First on WTOP: DC’s downtown bus lanes aren’t temporary after all

Temporary bus lanes on busy D.C. streets near the White House are here to stay and will have hours expanded, WTOP has learned.

“We have seen improved bus reliability and service performance on H and I streets, and so we plan to continue [them] to make these bus lanes permanent,” District Department of Transportation director Jeff Marootian said.

The lanes implemented in June had been scheduled to end next week.

Even with some issues with drivers using or parking in the lanes illegally, they have helped tens of thousands of people who ride buses that use the corridor get where they are going faster and more consistently, Marootian said.

“We plan to make modifications based on our observations over the past several months to make them even better; but we’ve seen positive results during our pilot program, and we intend to make them permanent while we make those changes over the next coming weeks,” he said.

Changes include expanding the bus lane rules from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Saturday. Previously, the rules only applied during rush hour. Other changes also include new turn restrictions and bus layover areas and establishing new commercial loading zones on H Street NW.

The lanes have been less effective on H Street than I Street due in part to delivery vehicles and others blocking lanes more frequently, Marootian said.

Advocates for those stuck on buses behind those deliveries or waiting for buses at stops farther along the route have pushed for greater enforcement of the bus lane rules.

The D.C. Council has discussed bus lane cameras either set in place like speed cameras or on the front of specific buses that could mail tickets to drivers who block the lanes or use them illegally. The city is set to start mailing some parking tickets to drivers in certain circumstances, so bus lane cameras could be next in line.

While the bus lanes have made a difference, they are among the only significant ones in the region, along with the Metroway route in Arlington and Alexandria.

The Washington Area Bus Transformation Project final strategy released this month calls for many more bus lanes across the region, as a key to making buses work better to help people get around faster.

Suggestions included Metro funding parts of new bus lane projects.

Marootian promises more bus lanes in the District soon.

“I expect that we’ll have more announcements to come about some of the other additional ways that we’ll be expanding dedicated bus infrastructure across the city,” Marootian said.

Long-planned construction is set to start on 16th Street NW in the spring, and the city hopes to build bus lanes along K Street NW over the next six years.

“We’ll have some other announcements about other areas where we’ll be deploying quicker-build bus lanes and other types of mobility improvements throughout the city,” Marootian said.

The regional bus strategy also calls for more frequent and convenient buses, fare and marketing changes, and a new regionwide task force to suggest changes for the region’s bus systems.

The plan dropped specifics of more controversial proposals that drew pushback from the region, but retained a general call for major changes to current bus routes.

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