- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 10, 2005

The first riders tested, rode, questioned and examined Washington’s new Circulator bus system yesterday and ruled that it was overdue and more than satisfactory.

“It’s fantastic,” said John Daniel, 50, a coordinator for IEEE Computer Society.

“We have been waiting for this every year,” he said for himself and his wife, Sarah Springer, 37, an archivist at the National Labor College.

The Silver Spring couple likes to go to restaurants in Georgetown, but did not like the hunt for parking spaces or the lack of nearby Metro stations.

“You have to go through an ordeal,” Ms. Springer said. “You had to get off at Foggy Bottom and walk all the way over there.”

“It’s free. It’s convenient for us,” said Airel Cardoso, 87, with nodding assent from his wife, Mary, 85, who live in Southwest near the turnaround of the Circulator’s Red Line.

Rides on the Circulator lines will be free this week. Next Monday, all-day tickets will cost $1 each and can be purchased on the buses or with cash or credit cards at fare machines at bus stops. Metro and Metro bus riders can ride free with transfer tickets or SmarTrip cards.

Ridership is expected to dramatically increase today and for the rest of the week.

Tourists and most potential riders were unaware of the 29 new Circulator buses yesterday. Between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m., 409 passengers had made the round trips from Union Station to Georgetown and from the Convention Center to the Southwest Waterfront.

The Circulator buses stop at distinctive new bus stop signs — orange-red with curving yellow lines intersecting in the shape of a football. The signs are symbolic of the big 33-seat, three-door buses that can be raised and lowered for easier entry and exit.

“This is something that has been missing for a long time,” said Dan Tangherlini, director of D.C. Department of Transportation.

“We had a lot of support from Congress,” he said, but that has come in recent years, since the idea for the Circulator surfaced eight years ago.

“This is great,” said Ray Supple, a photographer from Milford, Conn., riding with his wife, Martha, and three sons, Brandon, 5, Jason, 11, and Jeffrey, 13.

“We were thinking about riding the trolley this morning, but this is air-conditioned,” Mrs. Supple said.

“It’s better than walking,” she said as the family checked out the Washington Monument, Capitol and museums en route to the Air and Space Museum, where they planned to eat lunch.

“We love it,” said Bill Bernstein, a Fredericksburg, Va., attorney for the National Labor Relations Board, and his wife, Nancy, a speech therapist.

“I like riding on the surface rather than underground,” Mr. Bernstein said.

Jennifer Fabris, 32, a paralegal, compared it to bus services in Belgium and England, where she has spent much of the past eight years since getting married. Yesterday, Mrs. Fabris traveled alone while her husband studied in their Northwest condominium for his D.C. bar examination.

“I’m just getting on it to see how it goes,” said Mrs. Fabris as she settled into a padded seat next to a big sightseeing window. “They have these [type of buses] all over Europe.”

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