- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 5, 2006

The District’s fleet of Circulator buses has effectively bridged the city’s many tourist attractions and popular hangouts, with a growing ridership taking advantage of newly accessible destinations, officials say.

The fleet of red-and-silver buses, which emerged in the summer as an inexpensive and available method of getting around town, has gained popularity steadily since its debut last year.

There were 214,000 riders this August, compared with 92,262 in August 2005.

“We’re thrilled with the public’s response to the Circulator and the ridership growth rate,” said Erik Linden, a spokesman for the District Department of Transportation, which operates the service through a partnership with Metro and DC Surface Transit Inc.

Quickly surpassing conservative expectations of 1,000 riders daily, the buses now carry about 7,000 passengers.

The buses undertook about 1.6 million trips in the first year, with an average 9 percent increase each month.

The fleet of 29 buses fills a demand for short trips to areas not easily reached by subway trains. The fare — $1 a trip — also is less expensive than driving or using cabs, transportation officials said.

“Even with gas prices declining in the District to about $2.40 per gallon, it’s still high — so people are rethinking their travel behavior and looking for choices,” Mr. Linden said.

Since July 2005, the buses have run daily from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., shuttling riders between Union Station and Georgetown via K Street, and from the Southwest Waterfront to the Washington Convention Center via the Mall and Seventh Street.

In March, officials added a route that loops the Mall and nearby museums and other attractions.

The route, which is seasonal and geared toward tourists and visitors, will be curtailed to weekends from Oct. 30 until spring.

The Circulator is part of the transportation department’s continuous effort to reduce congestion in downtown, about one-forth of which consists of drivers circling the area while looking for parking spaces.

Yesterday, agency officials announced several traffic enhancements, including multispace parking meters, the city’s first east-west bike route and a comprehensive Web site to help travelers better navigate the city.

The site, www.goDCgo.com, includes information on parking, transit, bicycling and car sharing, and links to Metro and other information sources.

“We live in a time in which people … look on a Web site to see where it is and to get routing information,” said Michelle L. Pourciau, the agency’s director.

“It’d be great if, while you’re driving, you can see where you should park your car … rather than circling around, looking for a meter or where a parking lot is,” she said. “You can go to the Web site and see where the parking lot is, how much it costs and what the hours are. Rather than wondering, the information is right there.”

Earlier this week, 27 solar-powered, multispace meters were installed on K Street in Northwest between 12th and 21st streets, replacing 234 single-space meters.

One multispace meter replaces as many as 10 single-space meters, which officials say will open up more sidewalk space and provide one extra parking space per unit.

The new meters — which print out receipts — accept coins as well as debit and credit cards.

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