- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Southwest residents are rejoicing that the DC Circulator will soon roll back into their neighborhood.

For Andy Litsky, a longtime Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner in Ward 6, it marks a victory in his seven-year effort with neighbors to bring the bus service back after the District Department of Transportation cut its Southwest route in 2011 due to low ridership.

Mr. Litsky led a letter-writing campaign to the D.C. Council, held public forums with DDOT officials and conducted neighborhood discussions with the ANC.

“It’s a job well done for the folks in Southwest, so I’m really glad it’s coming back,” he said Tuesday.

DDOT said the new route will run eight buses every 10 minutes between Eastern Market and L’Enfant Plaza from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays and 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekends. The fare remains $1 dollar, with a reduced fare of 50 cents for seniors.

The cheap fare is a major attraction, but transit union officials have warned that it comes at the expense of cutting corners of vehicle safety and workers’ benefits, according to a WTOP investigation in 2016.

DDOT began looking for a new company to manage the Circulator contract last fall but so far has not revealed any information about potential bidders.

“I think it’s ill-advised for DDOT to make all these changes that impact the DC Circulator without being straight to the riders and the workers about the future of the service,” Todd Brogan, an organizer for the Amalgamated Transit Union, said Tuesday.

DDOT did not respond to calls seeking comment before publication.

Union officials said they were glad to have service return to Southwest. But they have rallied for the Circulator to be entirely under D.C. government control and to end the private partnership aspect of the service, which they say begets quality issues.

For now, Southwest residents and local officials are delighted with the long-awaited return of the big red bus.

“Oh gosh, yes, bring it back now,” said Peggy Jackson, who has lived in Southwest for 20 years. She said she sometimes has to wait 20 minutes for a Metrobus, which makes planning errands difficult, especially in bad weather.

Gina Genis, a photographer who has lived near the Wharf for four years, said it will be easier to explore the area during humid summers now that they have a bus line.

“It will be vastly more convenient to travel to Yards Park and 8th Street for summer concerts and brunches,” Ms. Genis wrote in a social media message.

“The return of the Circulator bus to Southwest DC is great news,” said D.C. Councilmember Charles Allen, Ward 6 Democrat. “I’ve been working hard with DDOT for years to see the Circulator once again serve Southwest.

“It is important to offer a reliable and affordable public transit option that runs east-west for residents,” said Mr. Allen, who is seeking re-election. “Next, I’d love to see a north-south route added to connect Southwest with the rest of the city as easily.”

Residents and officials said the Circulator is urgently needed in Southwest because traffic has increased in recent years as residents and visitors flock to the newly remodeled Wharf and Navy Yard, the Arena and Anthem stages, and the Washington Nationals’ baseball stadium. In July, the area will become home to a new soccer stadium that is expected to bring thousands more visitors to Southwest.

“I think this is all good,” said Steve Moore of the Southwest Business Improvement District (BID). “I think we’re here looking at every possible transport open. This just helps because the whole of Southwest is being remade before our eyes. There are enormous transportation challenges and this is a step in the right direction.”

Southwest BID pays 20 percent of the cost of the area’s other public transport option, a free shuttle between the Wharf, L’Enfant Plaza and the National Mall. The shuttle ferries about 1,000 people a day, which, according to the Mr. Moore, is twice the ridership rate DDOT is hoping for the new Circulator route.

“Right now it’s mostly visitors and federal workers going down to the Wharf for lunch,” he said.

• Julia Airey can be reached at jairey@washingtontimes.com.

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