A Shuttle for us all

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The Rhode Island Ave NE corridor is on the verge of great things but it is missing one key component to spur it forward: transportation. The Rhode Island Ave segment was added to the 2010 Updated Street Car plan. The problem is that of the three phases that they place the segments into (under construction, in design, and planning phase), the RIA phase is not listed. This could mean that it is not going to be considered for some time to come (I would highly encourage everyone to contact the Council members below and tell them to push RIA for the Street Car plan).

So what are we to do while we wait for the Council to recognize that Rhode Island Ave (Rt 1) is not only one of the most historic roads in America, but also a changing area that has been considered a diamond of the District?

Perhaps a shuttle service?

The H Street Business Cooperative was able to establish, through City funding, to have a free shuttle service along the H Street Corridor to take residents from a metro station on one end to another on the other end. The shuttle service was to help serve the business community and encourage further business growth while the Street Car construction was under way. (note: the shuttle service has ceased operation as of Dec 31, 2010 mainly because it had served its purpose during the heavy construction times of the Street Car project).

A shuttle service from the Rhode Island Metro station development to South Dakota Ave with various (probably 3-4 stops) could potentially be a boon for residents, Metro, the new development at the Metro, and small businesses along RIA. First, it would bring those from the well established neighborhoods on the north side of RIA down to the Rhode Island Station to spend money and patron the retailers there. Second, those same residents could take it to ride the Metro (especially since many people would rather leave their cars at home). Third, it would bring Metro riders and others to frequent stores along Rhode Island Ave.

Having this shuttle service could help spur the redevelopment of Rhode Island Ave. When small business owners see that their potential customers have a means to reach them and that a shuttle drops off patrons throughout the day and evening, they see the potential for business. This could also alleviate parking situations for businesses along RIA.

Although the H Street shuttle was free, there is no reason why a RIA Shuttle couldn’t charge $1 or something minimal to ride. It will be dedicated to the business district areas of RIA and be dedicated, which the bus system is not. Through my discussions with Council member Thomas, he has been encouraging in relation to providing transportation solutions for RIA. But he cannot push this issue alone…he needs all of our help!

So what say you? Is it time that our Council starts giving the so called “diamond of the District” some attention?

Click the “Take Action” button below to send an email to the Mayor, Council, and ANC to let them know that you want a shuttle service for Rhode Island Ave and then comment on this post and let us all know you wrote them! Tell your friends to do the same!

25 thoughts on “A Shuttle for us all

  1. Thanks for posting this these action where taken because I added them to a plan which had excluded Rhode Island avenue for the street car and yes Rhode Island avenue should have been the first in line I encourage residents to help fight for shuttle service and to expedite street cars for Rhode Island avenue.

  2. A shuttle to the metro would be great–a street car much better yet!

    If anyone knows how best to argue that a shuttle would better than the existing buses–more frequent, perhaps, with fewer stops–please tell us.

    It seems that bringing in a few more handsome rowhouse or condo developments plus retail to increase non-rental density on RIA, like the EYA developments (near the Brookland metro (Chancellor’s Row and in that impressive Hyattsville Arts District) would do a ton to buttress the chances for good, viable retail in the old down town (18th to 24th) of RIA.

    Hopefully our elected and non-elected officials in city government will decide to work with Republic Land’s people to convince them that the economy is recovering enough to make their original intention of developing that parcel on RIA and 13th (the parcel with that ridiculous “Hot Enough?” sign) into condos rather than apartments. We do not need more rental units, I suspect, but rather some handsome, “green”, well-designed row houses that complement the handsome art-deco architecture of RIA and incorporate small, walkable retail flanking RIA.

    A shuttle/streetcar/tram that reflects the genesis of the surrounding neighborhoods as tram-line suburbs could be one more part of the picture–RIA could become lovely again, as we hear that it was in the past. And well-lit and safer.

    Thanks as always!

  3. Looking deeper into the shuttle bus idea…..while we are waiting for the street car, wouldn’t it be nice to have shuttle buses similar to the ones they use downtown for sightseeing? Like this one:

    It would be more visually appealing than your standard shuttle bus and this particular company houses their buses right off Rhode Island Ave (behind the Mt. Calvary Christian School). Maybe we could set up a contract with them?

    Just a thought.

  4. I’m trying to envision what this shuttle bus would be like. The closest I can imagine is something like the Circulator bus that goes from Union Station to Georgetown and other places. I use the Circulator instead of the metrorail or the metrobus when I’m at locations not directly on the metrorail line like Georgetown.

