Metro's finance committee is going to be considering a plan to start up a 16th Street limited-stop bus service. For the first 15 months, the service will be financed by the District, but if the line meets certain performance criteria (the targests are higher than the system average passengers per trip, passengers per revenue mile and cost recovery), it will be funded by Metro as a whole through the funding formula.
The new limited-stop service will be called the S9, and will operate between Silver Spring and McPherson Square during morning (6:30-10:00) and evening (3:00-7:00) rush hours, every 10 minutes. Having the bus stop only 16 times per direction is expected to save 6-8 minutes each way. For the first full year of operation (July 2009-July 2010), DDOT is expected to pay just over $1.6M to operate the line.
In addition to operating the new bus line, Metro wants to assign two bus line supervisors to the route to better manage bus bunching and other schedule adherence problems.
Metro has some other changes to the "S" bus lines that can only be implemented after further transit study. They are considering a "turn-back" service at Colorado Ave. or Piney Branch Parkway, to more frequently service the more heavily utilized southern portion of the route; they're considering dedicated southbound morning peak bus only lanes between Piney Branch and Florida Avenue; and they're considering queue jumping lanes at two intersections along the route, where through a change in intersection design, buses would be given "head of the line" privileges at red lights. They are also studying transit signal priority, where buses can send signals to traffic lights, holding them green until the bus goes through the intersection.
This isn't the first limited-stop Metrobus service. Metro Extra route 79, which operates along Georgia Avenue and 7th/9th Streets NW, carries over 5,400 passengers per day in all-day (6am to 7pm) service from Silver Spring to Archives. Its operating cost is higher than the proposed route, with a lower current cost recovery ratio than the target for S9. It meets the other productivity requirements for the S9 line, making it pretty likely that similar service on the S9 route will be successful enough to continue. There's also the limited-stop 37 line, which operates on the 30s corridor from Friendship Heights to downtown in the peak direction only during rush hour.
If approved by the FAO committee and the full board, the new line is expected to start operating on March 29.