Alexandria is set to change some HOV rules in the city this summer to ensure crowded buses and carpools keep moving during a major Metro shutdown.
The proposal, which could be approved by the City Council later this month, would extend the hours HOV rules apply on Washington Street in both the morning and afternoon and increase the requirements from HOV-2 to HOV-3.
The requirement for at least two people in the car besides the driver and the additional hours would apply only during Metro’s planned summer closure of all six Blue and Yellow line stations south of Reagan National Airport.
“The primary reason that we are doing that on Washington Street is because Washington Street will be such a critical corridor for us with the bus lines, and those buses are going to be moving very, very large numbers of people. We need to be able to provide space on Washington Street for those large numbers of people to use those buses,” Alexandria transportation director Yon Lambert said.
The lanes would be painted red to make clear that the lanes are meant only for busy buses and carpools.
Alexandria’s Traffic and Parking Board approved the proposal last week.
“This is an important tool in the arsenal during the summer so that we can enable the very, very high capacity buses to use Washington Street,” Lambert said.
About six in 10 people who normally use Metro are expected to use shuttle buses or other bus options during the closure, which means up to four in 10 probably won’t, and could add to traffic if they drive alone.
“The change that we are proposing here for HOV would be limited in duration to the platform improvement project itself. We are not talking about prolonged changes to the HOV lanes, certainly not at this time,” Lambert said.
Alexandria plans to review the effectiveness of the changes so the results can be considered in future HOV or bus lane discussions.
There are no plans to change HOV rules on Interstate 395 or U.S. Route 1 through Alexandria. The 395 HOV lanes will remain under construction throughout the shutdown, ahead of their conversion to round-the-clock HOV or toll lanes in October.
“We know we have a lot more people to reach in terms of making sure people are aware of what’s going to occur, but we do think the message is getting out there that people know that they need to begin planning for the summer,” Lambert said.
The city is changing traffic signal timing, improving monitoring of traffic cameras, and counting on benefits from bus signal priority on the Metroway route. (Shuttle buses will not use the dedicated bus lanes for Metroway because that would require additional training with limited benefits, planners concluded.)
DASH has also purchased used buses that other transit agencies had no use for anymore to help expand service. That includes longer articulated buses with accordion-like connections in the middle.
DASH is still considering an additional express shuttle between King Street and Pentagon, which would be in addition to announced shuttle routes and additional bus services.