“The 10-minute headway that the system promises often turns into a 30-minute wait…” – Washington Post, 2017
“At times we are having trouble providing service where people can rely on it at all.” – DDOT official to WAMU, 2017
When the D.C. Circulator was launched, it quickly achieved a reputation as clean, reliable, and quick, thanks in no small part to its 10-minute headways. But that perception has been in rapid decline in recent years. As WAMU reported in July 2017, “D.C. Circulator remains beset by an array of troubles: poor maintenance and unqualified mechanics, tanking on-time performance stats, plummeting ridership and a wave of customer complaints.”
It’s not hard to find riders who are fed up. One rider tweeted “At this point just cancel the morning routes…this is pathetic and embarrassing.” She had waited 40 minutes, the Post reported, on a route that is supposed to have 10 minute headways.
Despite a high-profile safety scandal in 2016, by 2017 performance at the Circulator had worsened. According to WAMU, “On-time performance tanked in April. Only 52 percent of buses were on time across the six Circulator lines…The target is 80 percent, which has not been reached in any of the past seven months.”
While delays caused by First Transit are rooted in their inability to keep vehicles in a state of good repair, traffic and congestion can also cause serious delays for downtown bus systems like the Circulator. These delays can be addressed by designing streets to prioritize bus travel. The agency responsible for such changes? DDOT. Municipalizing Circulator will eliminate any dispute between the contractor and the city and allow DDOT to determine and implement the best way to get back to 10-minute headways.