The university is moving forward with plans to reroute four of the five Georgetown University Transportation Shuttle bus lines by late October, which has sparked negative responses from bus commuters.
The rerouting plans were initiated by the Office of Planning and Facilities Management following the announcement of the 2010 Campus Plan, which included neighborhood input to minimize the use of residential streets in bus routes.
With the exception of the Wisconsin Avenue route, the new bus lines will exit campus via Canal Road.
The campus bus stops for these buses will also move to the front of McDonough Gymnasium, as opposed to the current bus stops on the north side of campus that leave via Reservoir Road for the Dupont Circle line and Prospect Street for the Rosslyn, Arlington and Law Center routes.
According to Vice President of Planning and Facilities Robin Morey, the buses will pass through fewer residential areas of the neighborhood with the new routes.
“What it’s trying to accomplish is keeping the buses out of the neighborhoods,” Morey said. “You can imagine you have these narrow Georgetown streets and these diesel buses driving down, so it’s very disruptive to the homeowners that live there.”
The university has run tests to determine how the altered routes will affect transit times, though the precise changes are hard to determine.
“It remains to be seen,” Morey said. “Some routes will save five or six minutes in the morning, and in the evening during peak time, we expect it could be ten minutes longer.”
A bus turnaround will be constructed in front of McDonough Arena that will enable buses to come in and out via Canal Road without having to drive across the main campus. In December, the university will also construct a sheltered area where commuters can sit while waiting for the buses.
Morey said that the route changes will benefit both the neighborhood and the university.
“[The Campus Plan] gave us the benefit of keeping the transportation hub on the perimeter of the campus, and … we increased our storm water retention, so we improve our sustainability,” Morey said.
“We’re not running the buses through campus, which is a safety issue, and we want the campus to be more pedestrian-friendly.”
Morey said that the rerouting project will add new trees and a rain garden to the bus stop.
Despite the university’s assertion that the new bus routes will remain efficient, the changes were poorly received by many riders, particularly employees of Medstar Georgetown University Hospital.
Many employees, as well as students and faculty, who commute to the hospital rely on the Dupont Circle bus, which currently stops directly outside of the hospital.
The new pick-up spot in front of McDonough is roughly a 10-minute walk from the entrance to the hospital.
“It’s a pain,” Kim Zagory, an administrative assistant at the hospital, said. “It’s a long walk and that’s problematic, particularly for patients who may have mobility problems or people who are ill. It’s a hospital.”
In response, the university plans to have a 10-person golf cart called a jitney that will shuttle riders to and from the hospital and bus stop. The jitney is primarily intended to accommodate mobility impairments, though it will be available for all riders.
Other commuters indicated that they were more accepting of the change in the bus routes.
“[It’s] a little annoying, but it doesn’t impact me that much since I already take the Rosslyn bus over here,” Charlotte Valentine (GRD ’17) said. “There’s a lot more traffic exiting near Reservoir Road than there is Canal Road so I understand why they’re changing it, but it’s going to be a long walk in the winter.”
Despite these complaints, Morey said that the university has not experienced any official pushback over the rerouting of the GUTS buses.
“Overall it will be a net benefit, but change is tough sometimes, and it will be a little challenging when we first start,” Morey said.
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