- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 12, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

New, cheap intercity bus lines such as BoltBus, Megabus and DC2NY can whisk a Washingtonian to New York or Boston for as little as a few dollars. The word is “innovation.” But the D.C. government must change along with the new transportation modes, and that is no easy matter.

Last week, the District almost disrupted these new carriers. To little or no notice, the D.C. Department of Transportation published a rule in the D.C. Register ordering carriers to relocate operations to L’Enfant Plaza. Chinatown and Dupont Circle had been these companies’ pickup points. The problem: Nobody informed the companies. Apparently the decision happened with little or no input from the carriers. Some of them even reported not knowing a rule had been issued. Fortunately, the District quickly recognized the lesson in how not to treat innovative new companies. It recalled the rule and pledged to reconsider, this time with input from the stakeholders.

New, innovative transportation modes are rare. These appear to be here to stay. This is to the great benefit of D.C. residents and travelers, who can weigh several more options in the face of expensive airfares, trains and skyrocketing gas prices. The District of Columbia must treat them as the competitive equals of established bus lines, Amtrak and auto travel that they are.

Credit the District with this: The present “stations” are not tenable. They consist of idling buses at the crowded corners of Chinatown and Dupont Circle. This is no long-term solution given downtown Washington’s congestion. Passenger lines snake around sidewalks, trash accumulates and buses block lanes or occupy what could be parking spots along bustling streets. These improvised stations can be improved upon. The District aimed for a central dropoff in Southwest Washington. That is one option to consider. Another could be the dispersal of the carriers. In the latter instance, converting street parking or retrofitting alley or sidewalk space are some of the questions to consider.

What is most important is that District transportation officials realize that these inexpensive new carriers are a great boon to Washington transit. They deserve a place at the table.

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