“New 16th Street Bus Lows Everyday”


@alexandrarowe tweets us around 8:45:

“S1 bus forced offloaded in the middle of the street. new 16th st bus lows everyday”

I asked if they gave a reason for the offload and @alexandrarowe replied:

“that’s way too logical they just said everybody off. I’d assume there was a problem but the S buses are such a shitshow to begin with”

Brutal with this morning’s temps.

102 Comment

  • Passed by this mess in an uber. It caused a back-up through the 16th Street tunnel right there.

  • You’re kidding right? The 14th St bus lines make the S buses seem like the Amtrak Acela by comparison

    • Yeah, agree, although I have noticed the 16th st buses have become a lot more crowded the past week or two (no doubt due to the crazy cold weather). I’ll still take them any day over the 52-53-54.

    • Hells no. The 52/53/54 bus might be special, but if you compare the ability to catch a bus on U St between the 14th St and 16th lines, there’s no comparison. It’s almost like people on 16th St are duplicating like that terrible Michael Keaton movie.

    • justinbc

      Unless something has drastically changed in the year since I left, I would highly disagree with this. I never once had a problem getting on the 50s buses in the morning, but the 16th St side would routinely pass up, often upwards of 5 buses in a row.

    • Girlfriend used to ride the S buses; now she and I both ride the 50s. Here’s the lesson: both are utterly, utterly screwed for all riders until they put in dedicated lanes.

      It’s harder to board the S-buses, but there are more of them than there are 50s. Either way, just awful.

  • gotryit

    Anyone know why wmata hasn’t significantly increased capacity on these north-south lines? Does increased ridership not mean more money for them?

      • gotryit

        I can’t tell if that’s a meaningful difference. I take the 70/79 on Georgia and 52/53/54 on 14th, and it’s a hot mess most days. So if they know how to fix it, then why not go for it?
        Overcrowding and buses that skip stops just encourages me to ride my bike more. Maybe not a bad thing for me, but it means less business for WMATA.

    • I drive down 16th frequently, and sometimes there’s 3-4 S-line buses on the same block. They need to space them out better.

      • I don’t really think this is an issue. The stops are usually so crowded that each bus will fill up in turn. I think they just need more buses, period, with a bus lane at rush hour.

      • The problem is that the buses get caught in traffic and therefore they end up bunching together.
        What DC really needs are dedicated bus lanes during rush hours with steep fines for violators.

        • Also, the first bus to arrive at a crowded stop spends a ton of time letting passengers on, so the bus that’s behind it just keeps getting closer and closer because it’s not picking up such a huge backlog. A more efficient way to get passengers off and new ones on and paid up would help the situation a lot.

          • “A more efficient way to get passengers off and new ones on and paid up would help the situation a lot.”
            This is one area where passengers can actually make a huge difference by queuing up, having their smartrip ready before they get on the bus, and moving quickly to a seat or just toward the back so they’re not blocking up the entry. I know there are lots of complicating factors but fundamentally this is a very easy thing to do that many passengers regularly don’t do. Can’t blame WMATA for that.

          • I wish that drivers would ask standing passengers to please move as far back as possible BEFORE a big crowd boards instead of waiting until it gets backed up.

          • And I wish that standing passengers would just move the f back already. Why do they even need to be asked?

          • I agree that a lot of problems are caused by passengers, not the drivers. People should automatically move back, be ready to board, board last if they are paying with cash or adding to a Smartrip and use the back door to exit whenever possible. It’s not exactly rocket science. All of that said, the S buses are nothing compared to the X2.

  • It’s silly to single out one line specifically. It seems like half of the bus lines are a mess for various reasons. My only experience is riding the X2 so I can’t compare it to the S but the X2 is a disaster every day (buses beyond capacity, violence, interesting characters, etc).

    • I will say some lines are more reliable than others, but it’s true each line has its own issues. When I used to ride the L2 to work it just wouldn’t come at all at least 40% of the time.

