Boston streets. (Other, cranky drivers just honk at you to tell you they are there, like you were every unaware of the big metrobus barreling towards your bum.) However, the difference in the speed of vehicles in the regular, congested lanes versus the bus-only lanes would prevent bus drivers from being able to easily move into more inner lanes.
    (3) On the bus riders side, buses, now free from car congestion, may become slowed down by a slow cyclist going uphill, if they are unable to easily pass.

    For a solution, we can look to our Dutch friends, where both using public transit AND cycling are very mainstream. Indeed, there are several pilots of car-free city centers as well as city plans to implement multi-year plans to become car free. There, and everywhere else I have travelled in the Netherlands, they have bus lanes and cycle lanes, and the cycle lanes are tucked away to the side of the road with their own curbed paths, coming together with the road only at intersections. They even have bicycle-specific stop lights (see, which, I must admit, delighted me on my first trip. In the States, this seems like an unlikely design as cycling in most places isn’t nearly mainstream enough to merit the city funds necessary to build this elaborate new infrastructure, although many of us hope to see this change. In the meantime, does anyone know how other cities already with bus lanes have dealt—or not—with this issue?

  2. Great thought about bicycles, but, as you note, they’re a hard sell in the USA. I stopped cycling when I finally lost the nerve from close encounters with cars.

    In some cities, there is a narrow (half-width) lane that occupies the space between the regular lane and bus lane. This set up leaves the buses next to the curb and bicyclists sandwiched between the cars and buses. (Bicycle/vehicle accidents in that case don’t seem favorable.)

    With the rising popularity of motorized scooters, I wonder if there will be a movement for a motorized scooter lane (that could be used by bicycles)? Doubtful– we love our cars/SUVs/pickups, and I’m no exception.

  3. […] suggested bus-only lanes in the DC area before, but who am I […]

  4. […] but not bus-friendly streets  I blogged about the need for D.C. to make bus-only lanes, and “CC” commented (excerpt): I am all for instituting bus only lanes. But, as someone […]

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