H Street NE Gets New Shuttle Bus

Posted January 21, 2009 at 4:50pm

With an assist from D.C. government, business leaders of H Street Northeast are trying one more option to draw visitors onto their corridor.

On Jan. 2, the group launched a free shuttle that will bring guests from the Gallery Place/Chinatown Metro stop on the red, green and yellow lines to the Minnesota Avenue stop on the orange line, making stops along H Street. Leaders hope it will help with problems such as lack of parking and street maintenance that have kept visitors away in the past, as well as the construction that is expected to clog the corridor over the next two years.

D.C. Councilmember Tommy Wells (D), who represents Ward 6, lauded the growth of business along the corridor at a press conference last week and called it an effort to keep moving forward.

“What we don’t want is the construction on this street to hurt the progress that we’re making,” he said.

D.C. government has agreed to provide funding to the new nonprofit H Street Cooperative to run the shuttle for the next two years. That’s the same two years the construction project updating the streetscape along the corridor is expected to run. Starting on the south side at the intersection of H and Third streets Northeast, workers will tear up and pave over three blocks at a time, according to Anwar Saleem, director of H Street Main Street. The construction will go all the way east to the starburst intersection of H and 15th streets and then start over again at the north side of H and Third.

The need for the shuttle will be re-evaluated in two years, as construction wraps up and plans for a potential H Street trolley solidify.

U Street Transportation is the contractor running the shuttle. It will drive two vans wrapped with the green and white logo used by the H Street Main Street organization.

The shuttle will run every night from 5 p.m. until the Metro system closes. It starts at the Chinatown Metro stop so it will connect arts and entertainment districts, according to Patrick Stewart, owner of the Atlas Performing Arts Center at 1333 H St. NE, one of the stops on the route.

The shuttle is also meant to be an express, with fewer stops than the X2 bus that runs along H Street. There will be five stops between the pickups at the Gallery Place/Chinatown and Minnesota Avenue Metro stops.

Wells noted that the shuttle is part of D.C. government’s larger effort to modernize H Street Northeast. In a release, he detailed investments being made in the corridor: $50 million for the streetscape renovation, $25 million in tax increment financing targeting mixed-use and retail development projects, $600,000 in a fund targeting community-based projects needing matching funds and $500,000 in reimbursable grants for facade and building improvements.

“We’re seeing a renaissance of H Street that we’ve been hoping for for more than 40 years,” Wells said, referring to the riots that demolished the neighborhood following Martin Luther King Jr.’s death in 1968.