    • Yep, I rode the X2 for years before riding the S lines now for a little less than a year. I found the X2 to be significantly worse. I do think some of the problems on the S lines would be alleviated if they started running the longer buses like the X2s, but I’m sure there’s a reason (traffic, required turns, something) they don’t.

  • The 16th St S line is a mess. I get on at 16th and Euclid and get off at K street, and take the reverse trip after work. The ride home is fine overall, but the morning commute is normally hell. There are days where groups upwards of 20-25 people are waiting. When a bus finally comes by, it’s full and passes by the stop. Other times a bus stops, and a line forms to get on. Other buses come behind it, but assume everyone is getting on the first one, then pass the first stopped bus and leave many people stranded. There’s no consistency at all with the S line during the morning commute. They definitely need more buses, and more S9 Express buses would help too.

    • Why not just walk that distance? I mean I understand when the weather is crap like today, but what about the rest of the time?

      And yes, I never take the bus in the morning, just in the evenings.

      • agree. It is walkable and i did have to during the polar vortex because there were aboslutely no busses running after the 2 hour delayed govt opening. It was AWFUl! when its nice i do not mind a 40 minute stress free walk or a quick 20 minute bike ride.

    • This is making me feel better about the fact that we couldn’t afford to buy in CH or MtPleasant. I board the bus at Buchanan, and can afford to pass up a bus that doesn’t have a seat.

  • I ride the S-line every day from Euclid to the white house. It is a mess. But from my experience on the 14th street line (which is closer to my apartment) i have found the 16th street line is more reliable. However, the cold has caused increased ridership. And hey if you live south of P street just freaking walk downtown. I dont get how people wait for the bus down there only to ride a few blocks. makes no sense. They also need to eliminate a bunch of stops on this route and consolidate them. They would make a world of difference. Each stop (saying one person gets off) then the whole bus gets caught at a light as a result. its a mess.

    • gotryit

      +1 to “They also need to eliminate a bunch of stops on this route and consolidate them.”
      The non-express routes stop about every block in some places – who came up with that idea?

      • +1 – totally agree. All of the stops on the S1-2-4 are way too close together. Can’t people walk a few blocks?

      • Yep, completely agree several of the stops should be eliminated – especially one’s that are spaced one/two blocks from each other. Additionally, they need someone (like say a seasoned logistics person who specializes in public transportation – I have this hunch such a person doesn’t exist at WMATA) who can analyze the ridership surge patterns/locations and adjust the schedules accordingly. Seems like they don’t have a strategy — or if they have one it clearly isn’t working that well. Can others who’ve lived in other cities like Chicago, NYC, or Boston comment on how those cities bus systems compare with DC’s? Would be curious to know if there is much of difference.

        • Bus system I know the most is London’s, where the stop spacing is much farther apart (but also can’t really be a direct comparison; grid layout v. windy village cowpaths). Chicago I recall being about twice as far; e.g. the equivalent of stopping at P, R, T, etc. (or even further sometimes).

          The ridership patterns and surges are certainly known, but at rush hour WMATA is literally using every bus they’ve got (that isn’t broken down). Stopping them from getting more buses is the fact that the garages are already at capacity. And at some point, throwing more buses won’t solve issues like bunching until DDOT mans up and gets us some dedicated lanes already.

        • As someone who gets on / off the S lines north of my. Pleasant, I can tell you the buses ae generally better spaced initially and bunch up as they hit traffic backups and heavy stops (park rd and south). They have tried spacing out by waiting – and you can imagine how that goes over. The basic logistics problem is you control where a route starts and the target headway (spacing) and then watch life interfere. WMATA has discussed starting an S line at Irving or Park – but you run into problems with where you keep & turnaround those buses.

          Turns out modern life is tricky.

          • Ah this is good to know. Interesting that they are bunching around the Park Road area — that whole strip from roughly Spring Street through Columbia Road always gets clogged at almost all times of the day. I’m guessing it’s because you lose a lane and enter a more commercial area. I wonder if there is some what to alleviate that strip some — although not sure it solves the larger issue of the S buses. Seems like it’s a compilation of several factors contributing to the problem. Although it also seems that WMATA isn’t doing enough – probably in part like others have mentioned because of budgetary constraints.

