Sunday, January 04, 2009

H Street Shuttle Coming Soon

The following email went out on the 6A listserv-

Jen DeMayo announces in her H street Life column in the January issue of the Hillrag that a new H Street shuttle service starts this month. The express style shuttle will have an H Street Main street logo that will be easy to recognize. The free shuttle will run between the Gallery Place Metro stop (7th & H St. NW) to the Minnesota Ave Metro. It starts each evening at 5pm, and will run until the Metro closes. The shuttle will have a limited number stops to be determined during the first week of service. Everyone who lives, works or visits H St. NE is welcome to ride. There will be a soft opening in early January to work out the stps and schedule. Jen says that everyone is welcome to ride, and give feedback to make the service smooth and reliable.

Pretty cool. Now your friends can visit and not worry about catching a cab, or navigating the X2 timetable. No word yet on the frequence of the shuttle.


The AMT said...

This is great news! I'm at school at the Law Center on Mass between NJ and 2nd, so this makes getting home after late nights on campus. It'll also make it easier to get kids from there to come out this way and be sold on the bars out this way. Great, great deal.

Robby said...

Great more buses, but why Minn Ave. Why not just stop at the Arg and then do a loop and go back to galley place and back again. Otherwise it's half the route of the X2. I didn't understand the time table thing, the X2 runs really often, even non rush hours. It's often packed though. Maybe this will help.

20Something said...

This is so awesome for those of us in the neighborhood. I hope it brings more people to places like the Atlas and the bars in that area.
I can't wait to hear more.

soul searcher said...


more public transit options, the better.

jamy said...

I have the same thought as Robby--how is this different/better than the X2? I'm all for more frequent service but who is paying for this? Is it free? If it costs more than the city bus, I don't see the point.

Anonymous said...

Do people even read articles before they comment? It's free.

I'm surprised at the provincial attitutes. Don't you think that H street customers come from across the Anacostia river? Too bad if you don't want them, because their tax dollars are paying for this shuttle too.

Anonymous said...

I understand that the bus fare is free, but who is paying for the driver, gas, insurance, and upkeep? WMATA? H Street CDC? NoMa? I have not been to Georgetown in a number of years, do they still have those worthless blue buses?

Tom A. said...

I'm with Robby, It needs to be VERY different than the X2 or else everyone getting on the X2 at gallery place- (which is hundreds of people every evening), will take the free shuttle to get home- including me. I'd be more supportive of a shuttle that only went to the business district- perhaps from BOTH directions. Although, as (formerly) frequent rider in the evenings, I notice that the vast majority of people riding in the evenings travel through the H street business district without getting off the bus, except perhaps to transfer at 8th street. I can envision a hundred people gathering at gallery place every 20 minutes to get a free ride home. Heck there are often 2 dozen people waiting there to PAY to get home via the X2 currently.

Anonymous said...

This thing should definatly have a fee to ride (at least a $1) to help keep all the riff-raff that rides the X2 off of it. Tom's right, why would the undesirable thug wait to PAY for a ride down H St. when a FREE shuttle is right behind it. This is a BAD idea and I expect will fail miserably unless they charge a higher fee than a ride on the X2!

Robby said...

I don't know about the "the riff-raff" aspects of this, but I've studied these while in grad school. The shuttles don't spur business if they as essentially a normal route at a reduced fair. For example South Beach has one that is only ridden by the staff that work at South Beach.

For me it make sense to charge a dollar, start at seventh and F NW to avoid the crowded 7th & H intersection and not to confuse it with the X2, I would like it to run to Union Station, up North Capitol making no stops, Right turn on to H ST NE and make stops avoiding 8th Street and terminating at 14th & H then loop back around MD to 13th and back to H. And then back again to Gallery place.

It's not because Money east of the river isn't welcomed, its that trip would be very long to go to MInn Ave and to keep the frequency more buses would have to be used.

The goal of the buss should be a people mover to get people to and H from H efficiently, and not a replacement for the X2.

I see the stops as Verizon Center (f & 7), Union Station (Mass and NC) then stops along H save for 8th) that way it's clear that this isn't another commuter buss.

That's just my take. Any who, we all have great ideas.

This is a cool discussion.

jen said...

