Mapping Greater Washington's Commuter Bus Network

An alternate version of this post was cross-posted to Greater Greater Washington.

Of the pieces that make up the Washington region's extensive transit network, the region’s commuter bus networks might be the least known. Over fifty long-haul commuter bus routes spider out into the region, stretching as far as Purcellville and Woodbridge in Virginia, and Hagerstown and Kent Island in Maryland.

I, like most DC workers, have seen these large buses plying the roads of downtown DC for years, and always wondered where they went after leaving the District. Outside of individual route information brochures, these routes are rarely depicted on maps, so it can be difficult to get a sense of their reach and usefulness. For many riders in those farther out areas, though, these services might offer a better way into downtown.

Out of curiosity, I began to research more about these routes. Three state and county governments manage commuter bus routes: the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission (or PRTC) operates in Prince William County and Manassas, Loudoun County Transit provides service from Loudoun County via the Dulles Toll Road, and the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) oversees a number of routes throughout Maryland (though these lines are managed by private contractors).

PRTC, Loudoun County Transit, and MTA Commuter buses from the City Transit project

PRTC, Loudoun County Transit, and MTA Commuter buses from the City Transit project

Between these three operators, there is a bit of a spectrum of information available. PRTC has a pretty detailed system map to go with individual route timetables and information. MTA lacks a system map, but still has individual route maps. Loudoun County Transit, frustratingly, only has really confusing combined timetables.

Seeing this, I could get a small sense of the extent of the network, which inspired the effort to try and visualize the entire network in one image, and the result is pretty surprising! I think a lot of folks will be surprised at just how comprehensive it is, covering most of the exurbs of the region.