66 Comment

  • Whoa. I volunteered to play a crash victim on a street car a few months ago and this was the exact scenario. I had to look again to make sure it wasn’t a picture from the simulation.

  • …and that’s why you don’t run red lights.

    • Biking by a couple blocks from here on New Years Day I saw a car run the solidly red light in front of a street car. No accident. But what could these cars be thinking?

    • Say that to every driver in the city ever. I’ve never been anywhere with such blatant disregard to red lights as there is here in DC. As someone who is most often a pedestrian, I know to never cross a road when I first get the walk signal, because there is almost always someone who runs the red light. Not even just a simple not slowing down for a yellow, but it’s already red, and they’re still going anyway.

  • Sincerely hope everyone here was OK. That said, about 2hrs earlier than this accident today , saw an eastbound streetcar completely stuck around H & 6th by a big moving truck parked at the curb, probably completely legally. Traffic was non-existent, there were hardly any other parked vehicles, and a bus probably would have had to veer literally six inches to the left to get by. I’ve tried so hard not to be a hater, but that moment really drove home how useless this thing is.

    • If the truck was blocking the streetcar, it was absolutely parked illegally.

      Also, there is a difference between ‘useless’ and ‘worth it’. You can get on the streetcar and it will move you to a different destination, thereby being of use. The question is whether or not it will drive development further down Benning Rd in communities marred by poverty and crime. Barring a catastrophic economic event, I don’t see why it wouldn’t.

      • Check the stats, Benning Rd isn’t much more “marred by crime” than the rest of H St NE. In fact, robberies are probably higher near the H St bars because robbers go to where the easy money (drunk, wealthier people) are versus the harder targets (sober poor people who have nothing to lose).

  • The street car in New Orleans works so well.

    • Emmaleigh504

      It has its fair share of accidents.

      • As do cars, buses, planes, trains. I doubt the streetcar will distinguish itself through accidents. Hopefully, it will do so by moving people efficiently, though it seems few of us are holding our breath.

    • The streetcar in New Orleans also has a dedicated lane.

      • Emmaleigh504

        It shares the street with cars on a small part of it’s route. The dedicated lane also turns into a parade viewing section every Mardi Gras season. The New Orleans street car has it’s own challenges that it over comes just like the DC street car will work out it’s challenges.

    • The green line in Boston, for all of its faults and poor design, does a wonderful job connecting people in Brookline, Brighton/Allston, and other places just outside Boston downtown using a streetcar. I don’t see why this won’t be useful. Granted, the green line in Boston has no competing subway line that runs nearby and itself becomes a subway train when it gets to Fenway Park. It’s slow and stops entirely too often as well, but still nicer than a bus line on Beacon or Commonwealth Avenues.

      • It also has a dedicated lane in the center of the road. And as you said, you don’t have to get off and board another type of train at Fenway.

  • And we all know buses have never been in a traffic accident…

  • Here’s the interesting thing as we move towards passenger service on the streetcar line. If that streetcar would have been carrying people on it when it got into an accident, everyone would have been offloaded obviously. But, the streetcar would not have been able to be moved and thus all the streetcars behind it would have not been able to move for however long necessary to sort out the accident. Not a good thing for moving people down a busy corridor……

    • clevelanddave

      Now we will begin to remember all the reasons, long forgotten, why almost all cities got rid of their streetcars 50, 60 years ago. The routes can’t be moved. They tend to be participants in a fair share of accidents. They require huge amounts of real estate (dedicated lanes). When one gets in an accident, or has a mechanical failure, or a rail line or a car is inoperable/blocked it prevents the flow of all traffic along the line. They are expensive to maintain and run. They are expensive to build and vastly expensive to expand to make them truly useful- and even then they tend to run fairly empty most of the time. Buses and other forms of public (and private, like taxis and Uber, etc) are more flexible, and on and on…

      • yet many cities around the world operate incredibly effective and efficient streetcar networks, and many US cities like Philadelphia have done so for over a century.

        the problem with our streetcar is not the concept per se, but the idiotic implementation of it. It was obvious from the start that double-parking would be a constant problem that would grind the system to a halt.

        my prediction:
        the next terrible thing that will happen is someone will open their driver-side door after parking, not noticing the approaching streetcar, and get it torn off. If they are exiting their vehicle, they will be crushed. this injury will lead to an outcry that eventually causes the parking lane on H street to be converted to a dedicated bike lane, which I suspect was the end game from day one.