Thanks Elise for posting this!
Just wanted to give a few more details.
The funding is from DDOT, they have allotted this money specifically for an H Street shuttle to connect two metro stops on either side of the river. They want it in place before major construction along the corridor begins so H Street patrons will have a reliable way of getting down here in the evenings.

It will be free to all riders. Like I think the Georgetown shuttle or the one operated by the Kennedy Center. The shuttle will be more of an express-style van, so it will have fewer stops than the X2. It will not stop at the same stops as the X2 to avoid congestion. It will have the H Street logo designed by Design Army on it. (When I have a photo I will send it to Elise)

The company was out this weekend running the route to determine which stops will work best.
We are hoping to get it up and running any day now, just waiting for final go ahead on what the exterior will look like.

They will be out again tonight determining timing and stops...if you see them you are welcome to jump on and give feedback.

We can have it begin at Union Station as well but we are thinking gallery place is easier for most people from other parts of the city and the surrounding area. Another benefit is that it connects two nightlife and arts destinations.

When we have one, the official schedule will be posted here.

Everyone at the Atlas and I think the rest of the Atlas District is very excited and we really owe a huge amount of thanks to Tommy Wells' office for making this happen.

Rob said...

I do think this shuttle will ultimately have to charge a fee, something like a dollar. Otherwise, many people who can afford the wait to transfer to the X2 will jump on this shuttle for as long as possible to avoid being crushed in the X2. If there was a $1 fee and that didn't give the rider a free transfer onto WMATA, most folks who were just passing through H St. NE would skip the shuttle and take the X2, to save the dollar. Those who *were* going to H NE would save 35 cents and use the shuttle.

Anonymous said...

"FREE" is a mistake! No one appreciates (for long) anything that is free. I thought even the Georgetown shuttle charged a fee. This thing needs to charge a $1 if it's going to be worth anything - but I guess we'll soon find that out. Its just too bad that the seats will all be torn and trash strewn about before its realized. Sorry, but "free" is not going to work. Good luck though - I hope I'm wrong.

Tom A. said...

Jen, I strongly recommend starting it at Union Station, (or 7th and F) because of the big rush hour congestion between Gallery Place and North Capitol streets. It can often take 10-15 minutes to go those 7 blocks along H street. It would also be clearer that this shuttle has nothing to do with the metro or the X2 route which runs down H street.

ro said...

ugh. as an often frustrated X2 rider, starting this shuttle at 7th and H is SUICIDE for this program. That intersection is way too busy and congested and would throw the bus persistently off schedule and commuters would likely take advantage of the free ride to avoid paying an X2 fare. Moving it to 6th and F would be my suggestion. You're still at or near a metro stop yet far enough away from the havoc.

Also charging some type of fee seems prudent. If you stop a free shuttle at 7th and H why would any of the commuters waiting for the X2 there pay a fare when they can hop on the shuttle and probably still be dropped off within a few short blocks of where the x bus would have stopped? Please put some more thought into this.

Anonymous said...

I think this is awesome news!

I would be worried about the traffic (both people and cars) on H street in the NW, especially at the intersection of 4th and H st. I work right there and very frequently traffic is backed up on almost the entire block back to 5th st. (possibly b/c of the 395 entrance?). however, I understand the desire to connect chinatown with H street.

-philly transplant

Anonymous said...

Jen (and others), who can we talk to about this "Free" ride? It seems that the majority involved in the discussion here are in favor of some type of fee attached to this shuttle service? Even the Circulator and the Geogetown shuttle charges a nominal fee!

Please, Powers That Be, rethink "FREE"!


rick said...

To connect nightlife destinations, you need to connect the Atlas District and Gallery Place. Union Station is just too much of a no-man's land.

I understand the rush hour concern. But rush hour is not when people head out for nightlife. Maybe the early buses will be slower, but the later buses will be more useful.

Also, we should think about this as a dry run for the streetcar. Personally, I want that to go all the way to GP. If this becomes a popular route, that will provide momentum to make a longer streetcar line happen that much sooner.

For the commuters, what this route really needs is an X2 Express that makes about 1/3 the stops and runs frequently. Maybe if the shuttle gets overwhelmed early the dolts at DDOT will finally recognize this.

Anonymous said...

Free may be cheaper to run, and faster. Why are you all so freaked out? If all of the unwashed ride the shuttle then you can pay to ride the empty X2.