    Can anyone provide a link to this 2010 Updated Street Car plan that excludes the RIA corridor from the streetcar lines? I’d like to know if Michigan Avenue/Irving Street is also excluded. I attended some DDOT sessions where they even had proposed Streets Cars and Rapid Transit buses for Irving Street/Michigan Avenue from Upper Northwest since a large amount of those residents work at the hospital centers around Irving and North Capitol Street. If Irving/Michigan is suffering such a fate I’d like my concerns to express this, too. Last year, the Brookland Civic Association addressed the issue of the Circulator buses coming into Brookland. There is a proposal to have this done.

    I am more interested in a shuttle taking me from RIA to South Dakota and Bladensburg/New York Avenue. I’m not too interested in the bars/restaurants that were requested in this blog for RIA station but in the shopping at Costco/Target/Shoppers on South Dakota and Walmart/Lowes on New York Avenue. I’m sure both of these areas will include better dining and entertainment options as well. Just getting to South Dakota by bus from RIA can be circumlocutious.

    It would be good if someone can mention these matters at our local community meetings. Corey Anez Griffin, the ANC 5A10 commissioner, is holding a meeting at Lace on Tuesday, February 22 from 6:30 to 8:30 pm where people can meet 5A10 Businesses. It’s important to get to know the RIA business owners and have them support such efforts. Lace is located at 2214 RIA.

  5. Woodie, I think the idea of a shuttle to the large scale shopping centers defeats the purpose of bringing redevelopment to RIA. The focus needs to be on the small businesses of RIA and what can eventually come. For small businesses to survive on RIA they need foot traffic. They won’t get that if people are getting on shuttles to go somewhere else. By having dedicated shuttles to bring people to the areas along our corridor, businesses will see the potential of foot traffic. The reason for the shuttle is several fold: to bring business to not only the RI Station development, but also to get people to potential shops/restaurants, etc along RIA. Think about it this way….if there was a good quality restaurant/cafe at the 2400 block of RIA, like a Granville Moore’s or the like, someone from another part of the City could get on the Metro, get off at RI Ave Metro, then take the shuttle to that end of RIA. These small business owners see the benefit of having something dedicated. These small business owners would never want to locate somewhere where their customer base is being shuttled somewhere else. Also, these large scale developments are counter-intuitive to RIA redevelopment and other neighborhood commercial. They will only bring in national brand restaurants and the like. The quality of a community is its unique flair and small businesses (now I know your argument is that the RI Station development is calling for some of the same but I also know that the developer wants to bring in smaller, local businesses for its development as well).

  6. I am confused as to where you saw RIA being removed from the streetcar plan. It is in phase 2, so it is still there even if it is years away.

    I don’t think a shuttle bus is a solution for several reasons. There are already many buses and right now there are no businesses to run the shuttle. I think a focus should be to bring improvements to the storefronts and empty lots while campaigning for a faster timeline on the streetcar line.

    Here is the link to the DDOT streetcar plan and website:

    http://dc.gov/DC/DDOT/On Your Street/Mass Transit in DC/View All/DC Streetcar

    1. You need private investment in order to get the fixes you want to the facade. Private investment is not going to come unless they see the promise of foot traffic which brings their customers. The reason that the RI Station is being redeveloped is because the Metro will bring customers. Yes, there are buses, but many residents, like me, don’t want to take the bus that has so many stops. Having a shuttle that is dedicated to the Avenue will do the same that it has done for other areas of the City that has seen positive growth. There is sound economics behing having it…or other areas of the City wouldn’t have done it.

      1. The North Capitol Main Street group did the ones in Bloomingdale on the corner of 1st and RIA NW to the liquor store and the Chinese food place and they look amazing. Maybe what we should be trying to get is a Main Street group for RIA.

  7. I think that actually the entire Rhode Island Avenue Streetcar is part of “Phase Two” of the streetcar plan (see here: http://ddot.dc.gov/DC/DDOT/On+Your+Street/Mass+Transit+in+DC/DC+Streetcar/DC+Transit+Future/DC+Transit+Future+System+Plan+-+Streetcar+Segment+Profiles+-+Phase+2)

    The plan doesn’t make it explicit as to when Phase II will be built. Judging by the scale of the “initial projects” and Phase I, I’m thinking no sooner than 2017-2018. Does anyone have better info?

