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Washington DC's First BRT Corridor. Probably.
A rendering from DDOT's K Street Transitway Final Report.

A rendering from DDOT's K Street Transitway Final Report.

With the advance in the design of the new layout for K Street in downtown DC (see recent article in The Washington Post) and the introduction a few years ago of the Circulator service, Washington is quietly making the first BRT corridor in the region. This is a good outcome of the stimulus package…much better than giving away cash for clunkers, which is helping the auto industry but has little impact on the environment (also see: here and here.)

The K Street busway will be a great addition to the transit options in the heart of the capital region. Making it a full BRT corridor is just a little step away. The dedicated median bus lanes with passing capability at intersections and stations will increase speed and reliabilit, probably the most notable problems of the current Circulator service.

The corridor already has a very good bus fleet and different branding than the rest of the Metrobus system: nice low-floor buses with emissions control technology (see a picture here) but lacks real stations. Stations with level boarding and pre-payment will reduce dwell time and will further increase commercial speeds. An area traffic control that provides buses with real priority and centralized control to assure reliability will complete the case for the first BRT corridor in the region.

I just hope the plans to change the layout of K Street advance rapidly. The best layout includes three lanes for buses, to allow passing at intersections. It also includes bike tracks. It will be interesting to see how intersections will be managed, hopefully without left turning movements, so through buses and general traffic speeds up.

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  • Even though light rail seems to be more appealing to most of the general public and other decision makers, it’s worth nothing that a well-designed and -operated bus system in the corridor is much more cost-effective, and also has the potential to reduce greenhouse gases to a greater degree than electric trains, given rail’s heavy reliance on coal power sources in the D.C. metropolitan area.

  • I think it should be said that, if other BRT services in the U.S. are any indication, the amount of wear from constantly running buses are going to require repaving in 5 years or so anyway. I don’t think there’s any getting around “tearing up K Street twice”, so I think we might as well get the transit we can have now.

  • Not mentioned in the Post article is the fact that the city eventually wants streetcars running down K Street as well. If this is the case, perhaps they should consider installing the tracks when they create the busway, to avoid tearing up K Street twice? Even if the streetcars don’t come to K Street for 10 years, we should be planning ahead. There is precedent for this- they’re laying streetcar tracks on H St NE while they reconstruct the corridor, even though many details of the H St streetcar project are still up in the air and have not even been budgeted for yet.