Circulator cutting Wisconsin Avenue service on October 4th

We reported last week that the Wisconsin Avenue portion of the Circulator route was in peril, and it appears the worst has come to pass: The District Department of Transportation announced that the cut was a done deal.

According to a DDOT press release, widely circulated (and cursed) on local listservs, the new route will take effect Sunday, October 4.  In addition to eliminating service on the stretch of Wisconsin Avenue north of M Street on the Georgetown-Union Station line, the Smithsonian-National Mall Loop is going to be discontinued during the fall and winter months. Service on that route will resume on April 3, 2010.

In the press release, DDOT Director Gabe Klein describes the motivation for the cuts thusly:

We regret having to make any cuts in service.  It was not a decision we took lightly and the reductions were targeted to affect the fewest riders and produce the greatest savings.  At the same time, when we took a closer look at our service, we were able to find some ways – within our budget constraints – to make improvements that will make the Circulator easier to ride for many of our passengers.

In an e-mail to a Georgetown resident who had complained about the cut, DDOT’s Jeff Marootian further elaborated on the rationale behind the move (his full e-mail is included after the jump):

Passenger counts previously conducted along this portion of the Circulator route showed approximately 30 individuals traveling on the Circulator north of M Street on Wisconsin Avenue in both directions between 7am and noon daily. This translates to nearly 70 daily passengers if extrapolated to an all-day count; or about 17,000 passengers on an annual basis.

Given that the Union Station-Georgetown route carries about 2 million passengers annually, cutting the Whitehaven Extension is expected to affect less than 2% of the riders on this route while saving 3 buses or 15% of the operating cost for the east-west route. These daily trips could easily be absorbed by service provided on the 30s Metrobus routes.

According to Georgetown Metropolitan, given the recent cuts that were made to the 30 Series, the Circulator change means there will be an overall 70 percent service cut on Wisconsin Avenue.

Read Marootian’s full email after the jump!

This is in response to your letter regarding the elimination of the Circulator route along Wisconsin Avenue traveling to Whitehaven. Thank you for taking the time to share your concerns with us. Due to gap closing measures in the fiscal year 2010 District of Columbia budget, the proposed operating subsidy for the Circulator has been reduced and has resulted in the elimination of this portion of the Circulator service.

Although we will be discontinuing the Circulator Whitehaven extension, DDOT has collaborated with the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority (WMATA) to enhance the 30’s lines Metrobuses. We are confident that these improvements will make them a viable public transportation alternative for residents and visitors of Georgetown and surrounding neighborhoods alike. The service provided by WMATA in this segment of Wisconsin Avenue is one of the best designed bus services throughout the District in terms of frequency of service. The residents in this area of Wisconsin Avenue have a choice of two cross-town services offered by the 32 and 36 lines that run from the Friendship Heights Metro, along Wisconsin Avenue , via Georgetown, to downtown and then onto SE Washington. There is also the option of the 31 bus line service that travels from Friendship Height Metro, along Wisconsin Avenue via Georgetown to Washington Circle. The frequency of these services combined range between 5 minutes to 10 minutes during peak hours and 10 to 15 minutes during off peak hours and weekends. Metrobus Route 37 now provides limited stop, semi-express service from the upper Wisconsin Avenue corridor to downtown, bypassing traffic congestion in Georgetown. We feel that there is an adequate level of bus service provided by Metrobus on Wisconsin Avenue that supports our elimination of the Circulator along Wisconsin Avenue.

We recognize that there may be additional improvements required to make the 30s lines a more efficient, ideal transportation option and these services are currently being evaluated as part of the 30s and 70s Bus Service Evaluation scheduled to conclude November 2009. One of the current considerations is the extension of the 31 route to service downtown beyond Washington Circle. In addition, NextBus real-time travel information has been implemented by WMATA since the redesign of the 30s and is resulting in reduced customer wait times prior to boarding buses, thus taking the guess work out of when your bus will arrive.

Passenger counts previously conducted along this portion of the Circulator route showed approximately 30 individuals traveling on the Circulator north of M Street on Wisconsin Avenue in both directions between 7am and noon daily. This translates to nearly 70 daily passengers if extrapolated to an all-day count; or about 17,000 passengers on an annual basis. Given that the Union Station-Georgetown route carries about 2 million passengers annually, cutting the Whitehaven Extension is expected to affect less than 2% of the riders on this route while saving 3 buses or 15% of the operating cost for the east-west route. These daily trips could easily be absorbed by service provided on the 30s Metrobus routes.

Thank you again for taking time to express your concerns regarding the Circulator bus services. Please feel free to contact us at (202) 673-6813 regarding this or any other matters of concern.

4 Comments on “Circulator cutting Wisconsin Avenue service on October 4th

  1. I simply don’t believe that 30 person figure between 7am and noon; there’s just no way it could possibly be true. I rode the Circulator to my internship during the morning rush every weekday over the summer and I would say there were regularly 20-30 people already on the bus before we even got to M Street. It’s just impossible for that number to be true–nothing but pure propaganda for the sake of the bean counters cutting costs.

  2. personally, i’m boycotting the circulator because of this. you abandon me, i abandon you.

  3. STrangely, the DC Circulator advocates the use of NextBus in this letter but hasn’t implemented it themselves. Instead they give us this ridicululous Where’s My Bus? app that a high school kid could write.

    DC Circulator must get NextBus!

  4. The circulator is supposed to come every 5-10 minutes… is NextBus really going to help that much?

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