Metroway exceeds early expectations

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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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