Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Tactical thinking about DC bus improvements: Part 1, the 80 Line

Left: most buses in the Metrobus fleet are "high floor" buses and customers must walk up steps to get onto the bus.

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.

A low floor bus doesn't require a wheelchair lift, although a small ramp is included and still must be used, because buses don't usually stop absolutely at the curb and because there can still be a height difference between the curb and the bus.

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.
Cleveland bus service, HealthLine, marketing piece

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At 7:53 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

Good ideas. I'd push back on the "health line" being such an operational success. Your point about branding still sticks -- the 38b "orange line with a view" was a good start.

However, even with low floor buses you have a significant time for the driver to deal with wheelchairs. I'd just bring along another driver, if that is really the issue.

But as MLD said a few days ago, I think the problem with the 80 is the route, not the disabled people.

At 9:08 AM, Anonymous Alex B. said...

First, I don't think it's accurate to say that 'most' Metrobuses are high floor. I think that at least 75% of the fleet is low-floor, and the remaining high-floor buses are set to be replaced soon as they are the oldest buses in the fleet.

Second, as charlie notes, low-floors are great and can really reduce board time for wheelchairs, but that's not the biggest potential time savings in boarding. Stop spacing, fare pre-payment, and all-door boarding would all speed things up a great deal more.

Third, branding can be useful, but not as useful as the core level of service. Cleveland can brand the Health Line as different because it is different from the rest of their bus service. The 80 bus is not different from other Metrobus service.

At 10:18 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

I don't disagree with either of you (or MLD). and wrt the Health Line, I do make the point that the bus doesn't have gargantuan ridership, although with the improvements the ridership approaches what DC's 2nd tier of bus ridership is (around 15,000), but is still less than the #1 bus (S lines, about 20,000 daily riders).

I am more focused on the branding, not the ridership and that it is BRT.

And yes, Alex B., of course, service improvements are far far more important than mere changes to the livery.

At 10:21 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Oh, and the Post article said the 80s line has amongst the highest ridership of a DC bus. At best, it's probably in the fourth tier.

The first tier is the S bus at around 20,000 daily riders.

The second tier is around 15,000 daily riders (90s, X, 70s, 30s).

The third tier probably includes the 50s bus, I don't think it gets up to 15,000, but maybe. In any case, ridership between North Columbia Heights and Takoma is much reduced compared to the southern part of the route.

The fourth tier would be other buses, like the 80s.

At 2:58 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...


Hi folks - in case you missed it yesterday, Metro is holding a second public meeting on the future of the 80 bus, tonight, at Providence Hospital. I'll copy their press release below.

If you're a rider of the 80, I would def. recommend attending as they are considering many substantial changes. I'm also attaching scans of the proposals; Metro assured me they would be on-line today, but as of this morning I have yet to see them. As the scans are in black and white, I'll try and give a brief explainer of each one. There are currently about 5 proposals being batted around. The one issue that seems to be decided is that the New York Ave underpass is going to stay. But for the new proposals, they include: (1) an 80X bus, which would be a 16-stop express route that would run along the same route as it currently does - or extend south from Union Station to SW (more on that in option 5). (2) They are also proposing a new 80-Shuttle line, which would go from Brookland Station through Washington Hospital Center, down First, NW, east on Bryant to North Cap, and then down to New York Ave, and into Noma (1st Street, NE - connecting Bloomingdale to the Harris Teeter) It would also terminate at Union Station. (3) They are also looking at ending the 80 bus at McPherson rather than the Kennedy Center and re-routing the D6 to hit the Kennedy Center instead of going through Dupont/Georgetown. (4) Having the 80 stop at Union Station (would run from Union Station to Fort Totten only). (5) and finally - and the one I find most intriguing is making the 80 go from Fort Totten to Federal Center SW. This would create a new connection from Union Station to SW, which doesn't currently exist. I thought this was a great idea though I suggested they should run it instead to L'Enfant instead of Federal Center as there is a high demand for transfers to the Green/Yellow lines as evidenced by the current Gallery Place stop.

At 2:59 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...


Metro announces second round of public meetings for Metrobus Route 80 study
Customers can give feedback on possible service improvements for North Capitol Street Line
Metro and the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) today announced the second round of public meetings to hear input from riders and community members regarding potential changes to Metrobus Route 80 service, known as the North Capitol Street Line.

Metro and DDOT working together on a comprehensive study of Route 80 service. The two public meetings announced today follow two open houses and a focus group in late 2012, in which the project team heard ideas from the public about service improvements along the corridor.

The two public meetings will take place as follows:

Wednesday, February 6, 2013 -- 5:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Phoenix Park Hotel
520 North Capitol Street NW (across from Union Station at the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue, North Capitol and F streets)
Washington, DC

Thursday, February 7, 2013 -- 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Providence Hospital Ross Auditorium
1150 Varnum Street NE
Washington, DC

Both meeting locations are located on Metrobus Route 80 and open to all members of the public; no advance registration is required. Participants may arrive any time between the start and end time of each meeting. The meetings will not feature a formal presentation. Instead, participants will be able to speak individually with the project team about service improvements that Metro is considering for the North Capitol Street Line.

Metro and DDOT will use the feedback from participants to complete the analysis of Route 80 and create draft recommendations. In spring 2013, after a final round of public input, the recommendations for improvements will be finalized and presented to the public and the Metro Board for consideration in mid-2013.

At 3:00 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

I must say that the proposed total change for the route, from Fort Totten to say either L'Enfant Plaza or Fed. Center SW is interesting.

At 3:02 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Oh, and Sam S. scanned some of the WMATA documents, which are available at this Bloomingdale blog post:


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