Updated: Feb 11, 2020
The Washington Metro Area Transit Authority (WMATA) has released its 2021 budget proposal (effective July 2020) in which bus service in Glover Park could be impacted significantly. Specifically, WMATA is proposing eliminating the D1 rush hour bus to the downtown K Street area, and merging the all-day D2 route to the Dupont Circle Metrorail with the G2 bus route through Georgetown. In addition they plan to eliminate the 30N and 30S bus routes on Wisconsin Avenue.
Routes & Impact
WMATA proposed to eliminate the D1 route due to redundancy, as the D2 covers the route to Dupont Circle and other bus and rail options exist from there. The planned elimination of the 30N/S also is the result of redundancy. Other bus lines run the same route to the National Mall, though they do not continue on to Southeast DC. WMATA has targeted these extended redundant routes (D1, 30N/S and many more metro-wide) as inefficient when their redundant counterpart already reaches a point where a convenient connection to other transportation exists (i.e. Metrorail). That certainly doesn’t mean it is convenient or efficient for passengers, who will need to transfer rather than ride directly to their destinations.
The key to understanding the D2 impact will be to understand what “merging with the G2” really means and WMATA has not answered yet [see 2/11/20 update below for answer)] The answer to this question could affect not only downtown workers, but also Hardy, Stoddert, Duke Ellington and Georgetown students and staff, elderly and caregivers coming to the neighborhood and many more. The D2 does a loop through Glover Park then east through north Georgetown at Q Street to the metro, and back (see map below). The G2 runs from Georgetown University east across O and P Streets on to the Dupont metro stop continuing near North Capital Street, then up near Howard University.
Why is WMATA making these changes?
The reasons relate to goals of efficiency and financial sustainability when considering trending factors like ridership changes, fee structure and forecasted revenue and expenses. Declining ridership (and thus fee revenue) has occurred from a number of factors including: increased traffic congestion causing lower speeds and on-time performance, lower gas prices and ride hailing services. Metrobus operating revenue is expected to drop by $30 million (18%) next fiscal year due to: declining ridership, declining full-fare riders, fare evasion and switching to ride passes. As a result, of the $661 million Metrobus budget, only $108 million will come from passenger revenue (see pie chart below). Most of the shortfall ($541 million) will come from subsidies from the three jurisdictions (i.e. your taxes). WMATA has a 3% annual cap on the increase in its overall subsidy, which puts pressure on figuring out how to increase revenues and/or reduce expenses and seek efficiencies each year, especially in times of declining revenue. This is not the most efficient way to manage such a massive operation long term, but it is what it is.
The initiative falls under one of their six Operating Service Proposals: “Reduce Overlapping and Less Productive Metrobus Service.” When reading the 300 page WMATA 2021 budget (exciting stuff…snore) one realizes the vastness and complexity of managing such an operation, involving negotiations with Virginia, Maryland and Federal stakeholders as well. The Glover Park proposal is a drop in the bucket for such budget-makers, which is why Glover Park voices need to be raised and heard by the entire chain of command, from the citizen’s association to the ANC, the DC council, the mayor and the WMATA Board and those charged with conducting public hearings on the matter. Unfortunately, as you’ll read below, they might not be listening.
Facts and Figures
D2 overall ridership is down 31% from its peak in 2013 to 1,086 average daily boardings in 2019.
Weekend D2 ridership has dropped 45% from its peak in 2013 to 446 ADB’s in 2019
Early morning (pre-6am) and late night (post 11pm) average only eleven D2 boardings per day
53% of all D2 boardings occur during the 7-9am and 5-7pm rush hour periods
Average cost-per-passenger for 2021 (all Metrobus): $5.69
Average passenger fare for 2021 (all Metrobus): $1.02 (factoring in discount and free fares)
What happens next?
WMATA has classified the D2 changes as an efficiency restructuring not requiring a public hearing. Interestingly, the G2 merge has been classified as an efficiency elimination requiring a hearing, which might signal maybe they are keeping much the D2 route intact, or maybe not, we just don’t know right now. The elimination of the D1, 30N and 30S require a public hearing under their rules. Officials have canceled scheduled local unofficial public meetings with the Glover Park Advisory Neighborhood Commission and the ANC has stated that officials will not agree to attend any neighborhood hearings on the matter, other than a general ANC commissioner meeting on February 11th. WMATA’s service-wide public hearing will take place at their offices on February 26th where I imagine it will be quite difficult to debate the value of one small cog in this giant wheel. After the public comment period and hearing, the Board will make any agreed modifications, approve the budget in April, submit Federal grant requests, then implement the changes July 1st, 2020.
2/11/20 Update: See the proposed D2/G2 merged route at the graphic at the bottom. The D2/G2 route to Dupont Circle is the same as the D2 route now, yet it continues on to Howard University area (the old G2 route). G2 riders from Georgetown now will need to walk up to Q Street to get on the D2. Now the wildcard is what the new schedule will be and how often the D2 will come.