As the sun beat down on the National Mall late Friday morning, District of Columbia officials cut a ribbon in front of a bus parked by the Lincoln Memorial, launching the sixth DC Circulator bus route.
DC Circulator has operated bus routes around the District for the past 10 years, providing $1 rides to residents and visitors. The new route along the National Mall, which originates at Union Station, begins Sunday with 15 stops at the various monuments and museums, with a final stop at the West Front of the Capitol. "The Mall is one of my priorities," said Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C. "This Circulator means that maybe we'll get rid of some of those gas-guzzling tour buses that are ruining the view and ruining our pollution."
The new fleet of buses being used on the route are also hybrid vehicles and have additional features such as WiFi and USB chargers beneath each seat. The buses will arrive at the stops every 10 minutes and, according to DC Circulator, the Mall route is expected to carry more than 880,000 riders in its first two years.
The National Mall route will operate under summer and winter hours. In the summer, buses will run between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. on weekdays and between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. on weekends. In the winter, the route will end an hour earlier at 7 p.m.
For some of the officials present, this route was a long time coming. Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans said the route was planned at the inaugural meeting about the DC Circulator a decade ago, so he said he was "really thrilled" to see the vision come to life.
Mayor Muriel Bowser revealed that she would often spend summers working for a tour company along the route. "I know how important it is, for people when they visit here, to have an affordable ride and to see their national monuments," Bowser said. "And now they will have an affordable ride on the DC Circulator."
But Bowser did take a moment to directly address Congress, which is looking to cut one-third of the federal funding for the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority.
"We want to send this message to Congress: that we, the District of Columbia, are supporting our national agenda and the visitors that come from all of us, by investing in these new buses," Bowser said.
One of the new buses was on hand at the press conference, and another was spotted looping around the Lincoln Memorial with "training bus" on its sign. For Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh, the new route was another example of the importance of investing in transportation as more people travel to D.C. to visit, live and work.
Literally and figuratively, Cheh said, "The District of Columbia is hot!"
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