        • WMATA needs to eliminate schedules and instead focus on headways. For instance during rush hour busses should come ever 5-10 minutes. Off peak daytime – 15 minutes, late evenings/night – 20 minutes.

          Also stops should never be closer than 2 blocks.

    • Frankly I think it’s a little silly to even ride from like S to K.

      • Sure, if you’re healthy. But after I had leg surgery I had to take busses for that short of a distance. It royally sucked. Normally, I’d just walk, but there was no way to do it on crutches (plus I wasn’t allowed to walk more than 2 blocks at a time), and no parking where I was going. That’s the problem, WMATA has to plan for not just your everyday average healthy person (like the elderly, disabled, etc).

        • My comment was not on the route but on the sheer number of people I see riding that kind of short distance, all of whom appear to be perfectly healthy.

          • Appear to be is the key phrase there. I’m sure some of them are perfectly healthy, but I’m guessing some of them have invisible disabilities that keep them from walking almost a mile.

      • I disagree. My commute takes over an hour, so while I would prefer to walk, saving 15 minutes I would have spent walking to get to the metro is actually huge for me. And the buses are actually not crowded if you take them anytime before 7:30

        • I think perhaps it’s a little different when you’re the only one on the bus at 7 am v. one of the hordes at 8:30.

          • gotryit

            I got on a 79 bus this morning a bit before 7am and it was completely full. I’m lucky the bus driver didn’t kick me off.

          • Yeah, I feel like it’s so dependent on the driver. I was on an X2 once standing literally next to the box that takes money/Smartrip cards. In retrospect, it was extremely unsafe, but it’s something I’ve seen often on the X2.

      • S to K is almost a mile and in inclement weather – who wants to walk if you can hop on a warm, dry bus? Some of us still have to dress in business attire for work/meetings and would like to arrive at the office looking professional.

        • This. And if you wear a suit in the summer like I do, walking a mile means showing up soaking wet and sweating for 30 minutes once I get to the office. And yes, I could wear shorts and change at the office, but that is annoying, and I would still be sweating most hot days.

      • I tend to agree as a tall, able-bodied young person living at S, but the real problem for both pedestrians and vehicular traffic is Thomas Circle. Such a misery to walk across or drive around. Until they come up with a better solution, it will be a pain to take a bus through or to try and cross (and if it’s really cold, I’d rather take the bus around than wait at four or five different lights).

      • Maybe so, but the S buses don’t terminate at K Street. Plenty of passengers continue on toward Federal Triangle (the S2/4) or Potomac Park (S1), tacking on an extra mile that even many able-bodied people would prefer not to walk in subfreezing weather.

      • I don’t agree, even for the able-bodied. I’m a marathoner, but in the middle of summer if I’m in business suit or a formal uniform, I’m often a sweaty mess walking a few blocks to a Metro station. Hopping on an air-conditioned bus to say, Farragut or McPherson is well worth a buck sixty.

        As many have pointed out, Metro should embrace extra bus ridership. Those of us who use it as a convenience or even an indulgence *should* improve the system for all.

    • I think to many stops is a general problem with all the lines, and should be fixed. When I used to take any of the 30 buses down Wisconsin, it was nonsensical how many stops there were. Buses would stop before the Mass. Ave intersection, and then at another, separate stop right after the Mass. Ave. intersection. Not sure who thought that was a good idea.

      • I agree some buses seem to stop too often and that would speed up the trip a bit. But fundamentally that isn’t going to fix the problem of too many people trying to ride the S-line buses in the morning – it will just mean more people at each remaining stop.

      • +1

        I’ve noticed that on the E buses between Ft Totten & Friendship Heights. They stop on both sides of Connecticut Ave!! What is the POINT?!

        • Well – I think this goes back go when the busses were mostly used by the elderly – and the poor with like 5 kids – who couldnt walk far. It also has to do somehow with Barry – when he was mayor – some edict or decree about plenty of bus stops. I’ll try to find it.

