Friday Question of the Day – Are Grand Plans for Streetcar Finished? Are You Finished with Streetcar?


From NBC Washington:

“News4 has now learned the entire system — 39 miles of planned track — is in jeopardy.

Council sources said one proposal would complete the planned line from H Street NE to Georgetown and a second line to Anacostia. Little other development is expected.”

So let’s play the guessing game – when will the streetcar pick up passengers on H Street and Benning? Do you think it will ever be expanded? All the way to Georgetown like suggested in the story above? If plans for a Georgia Avenue line are scrapped, will that hurt it’s redevelopment (especially in the areas north of the Petworth metro)? Do you even care about the streetcar anymore?

Ed. Note: This week’s caption contest photo was picked before this most recent news.

141 Comment

  • I’m bummed. I’m a streetcar supporter, and I was really looking forward to the Georgia Ave line. I think it would have been great for the neighborhood. Unfortunately, DDOT screwed up the planning and implementation so badly, I can’t really blame anyone for dropping support. It’s a real shame. To me, the worst part is we’re going to wind up with a shitty little “system” that will be used as exhibit a whenever someone wants to demonstrate that streetcars are a bad idea.

    • No, DC’s two poorly planned lines (H St and Anacostia) are not the only example why streetcars are a bad idea, they’re just a good example why DDOT and its partners (including MC Dean) are poor planners.

      Transportation data show us that streetcars are bad ideas, not just DDOT’s poor planning.

      • Streetcars have brought huge economic development to dozens of cities, including Portland, Seattle, Salt Lake City, Denver.

        Can you please point to examples that illustrate your position?


        • Let’s not forget its done wonders for Brockway, Ogdenville, and North Haverbrook……

          I wasn’t a big booster from the get-go but I do want this to succeed and man this has been painful to watch.

        • Portland, Seattle, Salt Lake City and Denver are all very different from DC in that they don’t have what DC has: a world-class subway system that’s much quicker than mixed-traffic streetcars. So the notion that some mixed-traffic streetcar is going to bring additional economic development to a city that already has a world-class subway system is pure speculation.

          As to the information you requested, data show streetcars are much slower than buses (pg 12), much more expensive per mile (pg 27) :

          • palisades

            What does that have to do with bringing economic development? You brought up a point that doesn’t retract what Joey said.Also, your statement about speculation is well, speculation as well.

          • @palisades

            No, it’s not speculation to say that you’re speculating that DC’s mixed-traffic streetcar will bring economic development. It is a fact that it’s speculation that DC’s streetcar will bring economic development. Why? There’s no evidence that it will happen, and more evidently we cannot predict the future.

            And it’s rather questionable that economic development, e.g., in Portland, came as a result of the streetcar line as opposed to as a result of all the freebies the government gave to developers, i.e., tax breaks and subsidies. Not to mention Portland’s population exploded 21% over the decade prior to the streetcar launch.

      • They are good ideas when they have a dedicated lane, but most new systems in America don’t do this.

    • i also agree implementation was horrible. but, is there any chance that the h street line can be tweaked to have dedicated lanes? seems to me the hard part was getting the track laid, and blocking cars off from them would be much easier.

      • Doesn’t seem realistic to me. You would either have to restrict car lanes to one in each direction or remove parking along H Street.

        The first would be a traffic nightmare and the second would be opposed by every business on H St.

  • I was a big streetcar booster early on, but the comedy of errors that it’s been and the lack of accountability for those involved in “managing” the project throughout have swung me and pretty much everyone I know against it. If they can find a way to dedicate a lane for every single mile of track laid from here on out, then it still might be worthwhile to build out the system. Otherwise, kill it and repurpose the money towards bike infrastructure and expanding the circulator network.

    • Yep, the Circulator or a system of WMATA “express” buses that don’t stop at every friggin block. If I’m going from K St to Columbia Heights, it’s so much faster on the Circulator. It happens to drop me off on my street, but even if it was a couple blocks away I’d still take it. The 50 buses always seem like they’re crawling.

      • The frequency of bus stops in DC is ridiculous. I take the S bus down 16th St to work daily and it stops so damn often. I mean, there are blocks with 2 stops on them…why?!

        • What blocks have 2 stops on them?

          I also take the S bus line everyday and I’m pretty sure most stops are 2 blocks apart with a few more stops at busy intersections (Irving, Columbia, Harvard area). I think they could stretch that out to 3 or 4 blocks but if you’re heading to the Golden Triangle area it’s still faster than taking the metro and having to transfer at L’Enfant.

