When the H St, NE Streetcar Goes Active Will a Lane of Traffic Be Lost?

Somebody asked me this question a while ago and when I was on H St, NE last week it jumped back in my head. And I have no idea what the answer is. Anyone know how it’ll work? Does the street car share a lane with cars or will the lane be designated for street cars only? You can see in the photo above that cars currently use it.

And a quick side note since we were talking about the biking track troubles at 9th and L St, NW – do any folks who bike on H St, NE have trouble/get stuck in the tracks?

38 Comment

  • the streetcar will operate in mixed traffic along most of its route, which means cars, trucks and buses will be able to drive on the tracks since the streetcar line doesnt have its own right-a -way…..

    • And this is why the Streetcars will be a problem. People in DC have no concern for where they double park, sit in/out of lane while waiting to turn or at lights and the streetcars are going to always run so late since they will continually be blocked by cars.

  • In Germany, streetcars typically run on the street in normal traffic lanes. Kind of like buses. They can be slow, but motorists can pass them with ease. The drivers have a particularly clangy bell that motivates cars, bicyclists, and pedestrians to get out of their way. I imagine it will be similar on H Street. Simply put: Just like buses.

    I believe there are (or will be) striped bike lanes on the one-way east- and west-bound lanes immediately north and south of H Street. Bicyclists are better off using those than fending off traffic and wheel-grabs on H Street.

    • That’s what they do on one of the Green Line branches in Boston (E branch way out by Heath St, if I remember correctly). While it’s a bit of a pain to try and drive around the streetcars, it’s doable.

  • when are they expecting it to even be completed?

  • I wish we’d lose a lane of the angry/speeding maryland commuters.

    • Only time I ever saw someone speeding down H St. NE was apparently because he was being chased by 6 cop cars. He was headed in the direction of MD, though.

  • Yes, the tracks on H Street are treacherous for bikes. I’ve had my wheel caught or nearly caught in the tracks on a couple of occasions now, despite the fact that I generally try to avoid H when possible. To get to dance class and various other points of interest, however, I have to be on the street at some point or another, and it’s scary.

    • Kom naar Amsterdam, mevrouw. We’ll show you how bikes and trams can coexist. We’ve been doing it for a century now and things work quite well.

      • Just have to cross at an angle. I live by tram tracks (in Amsterdam). On the street I ride on the most the furthest right is parked cars, then you riding your bike, then mixed tram/cars. If a car is double parked you have to quickly cross in between the tram tracks and then back out; both times having to do it on as great of an angle that you can. Tricky at first but you get used to it. But I second anyone from DC coming out to Amsterdam. Only left DC in October for it here but I still check PoP

      • Aren’t the tracks in Amsterdam designed to be more bike-friendly? Like narrower gaps or guards of some type? These tracks don’t have anything,and they’ll be extra treacherous when wet. Ride wide tires,and cross as close to 90deg as you can.

        @Elle,inconvenient,but I’d avoid H as much as possible. Stick north and south and cross down as close as you can to your destination.

      • I was almost killed twice in Amsterdam (granted being from DC I’m not used to streetcars) once by a street car that crept up and almost ran me over when I was trying to cross the street, and by a irate moped driver that passed the streetcar on the curb side when it stopped t let out passengers.
        Just a slow, silly way to get around, unless they are putting wooden outside benches in there like a SF cable car.

  • My bike tires have no problems with the tracks. They are aware of the gaps and avoid them.

    @ST- They are streetcar is supposed to be up and running in 2012 on H St NE

    I have this strong feeling that after all of this construction and burden on the local businesses that the streetcars are going to be delayed for quite a while. And I think the excuse will be the enormous budget deficit. Personally I could care less about the streetcars. But I know a lot of people are counting on them.

  • what would be sweet if they closed the streetcar lane to cars during rush hour to help expedite mass transit riders (and F’ with all the inbound/outbound traffic).

    At first this was a joke, but in thinking about it, to me it makes sense. The goal of any good transit system should be to move the most people during peak transit times. This fits this bill. I think access during peak times should be limited to streetcars and buses. Cars can can have one lane each. During no peak hours-you ease up on the restriction.

    Its not that complicated, everyday I drive Independence home-they remove one lane from west bound and give three lanes eastbound during the pm commute…at other times it is 2 v 2.

    • Do that many people commute down H St? I don’t think it’s really a problem.

      • I think its one of the fastest growing areas in DC. So yes, they may not now because of the construction…but in 5 years, I think you’ll have plenty of peeps trying to get to Union…and beyond if the street car is approved for the other two phases.

      • I commute down H Street. And while there aren’t a ton of people who do it right now, as soon as the street paving is finished a lot more people will start.

  • in what ways are streetcars better than buses?

      • I see 36 seperate reasons that all boil down to two actual things.

        1. It’s cool
        2. The ride is smoother.

        Both reasons are completely ridiculous in the world of adults where real things cost money, and have to be paid for.

        If our function is to spur economic development, then we could have given a blanket commerical tax or commercial property tax abatement for 5 years along the entire commercial section of H street for 50% of the current cost, and it isn’t done yet, (nor does this include the constant subsidy to make up for the fare box differential because DDOT is “hoping” fares will cover 40% of the operating cost) of putting in the street car there. I can guarantee you the place would have transformed to a new Clarendon within a year if we had taken that approach.

        If the function is to move people, then we could have built off a seperated bus lane and bought new buses for 25% of the cost of the fortune we’ve dumped into the H street system thus far.

        Oh, excuse me…buses aren’t cool. What was I thinking?

        Gag me…I’ve already reminded my council member that that last minute 50 million dollar street car budget add/on into last years budget is responsible for nearly 30% of this years current budget deficit.