Anonymous said...

I'm looking forward to this "express" option to go from where I work (Penn Quarter/Chinatown) to where I live. I do not ride the X2 because I do not support the Metro's routes of having a stop at nearly every block. These more "express" options, like the Circulator and such, provide us with a quicker alternative if we rather walk a couple of blocks then get dropped off right at our corner. Let's give them a chance to work out the kinks and support this interesting alternative!

Scenic Artisan said...

selfishly, i'd love to see a shuttle from u street NW @ 14th to h NE @ 14th down florida avenue passing the ny ave metro

i'd definitely hit h more often.

Rob said...

The reason the shuttle being free worries me is simple economics. Free goods end up being wasted or over-used. A shuttle that's packed to the gills w/ people trying to avoid the WMATA fare will be no better than the X2.
The supply will be limited, so the price should be set > 0 to regulate demand. I think once people who are just passing through, particularly those who are transferring, realize that it's cheaper to use WMATA all the way, that will ease the inevitable crush of demand on the service.

Anonymous said...

What do Richard Layman and the folks at GreaterGreaterWashington have to say on all this? Anyone know them and can ask?

Seems like having some professional wisdom would be good.

Anonymous said...

Can SOMEONE (Councilman Wells maybe??) please give us some professional wisdom as to "Why free?"

Seems that it would be much more difficult to impose a fare after offering for free than it would be to reduce the fare if the fee doesn't work. This doesn't make sense to me.

Anonymous said...

The current Atlas theater shuttle is free, as was the "old" Atlas District shuttle. The bars stopped paying for it because their patrons didn't use it. A good reason why the shuttle shouldn't stop at Union station, by the way. Why the fuss? We don't want visitors parking in our neighborhoods is often heard, so we have to give incentives for using the shuttle.

inked said...

Senic Artisan,
you can take the 90/92 down that route.

Anonymous said...

Why take the 90/92 Metrobus when you can push for a FREE shuttle to take you from Point A to Point B?

Anonymous said...

Not to start another debate, but I hope the shuttle does not employ the "Atlas" moniker. It's a commercial designation, not a neighborhood designation.

Anonymous said...

What do Richard Layman and the folks at GreaterGreaterWashington have to say on all this? Anyone know them and can ask? Seems like having some professional wisdom would be good.

Richard Layman is no profesional. Please don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Anonymous said...

While not always the most socially gifted, Layman has a deep base of knowledge, the right priorities for urban environments, a data-driven approach, and a fierce independence.

So, yeah, I want his opinion.

I believe he also makes a living doing this work or is at least paid for it as a consultant. By my dictionary, that makes him a "professional."

Anonymous said...

I agree with Anon. 9:55.

ibc said...

Richard Layman is no profesional. Please don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Pretty classic stuff here.

Look, Layman may not be a "professional" (whatever the hell that means) but he has earned his credibility in this area.

I suppose in the eyes of some, he'd have more credibility if he'd spent the last 30 years studying and designing mega-malls out in cornfields, but there you have it.

Sorry, but there's no Professional Accrediting Body that doles out credibility in this arena.

Anonymous said...

I believe he also makes a living doing this work or is at least paid for it as a consultant. By my dictionary, that makes him a "professional.

He has no background in architecture, urban planning, facility planning, community planning, etc. Just a armchair organizer.

And not a District of Columbia resident, I might mention!

Anonymous said...

I think Jen and the Atlas are awesome for getting this through. But it should not go all the way to Minnesota, as it will be abused by X2 riders looking for a free ride.

ibc said...

He has no background in architecture, urban planning, facility planning, community planning, etc. Just a armchair organizer.

Hey, neat! You've just described Jane Jacobs!

Reminds me of: "Being mayor of a small town is sorta like being a community organizer - only with real responsibilities."

inked said...

Actually Richard Layman does own and live in a house in the District. He briefly lived in MD with his girlfriend before they bought the house.

soul searcher said...

one more pro-richard layman voice over here

i like how all his detractors are anonymous and his proponents are anonymous

kinda gives him a mob boss mystique


but yeah, anyone who spends any time talking to mr. layman can tell the guy is well-read and serious about the urban planning field, particularly in the area of transportation. you don't have to *agree* with him, but i think it's silly to say he doesn't have a base of knowledge that deserves *respect*

as for people hopping the shuttle b/c it is free instead of paying for the X2, it depends on how limited the stops are for the shuttle...if there are only, say, 15 stops for this shuttle, i think it will cut down on the people who hop on it for free because frankly there are PLENTY of people scamming free rides on the X2 (I would tell you how they do it, but that would just make the practice more widespread). who's going to walk 7 blocks to ride for free versus getting off at the intersection you want LOL.