          • I remember hearing during or shortly after Barry’s second term that every residence in DC was within 5 blocks of a bus stop. Might this be the edict/decree you’re thinking of?

  • GreaterGreaterWashington has had quite a few good posts about the 16th St bus situation. I ride the S buses everyday and the increased service instituted in March helped greatly although now those buses fill up between Harvard St. and Crescent thereby still stranding those south of U.


  • WMATA has no money for new buses. This is part of the problem. Getting new buses for this line means pulling them from somewhere else. If you’re looking for them to do something, you need to complain about it officially every time something happens. WMATA keeps metrics of formal customer complaints (but not those sent via social media). If they can document a surge of complaints about specific lines, that creates the business case to do something about it.

    • gotryit

      Wouldn’t the increase in fares pay for new buses? If not, there’s a serious business problem and we need to pay more for our rides.
      It seems like they’d have a pretty good business case based on # of riders – that should be automated from the fare box.

      • metrobus’s average farebox recovery is around 25%, meaning what we pay for our trip goes only about a quarter of the way towards covering the cost of our trip. increasing the bus fare is always tenuous, considering lost ridership if people switch to driving and also equity issues with those who simply cannot afford to pay 4 x the cost to ride the bus. that’s just the operating cost, not the capital cost of buying more buses. yes, some buses have higher farebox recovery ratios (5A for example), but most hover around the single digits to maybe 40%.

        Farebox Recoveries: The fiscal 2010 to 2014 systemwide five-year average farebox recovery is
        projected to be 48.0%. Metrorail has the highest five-year average farebox recovery at just over
        68.0% while the Metrobus farebox recovery averages 24.6% and MetroAccess averages just under
        6.0% during this period.

        • gotryit

          Yikes. Sounds like we need to pay more – whether by taxes or fare increases (and subsidies where appropriate). Otherwise, why would WMATA want to increase the number of buses? Nothing free in this world.

  • hispanicandproud

    Made the mistake of thinking the 52 would be faster than the metro mess I heard about this morning. Bad idea. Bus driver wouldn’t stop for people and when he would stop he’d pick up people then tell them to get off the bus.

  • I was in this S1 bus and saw the girl taking this photo (from her bag that had “Alexandra” written on it). The reason given to us was that the side mirror had been hit.

    Last week an S1 bus completely broke down and offloaded. There were 50+ people waiting at Euclid in below freezing temps.

  • Look at those idiots without hats or scarves! Foolish.

    • Why? If you’re comfortable without a hat there’s no reason to wear one.

      • This town isn’t about comfort, it’s about style, and projecting an image. Those hats and scarves will flatten out those coiffures and clash with those coats. We can’t have that, the risk of frostbite be damned!

    • It;’s only foolish when their bus breaks down and they have to walk!

  • Seems like I’m in the minority — I love the S buses! I’ve never encountered any violence and rarely see a character or two. I’d rather feel safe on my commute and wait for a bus or two (sometimes 3-4) to pass me by. When the stops are full, I check Next Bus and if some aren’t coming immediately, I walk north to the previous stop. This often helps and I’m surprised I don’t see more people doing it. Compared to other neighborhoods I’ve lived in, the S buses arrive much more frequently and are super clean.

    • I agree. As someone who lived in upper NW for 4 years and took the N buses which came whenever they felt like it (before the time of Nextbus). I love living on 16th and taking the S buses. I’ve never had to wait more than 5 minutes. Granted, I live in Mt. Pleasant so I always get a seat and typically take the S9. But in general I can’t complain. Traffic sucks though.

    • Yeah, I used to take the X2 and the 90s buses frequently. Yes, it’s frustrating when an S bus is so full no one can board, but the problems with the S lines are nothing compared to the X2 and the 90s.

  • I agree. It is very difficult to board an S bus in the morning. They are always full.

  • Time for dedicated lanes and signal priority. Won’t vote for anyone that doesn’t make these a priority. People taking the bus are making life easier for all the drivers on the road- they should be pampered and treated like kings.