        • And why do they charge so much more for the express buses? You’d think they’d want to encourage their use. They should eliminate stops, making them all “express”.

          Metro sux.

        • Whatever the bus is that travels north on 15th NE in the morning looks to stop at almost every other block. How can people not walk a little further to a bus stop? Why do they need to many stops?

  • Only makes sense with dedicated lanes at the center.

    • +1
      This has been a total waste of time and money for a mode of transport that requires a tow truck to drive ahead of it.

      • Agreed. It makes me wonder if there’s some way that they could make it impossible for cars to park in its lane (spikes in the parking spots that go under the middle of the street car, but would puncture tires of anyone trying to park there) that would make it operate more smoothly.

  • HaileUnlikely

    Perceived coolness aside, streetcars that run in mixed traffic are not only no better than buses, but are actually much worse. If the streetcars in other parts of the system are not to have dedicated lanes, just put the money into improving bus service. Georgia is plenty wide enough for a single dedicated bus lane, and could accommodate one in each direction on much of it.

    • binpetworth

      +1. Would love to see a dedicated bus (or streetcar) lane on Georgia, but honestly don’t think it’ll ever happen.

      • Let’s hope not unless the road gets widened… The 2 lanes are nowhere near enough without street cars as it is.

      • Why not use the pseudo street car plan like King St. in Alexandria to run up and down Georgia? Seems like a much much more cost effective way to take care of getting people from the metro up the road. They could probably have 4 of them running at all times and it would cost 1/10 of putting in a real street car.

    • Exactly, much slower, less versatile and less energy efficient. All the know-it-alls like Catania, Cheh, Wells and the streetcar cheerleaders like lobbyist Greater Greater Washington have to answer to why they supported such a terribly flawed waste of taxpayer dollars.

      • They are actually much more energy efficient, have a higher capacity, and suffer from less wear and tear. The problem is that without a dedicated lane they just seem expensive. Anyone who says that an articulated bus is better does not understand maintenance, physics, or road wear and tear.

        • No, they’re not “much more energy efficient.” Where do you get such an idea? First, the amount of energy used by streetcar systems varies widely, second, the average per mile is higher than buses, according to NTD data.

    • This is just not true. Check out Portland, OR for example. They let people on/off MUCH faster than buses, have room for bikes, and have a history of spurring booming economic development.

  • Agreed. It was a nice idea in dreamland utopia, but the reality is that streetcars in mixed traffic are a bad idea from every angle, and DC’s execution (or non-execution) of the H street line has showed that the city should have no tolerance for expansion.

    Write it off, and give the rest of the money to improving the schools. Train the teachers. Create after school programs for the kids. Dont waste money on more streetcars.

    • b/c improving schools will definitely help ease traffic congestion… or do the next streetcars properly in dedicated lanes.

  • Yes, finished with the streetcar. DDOT simply doesn’t have the management or technical ability to carry out such a project. Mostly finished with metro also (except for my green line commute).

    I’d like to see a network of express buses with dedicated lanes. Take out ~half of the stops, and focus the lines on major corridors. I’d also really like to see real E-W bus connectivity at multiple points across the DC “diamond”.

    • This. With the money we’ve spent on a few blocks of streetcar we could have made a LOT of bus improvements. There are also opportunities for Metro infill stations that would pay big dividends, as in NoMa.

  • justinbc

    I don’t think it will ever run all the way to Georgetown, but that has more to do with Georgetown residents not wanting it than streetcar management’s incompetence. I’m not sure how people can be “done with” the streetcar before they’ve ever ridden it though, maybe just tired of being lied to. Once it ever does become operational I’m sure the H Street section will at least see ridership from all the people who want to go out on the far ends of H Street but always say “it’s too far” because they refuse to ride the bus for whatever reason. If it helps at all to alleviate some of the parking congestion in the area on the weekends then that’s a good thing, especially as more and more buildings are allowed to be constructed with zero parking spaces below ground.

    • It also won’t run to Georgetown for the exact same reason the metro didn’t go to Georgetown….

      • Interestingly, the myth that Georgetown doesn’t have a metro station because Georgetown residents didn’t want “riffraff” to visit is pervasive, despite being debunked numerous times (e.g. A metro station in Georgetown was never seriously considered for a variety of reasons, but chiefly because the cost associated with it would have been very high (Georgetown is on a slight hill right before the tunnel would have to plunge under the river).

        • lol…as a former georgetowner that’s what I was getting at…really a question of topography more than anything else.

          • Ralphie!

