- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 11, 2003

D.C. transportation department officials said yesterday they are likely to install a bus lane to carry crosstown travelers along the busy K Street corridor.
The bus lane would be converted to a trolley system when the city's budget improves.
"I'd say that's a likely scenario," said Alex Eckmann, mass-transit administrator for the D.C. Department of Transportation.
The plan is the second major light-rail project in the Washington area this year to probably be scaled back to a bus lane.
"We don't have the funds to get light rail today," Mr. Eckmann said. "We have to rebuild K Street soon. We would expect to rebuild K Street with bus lanes in five years and light rail in 10 years."
Last week, the Maryland Department of Transportation suggested a similar change in plans for the Purple Line trolley system that would have run east-west between Bethesda and New Carrollton.
The bus lanes, also known as Bus Rapid Transit, can be built for as little as $8 million per mile on some corridors. Comparable trolley systems cost as much as $167 million per mile.
Mr. Eckmann said converting bus lanes to trolleys along K Street would cost about $20 million per mile.
"We are just now entering into the analysis of just what kind of bus service would be provided along the transit way," Mr. Eckmann said.
Initially, the downtown bus lane would run on a roughly 1-mile route from the Washington Convention Center to Washington Circle, near the Foggy Bottom Metro stop. The city's plans call for it to be extended to Union Station and Georgetown in the future.
Metro and the engineering consulting firm DMJM-Harris are studying traffic patterns along the K Street route.
"I think that's about a six- or eight-month study," Mr. Eckmann said.
Construction would begin after a series of public hearings.
Engineers are trying to determine how to keep the buses running through intersections while still ensuring a trip about as fast as Metro trains.
One option being considered is traffic-light prioritization. As buses approach an intersection, they could transmit radio signals that change red lights to green, or at least keep the lights green for longer periods to allow buses to pass through.
The engineers are studying whether the bus lane should run in the middle of the road or be separated along the side, similar to the traffic islands that already exist on K Street.
They also are looking at how traffic patterns along nearby streets would change.
Mr. Eckmann said the transportation department probably would switch the bus service that currently runs along K Street to H, L and I streets.
He expects many riders to be crosstown travelers who now use Metro trains for trips of two or three stops. They could avoid both driving and the slow stop-and-go trips offered by most buses.
"The difference is that they would be able to move more quickly on K Street," Mr. Eckmann said. "Certainly, it's a concept that has recently gained in popularity. It is being considered in a number of places here in the Washington area."
He mentioned Maryland's Purple Line as one example. A transit extension to Washington Dulles International Airport is another one.
Unlike regular 40-foot buses, the K Street busway probably would use 60-foot-long, 11-foot high buses built for bus lanes.
The buses include low floors and four doors to help passengers board and exit quickly. They can carry 120 passengers.
If the K Street busway is successful, other downtown busways are likely.

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