First DC Street Cars Begin Journey From the Czech Republic

Photo courtesy of DDOTDC

DDOTDC sends word via twitter and on Facebook:

“The District’s first 3 modern streetcars have left the Czech Republic and begun their journey to DC. These photos show them being loaded onto flatbed trucks in Ostrava and then arriving at the port in Hamburg, Germany. They are expected to arrive by ship in our area in mid-December.”

Very cool! You can see all three planned phases here. Phase 3 is also below.


48 Comment

  • monorail!…Monorail!!…MONORAIL!!!!!!

    Actually, this is pretty exciting.

  • Good for the Czech Republic, but why can’t we build streetcars here? Don’t we build space shuttles and monster trucks?

  • Exciting news indeed!

    Interestingly, the US has only begun making streetcars again recently.

    Most have been built in Europe for the past couple decades because that’s where the demand for new streetcars had been.

  • yay for public transport! down with cars!

  • If we bought American street cars they would probably be way more expensive and break in annoying ways .. like the windows would stop going down all the way or the AC would only work if you wiggled the knob. !!
    Actually I am just venting my frustration related to American Cars.

  • They look good, and just like the new metrobusses, but could someone please fill me in on how streetcars are better than a bus? Perhaps I’m just being pessimistic, but I’ve been on plenty of buses that have had to be rerouted because of road closure or police/fire activity – and this wouldn’t be possible with a streetcar. Also has there been any progress with DC fighting the federal gov’t to install power for these? Last I heard the feds refused to allow overhead wires to power them and ddot was just saying “we’re going to make it happen”.

  • They look exactly like the Circulator…in fact, are you sure that’s a photo of one of the new streetcars and not just a Circulator without wheels (I’m kidding of course).

  • When are they going in? I skimmed the linked site and didn’t see a date.

  • It does look like the Circulator. In fact, if we just put wheels on them we’d have more flexibility, at a lower cost, right now. But noooo, we need streetcars. Are you all blind to the self-promoting largesse our government is pushing on us? Everyone gets mad when Fenty puts his name on a football field, can you not see this is the same principle to a MUCH greater degree?!

  • ontarioroader: It’s mostly about perception. Passengers perceive travel by rail as being more on-time, smoother, and more reliable, so they’re more likely to use it than buses.

  • @Goot Lemmon – never thought about it that way, but you’re definitely right. I was all excited to use this, and until I read your comment, I couldn’t wait for them to be installed. I can just go find a bus that takes me to any one of these destinations! Streetcars will still be caught in traffic, can still break down, will be susceptible to road closures (wtf will they do if that happens?!), etc. Nevertheless, I am still excited about this. I used the trolley in Philly all the time.

  • I can’t believe the routes that were picked. The new Orange streetcar line is ridiculous. This is a Jim Graham Special. Take an area that already has tons of transportation options, and add one more because it looks pretty. Boo on this line.

    The blue line is ridiculous but at least you know the Army and Air Force will use it.

    The new redline makes some sense, but it’s way way too long. It needs to be broken up. A 5 mile long trolley line is just stupid planning.

    Where’s the east-west line across Military road or something else up there? Why in God’s name does everything go to K Street?

    The Phase 2 lines make the most sense.

    The Phase3 Orange line continues the stupidity of the Phase1 rollout by making it TOO LONG. The other lines look useful.

  • For Anonymous 8:58am,

    They are going in NOW. Drive down to H St. The rails look fantastic (especially considering the way H St used to look) and they’re putting in new light posts. I just think the route planning and length of these lines is typical City Council silliness.

  • I’m sorry, Goot, I think that argument does not hold. Take a ride on the circulator sometime, you’ll see the exact demographic the streetcars are targeting. And yes, since they’ve figured out that connecting dense residential areas like woodley and columbia heights to downtown makes sense, more people are using it.

  • I disagree somewhat with the previous statements about streetcars not being better than buses. They run a much more reliable route and are less likely to break down than buses. Cars in SF tend to respect the streetcar paths much more than the bus paths.

  • Safe travels, gentlemen!

  • Streetcars also can fit more people than buses, and last much, much longer. SF is running many “heritage cars” on a daily basis, including some streetcars from the 1800s!!!

    As for the routes, the later phases in particular are not 100% set. If you’d like to see different streets, or additional routes, then send in comments to DDOT… they are definitely listening, and this is all still in the early stages (except for the H and Anacostia lines, of course, which are under construction now).

  • Yay! I love traveling by street car!