            And actually the Georgetown BID long-term plan envisions both a metro station and the streetcar (among other more, er, interesting, modes of transport). Georgetowners would love to reduce the number of cars on its streets.

          • ha ha ralphie are you referring to the gondola or whatever it is supposed to be 🙂

      • I think it won’t run to Georgetown because of logistical issues. None of the main streets in Georgetown are really wide enough to accommodate the streetcar and all of the Georgetown traffic. And there is little enough parking there without removing more to accommodate the streetcar. I don’t see the streetcar offering enough of an improvement over the Circulator and bus system to warrant dealing with that many headaches to implement it.

    • Huh? people in Gtown are clamoring for a streetcar, and the Gtown BID supports it. And while we’re at it, can we dispel the myth that there’s not metro stop in Georgetown b/c the residents didn’t want it? That decision was based 100% on the geology and cost of putting a stop there.

      • I remember that rumor being passed around campus when I went to school there. it sounds as ridiculous now as it did then

  • I live on H street and never thought the streetcar idea was a good one. I do believe the stigma of buses is changing as gentrification continues. DC has a fairly reliable bus line and metro. Putting money toward expanding those systems is better than these overly expensive streetcar projects. I’d say add more buses to all the lines and yes add dedicated bus lanes. This will have a more immediate impact without costing the city tens of millions of dollars. The streetcar project became a failure when they decided for it to go from nowhere to nowhere.

    • Totally agree. You can walk the distance of the current length of the streetcar in ten minutes or so. It seems like a huge waste.

    • Calling the X2 fairly reliable is a joke. Or did you mean that in all of DC there is one reliable bus line? The money would be better spent on dedicated bus lanes but that is not a political reality. DC will never take away a lane of car traffic.

    • This is a very smart and sensible idea. Also, move to a system-wide proof-of-payment system, where you don’t wait in line for each person to pay their fare individually. Most light rail systems in the US, SBS buses in NYC, and almost all transit in Europe have this. It would save EVERYONE a ton of time, and make the bus a much more convenient option.

      If we simply ran our buses like the buses in Europe (fewer stops, proof of payment, more frequent service, better passenger info), none of which costs much compared to the streetcar system, we’d have an infinitely better transit service for a lot more people than the streetcar could possibly reach.

  • AT LEAST GET THE H STREET LINE RUNNING. This is so ridiculous.

    I think if someone else more competent than DDOT was put in charge and they did the extension to G-town with a dedicated lane, it could be salvaged. There would just be that strip along H street that wasn’t ideal, but it would at least GO SOMEWHERE and connect to a better system…

    I also think one way they could salvage the H line and make it less of a cluster is remove parking along H street. I know that is a long shot, but think about all of the money that has been/is being wasted attempting to make that little strip of streetcar run. I think it would be worth the dramatic solution at this point. And it’d make the whole strip a lot nicer without as much Maryland-car-parking congestion….

    • More parking would have to be built in somewhere to make up for it which is pricey, but again… look how much is being spent just attempting to get this thing running…

      • Tons of underground parking is already being built on H Street – the building with the Whole Foods is the largest example, but there’s another big hole in the ground nearby. I’m not sure if they’ll have public parking, but it should be too hard to make that a requirement in future buildings.

    • What would that accomplish? The tracks are laid. You would only be left with empty space between the sidewalk and the trolly.

      • I just feel like it’s dangerous with all of the cars parallel parked so close to the streetcar, which is causing a lot of the safety issues….

        • Is that the only actual safety issue? Also, I would be surprised if businesses would support the removal of parking in fear of losing customers who live outside of the H St. Corridor.

  • Hindsight to suggest that if only dedicated lanes were developed, streetcars would have been a success, over simplifies the issues of the new transit system. Do we have an understanding why dedicated lanes were not selected? I would suggest they are for two reasons: engineering feasibility and money. We know DC streets are more slight than most cities who have developed modern day trolleys, such as Portland. Even Boston and New Orleans have far grander streets than DC in much of the areas where their trolly system operates. Second, financing. When the council approved the funding for the trolly system, much of the money came from the Federal Governments transit’s Great Roads package in the economic recovery bill that allowed us to not only use the funds for the new trolly system, but to redo the streetscape of the city–remember how rundown much of the city looked only 5 years ago before the expanded sidewalks on U street, new street and traffic lighting throughout The District and numerous other roads projects around town? The tracks for the trolly were laid a year ahead of schedule, as to allow the construction to be integrated into the new street design and not have to tear the roads up twice–in an effort to save time and money. Which brings me back to the engineering of a dedicated lane issue. DC was designed to be a commuter town–people were always planned to be hustled into the city from the suburbs.–the metro is a clear example of a transit system not designed to move people within the city as a priority, but to move the bulk of them in and out. With that design has always come the issue of commuter transit from the outer regions of the city (Petworth, Anacostia, Georgetwon), MD and VA. H street is one of those major commuter roads for MD residents–not to mention commercial vehicles. To create a dedicated lane, we would need to remove parking lanes, as well as, two lanes of traffic to account for the space needed for platform stations. Making H Street a two lane road. This is just not a feasible option–as much as many DC residents like myself like to suggest–we can not exist as a city that does not provide adequate transit for it’s workforce that live outside of the city. Anyway, I could go on, but the bottom line for me, is that this was always a flawed plan and only a good idea in theory when coupled with the emotional excitement attached to that theory.

