The Washington region's first bus rapid transit line, known as Metroway, recently opened to passengers in Northern Virginia, with help in part from a federal TIGER grant received by the Transportation Planning Board.
The new BRT line, jointly conceived and built by the City of Alexandria and Arlington County and operated by Metro, runs along the busy Route 1 corridor between the Braddock Road and Crystal City Metro stations. The new service features higher-capacity bus vehicles running at greater frequencies, including late at night and on weekends, partly in dedicated lanes separated from regular traffic by medians or on-road striping.
Able to bypass traffic back-ups along a portion of their route, Metroway vehicles can travel faster and maintain better ontime performance.
Synchronized signals and other priority treatments in the corridor will also help speed Metroway vehicles, as will allowing passengers to pay before boarding and to board at all doors, like on rail transit. These features will come to Metroway sometime next year.
While much of the Metroway project is being paid for with local or state tax revenues or by local developers, more than a third of the Alexandira portion of the route was funded with a federal grant awarded to the TPB in early 2010 under the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program, otherwise known as TIGER.
In all, the TPB received $58.8 million in TIGER funds to pay for 16 projects throughout the region aimed at improving the reliability and convenience of bus transit. About $8.5 million was used to build Metroway's dedicated bus-only lanes along Route 1 between East Glebe Road and Potomac Avenue.
The TPB sought TIGER funding for bus enhancements because of the benefits such improvements provide at relatively low cost.
Earlier this year, the TPB reiterated its interest in priority bus treatments and BRT when it approved the Regional Transportation Priorities Plan. The plan calls for greater application of bus priority treatments on heavily traveled bus routes as well as new BRT and other cost-effective surface transit options to connect Activity Centers, places where most of the region's residential and commercial development is expected to occur in coming decades.
Metroway connects three regional Activity Centers, one of which is Potomac Yard, previously an industrial rail yard. Today, residential and commercial redevelopment is booming. With Metroway in place as thousands of new people and jobs move to the area, transit can be a viable travel option for more people from day one.
The benefits of Metroway reach far beyond Alexandria and Arlington, providing a first-in-the-region example of implementation of several key BRT features, including dedicated transitways and offboard fare payment. The Maryland Transit Administration has selected BRT as the preferred alternative for the Corridor Cities Transitway (CCT) and could look to Metroway as a local example of BRT implementation. Officials in Montgomery County are exploring the possibility of building a countywide BRT network, while state and local planners elsewhere in the region are evaluating BRT as an option in many other important transportation corridors.
The opening of Metroway marks a major "first" for the Washington region, providing new high-quality BRT service for thousands of travelers in Alexandria and Arlington, and setting the stage for wider implementation of BRT throughout the region.
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