8th and El said...

I think Jen and the Atlas are awesome for getting this through. But it should not go all the way to Minnesota, as it will be abused by X2 riders looking for a free ride.,

I was going to stay out of this thread until I saw this. Will there be a difference if the abusers come from Chinatown or Minnesota? Do people not take the Blue Line to dine in the region?

Anonymous said...

Why must we personally attack individuals?

Anonymous said...

Why must we personally attack individuals?

I am "attacking" his purported credentials, not him as a person. Why must we fail to make this distinction?

Anonymous said...

Anon. 8:59 - What are your credentials in city planning and transportaion? I'd love to hear Mr. Layman's opinion, however, who would post after such attacks?

8th & El - There you going trying to create a racial argument that wasn't there. Of course we all know that there will be more abuse coming from Minnesota Ave. than say those getting on at Union Station or Chinatown. Of course you can't really abuse "Free" can you? -- or maybe that's the easiest to abuse. I say stop the shuttle at 5 points intersection.

8th and El said...

Nope. Who brought it up, you or me? The post was about "abusers" and not "black people who ride the 90 bus into SE." Now that that's out the way, we can all stop being douches anonymously.

I think it would be a benefit to patrons who take the blue line into the city for the shuttle to end there. As for the shuttle going to C-Town, if it were free, I would personally abuse it, but going the opposite direction, as Jen mentioned that I was welcome to do.

ibc said...

Now that that's out the way, we can all stop being douches anonymously.

Hear! Hear, Mr. El! At least someone has the cajones to put their name to their post!

(I kid! I kid!)

Anonymous said...

8th & El, you quoted "black people who ride the 90 bus into SE." A quote is used to represent something that was already said and I don't see where anyone previously mentioned "black people who ride the 90 bus into SE." Your post is the first mention of "blacks" and "abuse" - seems that you have been the quickest to make an assumption and correlate the two. Ooops. Are we a little overly sensitive about who the abusers might really be - INDIVIDUALS from the X2 or INDIVIDUALS from the Georgetown shuttle?

- Anonymous Douche

Dolemite said...

Anyone who rides the X2 between Gallery Place and H Street knows most people use three main stops to transfer to/from other transit lines: 1) 8th and H NE (90/92), 2) N. Capitol and H NW (80, 96, D lines, Union Station), and 3) 7th and H NW (Gallery Place and various bus lines). And a good many others ride nearly the whole route, also bypassing H Street. These riders are not using the X2 to patronize H Street businesses, and they make up a sizeable portion of the X2 ridership, dare I say 90+%.

If the shuttle tracks the same route as the X2 between Minnesota Ave and Gallery Place, and also hits these three stops, there's a very good chance it will be flooded with people using the shuttle as a transit connector to other parts of the city. Not as a way to visit H Street businesses. I think this is even more likely if a) the shuttle eliminates many of the other regular X2 stops, thereby becoming a quasi express X2 bus that still stops at the key transit transfer points and b) it's FREE.

Of course most. Scratch that, all X2 riders will be jumping on this shuttle once the word gets out. Again, most of these riders are not riding the bus to visit H Street. That's a fact. The question is how to avoid that. I hope some people at DDOT much smarter than me are coming up with a solution.

I too would be interested in hearing Richard Layman's thoughts on this topic.

Anonymous said...

8th and El, what is your problem? I don't care if the "abusers" (your word, not mine) are black, white, orange, or purple. The point is the shuttle is intended to facilitate more patronage of H St businesses (many of them owned by black people, btw) and NOT as a free ride for commuters. The X2 is already so incredibly crowded that there is no doubt that there will be spillover (even if it wasn't free). And yes, the X2 sucks because some of the riders make it a very unpleasant situation for ALL the other riders, not just white folks like me. So I hope that the shuttle doesn't suffer from all the problems of the X2, otherwise, the intention -- helping H St Merchants -- will be lost.