        • “I can guarantee you the place would have transformed to a new Clarendon within a year if we had taken that approach.”

          not to pick with you, because I think what most of those 36 points boils down to is what you’ve listed, so we agree in some respect. I disagree in the statement above. No amount of tax abatement will spur some areas in DC. H street maybe, but I seriously doubt that you could ever make it Claredon II. Streetcars may not be the best idea, when you have buses, but a strong streetcar network (all 3 phases) will have a larger benefit for all of dc, versus a strong bus network-haveing both a strong streetcar and bus network benefits all.

          DC Council has f’d this up, not figuring out A) how to power it, B) how to keep cost down C)Buying streetcars and storing them for five years..We as DC residents need to figure out if we want to invest in a strong network or just one line. I agree that one line makes no sense from a cost/benefit analysis. I am for all 3 phases.

          • i don’t buy the “one of these is a bad idea but three would work.” i don’t think joker’s “cut taxes” panacea is right on, either.

          • I completely agree that DDOT and the City has screwed this from the get go.

            It scares me to death that this first phase only cost ~100 million dollars (already costing twice anticipated), with the remainder of the 1.5 billion dollar system yet to hit the streets. And lets be honest here shall we, no transportation infrasture project in the DC metro has come in less than 50% over budget for decades. DDOT is some of the worst offenders. This will be a 3 billion dollar boondoggle at the end of the day, and how in the world does a city of 600K people pay for that 9let alone pay to operate and maintain) when it is currently running 400-500 million dollar budget deficits every year, especially when 19% of the District population lives below the poverty line.

            Factor in the actual number of non-poverty, employed tax paying citizens on the District rolls, and you have about 200K people paying for this thing

            As I said before, we have to decide if this is meant to be a “development” catalyst or a mode of transportation because the current 3 phase alignment doesn’t solve either, and both goals could be accomplished for a heck of a lot less in both short term and long term costs.

            The entire sections of the system that cover adams morgan, U street, K street and 7th street don’t need a development catalyst as they are already economically the healthiest parts of town. They are also currently thickly webbed with existing transit choices, metrorail, multiline metro buses.

            Someone could probably convince me that the Georgia Ave, H street and Rhode Island Avenue stretches of the proposed plan have some utility and would be worth spending the money on, IN A HEALTHY ECONOMY.

            As it stands now, DC has been running yearly half billion dollar deficits for the past couple years and looks to continue for the next few. We have trouble paying our existing bills, how spending billions more to then have to spend an extra ~70 million dollars a year to operate it makes any level of fiscal, transportation or common “sense” is beyond me.

        • “I can guarantee you the place would have transformed to a new Clarendon within a year if we had taken that approach. ”

          You do realize that one of the MAIN reasons (probably the biggest reason) Clarendon has grown to what it is is the fact that it has great transit (Metro) access?

      • those are pretty weak.

  • there are three main ways into the city from the northeast–NY ave, East capitol and Benning road. Benning road becomes H Street.

    H is well-travelled by commuters from east of the river and the Maryland suburbs. No question here.

  • I got my tire stuck in one of those tracks on the way back from Sticky Rice and I almost died. My bike actually stayed up right and stuck in the tracks and I flew off the bike and fortunately fell away from traffic. If I had fallen the other way I definitely would have been hit by a car. Instead I only got some scrapes and a scar on my knee.

  • When I lived in SanFran, the rule was that streetcars and cable cars had the right of way, but you could use the lane if you weren’t blocking the right of way.

  • My friend had a severe bike wreck and was hospitalized due to the H Street tracks. Its definitely a problem for cyclists. Too late now, but locating the tracks in the center lane or implementing a dedicated bus lane instead would have perhaps worked better. Solve the pesky problem of all those overhead wires as well…

  • You all do remember how well the bus/bike lanes worked in Chinatown? The only way to keep DC drivers out of anything(even the Cap Crescent Trail!) is to have physical barriers. Paint doesn’t do jack.

  • Tracks are just another thing cyclists need to keep an eye out for, just like cars, stry dogs, pot holes, and traffic cones. No big deal. Keep on the look-out and ride with a light at night.

  • What moose said.

  • I spent the night in the emergency room after crashing face first-my first crash after commuting for the last 10 years. I was keeping an eye out for the tracks and the stray dogs, when i had to swerve to avoid a car, and the only option was to swerve into the track. Accidents happen. Good design would help.

  • “It scares me to death that this first phase only cost ~100 million dollars (already costing twice anticipated), with the remainder of the 1.5 billion dollar system yet to hit the streets”

    1) We won’t build the entire 37 mile $1.5 billion dollar system unless the feds kick in. The system won’t be built entirely on the DC taxpayer’s back. 2) The likelihood we build another underground subway within the district in the next 3 years is probably zilch. Why? A separated blue line with a tunnel underneath the potomac to rossyln would cost more than $30 billion dollars. Until republicans stop pushing the tax cuts are the answer to everything and understand that infrastructure spending is worthwhile and what made this country the world leader I can’t see such a project getting funded.

    Because we won’t be increasing core metro capacity with a new underground line through the city most rush hour trains will be full with the commuters from the suburbs before they even cross into the district. The city needs to improve local transit within it’s borders. The streetcar can do that and intensify economic development in certain corridors.

  • In Amsterdam, buses, cars, bikes, and pedestrians all seem to coexist beautifully. I actually spent my lunch break one day just admiring one intersection. Peds yield to bikes, which yield to buses, which yield to peds. Sort of like rock paper scissors. Cars meanwhile move when they can. Incredible.

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