For commuters, the scramble to connect with bus service is more confusing than usual. There are no buses operating between Cesar Chavez Drive and New Jersey Avenue, and the Metropolitan Area Express (MAT Bus) route that used to serve this area has been cut. Metrorail service is providing bus connections, but they must be made just a few minutes after the train arrives.
Those trying to connect to a bus can either squeeze in a short walk to New Jersey Avenue or hop on an old-fashioned trip along Benning Road, which returns them a short way south of the entrance to the memorial.
Transportation experts say the transition to the new bus lane has been more chaotic than anticipated. There are not enough signs, even near the entrance to the plazas. And just yards from the new Metro station entrance, commuters still need to cross a busy freeway to get to the curb.
“They built all this infrastructure, and now they don’t have any signals,” says Jamye Schulman, a spokeswoman for Metrobus.
Transportation consultant Michael Stoltzfus, who has frequently been in touch with Metrobus, says he has spent hours reading through official public meetings to learn about the process surrounding the new bus route. “They could have done a better job on public input and environmental reviews,” he says.
Bus drivers say they’ve been told to comply with new traffic rules at the start of the bus route, but not at the end. Thomas (Steve) Danilovich, manager of Arlington’s TCPD Area Bus, told the Washington Examiner that drivers “have been told to stick to the guidelines at the beginning of the route,” but “in order to maintain” a fixed position after that, drivers must cut over lanes.
A MetroBOT bus driver said she has never seen a problem with how the traffic has been rerouted since the route is no longer running. At the Benning Road station, there are no busses, but she can pull up to a curb and wait at that location. She pulls into the New Jersey Avenue station, and a nearby commuter train pulls to the curb to deposit her fellow riders.
Mary (Rina) Kilgrave, a MetroBOT bus driver, says riders don’t always understand why the new bus route diverts from her route. Some riders seem more interested in taking a Metrobus route through the Mall or Washington-Area Rapid Transit System more used to the stop at Benning Road. They don’t realize why there are buses at Benning Road, she says.
Still, Kilgrave is glad the new bus route is here. She tells riders to also hope the confusing start to the route is not permanent. “Hopefully they will put it back,” she says.