Metroway exceeds early expectations

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By Susan Hale Thomas (File photo)

Early on a Sunday morning last August, Dino Drudi woke up, got dressed and left his home precisely at 7:15 a.m. Drudi was on his way to church in Bethesda, where he used to live. He walked to the Braddock Road Metro station and at 7:30 a.m. boarded a new Metroway bus bound for the Crystal City Metro station.

Drudi claims he was the first passenger to take the Metroway bus rapid transit along U.S. Route 1.

The first phase of the Route 1 Transitway, a set of dedicated bus lanes that eventually will run from Potomac Yard to Crystal City, opened last summer. City and Metro officials said the new bus route is already surpassing pre-launch projections.

Drudi has never owned a car. He’s never had a drivers’ license. He chooses to live in an urban environment and is dependent on public transportation.

“Metroway is a fabulous service but will take some time for people to catch on,” he said. “WMATA hasn’t worked very well but Metroway is a bright spot in an otherwise bleak picture.”

Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority spokesman Mike Tolbert said more than 185,000 passengers have used the new bus route, the region’s first bus rapid transit program, since its launch and the service averages 1,340 riders each weekday.

“Metroway has resulted in a 23 percent increase in ridership as compared to the 9S, which has an average weekday ridership of 1,091,” Tolbert said, referring to the bus route that the Metroway replaced.

City spokesman Craig Fifer said the numbers from WMATA are consistently 15 to 20 percent higher than projections for initial ridership, even with the recent cold weather.

“Bus ridership trends are seasonal,” Fifer said. “So it is normal to see a drop in ridership during the winter months.”

And Acting City Manager Mark Jinks said he’s happy with ridership levels given how long it usually takes for a new route to attract residents.

“It usually takes at least two to three years for a bus line to reach peak ridership,” Jinks said. “[The Metroway] isn’t even completed yet, so it’s been impressive.”

Metroway uses bus-only lanes to move passengers quickly down a one-mile stretch of congested U.S. Route 1 between Potomac Avenue and East Glebe Road. Buses run every six minutes during weekday rush hour, every 12 minutes during weekdays, and every 15 minutes in the evening. Weekend buses run every 20 minutes and all can accommodate bicycles.

Fares for Metroway are the same as Metrobus services — $1.75 per trip.

City Councilor Tim Lovain, who often champions transportation issues, believes Metroway was a good move for the city.

“Ridership on Metroway has exceeded projections and will continue to grow as Arlington opens its portion of the system and Potomac Yard builds out,” he said. “It is a real success story.”

Construction costs for the Alexandria portion of the route totaled $22.5 million, including $14 million in Federal Transportation Administration grants and an $8.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The American Council of Engineering Companies recently recognized city officials for engineering solutions related to the Metroway’s location, a former rail facility, project design and for its successful construction while the Route 1 corridor remained open to traffic.

As a regular rider, Drudi gave the program high marks.

“From passengers’ perspective, the buses are comfortable, attractive and the service is fabulous,” he said.

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10 COMMENTS

  1. just curious, why didn’t Dino just get on the Metro at Braddock instead of getting on the bus from there to Crystal city? Trying to find the benefit of this Metroway and this example confuses me even more. Thanks.

    • Not the best reporting there. It would have been better to find someone like billy instead of Mr. Drudi who rode it just for the heck of it.

      I don’t take Metro a ton but now that Metroway is there I almost always use it instead of driving or walking to the station.

    • Sorry it took me so long to notice this question, but during rush hour Braddock Road-Crystal City MetroRail costs $2.25 and Metroway costs $1.75. Metroway lets me off a block from the coffee shop where I have breakfast four blocks from the Crystal City Metrorail station. At no extra charge I can get back on and ride to the Crystal City station or transfer to a bus to the Pentagon which shortens how long I have to stand on over-crowded Yellow or Blue lines and cuts the rush hour commute’s cost. I never have trouble finding a seat on Metroway (although eventually I anticipate it will get crowded as riders catch on).

  2. Drudi was probably the first and only person to use this new bus lane in the city. With a multi-million dollar “bus lane”, it has been a flop for tax payers. Considering it’s only a convenience for 1 mile, it has been a budget nightmare. There is no positive return for the City of Alexandria. The City throws money at projects like this, without any money in return (check out the King Street Trolley issue). This is one of many reasons why the city is bankrupt.

    • @Kerry – actually, plenty of Alexandria residents use the Metroway, myself included. The dedicated bus lanes only stretch for about a mile, but the bus service covers a 3.5 mile transit gap between Braddock Road and Crystal City. In the absence of a Potomac Yard Metro station, Metroway provides passable access to Metro.

      As someone who lives in the north Del Ray area, it has been a huge improvement. The existing 9A bus service along Route 1 was basically unusable due to 30 minute headways, so using transit wasn’t a realistic option. With the amount of development underway in Potomac Yard at the moment and the inevitable surge in traffic, the city definitely needs to provide incentives for people to use transit instead of driving through the area.

      • Exactly right. In the coming years, there will be a brand new city in the Potomac Yard area, with thousands of new residents, new offices, new retailers and new restaurants. For many of those locations, it’s just a little too far to walk. It’s a good distance for biking, but there are no Capital Bikeshare stations in Potomac Yard yet. Many already do bike through that area. But not everyone can or will bike, which is why transit options like Metroway are great. I wonder if Kerry wants every single resident, worker or visitor to Potomac Yard to drive in a single-occupant vehicle. If so, that area will quickly see Tysons Corner-type traffic congestion. Hooray for traffic jams.

    • Just because you don’t use it means that no one does? So just because I didn’t drive to work today, I can say that no one drives in Northern Virginia? Same logic.

      If you are complaining about the subsidies for the bus lines, well, why aren’t you complaining about the massive subsidies for your car driving? Gas taxes and registration fees don’t cover all the costs of road construction and maintenance. There’s also the issue of subsidized parking, and the multi-trillion dollar wars (and the significant losses in American lives among U.S. service personnel) in the Middle East to protect petroleum supplies. You are conveniently ignoring all of this and complaining about other subsidies.

      As for subsidies in general, EVERY SINGLE FORM of transportation is heavily subsidized. Transportation is not a money-making venture. But (nearly) everyone agrees that transportation is vital to keep society and the economy operating. Private companies don’t always succeed in this field. Look at all the bankruptcies among car companies, airlines, the old passenger rail companies (which led to the creation of Amtrak) and privately-owned toll roads.

      Don’t be so hypocritical.

    • The previous construction timeline for Metroway listed the completion date as Spring 2015. That has now been pushed back to June or later this summer. I believe the Pentagon City segment will be added at that time.

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