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.

Monday, September 09, 2013

ACT September meeting: Metro night-time bus service

The Action Committee for Transit's September meeting features Jim Hamre, WMATA's director of bus planning.  The topic will be night time bus services and the study that WMATA is conducting (a small study, not a huge study) on the topic.

----------------
Date: Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013
Time: 7:30 pm
Where: Silver Spring Civic Center, Veterans Place----------------

In DC, WMATA runs a number of bus lines almost 24 hours, just a bit short, about 22.5 to 23 hours, including the X bus on H St. NE, the 70s line, the 30s line, etc.  But there is very limited bus service along major suburban corridors at night.

E.g., in the late 1980s, I missed the last train from White Flint and ended up taking a bus down Rockville Pike to Friendship Heights and then connecting to a DC-based 30s bus (I think), and then catching the X bus to get back home.  Today, there is no late night Metrorail service down Rockville Pike.  Or I missed the last train from West Falls Church after a concert at the State Theatre...

For me the issues are:

1.  Providing a "Night Owl" service that would parallel the Metro lines when Metrorail is not in service (see the past blog entry "Night moves: the need for more night time (and weekend) transit service, especially when the subway is closed" and "Overnight transit service");

2.  Which would also provide overnight service in suburban areas which are underserved currently;

3.  Ensuring that night time demand is adequately served with an appropriate level of equipment, headways, etc. ("Washington Post article on the demand for night-time bus services");

4.  Dealing with crime and other problems (such as those in Anacostia, see the past blog entry "Cut and run: transit and crime");

5.  Branding "Night Owl" service, producing maps, etc. (this post isn't about night-time service specifically, but includes a variety of points about better branding bus service, "Making bus service sexy and more equitable" and "Transit riding as customer service");

6.  Ensuring service to the area's airports when Metrorail isn't running and planes are still flying (see "More on airport-related transit" and other links within the entry), which could necessitate route changes compared to when Metrorail does run (e.g., the B30 should leave from DC to BWI when Metrorail doesn't run; and service needs to be added to and from DC to National Airport, which for the most part is not provided when Metrorail doesn't run, etc.).

WRT the latter, note that New York MTA has instituted 24-hour bus service to LaGuardia Airport from the closest LIRR station, Woodside, which also connects to the 7 subway line.  See "New Q70 bus will cut time to LaGuardia" from the New York Daily News (based on an MTA press release).

Nite Owl Service inset map, from the 1946 Capital Transit map.

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19 Comments:

At 10:01 AM, Anonymous rg said...

The 'night owl' streetcar map is, for lack of a better description, super cool! And I say streetcar on purpose -- streetcars predominate. Imagine if we had kept and modernized those streetcar lines, as so many Eurpoean cities did.

 
At 10:12 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Well, Congress used the provocation of a transit workers strike to refuse to renew the streetcar franchise. So after this happened the streetcar system was sold to O. Roy Chalk, who owned an airline.

He attempted to get Congress to rescind their decision but they wouldn't. So as of the date the franchise was to end, the streetcars were replaced with buses, although up to that date, lines were closed in anticipation of the change, e.g., the 70s line was one of the last running lines.

We'll never be able to prove if there was collusion by people in Congress with those corporate interests that were focused on dissolving streetcar systems and replacing them with buses (GMC) that ran on gasoline (Standard Oil) and needing tires (Firestone).

That being said, post-war, prices went up for streetcars--much more than buses--and people started driving, so it's not unlikely that ridership would have declined, back to the trends that preceded the surge during WWII because of gas rationing (which was mostly because of reduced access to rubber for tire production, not so much about gasoline supplies).

Still, Chalk did air condition one of the streetcars, and branded it as a touring vehicle (Silver Sightseer), so it was possible to air condition the PCC car even in the 1950s.

Who knows what could have happened had streetcar systems been able to compete with motordom with air conditioned vehicles?

 
At 12:32 PM, Blogger dan reed! said...

Actually, there are two late-night bus services along Rockville Pike today, both operated by Ride On: the 55 from Rockville to Germantown and the 46 from Shady Grove to Medical Center, both of which run until 12-1am 7 days a week. The headways aren't great (buses come 40-60 minutes apart).

In researching late-night bus service in Montgomery County for the Nighttime Economy Task Force, I was surprised to find there are already a number of late-night buses (both Metrobus and Ride On) serving the county, mostly to and from Silver Spring. Despite being a major nightlife destination (with all of the visitors and workers it brings), Bethesda actually has surprisingly little late-night bus service.

 
At 2:47 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Thanks. One of the big problems with the separation of transit services amongst the agencies is that it's harder to dig up this information.

We need more integrated schedules. WMATA has good bus maps that do this, and I am glad they publish them in printed versions, but at the same time, this kind of information could be better presented in subway stations. (I say the same about bike route maps too, fwiw.)

 
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