8th and El said...

Whoa. If anyone thinks I was turning into a racial argument, I apologize. I was trying to go the opposite route. Perception is reality, I guess.

I just don't think that 5pm till on the weekends will garner the type of abuse some people are concerned about.

On the other hand, that stupid blue bus into G-town used to be packed with commuters on both routes. I know when I used to work on M, I would wait at foggy bottom for whatever bus came first, the 30s, blue bus, whatever. The circulator's no better, but at least it's designed to be a commuter bus.

Dolemite said...

8th and El,

The post above doesn't say anything about the bus only running on weekends. Where did you get that information?

Anonymous said...

Also, 8th & El, both "that stupid blue bus into G-town" and the Ciculator you mention CHARGE people to ride it and as you pointed out they were STILL packed with commuters. Do you want to rethink your argument of allowing the upstanding, well-mannered, hard-working individuals who are currently paying to ride the X2 out to Minn. Ave. will not want to ride the H St. Business shuttle for free?

Oh, I know, we must be operating on the assumption that if you give people a nice free ride on a clean new shuttle bus, that the environment alone will make them fine upstanding citizens - who suddenly start bathing. This free shuttle will not last long. Sorry to bust your bubble Jen.

Anonymous said...

The shuttle is suppose to last long.

DC taxpayers are paying for this shuttle, so they are entitled to ride it.

soul searcher said...

if it runs 5pm till, you'll have commuters taking it from work to outer portions of northeast

but you'll also have people taking it from gallery place to catch a show or grab some beers (or both) in the atlas district and then shoot back. lots of folk living or working near gallery place metro that would dig having that option and atlas district businesses that would welcome their patronage

h street also has a variety of patrons from ward 7 so we welcome them as well

the street is going to be hard to navigate while the streetcar preparations and streetscape improvements are being done...this will help reduce vehicular traffic along that route, at least for people planning to hit h street after hours (the atlas district and hair salons are the only h street businesses with opening hours late enough to really benefit here, near as i can tell)

Anonymous said...

There is NO streetcar. The construction is street scaping only...when will everyone quit expecting a streetcar?!?!

Anonymous said...

What are those wires then on either side of H street and the large boxes hanging from them around 4th? I thought they were going to be traffic lights for the streetcars.

Anonymous said...

No posted schedule, no list of designated stops yet. What we have here is a failure to communicate.

Anonymous said...

Whoever you are, you're an idiot. No one is saying anything about posted stops or schedules, just if the work being done on H street is in part for the street cars. We know the cars aren't ordered yet, least that's the rumor, and it takes 3 years once ordered to deliver. There are wires along the street, are they for the streetcars? If so, then some work is being done for the streetcars. Why are people stupid?? God I hate people...

Anonymous said...

Buddy,I was talking about the SHUTTLE BUS stops, and schedule. No need to get your depends in a wad.

Richard Layman said...

There's a reason I haven't written about this publicly for awhile, because it is difficult to walk the fine line of working towards operational excellence with the people who want to try to do something, but who aren't accustomed to focused consideration.

I respect people like Jen DeMayo and CM Wells, but my experience is that people see "pre-logue" evaluation as criticism, rather than as evaluation designed to yield a more (or wildly) successful product.

In other words, I don't want to have to write about the failure of this service in 3 years... when I could offer suggestions/ alternatives that would likely prevent failure.

I sent my comments to ANC6A and to CM Wells when the service was first proposed. Just as I am not writing publicly about CM Graham's badly routed Circulator proposal for Columbia Heights, I figure it's better to preserve my ability to still work with them rather than write that I think these kind of routes, unless truly well routed, are a waste of time.

When this line was first proposed, I said the route made no sense, that it should turn at Maryland and either go to Eastern Market Metro, or just turn around and go back down H St.

The reason it goes to Ward 7 is that CM Alexander agreed to support the route.

I don't know if there were consumer studies done to demonstrate possible demand.

Drew Ronneberg and a classmate did an interesting study, not a huge sample, but they surveyed patrons at a couple H St. establishments and wrote up their findings for a class. They found most people weren't willing to walk more than a block from a car, that they wanted immediately nearby/adjacent parking.

They didn't study whether or not people would take shuttle buses.

And they didn't survey patrons of either H St. Playhouse or the APAC.

