Video: How are downtown DC’s red hot summer bus lanes working out?

New bus-only lanes on I Street NW by BeyondDC licensed under Creative Commons.

What’s black and white but red all summer? DC’s H and I street pilot bus-only lanes are getting more publicity, now from a short film produced by public transit foundation TransitCenter and educational film nonprofit Streetfilms.


The H and I pilot bus lanes have been operating since June 3 and will run until late September. Greater Greater Washington published a detailed analysis of early results earlier this month, and the District Department of Transportation's (DDOT) data collection and analysis will do more to tell us how the lanes performed in quantitative terms.

This film, footage for which came from DC Sustainable Transportation’s Council on the Bus event on June 10, focuses more on the political and public commitment to dedicated bus lanes as a tool for transit equity, reducing congestion, and promoting safety.

Though the idea for bus lanes on these key corridors has been around for years, DDOT Director Jeff Marootian pointed out that the timeframe between decision and implementation was rapid, saying that DDOT is making “a concerted effort to build projects such as this in a much quicker time frame.”

“It looks like the pilot program is working,” said Councilmember Anita Bonds (At-Large).

District Department of Transportation Director Jeff Marootian (left) and Ward 4 Councilmember Brandon Todd (right) ride in the new bus-only lanes. Image by David Alpert.

Red paint as a compliance tool emerges as a key theme in the film. Participants at the event remarked on the importance of a clear message to drivers. (Though some observers have commented that the lanes only operating during rush hours can be confusing, and queried how to communicate when it’s OK for cars to enter the lane to turn right, to avoid them “right-hooking” oncoming buses and bikes in the bus lanes).

Councilmember Brandon Todd (Ward 4) reflected on the big picture of shifting transportation choices, commenting during the event to GGWash that dedicated bus lanes will “hopefully encourage more commuters to use the buses, to get more cars off the road and have more efficient bus travel throughout the District of Columbia.”

Councilmember David Grosso (At-Large) agrees. “Doing more dedicated bus lanes, making sure they are protected, and good enforcement, will put us in a better position to increase the number of people who ride bikes, walk, get a scooter, do something other than get in their car.”

Maybe this is one case where drivers seeing red is a good thing.