Tactical thinking about DC bus improvements: Part 1, the 80 Line
Last week the Post has a story, "Many riders on Metro’s 80 bus to hospital appointments in NE frequently left waiting," about issues with the 80 bus line, which serves three different hospitals, GWU, Washington Hospital Center, and Providence Hospital.
The article makes the point that one of the reasons for delay on the line is the high frequency of disabled riders, and the operation of the ramp/wheelchair lift, which is required to get people onto the bus because the buses are high floor and entered via steps.
1. Commit to running low floor buses on the line at all times
Why not implement low floor buses on the 80 line?
Note that this will happen over time anyway, because as WMATA buys new buses they are all low floor and over time the high floor buses will be retired. (But it will take a long time.)
Like WMATA, the bus system in Cleveland has both low floor and high floor buses and like the Metrobus fleet, all of the high floor buses have wheelchair lifts. But on lines with frequent wheelchair use, the Cleveland system runs low floor buses.
Even so, low floor buses would still significantly reduce delays on the line caused by frequent use of the more complicated lift implemented on high floor buses.
But many transit systems employ low floor buses, which speed up boarding more generally.
Note that some disabled activists argue that there are issues with typical low floor bus designs and design improvements are necessary. See "New low-floor Muni buses bring some passengers down" from the San Francisco Examiner.
2. For fun, consider branding the 80 bus line the Health Line
Cleveland is getting incredible press on their BRT line, branded the HealthLine, which connects Cleveland Clinic and University Hospital to Downtown. (Although the HealthLine has dedicated stations that have been built to make wheelchair access completely seamless, without necessitating use of the bus-based access ramp.)
But since the 80s bus line connects three hospitals, why not brand the line as part of the improvement program to the service?
Note that in Cleveland, the Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals pay $250,000 per year for naming rights for the line. And the line has special stations and other unique design elements which further brand and differentiate the service. Still, branding would be a step forward.