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Why aren’t Metro shuttles using the Route 1 dedicated bus lanes?

National Landing-Potomac Yard Metroway (image via Google Maps)

One of the many frustrations facing Alexandria commuters during the Metro shutdown has been buses stuck in traffic next to dedicated bus lanes, but WMATA says adding shuttles would overload the existing transitway.

Among the many frustrations, which included long lines for shuttles, commuters were left wondering why their buses traveling up Route 1 were stuck in mixed traffic next to the mostly empty bus lanes.

While Metro and the City of Alexandria worked together on Metro replacement plans, Sherri Ly, media relations manager for WMATA, said that adding shuttles to the Crystal City Potomac Yard Transitway’s dedicated bus lanes would have overloaded and broken that system.

“Metro worked with the City of Alexandria to come up with a traffic management strategy that would not impede on Metroway and other transit services that use the transitway,” Ly said. “The signal timing on the transitway is designed to balance the existing bus routes and traffic on Route 1. Adding shuttle buses to the transitway would quadruple the number of vehicles on the roadway, well beyond the capacity.”

Ly said the additional buses would have added congestion to the transitway, which is also being pushed as an (albeit more local) Metro alternative.

“Adjusting the signal timing to accommodate four times the number of buses would create extensive back-ups on Route 1 and the additional buses would add congestion to the transitway, impacting routes like Metroway which are an important travel alternative for customers during the shutdown,” Ly said. “Additionally, the transitway does not extend the length of the shuttle bus routes which operate to/from Crystal City.”

The Yellow Line shutdown as the Potomac Yard Metro station is brought into the system is expected to last until Oct. 22, though it’s unclear when the station itself will open. A longer shutdown, which will close the connection between the Pentagon and L’Enfant Plaza stations for repairs, is expected to continue until spring 2023.

The City of Alexandria worked with transit organizations to put together alternatives to the Metro for commuters, from buses to boats. Some of those have hit snags, however. The city’s bus network, DASH, lacks the manpower to take over additional bus routes to make up for the loss of Metro service.

The Virginia Railway Express offered a fare-free September for commuters around the region, but the entire system could be paralyzed by a potential freight rail strike. As of Thursday afternoon, however, it seems the strike has likely been averted.

Photo via Google Maps

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