Wednesday, October 21, 2009

An open letter to DC Circulator

UPDATE: John Lisle from the DC Dept. of Transportation chimes in below. Thanks for the quick response!

This is a tale about a bus called the Circulator. A little more than six months ago the new Circulator loop which connected Woodley Park, Adams Morgan, Columbia Heights, the 14th Street corridoor, and McPherson Square opened and it was good. It could take me to work, take me home from work, and was a great option to have on the weekends. Sitting backwards was sometimes weird but the giant back window was always fascinating. Then Columbia Heights became an awful construction zone again, and the Circulator was caught in it all.

So now, as a regular rider who uses the Circulator for my commute, I have started to see an unfortunate habit developing among Circulator bus drivers heading east on Irving St. NW. They no longer pick-up passengers at the designated stop!

Because of the general traffic in the mornings, there is often a back-up at 14th and Irving streets. While Metro buses wait to advance to the H2 / H4 / H8 stop, Circulator drivers are instead dropping off and picking up passengers at least 50 feet before the actual corner stop. This is causing a great inconvenience for a Columbia Heights rider, like myself. There have been mornings where I patiently waited at the designated stop only to have bus drivers give me grief when I ask them why did they almost drove right by me (and other waiting riders).

And then there are mornings such as today in which I followed the crowd and got on the bus a little past Commonwealth. The Circulator stopped further up the street because there was a H4 bus and cars in front of it. However, the Circulator then stopped three more times to pick up passengers before it turned right on 14th Street. As the bus continued down 14th Street, it stopped right at the bus shelters at the U Street and P Street intersections.

DC Circulator needs to remind its bus drivers to drop-off and pick-up passengers at the designated stops. Has anyone else encountered this problem?


Britannia said...


I use the Circulator to commute daily. I was headed East on the K St ready to get off at the 14th St stop, the driver decided to let people off in between 15th/14th and didn't stop at the designated stop. I didn't realise the doors opened so I missed it.

The driver balked at me as if it was my fault.

Serena said...

This seems to happen every morning when I make the commute in too- at the Irving & 14th Street stop. It's really annoying. The buses should only stop at the designated stops or it becomes too crazy.

John Lisle said...

Thanks for the feedback, which an alert reader brought to my attention via twitter (@DDOTDC). I can understand your frustration and I've passed along the information to our Mass Transit staff who will follow-up with the drivers. We've had great feedback from Circulator riders, but we want to know when we're falling short as well.

John Lisle

IMGoph said...

not to toot my own horn, but i was the reader who tweeted to DDOT with your complaint. make sure to communicate with our city as much as you can. they're there to help!

Anonymous said...

Mr. Lisle,

How about adding another stop on 14th ST north of U st. I think the most central location for this would be Euclid (North) and Fairmont (South). The hill north of U st makes it impossible for some individuals in the area to use the circulator due to physical restrictions. One more stop will not add more than 30 seconds to the route. This would also reduce the strain on the 52, 53, & 54 buses...During rush hours, those buses are taxed. This would serve a great amount of individuals in the Columbia Heights community.


Spud Lite said...

Thanks IMGoph! Good call.

Anonymous said...

I second the comment asking for one stop between Columbia Heights and U street. It would make the Circulator much more useful to actual residents to the Columbia Heights neighborhood.

Euclid/Fairmont seems to be the most logical place, it is pretty much equal distance from each Metro.

tmoore said...

LOVE the circulator. Great route by DDOT.

My only complaint is that I can't seem to find it on Next Bus. Anyone have the same problem? Anyone know why?

ArtBart said...

@tmoore I think it's because the Circulator is not run by WMATA (even though it is still labeled as the 98 on Metro's online trip planner feature). I use Circulator mobile site at and it works pretty well for arrivals.

tmoore said...

Not run by wmata, huh? Very interesting. Thanks for the tip, @ArtBart!

John Lisle said...

The contractor (First Transit) that operates the Circulator has already reminded drivers that they must service the bus stops, but please let us know if the problem continues (

The Circulator has its own mobile app, Where's My Bus?, and as posted above the address is

Finally, we want to keep that Circulator route as more of an express service, but the new stop at Columbia and Ontario was added because a large number of people requested it, so it never hurts to make your feelings known. Personally, I love the quick, non-stop trip between 14th and U and Columbia Heights but I know if by passes a lot of stops.

John Lisle

Anonymous said...

Don't add anymore stops! I love the Circulator, too. Its been one of the best additions to our neighborhood -- it helps getting to the Red Line faster as well as downtown. The best thing about the Circulator is the fact that its an EXPRESS bus. Having it duplicate the tediously slow (and fairly ridiculous) stops by the 14th Street buses at every corner between Irving and U Street undermines its whole intent.

Anonymous said...

yeah my jaw just dropped

Alex said...

If you want a bus stop on your doorstep, why don't you ride the 52/54 line? I bet that line ended up with stops every half block becaus over the years people kept saying "it won't add more than 30 seconds to add another stop."

I hope DC DOT resists this kind of pressure.

Michael said...

Please don't add any more stops to the Circulator. The whole point of an express bus is that it doesn't make a lot of stops.

And if you see people getting on the bus a few feet short of its designated stop, just walk over and get on it. The 14th and Irving intersection doesn't need more congestion because you refuse to walk a few feet to where the bus got stuck in traffic.