    The DC Transit Future Plan also discusses metro express limited-stop buses; I’d love to see an express bus on Rhode Island Avenue as a pre-streetcar solution. Perhaps that would be an alternative to a shuttle.

    The full plan (streetcar, etc.) is here:

  8. where do you envision a shuttle taking people? there is very little on rhode island avenue that merits transit requirements beyond the bus lines currently serving the street. if the shuttle comes from RIA station, then it simply repeats the bus lines with no advantage. what’s the most popular business on rhode island avenue outside of the brentwood shopping center? what are the top 5 destinations along RIA? if i had to guess, i would think The Dollar Store, Ritas, Golden Skillet, The Laundromat, and stop and shop liquors at newton st. Do these places merit additional need for transit options? who are you trying to attract?

    i think this is all putting the cart before the horse.
    a better solution would be to market the current bus lines for the benefit of RIA business. draw a map. mark their locations. highlight the bus lines. notate the neighborhoods that RIA passes. create some identity that will help existing business and attract curious people to venture out this way.

    1. I respectfully disagree. For now, it is taking folks from the northern end of RIA to the commercial areas of the RI Station but it also gives small businesses incentive to look at other areas along RIA. Putting the transportation means in place will incentivize further development. I (and many others I know that live on this end) would not take the buses but would take a shuttle service. It won’t be for everyone and that is fine. Here is an example of a major city seeing that shuttle service providing shuttle service in lieu of their already existent bus service (http://bit.ly/f21kYg). Yes, there are more businesses in the example I provided already in existence in downtown Oakland but it also talks about how the shuttle encourages further economic development.

    2. The entire point of the shuttle is to bring people from the areas that DO NOT HAVE EXISTING BUSINESSES in their area, and to ATTRACT BUSINESSES TO THOSE AREAS THAT THE SHUTTLE WILL SERVE. Shuttles not only take people places, but also pick people up from places. When it comes to development, pretty much everything is about putting the “cart before the horse”. Investors aren’t going to put money into businesses farther up the avenue unless there is a draw for potential clientele. A dedicated RIA shuttle, without the million stops, would be a big draw for those of us who will not ride a metro bus. Obviously the Metro Bus hasn’t done much to draw businesses to the area, so we have to take another approach.

    3. Also, some other reasons (which I derived from other jurisdictions that have instituted the shuttle service in addition to their bus systems):
      1. It usually costs less.
      2. It’s distinctly different than buses (which many do not like – especially many tourists or out of towners)
      3. the schedule is more predictable

      The Shuttle in Alexandria has been a tremendous success.

    4. I live near RI Ave and 18th St, but really, I have to agree. There’s not much on RI Ave to warrant a shuttle service at this point.

      As far as H St, they had several years of new bars opening, etc, before a shuttle was run. By the time the shuttle started, there was already demand.

      Running a shuttle at this point on RI Ave would just result in an empty shuttle.

      1. Nobody ever said it had to be NOW, but you have to plan for these things early if you ever expect to have them and to have other things pop up down the road.

  9. This is quite confusing what you are proposing. I’d like to have a public meeting held on this issue and a study done on WHY there is a NEED for it. Like Guy, I see the current bus lines sufficient. I live in the area and take both the buses and use the RIA and Brookland Metrorails. If any thing, we should be encouraging more people to walk and bike. Why not a bikeshare further east of RIA. I have contacted Bikeshare and they definitely intend to install the solar-powered bikeshare at the RIA station development as it nears completion.

    I just don’t understand why this specific group of South Dakote Avenue residents needs a dedicated shuttle to take them to RIA. Again, they will have their own shopping/entertainment center. If anything, if I were them, I would ask for a dedicated shuttle to NoMa and the New York Avenue metro stop. There’s much more going on at NoMa right now including shopping, dining, and entertainment. Why haven’t they’ve also DEMANDED that? For me, walking, biking, or taking the bus to RIA and then either walking the Metropolitan Trail, Metrorail, or bus is sufficient to get me to NoMa. I love the new Harris Teeter and the fact it’s opened till midnight. NoMa has as much to offer for these people near South Dakota and they should be supporting that as well as the RIA station development. Something seems skewed here with what these residents are trying to accomplish. Again, a public meeting and official study needs to be conducted. I’m particularly interested in knowing more about the demographics of the group that wants this shuttle. I can understand how this would be useful for the elderly, but if these people are young, these people should be using the same modes of transportation I use, or, God forbid, just drive!