    • Exactly. Not that she had me really, but Muriel Bowser lost me for good when she said that dedicated lanes on 16th “weren’t an option.”

  • The problem isn’t with the buses. The problem is too many people in too many cars. These motorists create traffic, which slows the buses, which means longer lead times and more crowding. The fact that a single person in an automobile has the same access to the road as 100 people in a bus makes my head hurt.

    • well, except that the cars pay for the roads, which buses freeload on. as noted above, fares only pay for 25% of the cost of providing bus transit.

      • austindc

        Excellent, well-thought-out point. The cars pay gasoline taxes which pay for roads, unlike buses which run on dreams and unicorn sweat. Plus, having 50 cars instead of one bus has no impact on things like air quality, traffic, or road deterioration. Damn freeloading buses are ruining our make believe world!

      • You’re incorrect. Both automobile use and public transportation are subsidized. Only one of these subsidies, however, makes any sense.

        Cars (drivers) do not pay for the roads. User costs for automobiles cover only a small fraction of the cost of maintaining the road infrastructure. In the District of Columbia, user fees on automobiles (gasoline taxes, registration taxes, etc.) cover only 4% of the costs. (http://taxfoundation.org/article/gasoline-taxes-and-tolls-pay-only-third-state-local-road-spending).

        That means that the taxpayer covers the remaining portion. The subsidization of automobile use is what creates traffic. Under-pricing of goods creates shortages. In this case, the shortage is one of space on the road. We can raise the cost of driving automobiles, which is fine by me, but also generally an unpopular thing to do, or we can induce people to consume less of the good (in this case, the road) by subsidizing public transportation.

      • if you think that’s true, please read this: http://dc.streetsblog.org/2013/01/23/drivers-cover-just-51-percent-of-u-s-road-spending/
        There’s a persistent misconception in American culture that transit is a big drain on public coffers while roads conveniently and totally pay for themselves through the magic of gas taxes. And that used to be true — at least for interstate highways, a fraction of the total road network.
        But that was many, many failed attempts to raise the gas tax ago. A new report from the Tax Foundation shows 50.7 percent of America’s road spending comes from gas taxes, tolls, and other fees levied on drivers. The other 49.3 percent? Well, that comes from general tax dollars, just like education and health care. The way we spend on roads has nothing to do with the free market, or even how much people use roads.
        Meanwhile, transit fares cover 21 percent of costs nationwide, indicating that the difference in subsidies for roads and transit is not as great as it’s often made out to be. (Though in absolute terms, there is a big difference: The total subsidy for roads dwarfs the total subsidy for transit.)

      • Oh, and it’s not like driving are subsidized at ALL. Oil in America is heavily subsidized – you’re not paying the true cost of energy (see how much a liter of gas costs in Germany). Suburban development in the postwar era was built on the premise of cheap oil. PS – the Highway Trust Fund hasn’t been fully funded by the gas tax in a while.

      • “well, except that the cars pay for the roads, which buses freeload on.”

        Someone needs to read more.

    • Then advocate for better public transportation to the far suburbs.

      • austindc

        We have that. There are dozens of express bus services, commuter rail lines, and metro lines extending far past the boundaries of metro dc. I would rather advocate for heavy tolls on anyone driving into the city during rush hour. We could then use the money to continue to invest in more sensible infrastructure.

        • The buses don’t run all day, and the metro doesn’t extend far enough for the sprawl that DC now requires.

          The people in the suburbs come in to DC to work and pay local businesses for their goods and services while they’re there. If you don’t let them come in or make it really hard to do that, they won’t come. They won’t work here and they won’t spend their money. DC isn’t some biodome with no relationship with the outside world.

          • And by all day, I mean if you’re bused into the city, you have to wait til a certain time to actually be able to get a bus OUT of the city.

  • Even 20 minutes earlier at 8:10 vs. 8:30 it’s much easier to get on the S buses. I agree they are a total mess by 8:30, but adjusting your schedule by 20 minutes allows you to get on the first bus you see and usually get a seat (at least north of Euclid). I think there’s a real sense of entitlement to think you’re going to use the same public service as 16,000 other people and expect it to work perfectly, for you, exactly when you want it. The bus I was on slowed way down under the tunnel before M st at about 8:45 and then met up with two other buses. It looked like the problem was an illegally parked tow truck.

