DC Circulator

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DC Circulator
DC Circulator logo.svg
DC Circulator.jpg
A DC Circulator bus at Union Station in August 2006.
Founded 2005[1]
Service area Downtown, Washington, D.C.
Service type Downtown circulator
Fleet 67
Annual ridership 4.8 million[1]
Fuel type Diesel, Diesel-electric Hybrid
Operator First Transit
Website dccirculator.com

The DC Circulator is a bus system in Washington, D.C. The District of Columbia Department of Transportation, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, and DC Surface Transit operate the service in a public-private partnership with First Transit.

The DC Circulator buses are similar to shuttle buses since they operate on a predictable fixed route and schedule, and run between the city's main attractions and some of the more popular neighborhoods for visitors. The service began in 2005, and passengers increased as the routes grew from two to five. But ridership peaked in 2011, and has decreased since then. The top month was July 2011, with 546,000 riders; the busiest month in 2014 was also July, with 470,000 riders.[2] The subsidy per rider is unusually high; in 2014, it ranged from $2.78 in July to $3.50 in December.[3]


The concept of a separate downtown bus was included in a 1997 report by the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC). The report called for "a simple, inexpensive, and easily navigable surface transit system that complements Metrobus and Metrorail."[1] The next year, representatives of the Commission, the District of Columbia Department of Transportation, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, and the Downtown D.C. business improvement district met to plan what would become the Circulator.[4]

Out of these meetings DC Surface Transit, Inc. was formed as a non-profit organization administered by the NCPC, the Washington Convention and Sports Authority, as well as the Downtown, Georgetown, and Golden Triangle business improvement groups.[1] After selecting First Transit as the system operator, the DC Circulator started service in July 2005 with two routes: one along K Street from Union Station to Georgetown, and a second from the Walter E. Washington Convention Center to the Southwest Waterfront.[4]

Additional routes were later added to serve the National Mall (2006), the 14th Street Corridor (2009), the Washington Navy Yard (2009), Rosslyn to Dupont Circle (2010), and the Skyland Town Center development in Southeast Washington (2011).[1] The two lines that served the National Mall and the Southwest Waterfront were discontinued in 2011 due to low ridership and redundant service.[5][6] The National Mall route was reinstated on June 15, 2015. The route is operated in collaboration with the National Park Service.[7]

A report released in March 2011 calls for developing better routes to replace those that had served the National Mall and Southwest Waterfront, and adding new service to the U Street Corridor, portions of Upper Northwest, and neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River.[1]


On April 18, 2007, a driver of a bus was off-duty and had left the bus to attend to other business. While he was out of the bus, the bus rolled back and crashed into a Georgetown University building. One woman was injured.[8]


The DC Circulator has six lines operating at 10 minute intervals.[9]

     Georgetown - Union Station[edit]

The east-west line connects Georgetown with Union Station and operates primarily along Wisconsin Avenue, K Street, and Massachusetts Avenue. Eastbound, the bus starts on Wisconsin Avenue at Whitehaven Street in Georgetown. Westbound, the route starts in the bus level of the Union Station parking garage.

This line operates every day from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. with additional night service between Whitehaven Street and 17th and K Street (Farragut North Metro station) Sunday through Thursday 9:00 p.m. to midnight and Friday and Saturdays 9:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m..

     Woodley Park - Adams Morgan - McPherson Square Metro[edit]

This line operates between Woodley Park, Adams Morgan, and McPherson Square via the 14th Street Corridor. Service operates from 7:00 a.m. to midnight Sunday through Thursday and 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday. Part of this route replaced the discontinued WMATA 98 line.[10]

     Rosslyn - Georgetown - Dupont[edit]

This line operates from Dupont Circle primarily via M Street through Georgetown and travels over the Key Bridge to Rosslyn. This services operates from 7:00 a.m. to midnight Sunday through Thursday, and from 7:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m. Friday and Saturday. This route replaced the former Georgetown Metro Connection "blue bus."[11]

     Union Station - Navy Yard Metro[edit]

This line connects Union Station and Navy Yard through Capitol Hill, operates weekdays between 6:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. from October 1 through March 31. Summer service operates weekdays between 6:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. and Saturday 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., with extended service on Washington Nationals game days. This route replaced the discontinued Metrobus N22 line.

     Potomac Ave Metro - Skyland via Barracks Row[edit]

This line operates from the Potomac Avenue Metro Station and Skyland Town Center east of the Anacostia River via Barracks Row on Capitol Hill. Service operates weekdays between 6:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. from October 1 through March 31. Summer service operates weekdays between 6:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. and Saturday 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m..

