The D.C. Circulator is adding service to the National Mall, but it will be at least October 2014 before passengers will be able to take advantage of the new route.
"I am excited to announce the expansion of the Circulator bus service to provide residents and visitors with greater access to the National Mall and its iconic museums and monuments," D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray said in a statement. "The Circulator bus has proved to be a popular and sustainable method to travel throughout the District, and it makes a lot of sense to expand its service to our city's monumental core."
The District said it is considering an array of possible routes, but Gray's office said that all of the options would "provide access to the National Mall, as well as connection to neighborhood destinations and commercial corridors outside of the District's monumental core."
New service will begin sometime during the 2015 fiscal year, which starts on Oct. 1, 2014.
The D.C. Circulator began operations in 2005 and currently operates five routes. Fares for the buses, which arrive at stops every 10 minutes, are $1.
Buses currently run as far north as Columbia Heights, into Rosslyn and well into Southeast D.C., touching neighborhoods like Hillcrest and Naylor Gardens. But none of the five routes come especially near the National Mall, though one runs along the eastern edge of the U.S. Capitol complex.
District government statistics show that the service provided almost 421,000 rides in February, the most recent month for which data are available. Usage peaked in July 2011 at about 546,000 rides.
Ward 3 Councilwoman Mary Cheh, who chairs the council committee that handles transportation issues, hailed the plans
"This Circulator expansion will be just the spark the District needs," Cheh said. "Once complete, it will provide our residents and visitors with greater access to D.C.'s national treasurers while boosting economic activity around the mall."
Gray and Cheh also said they had reached a deal to create a fund intended to improve bus service in the District and reduce delays. The city will contribute $750,000 annually to the account beginning later this year.