Metro is the nation’s 6th largest bus operator, providing over 135 million annual rides to travelers in the DC region. Efficient and reliable bus service is a critical piece of the region’s transportation system. Traffic congestion is one of the major obstacles to providing high-quality bus service. Metro’s buses average less than 11mph, in large part due to automobile congestion, making it challenging to effectively serve existing and potential customers. Traffic congestion impacts both operating costs and capital costs, as more buses are needed to provide the same amount of service on a specific corridor.
Metro is currently seeking priority treatment for its buses along specific corridors to increase bus travel speed. Planners used GIS mapping and GPS data from Metro’s Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) system log to determine average bus speeds. The bus speed maps depict the slower of the two directions (inbound and outbound) all day and during the peak periods of November 2009.
Numerous Metrobus corridors showed average operating speeds of less than 10 mph and several with speeds of under 5 mph. The vast majority of these corridors are within the District, in particular downtown area, but also occur in Maryland and Virginia suburban areas, indicating high amounts of bus delay.
Many of the slowest corridors shown on the map carry very high bus volumes (e.g., I Street in downtown DC has over 400 daily buses), suggesting that priority improvements on these corridors could provide significant transportation benefits. To better identify specific locations in need of speed-enhancing improvements, Metro planners ranked roadway segments by creating a weighted measure that combines bus speeds with the frequency of bus service provided. This analysis is meant to highlight segments deserving further study to identify possible solutions to improve bus speeds in an effort to reduce operating costs and improve ridership.