    • The needs and priorities of a city change. DC hasn’t always been a commuter town, at least not to the expansive extent it is now. Perhaps it was when the metro was built, but it wasn’t always the case. Does it really serve our interests to encourage more cars in the city? If you create a disincentive for people to drive and create better options for people to use public transit within the city, fewer people will drive in. Just as expanding highways only encourages suburban sprawl, making driving into the city more difficult incentivizes people to find better alternatives. We have to decide what our priorities are.

      • It has been a commuter town since the end of the Civil War and the first development of the trolly to spur development north of Florida Ave.–there was little development in the city prior to that. DC was an underfunded poor town unlike Baltimore, Philly NYC and Boston to the north. Remember, the original Federal City did not go beyond Florida Ave.–the housing and infrastructure built in Petworth, Chevy Chase and east of the river were designed as suburbs to the city for the newly expanding government (they were Maryland citizens for much of that time). Growth of the region continued and transportation was an issue (as in most cities) and a commuting fix was made by creating the great highway system to accommodate the massive new influx of residents after more government expansion with ‘The New Deal’. There was supposed to be a highway right through the middle of the city where the 3rd St. tunnels ends, but African-American leaders halted the development as it would displace the affluent community in Shaw. Highways with cars was the grand plan to fix the commuter issue. The metro didn’t come along until 1976 after a culture of commuting already exited in the region. Not to get bogged down in that history, the bottom line is the trolly would do little to alleviate commuter traffic and deleting two lanes for cars would have been pre-imptive to fixing the regional commute issue. I agree, less MD and VA people should be driving into the city. Expanded metro/lightrail would work to solve that. Not a trolly that services 2 miles within the district.

    • Portland’s streetcars run on streets much narrower than H St. NE. In many cases just one lane in each direction. And they do NOT have dedicated lanes. And there is parking. And they work fine, in fact people love them.

      • The roads are not two lanes on their major commuter lanes–the Broadway Bridge they are four and 10th & 11th Streets are two lanes in one direction essentially working as four lanes. They are however two lanes on some of the more residential areas. That said, the Portland region has probably 700,000 people. DC Metro is well on its way to 6 million. We can not shutter a major commuter road down from four lanes to two for a trolly that only moves people two miles. Maybe we should have thought to put this trolly up on F and/or G Street and create dedicated lanes there where cars tend not to sit in congestion all day long.

    • I would imagine that a lack of political will/courage resulted in dedicated lanes not being the chosen option. The city would have had to clearly and openly indicate that it favored a particular mode of transportation for road real estate, which would have upset everyone who drives (regardless of what the actual impact on drivers would eventually be). Seeing as this is an east-west corridor, the city was afraid of bothering drivers from MD and the eastern part of DC.

  • Without a dedicated lane I just don’t understand how a streetcar is any better than a bus. At least a bus can switch lanes if there’s a delivery truck blocking the lane, but the streetcar does what? Stop and call a tow truck? I’m just so confused as how this is efficient.

    • And that’s one of the fundamental flaws. “Efficiency” was really never part of the equation, in a public transportation project. Other concepts, like “drawing parts of the city together”, and providing anchors where commerce can flourish around were the only drivers here.

    • There are two basic reasons to build a streetcar: transportation and development. It’s a development project because builders and retailers are more likely to invest around a permanent stop like a streetcar (or Metro) rather than an impermanent bus stop. It’s indisputable that it would be a better transportation system with a dedicated lane, but the development rationale was probably the real reason for building it in the first place.

    • One thing that people in DC don’t seem to be aware of is that with all the doors and no farebox upon boarding, MANY more people can get on and off simultaneously. It make a huge difference in how fast you get somewhere, when you don’t have to wait for people to exit and board one at a time.