        • “the next terrible thing that will happen is someone will open their driver-side door after parking, not noticing the approaching streetcar, and get it torn off. If they are exiting their vehicle, they will be crushed.”

          Why is this unique to the streetcar? Can’t someone now also open their door and have it torn off by an approaching car / truck / van / bike?

          • sure but those vehicles are able to attempt to steer out of the way by swerving to the left. streetcar can only go forward along one track and can’t stop instantly. the scenario I’m describing is a fairly horrifying prospect if you think it through. Typically, streetcars that share roads run along the middle of the road or in areas that don’t allow on-street parking – I’ve never seen one that runs directly adjacent to an active on-street parking lane.

          • “sure but those vehicles are able to attempt to steer out of the way by swerving to the left.”

            By swerving into the left = swerving into another lane of traffic…not the ideal scenario

          • Not necessarily – it’s possible to swerve over in your lane to avoid someone popping a car door open. That happens all the time. Even if you have to slide a bit into another lane that doesn’t mean you’re going to cause an accident. In either case, even if you do sideswipe another car, that’s a better outcome than pinning someone against their door without ability to move to the side even a single inch.

          • If a cyclist hits the door, the cyclist will be injured (or even killed) Which will make certain WaPo columnists happy.

          • justinbc

            What if War of the Worlds breaks out and Tom Cruise isn’t there to save us? Would a streetcar still be a bad idea?

      • Except “the route can’t be moved” is why people take the streetcar. They can’t get lost. People will take a streetcar that won’t take a bus. And they’re expensive at the front end because they last for decades whereas a bus requires constant maintenance at a higher price over a shorter lifespan.

        The idiot move was not giving it a dedicated lane, expecting illiterates to actually read the NO PARKING signs and not pull out in front of a moving streetcar.

        • Not only that, but the permanence and it’s effect on neighborhood development is one of the biggest selling points. People are much more willing to invest in a neighborhood with permanent public transportation infrastructure, busses are great, but are just so transient. Nobody wants to make a big 30 year investment and fear that one of the things that brought them to the neighborhood would change from under them.

      • “Now we will begin to remember all the reasons, long forgotten, why almost all cities got rid of their streetcars 50, 60 years ago.”

        Streetcars were eliminated because the private companies that operated them were in deep financial sh*t and couldn’t afford the maintenance on 40-plus-year-old vehicles.

    • “Now we will begin to remember all the reasons, long forgotten, why almost all cities got rid of their streetcars 50, 60 years ago. The routes can’t be moved. ”

      Where is your source on that? I know in some cities (the district in particular) got rid of street cars because of lobbying from bus companies. DC was mandated by congress to scrap street cars for busses. Busses were seen as new and modern while railcars were seen as old.

      There were a lot of other factors at play (including mandating by a lot of cities for transit companies to “modernize” their system) – but I have not seen one paper argue that street cars were replaced by buses merely because the routes can’t be moved.

  • So are we starting a pool on whether or not the car has Maryland plates?

  • Probably a Maryland driver for sure … how do you not see a huge red streetcar? Or a red light for that matter.

  • More likely a Virginian. Streetcars are such a foreign concept there. That’a why they decided not to build one/

  • brookland_rez

    I was down there right after this happened yesterday. I thought about taking a picture. Glad someone else got it. I wonder who was at fault? I don’t want to jump to conclusions, but I’m betting it was the car.

