All-door boarding in the works for Metrobuses

Metro is taking steps to make boarding through all doors available to bus riders.

During a meeting last Thursday, transit officials gave an update on the regional Bus Transformation Project, which aims to improve service and customer experience.

In order to make all-door boarding possible, rear-door targets are needed, which is part of a larger fare contract that’s underway, according to Metro’s Raka Choudhury.

Metro will receive the targets, which act like fare boxes, and start installing them next fall.

“Late 2022 is when we will be able to start piloting all-door boarding,” said Choudhury, who manages the bus priority team.

The project study found that bus riders in the D.C. area live in households that don’t have a car, make less than $30,000 annually, have limited English proficiency, and belong to minority communities.

It also found that bus riders want more-frequent service, as well as reliable and faster service, more direct buses and fewer transfers, and longer hours of operation, among other things.

Before the pandemic, average bus speed dropped from 11 mph to 10 mph as of 2018, a 9% decrease in bus speed, which Thomas Webster — Metro’s executive vice president of strategy, planning and program management — said came with a $30 million increase in operating expenses associated with bus-speed decline.

Metro’s bus priority team has been working with jurisdictions to implement bus priority treatments. These include bus lanes, transit-signal priority and queue jumps, which are a type of roadway geometry used to provide preference to buses at intersections.

When the pandemic started, Metrobus switched to modified schedules and routes. It also waived fares for riders, allowing riders to enter and exit the bus using the rear door at all times.

Metro started collecting fares and allowed front-door boarding again at the beginning of 2021.

“We also need to collect fares from every rider to keep essential Metro transit employees working and continue to provide essential service,” Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said in a statement last January. The transit agency, he said, is losing millions a day in revenue.

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Abigail Constantino

Abigail Constantino started her journalism career writing for a local newspaper in Fairfax County, Virginia. She is a graduate of American University and The George Washington University.

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