  • I’m over the streetcar. We need more underground metro lines and stops, and we need a couple of bicycle superhighways.

    We barely have any metro train coverage of this city. It’s not like building a city on the moon, it’s been done many many times in many many cities. Create a decent metro grid, and people will use it like they get in line for Trader Joe’s.

    • Do you realize how expensive underground transit is? I think the only metro system in the country that actually breaks even is NYC. I’m all for expanding transit, but I don’t think that’s the most efficient way to do it, especially given the relatively small size of DC. That said, I’d love to see a light rail system in DC. A lot of the benefits of a metro but much more cost-efficient.

      • Maybe breaking even isn’t the point. How much money do people spend on gas while they sit in traffic that doesn’t move? How much tax revenue does DC lose because it’s too much of a hassle to get to restaurant districts on the weekends, or because people do not want to drink and then drive 30, 40, 60 minutes home? How much tax revenue could we GAIN with more stations in certain areas that would spur development (as they have everwhere else in the city)?
        I’m tired of the excuses. Even much smaller cities in other rich countries have good subway systems – and DC is one of the richest cities in the richest country in the world. If we have crummy transit it’s our priorities at fault, not our lack of money.

        • “Even much smaller cities in other rich countries have good subway systems”
          Which ones?
          In any event, I’d be willing to bet there will be no new underground metro lines in DC anytime soon. Being a “rich country” doesn’t mean squat in this conversation if the government doesn’t have the money.

          • Lausanne, Switzerland
            Rennes, France
            Brescia, Italy
            Serfaus, Austria

            and others!

          • It means a lot more than squat. If countries with less money can pull this off, something is wrong with either our taxing or our spending priorities. Few things in life are simple, but that’s really what this boils down to.

        • “Maybe breaking even isn’t the point. ”

          Do we break even from not charging admission fees at the Smithsonian museums?
          Do we break even from mowing the lawn on the national mall?
          Is the US DOT supposed to break even from even bridge or road it fixes?

          Why do you think that just because a fare is charged, the system should be self-sufficient? The fees charged for metrofare should *contribute to* a quality service, but the benefit to the region’s economy, (not to mention quality of life, air quality, etc) are great enough that investments should be made to create a subway system that makes sense. And not having a single metro stop in Georgetown, having 1 metro stop for both Adams Morgan and the zoo, not having a single metro stop along 16th st or close enough to Logan Circle, not having a metro stop on Georgia Ave North of the Georgia Ave/Petworth metro station, all are things that make no sense at all.

    • What about an elevated monorail type thing?

    • “We barely have any metro train coverage of this city.”

      That is not even a little bit true.

  • Keep the streetcar, ditch the cars

    1) Block off all traffic from entering the city, save a few N-S and E-W throughfares.
    2) Park at massive parking lots at the DC border
    3) field mass transit within the city to get people around.

    • LisaT

      This is meant to be humorous, yes? Satirical?

    • I don’t think it’s totally off base. If it wasn’t so regressive, you could do something similar by enacting a car tax in DC, like in London. If you want to drive into the city, you have to pay. As long as you have solid options for people to commute in, it’d largely achieve the same goal.

      • Anonynon

        Yeah but people would be pretty pissed about this and its just another tax to make people poorer. Probably would hurt low income people the most while helping DC residents immensely. Also, the federal government would end up paying the most because they already subsidize transit fares for employees. Doesn’t seem like a good idea based on those factors

        • How would the federal government subsidizing transit fares result in the federal government paying a (car) “congestion tax”?
          (The “congestion tax” in London doesn’t cover the whole city, BTW — just the most central part.)

    • I would support a commuter toll for MD and VA drivers coming in, but completely banning cars is totally impractical.

    • How would DC residents get to their jobs (and other obligations) in the non-transit-accessible suburbs then? Or would we be allowed to have cars and drive back in after work?

      • Drive your cars to the and of the transit lines, far from the city center, park and take it in the rest of the way….

      • Oops I just read this and see you meant the other way around. Maybe actual DC residents would be exempt from this. The problem is mainly MD/VA ppl driving in.

        • Soon it’s going to be just as congested in the reverse direction though. Nearly everyone I know who lives in DC works outside of the city– that’s where all the jobs are now.

        • You think VA and MD are going to let us tax their citizens and not tax us for doing the same thing in their jurisdictions?

  • We can’t afford not to try all transit options at this point. Underinvestment decades ago is causing the logjams in the Metro of today. If we don’t invest in the streetcar, the Purple Line, and a new Potomac tunnel for Metro, it’s only going to get worse.