  • I visited Toronto last year.
    Until then I had never been in an American city with streetcars.
    Absolutely loved the streetcars, although it makes no sense.
    There is something psychologically comforting about a conveyance that comes on a track rather than a free wheeling road vehicle.
    Giving it some thought now, streetcar drivers cannot go rogue the way busdrivers do.
    No swerving, no passing other streetcars. Just stop and go and speed up and slow down.
    No personalized styles of pulling up to curbs or sticking out in traffic.
    Streetcars. Yes streetcars. Thank you.

  • This will benefit me personally, taking me almost door-to-door from home to work. That said, I don’t see the benefit. If they just ran the 63 bus more often and took out some of the piddly little stops, it wouldn’t require this massive waste of money. Also, when a bus breaks down, the next bus can drive around it. When these things break down, the whole line stops.

  • I can’t see how more public transportation options is ever a bad idea.

  • Streetcars are preferable (to me) because they tie into the electric grid, not the more polluting fossil fuel system. Even the natural gas buses burn fossil fuels, which by definition, are a finite resource, regardless of how plentiful it might seem to be today.

    And, yes, I know the electricity grid generates energy by burning fossil fuels, but not forever! It will gradually switch to renewables (already is moving in that direction) and we’ll have guilt-free public transportation!

    I’m from New Orleans, which has the oldest continuously running streetcar system in the US. It’s great. Relaxing, fun to ride, and much cleaner (if a bit slower) than the belching bus. It has a dedicated lane, though, and only mixes with car traffic at certain junctures, so there are few traffic jam issues…

  • @ Ragged Dog. Sorry but I’m super excited about the new Orange line. I work on 21st and Kst and live in Petworth. It takes me between 45 mins (on the metro) to an hour (on the bus) to get to work. It’s frustrating to live in the city and still spend so much time commuting. The orange line is so perfect. No more transfers!

  • Streetcars
    – have higher capacity
    – run much smoother (i.e. are more comfortable than buses)
    – have many more entry and exit doors (assuming they’d run a system whereby you could enter using any of the doors) making them also more convenient
    – can run more reliably and faster, assuming they are given priviledged right of way as most street car systems to my knowledge do
    – last longer
    – have less/no direct pollution

    Basically somewhat similar benefits to metro.

    On the downside they have a much higher initial investment requirement, and are not easily rerouted.

    As for the lines, you must bear in mind that these lines will indeed be there for decades to come. I assume they have been designed with the long term city plans and the expected demographics in mind.

  • “Streetcars are preferable (to me) because they tie into the electric grid, not the more polluting fossil fuel system.”

    *Facepalm* Have you been to any of the power plants in the area? That ain’t no clean coal, baby!

    “Relaxing, fun to ride, and much cleaner (if a bit slower) than the belching bus.”

    There you have it folks, SLOW = RELAXED. You know we could all use more of that. I’m sold.

  • they were built in czech because dc wanted to use a tested system and car. these are the cars that portland uses and the order was placed before they were being made in the us.

    street cars are cheaper in the long run that buses. far far less maintenance that a bus. far less fuel consumption that current buses. there is a belief that development happens around rails that doesnt happen around bus lines. also, streetcars will move more people.

    many lines go to k street because thats where so many people go. plus overlapping routes cost no extra money

    can you imagine people living along military road not going bat shit crazy if a line was put there.
    (i’d support connecting friendship heights to fort totten that way)

    have we placed orders for more cars or we just getting 3?

    is the idea that these lines would replace buses, so they kinda have to follow the bus lines?

  • @NAB:
    “*Facepalm* Have you been to any of the power plants in the area? That ain’t no clean coal, baby!”

    Yes, I know. I agree. That’s why I acknowledged that fact (dirty energy) in my post. Get it, baby?

    I’m looking forward to the future when wind, solar, tidal, bio fuels, geothermal, whatever, (all of the above) replace f-ing coal. Down with coal! Is that clearer?

  • Anonymous Says:

    November 18th, 2009 at 9:49 am
    I visited Toronto last year.
    Until then I had never been in an American city with streetcars.


    But Toronto isn’t an American city.

  • @Anon 10:44am:
    “But Toronto isn’t an American city.”

    America extends from the northern most tip of Canada down to the southern tip of South America (hence the terms North and South *America*).
    True, Toronto is not a US city, but we’re all Americans.
    (Since you were nit-picking, I thought I’d nit-pick right back).

