Saturday, June 28, 2008

DC, are you really going to restrict cheap transportation when gas is $4?

Under the headline "Banishing buses to L'Enfant,"'s David Alpert reports:

DDOT is planning to force all low-cost bus carriers, like Bolt Bus, DC2NY, and the Chinatown buses to stop loading in Chinatown and at various other spots around the city (a few pick up in Dupont Circle), reports the Examiner (via DCist). Instead, all buses will have to load and unload at a special zone at 10th and D Southwest, right by the L'Enfant Metro. This seems like a terrible idea.
He also rightly points out, "At L'Enfant, there's nothing." Seriously, it's a dead land.

As a native New Jerseyan, I've traveled often from DC to the New Jersey/New York area. When I was a student at GW, to save money I took the bus. I remember the long slogs via metro to Union Station and then carrying my heavy bags from there to the Greyhound station several blocks away in a rather desolate part of town. When my trip back to DC would arrive late at night, walking several blocks in that desolate area didn't feel very safe. (Since then, I've noticed that buses make an extra stop at Union Station, eliminating the walk--though you still get a better seat if you get on the bus at the main station.)

These days, I mostly take the train or drive. With Amtrak's financial problems, their prices have gone up and up--veering me toward driving when I don't need to do work on the train. But now with record-high gas prices, the cost incentive to drive is nearly eliminated.

It was a huge breakthrough moment when I came across the new bus service DC2NY, which runs buses from DC to NY for $30 or less, with wireless Internet service, and which leaves from Dupont Circle! What convenience! (They even pamper you with free bottled water, and take a vote about whether to have a movie.) No longer do I need to slog my bags on a metro, then walk to a station, wait, and check in--I merely walk a few blocks to Dupont and board the bus. And the neighborhood is totally full of people, very safe.

Dupont is also quite proximate to GW. If I were still a student, I'd much rather go there than Union Station. Or, as an activist-type, I'd probably run a campaign urging people to contact DC2NY, asking them to make a stop at GW! At least around breaks when lots of students go home.

DC's proposed new policy would cut off all flexibility and convenience--dooming travelers who want to be cost-efficient to go to desolate areas of town, and dooming creative business types like the DC2NY crew from figuring out new markets and matching demand with supply. I almost wonder if someone in the government is friends with a businessperson in L'Enfant and was lobbied to bring travelers there against their will.

Anyway, David Alpert has set up a new Facebook group to protest this potential decision. Multiple people have joined while I was writing this post--obviously it's a hot cause. Hopefully, smarter heads will prevail at DDOT.


James said...

Wow, this really sucks. I'm a huge fan of DC2NY's 15th & K stop. At least their services aren't shut down completely (though I'm a little concerned if this will affect the price).

Also, for the record, the Chinatown buses used to pick up ON CAMPUS...right by the metro.

Jessica said...

I understand how it might be less convenient to get on one of these "chinatown" buses or discount buses near l'enfant - but Chinatown and downtown DC is too crowded already.

K St. especially is so congested with Virginia and Maryland commuter buses, DC metro buses, the Circulator,private charter buses for tour groups, slow moving double decker buses, and sight-seeing trolley shaped buses. It is faster to walk down bumper to bumper buses on K st. than to actually take the bus on weekdays.

The DC-NY buses take a while to load - as they are usually full. These buses take up parking spots - unless they specifically apply for zoning spots (in which case a parking space is taken away from residents for a commercial entity to make money).

As a downtown resident/pedestrian/car parker/clean air breather, I would urge you to consider...would you rather the bus be circling in your neighborhood 365 days of the year so that it will be convenient the few times you take it? Or would you rather head over to L'enfant Plaza when necessary?

Tanya said...

There is one that picks up right on campus across the the street from the metro, its called Tony Coach. Just as decent as the others, but no wireless. It can be as cheap as $20 round trip. I'm living in JBKO next year so I can pop right out whenever it gets there. No worrying about missing it.