  • I wish they had just invested in making an actual underground Metro tunnel to the middle of H street. I GET THAT IT’S TOO EXPENSIVE, I’M JUST BEING WISHFUL.

  • I started out liking the street car because its a cool mode of transport that is going places the metro doesnt. But with so much time to get to think about it, I realized what a terrible idea it is. If it was going to be part of a larger network, maybe it would make sense unfortunately its clear that a larger network will never happen.

    In general, I dont know why they chose this model to follow, the street cars block traffic and can’t get out of the way in the event they break down. Sorry that it offends yuppie sensibilities – but take the bus.

    • Your points seem to be:
      1-We don’t have it, so you don’t want it.
      2-It “blocks” traffic. Um, so do buses.
      3-If it breaks down, that it can’t move. Yeah, that happens ALL THE TIME in cities with streetcars.

      It’s truly amazing to me that people who have never ridden a streetcar come up with this stuff, when the advantages have been proven time and again.

      Sure implementation has been flawed, so FIX it. Don’t give up. So DC.

      • Your retorts lack any substance and seem to rely on a perspective that I’ve never been on a street car.

        Buses dont inherently block traffic. They are capable of moving out of the way. Certainly you’re aware that something on rails cant move side to side.

        I’m sorry, you dont think street cars break down?? The only vehicles that dont break down ALL THE TIME (your emphasis not mine) are airplanes because they undergo extremely costly preventive maintenance. You know… because they could fall out of the sky.

        Street cars are stupid. They provide no real value over buses, with more possibility for problems and inconveniences, and cost a shit ton more.

        The support for the project seems to be more and more sophomoric and shrill and your asinine response only reinforces that.

  • LisaT

    The streetcar is more novelty than anything else. Put the time and money where it can have some impact. Personally, I would have liked to see it come up Georgia as a spur for development more than a mode choice (as I live in that wasteland around Georgia and Kennedy), but it’s completely impractical. Especially after the H St debacle, couldn’t care less about streetcars. Just a waste.

  • I live on the west side of H St, and at this point I’m over it. It has already accomplished jumpstarting development (hello Whole Foods on my block), so it’s great in that respect. As a mode of transportation, however, I just don’t see myself using it except maybe to go to the east end of H when it’s too cold out to walk or raining. As far as making H St more accessible to people who don’t live in the area, I remain very skeptical, but hope to see it succeed.

  • Well, let’s see. Coming up on being 6 years late and almost 30 million over budget and both DDOT and WMATA have gone on record that the full service trials the past 3 months have snarled traffic on H Street. What was supposed to be a transportation aid has actually made traffic worse.

    Yeah, I’m done with the DC Streetcar and from the tone of the Council, it seems there is little political will for it too.

    • To be fair, you can’t ride the streetcar yet, so it has no capability to take traffic off the roads at the moment.

      • And I hit reply too soon, but I wouldn’t put it at six years late, but rather three. Tracks were first laid in 2009 as part of the H Street streetscape project to prevent from digging up the road twice with the intention of opening up the line by 2012 (or possibly 2011, I can’t remember).

        Either way, DDOT not being completely honest on opening dates has left a lot of people jaded, so I do get the frustration. But I wouldn’t go around screaming it’s six years behind schedule unless this thing isn’t open by 2018.

        • The process has thus far taken just shy of 10 years. The program was announced in January 2006, formally authorized and funded as of March 2007 to coincide with the streetscape project. This is when the service start date of late 2009 was established and revenue service to start in early 2010.

          By 2010, the date had moved to late 2011. By August 2011, the service start date had been pushed back to summer 2013.

          Despite Gray’s assurances, the opening was pushed again to late 2013, and now we are in Feburary of 2015 with no proposed revenue service date on the horizon.

  • Ddot could have been installing lamp posts or repaving/building streets – the result would have been the same. Poor project management and planning. I am not finished with streetcars, rather I’m finished with inept management of critical capital projects in this city. K Street needs to be rebuilt – so the streetcar will go to Georgetown via K-Street. After that?

    What is needed are hearings and investigative reporting to uncover the ineptitude at Ddot and the Wilson building that led to this laughable delay and potential failure. Seattle was able to build and install two lines while DC struggled to construct half a line.

    Mayor Bowser – what is your reply? Cancel support for the concept of a streetcar system or investigate waste, fraud and mismanagement at Ddot?

  • The goals of the streetcar were to 1) spur redevelopment along the Corridor; and 2) make it easier to get to and from H St from downtown DC, right?