  • I’m not so sure that eliminating stops really solves the problems it should. The bus line I use regularly eliminated a bunch of stops, but it’s every bit as messed up as it was before, with buses getting bunched up, running really late, or not showing up at all, despite what Nextbus tells me.

  • lovefifteen

    It would be great if they would get rid of parking on 16th Street from U Street downwards and have dedicated bus lanes.

    • YES, this. They absolutely need to remove parking from all of 16th Street during rush hours (6am-9am, 4pm-7pm) and turn the parking area into an express bus lane. There’s no reason cars should be parked on one of the major north-south corridors into the city from MD.

  • austindc

    Okay, I am not sure metro should get the flak for that though.

  • Three things.

    1. Easy fix: The crowds start just north of Euclid and end at K St. After K St., those buses are carting around just a handful of people and it’s a serious waste of capacity. During the morning rush hour, they need dedicate some of the existing buses to a smaller route starting in Mt. Pleasant and ending at K St., then not be in service as they return north and run the south route continuously until 10 am. I don’t see why that would cost much more money.

    2. There is a huge problem of bus drivers skipping crowded stops when their buses are not at capacity. This is such BS and they are just leaving the mess for other bus drivers to deal with.

    3. I am consistently shocked and offended at how many people refuse to move back. You are keeping people from getting to work! Stop being so selfish.

  • Sarles, the Metro GM, is on Kojo right now. Ya’ll should let him know about these issues, if he doesn’t know already.

  • I was on this bus, and standing in the front. It smashed rear view windows with a truck to its left. it also appeared that there was a new driving being trained that day.



    • What’s the success rate for bus lanes on 9th st? They seem to create more congestion for cars trying to move down 9th to the tunnel. A higher volume of cars could through the intersections with 3 lanes available instead of 2. Sometimes I have to drive to VA during rush and it’s frustrating to be confined to a lane when there is one wide open next to you.

  • Over 50% of the people using 16th during rush hour are commuting via bus, yet there is no dedicated bus lane. This is definitely one of those times you scratch your head at how unbelievably stupid DC is.

  • Remarkable. It’s been at least 15 years since I’ve taken an S-bus, but the problems described here are the same ones they had in 1999.
    I’m starting to think it’ll be the same 15 years from now.

  • Why’s it seem everyone in the photo is wearing sneakers on their way to work?

    • Haha, yeah, I thought that was more of a suburban commuter thing.

    • Given today’s weather, I assume it’s because they didn’t want to ruin good shoes in the slush. Running shoes — unless you’re a serious runner — have the advantage of being able to be thrown in the wash, while leather dress shoes can really get ruined in slush/salt.

  • HEY. That’s me in the black jacket and brown pants! I feel famous

  • How can we harness all of these comments into something more productive? Jim Graham is up for reelection… We should make this a priority for him.

  • I was on this bus, standing near the middle. The tweet here is super biased, misleading, and shows some of the limitations of crowd-sourced reporting. The tweet makes it sound like the driver and metro was incompetent ‘that would be too logical,’ nice.

    The driver’s side mirror was hit by a truck, while waiting at a stoplight. We waited while the metro employee (who was training a new driver, it seemed) shouted out the window to talk to the driver of the truck. He said, “we’re gonna have to call this in.”

    He then made an announcement to the bus along the lines of: “This guy just hit our mirror, I’m sorry but we’re gonna have to unload everyone.” There was much head shaking and grumbling after that, but really nothing else the driver can do, he can’t just drive off with a damage mirror. We got off.

    What seems likely, based on this on the spot interview, is this person was sitting with earbuds in, didn’t hear the announcement and immediately started ranting, assuming the worst.

    It was a shitty situation and I didn’t enjoy the 2 mile walk, to my office, in freezing weather, but it certainly wasn’t a time to take shots at metro.

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