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Downtown dedicated bus lanes will be made permanent next week

The city is also expanding the hours that the lanes will be in effect

A bus seen from behind in a “bus only” lane painted red in the midst of a city.
A Metro bus travels in one of the dedicated bus lanes.

Updated, November 8:

The bus-only lanes established on H and I streets NW earlier this year will go into permanent effect November 14, the city said Friday. (That’s two days later than previously announced in September). The lanes’ hours will be expanded to 7 a.m. through 7 p.m. Monday to Saturday. The H Street NW lane runs eastward between 18th and 14th streets NW, whereas the I Street NW lane runs westward between 13th and 20th streets NW. They are marked with red paint.

Original post, September 20:

Roughly 1.3 miles of bus-only lanes the city has piloted on H and I streets NW since June will operate on a permanent basis as of November 12, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) announced Friday. The hours for the lanes, which DDOT says have helped speed up bus travel times and frequency, will additionally go from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Mondays through Saturdays. The lanes are currently in effect only during rush hour, Mondays through Fridays.

Stretching half a mile on H street NW and 0.8 miles on I street NW, the painted red lanes serve at least a fifth of Metrobus riders in the District. They are a relatively low-cost way to improve bus service, says DDOT director Jeff Marootian. The agency initially spent around $10,000 on the paint and materials needed for the lanes, not including labor costs. Making them permanent is set to cost approximately $1.5 million due to the permanent epoxy paint that will be used. (The typical cost for installing painted bus lanes in the U.S. is $1 million per mile, says DDOT.) Special loading zones on the opposite side of the streets will also be added.

“We are planning to make this permanent because we’ve seen the success,” Marootian says, noting that DDOT has received positive feedback about the lanes and is coordinating with Metro on the tweaks. “We know we can make some modifications to make it even stronger.”

Based on their observations during the pilot period, officials plan to rejigger traffic signal timing to better accommodate drivers making right turns on the bus corridors, as this has sometimes resulted in bottlenecks. They want to install bus layover spaces on 13th Street NW, outside of the corridors, to help keep the buses running smoothly. DDOT is accepting public comments about the prospective bus layover and loading spaces until November 4.

As many as 70 buses per hour use H and I streets NW during peak travel times, but before the dedicated lanes were established, the buses traveled as slowly as 2.8 miles an hour on some blocks. DDOT says it is unaware of any crashes or collisions attributable to the lanes. Automated traffic cameras and enforcement may be implemented on the corridors, and the city anticipates starting construction on dedicated bus lanes on 16th Street NW next spring.