    #1 has already happened and having people walk ten minutes from the top of Hopscotch to the Union Station Metro doesn’t seem like a great solution to #2.

    If the city really wanted to improve transportation to and from H, they could have just run twice as many X2 buses that go downtown and carved out a new line (say, the X4) that runs to the top of Hopscotch. The X line is the second-most trafficked line in the city behind the S and 50-lines and I wait about 16 minutes each morning for one to come.

    Until the city figures out a better way to get us downtown, H St will remain a great place to eat and drink vs live and work.

  • Once the H Street line starts running, people will realize that it was the idea of the streetcar, not the streetcar itself, that spurred development. Streetcars work great in some places, but the implementation of this H Street project is going to result in nothing but a huge mess. It’s already quicker to snake through the streets that are parallel to H when trying to get from one end to the other. I can’t imagine the streetcar is going to do much better.

  • I realize this is far off-topic, but the whole hipster backlash thing going around the interwebs, is it some sort of affirmation on the part of people who tend to be more conformist? As in, I dress like a normal person, drink normal beer, and have socially acceptable facial hair and so if I rail against hipsters I don’t feel as threatened by them? Just curious. Also, if you’re into labeling at least be current: H Street is yuppieville now.

  • I am pro-streetcar, but anti-streetcar management. Anyone that has ever been to Europe knows that streetcars work and integrate seamlessly in to the urban environment. However, DDOT’s incompetence has totally messed up ANY chances of us getting a full streetcar system. This is the capital city of the United States, why are we so incompetent at something so simple?

    I’m an optimist though and am hoping all this negative backlash subsides once the darn thing actually opens on H Street. People have been jaded by all the missed deadlines and secrecy at DDOT (and I feel the same way), but I think once people actually ride it and see the utility of it, they will be begging for dedicated lanes, faster expansion, etc. Just as long as DDOT doesn’t drop the ball again.

  • At least get the streetcar line from H Street to Georgetown done. That would be a triumph. Learn from past mistakes and get it done…

  • andy

    Clearly, the world’s greatest, most pimped out bus system would be way cheaper, delivered on time, and more effective at everything. That proponents get behind “man we made that street spiffy” as a basis for doing these projects is bonkers. How many streetscape projects – I’m thinking upper 14th St for example – got short shrift while our planning and DDOT resume builders got to indulge fantasies of multimodal blah blah blah designy fun.

    Like so many things, doing the core of your work very well is most likely to bring success. Sorry it was too boring guys.

    • an improved bus system would have higher operational costs. street cars have a higher initial investment, then are cheaper. plus, they have higher capacity than buses.

  • I love that people blame the streetcar for snarling car traffic. That’s backwards. Car and truck driving people not obeying traffic laws are what’s snarling traffic along H Street. As long as people in the DMV have the attitude that traffic laws apply to everyone else but them this is problem that will continue for all modes of surface transportation. “At least busses can change lanes” is a good example of my point. With the rare exception of a broken down vehicle, why would the busses need to do this if it weren’t for people parking in a lane of traffic, “Just for a second” while they run into a shop?
    Mismanagement at DDOT is clearly a problem also.
    Is the streetcar itself the problem? I’d say that’s doubtful. But lord knows the implementation has been ridiculous. In the absence of having a qualified group that could implement a workable system I’d suggest we invest the money elsewhere… like an investigation of the DDOT for starters.

    • Yes! Cars and Trucks failing to obey the traffic laws are the major problem. The streetcar would not cause traffic back-ups any different than a bus would if cars and trucks are following the laws. If there was solid enforcement as well, people would not dream of parking in a streetcar lane. I work in Friendship Heights Village (Maryland side) and every one knows you cannot be one minute over your 2 hour parking or you will get a ticket. No one takes the chance because it’s a $50 ticket.

  • clevelanddave

    Boy, another example of needing to learn things the hard way. All the PoP posters saying “well in hindsight it was a bad idea unless…” YOU HAD BEEN TOLD IS WAS A BAD IDEA BEFORE WASTING $400 MILLION on this project. Just look at other cities. Just look at history about why they were removed. Yea, GM was probably in part behind their removal, but streetcars, even when you were talking about just upgrading the system back then didn’t make economic sense. Unless you build a huge system with dedicated lanes and have tourists and the government subsiding it (like San Francisco), buses, with their flexibility and lower costs, plus metro is almost always going to be a better option. Widen streets for cars and sensible dedicated easy to understand bike lanes; buy the most efficient busses and do a good job planning where they go in collaboration with MD and VA; keep/make metro safe and reliable; and provide for sufficient/anticipated parking needs for bikes and cars near business centers. That is the foundation of a sensible transit plan.

