- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 9, 2006

A fleet of clean, modern buses is successfully connecting some of the District’s most popular neighborhoods, say city officials, business leaders, commuters and others.

“We reached our 1,000 person-a-day threshold a couple of months ago,” Michelle L. Pourciau, acting director of the District Department of Transportation, said of the Downtown Circulator bus system, which marks its one-year anniversary today.

Although ridership is low compared with the Metrorail system’s 18.7 million riders a month, the red-and-silver buses fulfill a demand for short trips to destinations that cannot be easily reached by subway cars, including the Southwest Waterfront entertainment district and Georgetown’s shops and restaurants.

“Walking to Georgetown can take about 40 minutes,” said Carolyn Stachowski, general manager of a Restaurant Kolumbia in the city’s K Street financial district. She now has the option of ducking out between lunch and dinner service for shopping and appointments.

The system started with buses running routes between Union Station on Capitol Hill and Georgetown and from the D.C. Convention Center to the waterfront’s restaurants and clubs. This summer, a route was added to serve major museums and monuments around the Mall.

“From the east side of Georgetown, it’s one of the only ways to get to Union Station directly,” said Anne De Santis, a Georgetown resident who works in the Dupont Circle area.

The $1 fare is less than a bicycle rental or riding in one of the taxicabs in the city, which use a zone-fare system instead of meters.

The system’s 24 buses run daily on shorter routes than most buses in the Metrobus public transit fleet. They also run as frequently as every five minutes.

The city-funded service was conceived two years ago. It is operated under contract by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. Many of the drivers are agency retirees who prefer driving the shorter routes and catering to a business clientele.

Members of three business-improvement districts, sanctioned by the city, subsidize the fares.

“It’s making the city seem smaller and more convenient,” said Leona Agouridis, executive director of the Golden Triangle, one of the districts served by the fleet.

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