The system began with the introduction of $1 bus service on the Georgetown – Union Station and Convention Center – SW Waterfront routes in 2005. In 2006, the Smithsonian – National Gallery of Art route was added to the system. In 2009, two routes were added: Woodley Park – Adams Morgan – McPherson Square and Union Station – Navy Yard. In 2010, the system expanded beyond the borders of the District with the Dupont Circle – Rosslyn route.
In 2011 the Potomac Ave Metro – Skyland route was introduced. During this year DDOT suspended the operation of both the Smithsonian – National Gallery of Art and Convention Center – SW Waterfront routes due to low ridership and the need to reduce expenditures during the recession. WMATA’s Metrobus Route 74 replaced the Circulator Convention Center route.
New service along the National Mall launched in June 2015. Through a partnership between DDOT, DCST and National Park Service (NPS), the Circulator is now providing visitors, commuters and residents door-to-door transportation to more than 25 museums, monuments and memorials along the National Mall.
Between 2015 and 2018 the Circulator fleet upgraded to all new buses including state-of-the-art 100% electric vehicles. In 2018 DDOT implemented major changes to better align limited resources while providing transit access to growing activity centers. The Potomac Ave Metro – Skyland route was realigned to Congress Heights Union Station and the Union Station – Navy Yard route became Eastern Market – L’Enfant Plaza.
In March 2019, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser implemented a new fare policy making all Circulator rides free indefinitely.