My sense is that of the demographic that is most likely to patronize the bars and such on H Street, that they aren't big bus users. Not that they wouldn't use them, but the service will need to be well marketed in every establishment on the corridor. (Just like how most every business on the Charlottesville Pedestrian Mall has a promotional placard for the Charlottesville Visitor Center.)

The demographics of the patrons of H Street Playhouse and the Atlas are likely different from the nightlife establishments. They likely skew older and probably are drawn from an even larger "trade area." (It would be interesting to study this. Once it was determined what the respective trade areas are for the nightlife establishments vs. the arts establishments, it would be easier to figure out how to shift them from driving to transit.)

The Georgetown Shuttle example is interesting. It's mostly used by workers, because it isn't well marketed.

Everyone loves the Circulator even though it isn't well used. They love it politically because it's a distinctive service, with distinct buses in an attractive painting (branding) scheme.

The real question is whether or not there is demand for this service on H Street. I would argue, based on the abject failure of the Route 98 bus that went from Woodley to U Street Metro via Adams Morgan, duplicating completely the 90s route, and its abysmal use, that shuttle routes that duplicate existing bus routes (in the H Street case the X2) don't work. But then, I was never afraid to ride the X2, even when I was one of a handful of whiteys living north of H Street back in the late 1980s. I liked the frequency of the X bus and the late hours (it offers more service than most bus routes, which is why it is one of the highest used routes in the system).

Another example of what I call political bus service is the N22 from Union Station to the Navy Yard station via Capitol Hill. Hardly anybody rides this bus.

In the H Street plan from 2003, we discussed the need for better identity for the H St. (X) bus. Like how the Columbia Pike VA [Pikeride] and Rte. 1 VA (Rex)buses are marketed. But that isn't being done at the moment.

So I call this a "political bus" designed to help make certain constituencies happy (business people, arts people) but not really focused on adding service in a way that it will be used.

Other examples, but I haven't kept up with whether or not they are successful (I think not) lately are the 8 bus in Bethesda and the Van Gogh in Silver Spring (both RideOn). Arlington offers a lunch time shuttle in the Ballston-Clarendon area, but I know nothing about whether or not it is successful.

I disagree with Robby's point about free bus service always being denigrated, even though I understand his point. Tempe and Scottsdale provide successful and free intra-neighborhood bus service. I have proposed something similar.

I call it part of the DC tertiary transit network in my last year's transit wish list and I suggest that such intra-neighborhood bus services, designed to move people to and from Metro stations and business districts could be free.

Similarly, the "fareless square" in Portland, and the more limited versions in Seattle and Pittsburgh show that free transit service (in Portland it includes bus, light rail and streetcar, in Seattle bus only, and in PGH streetcar and bus) is useful to discourage people from driving within places that are already congested.

I have never ridden the service, but the bus service along Denver's 16th street pedestrian and transit mall is also free and has 60,000 daily riders.

The issue isn't whether or not the service is free, but whether or not it is well conceived and useful, and whether or not making it free satisfies various policy objectives.

and yes, I do get paid, not enough and not often enough (especially in the current climate, which means that cities are cutting back on planning studies), to do commercial district revitalization consulting, which includes consideration of mobility-transit issues. (e.g., I am giving a talk on commercial districts and railroad stations in Indiana next month.)

Mostly what I like doing the best is writing the equivalent of vision or comprehensive master plans, but I term them a focus on "destination development" in all aspects.

No I haven't been trained in terms of having a degree ... except self-wise and all the things I've done with others but it definitely qualifies at the 10,000+ hours level of practice discussed in the literature about developing high competence. I may or may not finish a masters and a PhD in the field. We'll see. From time to time I co-author chapters of books with professors (well, I did it once, on shotgun housing in New Orleans and planning considerations post-Katrina) and am pursuing other writing opportunities that are professional.

Not that it matters where I live, and I am impressed with the innuendo, lack of accuracy, and parochialism, but in the 21+ years I've been in the DC region, for a little less than 2 years, in two separate chunks, I did live in MoCo (1988) and PG County (2007, part of 2008). I live in Ward 4 now and probably will for the next few decades.

Richard Layman said...

Oops, I used the term "pre-logue", I meant "pre-mortem." See Analyzing Failure Beforehand from the New York Times.