    1. Again, Woodie – not everyone will agree on this. I think you are taking a short sided view of this in terms of thinking it is solely for Metro use. The shuttle concept works VERY well in other parts of DC Metro area and around the country to spur economic development. Why would I want a shuttle to go to NoMa? I want RIA to redevelop. Please don’t frequent RIA once it redevelops if you would rather go to NoMa or the big box developments. But there are large numbers of people that would like a dedicated shuttle to service this corridor. I am sure there were plenty of detractors across the country who now ride their successful shuttle service in their community.

    2. I am so happy that you like NoMa…hopefully other people in this area aren’t content to travel that far to get to a decent grocery store and restaurants. I, on the other hand, am not. I bought my house here in 2008 with the intention of the value going up having seen the potential of development here. The development in NoMa hasn’t impacted my real estate values one bit, so I could care less about how easy it is for you to get there. Development on RIA, however, will directly impact the value of my real estate, so I’m all for anything that helps in this way. The people who are going to be looking to invest money to move to a transitional area like this don’t want to ride the bus. They want something nicer and more convenient. Why do you think the Circulator was put into service? There are metro buses that service all of those areas, yet the people wanted something nicer and more convenient. You said that you take the Circulator yourself. I live quite a ways up from the Metrorail.

      I’m not going to ride a bike in the middle of winter 15 blocks to RI Station. Furthermore, if I’m going to go to dinner there and want to have a few drinks, I don’t want to have to drive home, bike home, or walk home. A dedicated RIA Shuttle bus would bridge our community, unlike a Metro bus.

  10. I’m weighing in here only to suggest that this needs to be a two-sided conversation with the commercial entities that will eventually inhabit RIA. Do they at least theoretically support a shuttle? Would they pay a fee to subsidize it? Would they buy advertising on it? Would the RIA Station developer be willing subsidize a shuttle for a period of time until its lessee’s businesses gain traction?

    Can we get a list of businesses that the RIA developer is negotiating with and float this idea to them? (I doubt it because of nondisclosure agreements typically in place during these sorts of negotiations…) Perhaps the developer could have this conversation with the prospective tenants so that we could assess the interest?

    I think this is idea worth exploring, we just need to get business owners into the conversation…

  11. The H Street NE shuttle only operated after 5pm. And it’s frequency was every 30 minutes. It’s really not any better than Metrobus other than perception…

  12. While I agree that the H Street shuttle wasn’t amazingly convenient, the advantages it had to me: 1)Predictable destinations. I didn’t have to know anything about the neighborhood or the street layouts. Didn’t have to worry about getting on an express/doesn’t stop in DC version of a metrobus. Didn’t have to know how far the bus went up RIAve, because I knew it was a simple loop. To someone unfamiliar with an area, the safe and predictable route of a shuttle can be a great boon to its use. One reason (I think) the Circulator is popular.

    2) From the RIAve station, every 30 minutes would be an improvement over the bus schedule in many cases. Before I got a phone with a NextBus app, I had several occasions where I showed up at the station and had to wait an hour + for a bus (or walk the half-mile, which was a little intimidating late at night). Once I had the app, I could pick between Brookland and Rhode Island, depending on who had a bus coming first. A shuttle running every 30 minutes during the time restaurants/bars would be open – fabulous.

    Just my thoughts.

  13. The H Street shuttle is no more. The streetcar tracks are laid on H street, but does anyone know when the streetcars will actually be there? How are people managing now with no shuttle and no streetcar on H Street? Are they just using the bus again, walking, or driving?

    I understand Harry Thomas wants the shuttle to also go on 12th Street. It would be helpful to know exactly where the route this shuttle he supports goes and for whom it is meant. I have heard that Thomas wants the shuttle to take people to the shopping centers on South Dakota, New York Avenue, and RIA that are planned.

    The discussion on this blog is centering around a shuttle just to support the restaurants on RIA. Over a year ago, a special shuttle was placed on Route 1 that goes from Ikea to Mount Rainier. In the plan for the Hyattsville Artspace project on Rt. 1, a special shuttle to take residents from the project to the Metro was planned. Does anyone have any experience with any of these shuttles? In April, when the all those great stores open in the Hyattsville Artspace project including BB&P, Yes! Market, etc., both these shuttles will have the additional function of taking its riders to these restaurants.

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