Better Bus Network Routes Discussed at ANC 6C

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The Better Bus initiative plans to improve bus service throughout the District and surrounding areas.

Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6C met on June 14 via WebEx. Commissioners Christy Kwan (6C01), Leslie Merkle (6C02, secretary), Jay Adelstein (6C03), Mark Eckenwiler (6C04, chair), Commissioner Joel Kelty (6C05, treasurer), Patricia Eguino (6C06) and Tony Goodman (6C07, vice chair) were present.

Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (WMATA) Better Bus Project Expanded arrives on the District’s streets as soon as 2024. This WMATA initiative is aimed to rethink, redesign and revitalize the District’s bus services and support partner agencies in both Prince George’s County (TheBus) and Fairfax (CUE). The project considers where, when and how people travel across the DMV to coordinate service with bus priority investments like bus lanes and transit signal priority.

The project is currently in the second of four phases and is accepting feedback on the proposed changes. WMATA plans to begin implementation of these route and service changes in 2024. Key elements of the proposal, such as the extension of bus hours to 24/7 on some routes, will be “extremely helpful” according to commissioners, but other elements of the proposed service changes raised concern.

Commission Chair Mark Eckenwiler noted the project is “quite an ambitious undertaking” and expressed concerns about some of the proposed routes within ANC 6C. Eckenwiler drafted a letter highlighting concerns about turn maneuvers, particularly in regard to street width, issues with parking practices, noise and vibration concerns for late night routes in residential areas, proximity of bus routes and more.

While noting the need for acknowledgement of concerns on the streets of the proposed routes, Commissioner Kwan spoke in opposition to the letter’s overall tone.

“It does come off strongly as saying we like transit, but not in our neighborhood, which I have difficulty with,” Kwan said.

An abundance of transit access, Eckenwiler responded, already exists in the neighborhood noting that some of the proposed changes do not improve access for residents.

“If this were really, materially improving access that’ll be one thing, but I don’t really see it, and the juice is just not worth the squeeze here.”

Neighbors, Commissioner Joel Kelty said, have voiced concerns about some of the routes. In particular, Kelty echoed concerns about bus routes on fourth and sixth streets and said he hopes the commission can “dissuade” WMATA from implementing those changes. “We live in the most transit rich neighborhood probably in the country,” Kelty noted.

The inefficiency and cost, Commissioner Merkle, noted are two major obstacles to the new plans. She referenced some route changes that could increase travel time, seemingly unnecessarily, for some riders.

“It doesn’t make sense if you are someone who’s making minimum wage and you need to get to work,” Merkle said. “I don’t think these bus routes are helpful.”

The commission voted to submit a letter to the DC Council’s Committee on Transportation and the Environment, with a copy sent to WMATA, as testimony for the Better Bus Network roundtable held in early June. Visit wmata.com for more information about the initiative.

Other Matters
Jamee Ernst, DDOT Project Manager, spoke to the commission about the New York Avenue Streetscape and Trail Project aimed to develop bike and pedestrian improvements along New York Ave. NE from Florida Ave. NE to Bladensburg Rd. The project intends to provide connections to existing bike and pedestrian infrastructure in the area and to create connections to other destinations along the corridor. A public meeting will take place on June 28 at 6:30 p.m., and public comments on the project will be accepted through early August. Visit newyorkavenueproject.com for more information.

Resident Ben Schweitzer, raised concerns about crime in the neighborhood after two friends were robbed at gunpoint in broad daylight. Schweitzer asked commissioners about “actionable steps” residents could take to help mitigate violence in the community. Kelty encouraged neighbors to take advantage of the city’s camera rebate programs, but acknowledged their shortcomings. Kelty highlighted the importance of advocating for stricter law enforcement and prosecution in the District with an emphasis on a “locally accountable” prosecution.

In February, the commission approved a letter to the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) in support of The Boiling Crab’s (400 H St. NE) Transportation Online Permitting System (TOPS) application for an enclosed structure for trash and grease from the restaurant. Due to a DDOT delay, this item returned to the committee and the previously approved letter will be resent. The commission did not vote again on this item.

The Commission voted to:

  • support a stipulated license for Chop Shop DC/Nice N Easy, a Peruvian Thai fusion chicken carry out spot and associated bar, that will be located on Congress St. NE. The pending application for their permanent license will be discussed at the next Alcohol Beverage Licensing (ABL) committee meeting.
  • adopt the PZE committee recommendation to support a rear addition to an existing row house at 504 F St. NE with one caveat about decking over the trellis.
  • submit a letter supporting the changes that are beneficial raising several issues regarding the Union Station Expansion Project. Discussion included the monitoring and improvement of access to the station, bicycle facilities, including both access and short- and long-term storage and enhancing public space elements.

ANC 6C will next meet on July 12 at 7 p.m. via WebEx. Visit anc6c.org to learn more about the commission and register to attend the meeting.

Sarah Payne is a reporter for Capital Community News. She can be reached at sarahp@hillrag.com.