Today marks the end of the second week of service of WMATA’s new Metro Extra line on Georgia Avenue. To my knowledge the project is the second Bus Rapid Transit line developed in the region, and the first express bus to operate almost exclusively inside the District.
The service, officially Metro Extra Route 79, currently operates every ten minutes from 6-9:30 a.m. and 3-6:30 p.m. along 7th Street and Georgia Avenue, with stops at the Navy Memorial, Chinatown, Shaw, Petworth, Walter Reed, and Silver Spring, among others. When Dr. Gridlock took a ride on the bus recently he found it running smoothly, with the exception of a few confused riders. Over the next year new bus shelters, sidewalk bulb-outs, and technology to speed buses through intersections will be tested and installed. The service may also be eventually be extended to provide all-day service.
Although the branding for the route is less than ideal (extra what?), the marketing has been more creative than I’ve seen for any other WMATA bus service. I even received a pamphlet in the mail in Spanish and English clearly explaining the route, and containing coupons to use at the AFI Silver Theater and Borders Books (both located near route stops), and two coupons to ride the bus free during its first week of operation. With Arlington County, WMATA developed the successful PikeRide to provide service on Columbia Pike in Virginia. However, other suburban express routes could be improved by clearer marketing and route information.
The service, a joint project between WMATA and the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) shows that DDOT continues to be much more dedicated to enhancing transportation in the District, having also launched the successful DC Circulator service, which recently expanded to take over the Georgetown Blue Bus route on Wisconsin Avenue.
The project is a rare bright spot for WMATA’s bus system, where little major changes have been made since a 2005 evaluation in which experts reported the system was providing erratic service on aging buses along routes that have changed little since 1973. High hopes are riding on WMATA’s much-discussed new General Manager, John Catoe, Jr., who successfully led the overhaul of bus service in the sprawling Los Angeles system.
> WMATA Metro Extra Information
> Metro Extra Project Development Website
> W. Post: “Georgia Avenue to Get Express Bus Route“, Get There Blog: “New Metrobus Rolls Out”
> W. Post, 12/27/05: “Progress Has Passed Metrobus By”
> DCist, 11/17/06: “New Guy on the Bus” (Catoe profile)