  • @Anonymous 10:44 Actually, Toronto *is* an American city. It just isn’t a U.S. city.

  • I’m sure everyone would love a streetcar that connects their house with their office; especially if it comes with a private booth and a hot towel. However, having *an* option is better than having no options. I think that Petworth, while a great neighborhood, has plenty of existing transportation options.

    M St in Georgetown seems like a place that could use a trolley. We can close the bridge from Virginia and turn M st into a usable street again. Maybe that’s where the redline goes.

    K street doesn’t have that many people to support every line terminating there. It’s a ghost town after hours. Also there are plenty of metro stops along K St. Why do we need so much duplication?

    I agree the people on military road (in NW) would lose their crap, but we need a northern east-west connection that isn’t the purple line in MD.

    I have a fantastic idea, let’s close the roads to streetcars and bicyclists ONLY during rush hour along these routes. There’s no way a bicyclist is going to slow down a streetcar (roadkill) and people would have an option of taking the streetcar back if the weather gets bad or they only want to bike one way! Man I’m a genius this morning. This is a win-win. I’m running for city council.

  • Hell NO! Not in my front yard…literally! At $40 million per mile (according to DDOT’s website) my wish of NOT having a train rumble by will most likely happen. Seriously, where do they think all this $$$ comes from?

  • I actually hadn’t looked at any of the maps for this and had been wondering why my neighbors were all up in arms about the streetcars. (It can be difficult to figure out what Hill folk are up in arms about from one day to the next.) I’m presuming their issue is w/ the one that’s going to run up and down 8th Street N/SE on the Hill. I had no idea that was in the works. That’s 2 blocks from my house – I might even consider taking that somewhere.

    Nah. I’ll still drive.

  • I didn’t see the $40M per mile except in relation to the cost in Seattle?

    Capital Improvement is good money spent. Transportation options that reduce car use are good money spent. School building and infrastructure are good money spent. Upgrading water lines, electricity lines and data lines are good money spent.

    Paying girlfriends $5k to do survey’s for the city council is bad money spent.

  • EPF do you have buses that drive past your houses? Streetcars are quiter than if you have buses “rumbling” down your street a streetcar will annoy you less. Agreed that at 40 million a mile is a bit staggering(not sure where this figure came from)..but longterm a streetcar is a good idea if they aren’t going to expand metro…the idea should be to use streetcars in Metro-void areas to connect metros/streetcars from neighborhood to neighboorhood..I love the idea of having a streetcar on H street going east/west, from Union Station to Benning Road…but this will grow that area. Also one connecting Eastern Mkt to New York Ave…these are good things. More options will improve the overall standard of living for all washingtonians.

  • $40 mil/mile a day with debt financing versus annual maintenance costs for a bus in the future. Hard to say which is more expensive without a real pro forma but if you count in the time lost “relaxing” on a streetcar versus flying down the street in a big red bus, I have my doubts the numbers would ever work.

  • Sorry, meant “today” not “a day”.

  • Someone must have dropped a mirror; 7 more years of torn up streets in Columbia Heights.

  • The Brown line goes up and down Columbia Road, even though it’s a one way street for much of that route. Guess they’ll open it up to 2-way traffic?

  • It’s good to know that NAB will not be riding on our nice new streetcar system.

  • Funny how many of the proposed routes duplicate the traditional DC streetcar routes that were trashed in the 1950s and 1960s: the Georgia Avenue/7th St. line (#70); the H Street/Benning Road (10, 12), Rhode Island Avenue (82), Florida Ave./Calvert Street/8th St. NE/SE (#92) lines, etc. In fact, in many cases the tracks are still there, just paved over, and could probably be un-covered and used again.

  • harry,

    the buses replaced the street care lines, now the street cars will replace the bus lines. its pretty logical.

  • MPHS – True. I feel like the city is constantly tearing up the street every winter to fix busted water lines. I couldn’t imagine what would happen if streetcar tracks were laid on top. While my street seems quiet and quaint, it is a big commuter route out to Maryland. I don’t think any of those commuters will be taking the trolley. You just can;t get them out of their cars so you might as well plan for them.

  • EPF,

    That is the type of thinking that keeps the circle of oil dependencing going…the first point is valid..not sure how utilities under the road have been accounted for..maybe routes on streets that have nothing beneath them..the second point is what I hate to hear..Public transport in the worlds capital should be better…this is one way to improve it..the other involves VA and Maryland…

  • Michael- great post! but who no \Streetcar!\ link?

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