     National Mall Route[edit]

This 15-stop loop line operates from Union Station to most of the major attractions on or near the Mall, including ones that are at some distance from Metro stations, such as the Lincoln, Jefferson, World War II, FDR, and Martin Luther King. Jr. memorials.[12] Service operates weekdays between 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. and weekends from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. from October 1 through March 31. Summer service operates weekdays between 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. and weekends 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.[13]

Former routes[edit]

     Smithsonian-National Gallery of Art[edit]

Until 2011 a line ran only on summer weekends, serving the National Mall in a loop along Constitution Avenue, 1st Street NE/SE, Independence Avenue, and 17th Street NW/SW.[6] The line was replaced by the more extensive National Mall route in June 2015.[7]

     Convention Center - SW Waterfront[edit]

A north-south line connected the Washington Convention Center with the Southwest Waterfront and operated primarily along 7th and 9th streets, which have bus lanes. This line operated every day from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.. The service was eliminated on September 25, 2011 due to low ridership. A new Metrobus Route 74 was opened on September 26, 2011 along the 7th Street corridor between the Washington Convention Center and the Waterfront neighborhood, replacing the Circulator line and the eliminated portion of Metrobus Routes 70 and 71 from Pennsylvania Avenue to the South. The 74 bus costs more to ride and offers less frequent service, but the District officials said the ridership on the Circulator was too low to continue it.[5]


The current DC Circulator fare structure is as follows:

  • Regular Fare: $1.00
  • Senior and Disabled: $0.50
  • DC Elementary through High School Students: Free (with student farecard)
  • Children Under Five: Free

The fare may be paid in a variety of ways, including cash, SmarTrip, or a ticket purchased at an on-street multi-space parking meter.[14] The DC Circulator no longer issues or accepts paper transfers as of January 4, 2009. Riders must use a SmarTrip card to get a rail-to-bus discount or to transfer free from bus to bus.


Image Builder Model Length Year Fleet Number Fuel Powertrain (Engine/Transmission) Notes
DC Circulator.jpg Van Hool A330 40 ft (12.19 m) 2003-2004 1101-1129
(29 buses)
  • Cummins ISL
  • Voith D864.3
  • The Van Hool A330 buses that the Circulator runs were part of an order by AC Transit of Oakland.
  • These buses are built to their specifications, but had air conditioning added for use during DC's hot summers.
  • 1108 is in the Comet livery
DC Circulator Van Hool A300K Bus.jpg A300K 30 ft (9.144 m) 2009 1130-1143
(14 buses)
  • Cummins ISL
  • Voith D864.3
  • 14 Van Hool A300K buses, went into service in April 2009.
  • 1133 is in the Comet livery
DC Circulator Van Hool A300L.JPG A300L 40 ft (12.19 m) 2010 1144-1149
(6 buses)
  • Cummins ISL
  • Voith D864.5
  • 6 Van Hool A300L buses (identical in size to the 2003-04 models), went into service in September 2010.
DC Circulator New Flyer XDE40.JPG New Flyer Industries XDE40 40 ft (12.19 m) 2014-2015 2001-2018
(18 buses)
Diesel-electric Hybrid
  • Cummins ISB6.7
  • BAE System HybriDrive Hybrid System
  • 13 New Flyer XDE40 buses will be use for the new National Mall Line.
  • 5 more buses were added to help replace older models in the fleet and expand the system to Waterfront and National Cathedral.
  • First buses to originally feature the Comet livery
  • Entered service on June 14, 2015


  1. ^ a b c d e f "DC Circulator Transit Development Plan" (PDF). District of Columbia Department of Transportation. March 2011. Retrieved 12 December 2011. 
  2. ^ "Performance Metric - Ridership". 
  3. ^ "Performance Metric - Finance". 
  4. ^ a b "DC Circulator". Downtown DC BID. Retrieved 12 December 2011. 
  5. ^ a b "DDOT to Implement Changes to Existing Circulator Service". District of Columbia Department of Transportation. Retrieved 12 December 2011. 
  6. ^ a b "D.C. Circulator bus route on National Mall ends". TBD. 1 April 2011. Retrieved 12 December 2011. 
  7. ^ a b "District to Begin DC Circulator National Mall Route Bus Service". District of Columbia Department of Transportation. Retrieved 17 June 2015. 
  8. ^ "Bus Crashes Into Office Building". 18 April 2007. Retrieved 3 May 2007. [dead link]
  9. ^ "Where We Go". DC Circulator. Retrieved 17 June 2015. 
  10. ^ "Metrobus Routes 98, N22 being replaced by DC Circulator" (Press release). Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. 2009-03-27. Retrieved 2009-12-20. 
  11. ^ "DC Circulator Expansion Continues". DDOT. Retrieved 30 August 2010. 
  12. ^ "National mall Route". DC Circulator. Retrieved 17 June 2015. 
  13. ^ "Bus Routes and Schedules". DC Circulator. Retrieved 17 June 2015. 
  14. ^ "Fares and Payment Options". DC Circulator. Retrieved 17 June 2015. 

External links[edit]