D.C. Circulator Going East of the River in October

Elvert Barnes / Flickr

Riding D.C. Circulator can be much more pleasant than riding Metrobus; lower fares, more frequent buses and simple, quick routes. Starting Oct. 3, the buses will drive east of the Anacostia River for the first time.

The D.C. Department of Transportation began D.C. Circulator in 2005 as an easy way to get around areas that had a lot of activity. Most of the buses travel in Northwest. But the Circulator may end up serving other purposes as well in Ward 8, where 20 percent of people earn less than $10,000 a year and the unemployment rate is higher than 20 percent.

“You can live in the same city and there can be so many walls, real and perceived, for children, families and households who want to enjoy their D.C. experience,” ANC 8D06 Commissioner Kianna Fowlkes said during Tuesday’s DDOT public hearing. “Circulator is a really good way to extend over to this side and make us feel like we have access to the same sites, cultural or economic, to jobs, to the same food.”

Fares cost $1, which is 50 cents cheaper than Metrobus. The buses are more reliable, arriving every 10 minutes, and only make three or four stops a mile. The buses are proposed to start at Skyland and arrive at the Harris Teeter and the Potomac Avenue Metro.


The proposed circulator route is in green.

Residents at Tuesday’s public hearing said they were eager for the service, but they wanted the route to run deeper through their communities. Fowlkes pushed for more transportation options in the Bellevue neighborhood. Brenda Richardson of Ward 8 Councilman Marion Barry‘s office said there should be service to the southern parts of Ward 8.  “The community is very concerned that it looks like just an Anacostia Circulator,” Richardson said.

“You can live in the same city and there can be so many walls, real and perceived.”

Victoria Fitzgerald of Congress Heights said she wants an easier way to get around east of the river communities: “There are a lot of people who travel within the area who find it difficult to do so without taking two or three buses,” she said.

Several Metrobuses already travel along Good Hope Road SE, leading some to worry that D.C. Circulator route will get few riders and could face cancellation as a result.

“I’m a bit concerned that this is duplicating a service that’s already there,” Anacostia resident Stephen Rice said.

DDOT has a limited number of buses to work with, so it’s unlikely the agency can meet many demands for more connections. But DDOT plans to start new routes over the next 10 years which will connect Congress Heights to H Street NE and Minnesota Avenue to Skyland [PDF].

“We want to be able to offer service to every important place, but we can’t run around empty buses, either,” said Aaron Overman, Mass Transit Deputy Associate Director for DDOT.

D.C. Circulator should be viewed as an express route, Overman said. “The Circulator does best when we do something different than Metrobus.”

Residents still have time to voice concerns, which will be forwarded to the mayor’s office before the route is finalized. A final public hearing will be held 6 p.m., tonight at the Anacostia Public Library, 1800 Good Hope Road SE.