  • No need for the not-so-subtle racism there, chief.

  • i was just over there this morning, drove down H from 3rd to 14th and saw THREE tow trucks throughout, lights on and at the ready, presumably to go after any double parkers in the way of the street car. Have they been out in full force throughout the testing period?

  • Pedestrians next. how do you think the Brookyn Dodgers got their name? Hint: it was s short form of “trolley dodgers.” (And I actually like streetcars.)

    • Great comment! Although to clarify, the Dodgers names did not refer to the streetcars themselves, but rather dodging the occasional errant electricity bolt that would shoot off the hanging wires and zap a nearby pedestrian. There were some cases of fatal electrocution. This was when the cars were running on Thomas Edison’s direct current, rather than Nicola Tesla’s superior and safer alternating current, which is now the standard of modern electricity.

  • It actually had temporary Maryland tags

  • All these comments imply that the streetcar is doomed to fail because it’s a bad idea and everyone knew streetcars were a bad idea years ago. Why is it a bad idea in DC but every other city in the western world that implements a street car whether new or legacy works great? San Francisco has a great streetcar network with refurbished street cars that were refurbished from all over the U.S. and the wold. It’s really awesome. Nearly every mid-sized city in Europe has a highly successful and highly efficient streetcar system. Is it really that DC regulators and citizens are so dumb that they can’t make this work? Or is it just that change is feared and everyone is scared of this thing? I hope that they can get this H street line figured out and move on with more of these all over the city. Obviously lessons need to be learned on future endeavors to improve procurement and implementation but writing this system off is short-sighted.

    • tonyr

      Even Baltimore has figured it out. It’s pretty impressive to not only admit to being less intelligent than the citizens of the fine city just to the north, but to actually take pride in it.

  • After using the streetcars in Boston for over a decade (particularly in college) I have mixed emotions. They are vastly inferior to subways, but a huge improvement over bus lines. Some thoughts.

    To the comments about the trains bunching up – yes this is a HUGE problem. When a train stalls for any reason (hitting a car / pedestrian, mechanical failure, traffic, etc) the entire line can get backed up. If the H street designers were smart they would have included periodic areas on the line where a train can switch to the opposition track. This will allow other trains to “single track” around the stalled vehicle. Imperfect but much better then 3 trains sitting idle.

    Cars are going to get hit all the time at first while people get used to the street cars. Even after that, your going to get accidents on a fairly regular basis. The Green (and some portions of the Red line) have been running above ground for as long as most citizens of Boston have been alive – and even after all those years people were still running red lights, getting t-boned by the streetcars. I can recall being on the Red line and having the car in front of me struck on it’s side by someone running a red light. We were stuck on the track for 2 hours.

    In heavy traffic they can be slow. The speed is more often akin to a bus line, not a subway.

    • tonyr

      “and even after all those years people were still running red lights, getting t-boned by the streetcars.” Regular trains have been around since the 1800s and you still get people who decide to weave around flashing lights and barriers at road crossings so that they don’t get delayed by express trains or mile-long coal trains with sadly unexpected results. George Carlin wasn’t wrong when he said to consider how stupid the average person that you meet is, and then remember that half the people are even more stupid than that. (I know he should have used median, but he was a comedian, not a statistician).

  • Red-light runners deserve t-boning. I just hope that doesn’t delay the trolly even more.

  • justinbc

    Poorest part of DC…troll bait fail.

  • This is why one of my favorite shows is A&E’s Parking Wars. Amazing how many people get furious when their car is ticketed or towed because “I was just running in for a minute!” This society is way too accommodating to narcissists. Not to say I haven’t gotten a parking ticket or two, but I certainly don’t complain when I’m caught.

    Short of putting a cattle guard on the streetcar, or for that matter the Metrobuses, and just shoving the damn things out of the way, the city could jack the double parking tow fine up to $1,000. They say DC can’t impose a commuter tax, I say why not?

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