    • Let me guess, you’ve never been outside of the United States?

      • I think streetcars are a great idea in cities where the population isn’t as jaw droppingly brain dead as this one.
        This will never change.

    • They were taken out because of heavy lobbying by the auto industry–and was part of what spurred a huge disinvestment in our cities. Removing them seriously damaged many cities.

      In modern times–They are considered a huge success in cities across Europe, and yes even in multiple cities in the United States where they have led to both improvements in transport and investment in neighborhoods.

      You do not appear to know what you’re talking about. But I’d love to learn.

      Examples of where it’s failed and what the problems were?

    • Ever been to Philly? Been running trolleys without dedicated lanes for years.

    • what type of transportation operates without government subsidies?

    • yeah, dc should look into getting some tourists. i’ve never seen any around.

  • I’m a streetcar supporter and H Street resident. Look– the project has been completely bungled. This is obvious and I don’t think anyone is debating that at this point. Looking back, all of the meetings where DDOT showed up and provided promises and half-answers, all of the months and years where they refused to answer fundamental questions of operation and utility, it’s unquestionable that they’ve been stumbling around in the dark and the result is what we are looking at now.

    We should be pissed. DDOT (and any number of DC government actors) screwed this up so completely that it’s a total joke. We all get that.

    We should not, however, conflate DDOT’s failure with streetcar uselessness. As reasonable people have been saying all along, THEY NEED DEDICATED LANES AND LIGHT PRIORITY. This is a total no-brainer, especially for the busiest parts of town where they will encounter the most traffic issues.

    And yeah, buses can serve much of the function of streetcars. That’s true. But buses are not, and will never be, mistaken for real, permanent, meaningful infrastructure investment that really solves the problems of connecting the many underserved neighborhoods around DC.

    So sure, let’s pillory DDOT’s management of this entire project. Let’s not be in a rush to start the first, most important line. But let’s not throw out a key transportation solution because it’s been hard to get started. Let’s take a hard look at the failures, retool, ANSWER ALL THE QUESTIONS BEFORE WE GET STARTED and do it right. To me, this might even mean making H Street car free or abandoning what is already there to install dedicated lanes through to Chinatown.

    Come on people, this is Washington DC. We should not accept that we cannot do this.

    • “We should not accept that we cannot do this.”
      Excellent. *thumbs up emoji*

    • Dedicated lanes are nice, but not needed. Again, please see Portland’s 2 incredibly successful lines. They run in mixed traffic–in many places with only one lane in each direction–and do not have dedicated signals.

      (Though their 3 “light rail” lines do have dedicated lanes and signals.)

  • Last August, the Economist magazine described DC’s streetcar plans as “Rolling Blunder”.

    “All this investment might make some sense if streetcars offered an efficient way to move people around. But here, too, the evidence is flimsy. Unlike European trams, which often cover long stretches in independent lanes, American streetcars tend to span walkable distances and share the road with other vehicles. This means they inch along with traffic, often at less than 12 miles per hour, on tracks that make it impossible to navigate busy streets or ride around obstacles. Indeed, their slow speeds and frequent stops mean they often cause more congestion.”

    The only advantage I can see to streetcars over buses is that, maybe, upscale folks who disdain buses might actually take streetcars.

  • First off, I am all for dedicated lanes, especially if they are at the cost to suburban car drivers. I rather have a regularly running light rail system then cars.
    Secondly the reason why light rail in DC needs to take precidence is because metro has been completely incapable of doing the necessary expansions inside the district both in terms of new stations and rerouting rail lines. When they say “maybe we will think about it in 2040” then it is time to start doing light rail on ones own at the cost of the mostly suburban drivers. Use light rail as a wedge, either expand metro or light rail will continue to expand, and yes, we will be taking away lanes of traffic for the sake of our own citizens commuting needs. Then see both Virginia and Maryland relent on district expansion of metro inside DC. Without light rail there as an active threat to car commuters, they will not support the needed expansions to metro. I want to make life hell for suburban drivers, do not drive into my city, because I have no problem of throwing up all sorts of light rail to get inner city commuters to work without driving.
    With that being said, DDOT has been completely bungling this both in terms of design and implimentantion.

  • That doggone thing is lawsuits waiting to happen. Personal injury lawyers will be all over the streetcar when (if) it opens. I hope funds have been set aside for settlement agreements.

  • I’m excited for streetcar and wish the city would get its act together and roll this out the right way.

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