Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Streetcar Workshop 12/20

Image courtesy of DDOT

H Street/Benning Road Streetcar Line Workshop
Workshop to Address Interim Connection to Union Station, Car Barn and Training Center, and Installation of Overhead Wires and Substations

(Washington, DC) The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) is hosting a workshop on Tuesday, December 20, 2011 to seek public input on the proposed interim connection to Union Station and the various architectural elements that are under consideration for the operations base and maintenance facility that is planned for 26th Street and Benning Road, NE. DDOT will also share details about the overhead wire installation, and supporting poles, and the substations along the line.

What: H Street/Benning Road Streetcar Line Workshop

When: Tuesday, December 20, 2011
6 pm – 7:30 pm

Where: The Atlas Performing Arts Center
1333 H Street, NE

Metro: Red Line (Union Station)
Bus Lines: X2, X8, X9 (X9 service ends at 6:30 pm)
Bikeshare: There is a station at 13th and H Streets, NE

For more information about this workshop please contact the DC Streetcar Team at 1-855-413-2954 or The materials presented at this workshop will also be made available online at

DDOT is committed to ensuring that no person is excluded from participation in, or denied the benefits of, its projects, programs, and services on the basis of race, color, national origin, or gender, as provided by Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or on the basis of disability as provided by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

If you need special accommodations or language assistance services (translation or interpretation), please contact the DC Streetcar Team at 1-855-413-2954 or in advance of the meeting. These services will be provided free of charge.


Anonymous said...

The Streetcar project sucks. I F-ing hate the streetcar, because it was poorly planned and will never be worth its cost. The fact that we are now looking for the "least bad" option of where to run the car and how to power it is ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

Today DC announced that it was dumping another $8 million to buy 2 more streetcars that will carry about 140 passengers each. Is that 5 cars in total? $18 million?
As of now, they'll run from the rear service entrance of Union Station to the middle of nowhere out on Benning Road.
This is looking like a bigger embarrassment by the day.

H Street Landlord said...

Boo ya'll negative peeps.

It makes sense to keep it on H exclusively, will be quicker and also easier to connect to K Street and other important portions.

Plus it sounds like they will improve pedestrian entrances via Hopscotch. Sure it's not perfect but it will improve.

This will be a great thing for the city, Grey has almost $100 million in the budget for streetcars in the next 5/6 years and there will probably be some matching federal money eventually. Better connections with Union Station - why would you minimize that. Its the best transit station in the whole city.

Anonymous said...

Landlord, Keeping the streetcar exclusively for H Street leaves out a lot of DC taxpayers east of the river. As the 2nd comment points out, the city still hasn't confirmed what will happen to the car on the east end (the tracks currently end on Benning Road before the bridge over the river. So many people that read this blog have only thought about the west end, but each end will need a turn-around. Furthermore, a streetcar that is only about 2 miles long is silly - we have 3 bus routes that already service the same stretch or road.

This is clearly "the least bad option", not a sensible plan.

Anonymous said...

The negative people have no imagination. Every major project like this has to start somewhere. This line won't go nowhere, it will go right past Union station, direct to downtown via H, the convention center, K street to Washington circle, and to G-town eventually. How do you do this easily and quickly now from, say, 8th and H?

The first Metro line was pretty useless too, and streetcar development cost is a very small fraction of the cost of Metro (and road) development. Some people just don't have vision. That's okay, they'll get on board (literally) and just follow like they always do.

Anonymous said...

Wow, the negativity!

Regarding "Keeping the streetcar exclusively for H Street leaves out a lot of DC taxpayers east of the river." : The second line of the streetcar system will run through the heart of the historic Anacostia business district! The AA's been ongoing for the last year; the federal planning document is being finalized at this second.

And that speaks to the larger point, H Street is only the first line of a 37-mile SYSTEM. You have to start somewhere. Spend some time on and learn more about the overall plan before spouting off.

oboe said...

I agree that it's easy to throw stones from a position of ignorance. The bottom line is that there are some deeply conservative folks in this town who are threatened by any change.

I'm sure everyone here remembers the furious opposition to Capital Bikeshare when it was proposed and during the build-out phase. A year or two later, and it's a huge city resource, and completely uncontroversial.

At some point, we're going to have a light-rail network in DC, it'll be pretty uncontroversial, and the city will be the better for it.

Until then, we'll be treated to all sorts of "analysis" about the cost-benefit of each individual foot of track from people who really, really hope the future of DC looks exactly like Largo Town Center.

No thanks.

Dave B said...

If I recall correctly, the H Street Line was supposed to go across the river to Minnesota Ave Metro. That portion was reliant on federal money. The Council of 100 Dicks wrote a letter to the feds discouraging the grant. Not sure how influential they were, but the money wasnt granted and neither council member from Ward 5 or 7 put up a fight, which at the time seemed odd to me. Maybe they were in on it or more likely they just suck at their job.

H Street Landlord said...

@ anon 6:04 - you misread my comment. Great access EOTR is a huge part of what will make this so successful - from a ridership perspective, development increase and lowered burdens on all taxpayers.

As is the access to downtown.

Robby said...

David B: " neither council member from Ward 5 or 7 put up a fight, which at the time seemed odd to me. Maybe they were in on it or more likely they just suck at their job."

Or maybe they had more important things to focus on than a street car that runs the same route as a major bus line. I'm glad the street's not torn up, but the idea that the street car is a good idea seems more absurd by the day. And of course any one who doesn’t drink the Kool-aid is just being a negative sour puss, or maybe we are being pragmatic about the project.

Let's recap:
1. No real plan to get Union.
2. No real plan to connect to ward seven.
3. Willing to deface a part of the city for a car barn because DC didn't want to do paper work on decade+ long project.
4. No transportation value added beyond what' already covered by the X2/9.

Trams sound great, really they do, but this is nuts, just nuts. Instead of saying that, the streetcar's become a symbol of a lot of things that have nothing to do with transportation. It will be completed out of appeasement, not need or progress.

And before people pile on, think about it, put yourself in charge of the city with massive cuts needed to keep us at a normal functioning level, would you really continue this. Perhaps you could shelve it, or find non-governmental outsider to share the cost, but this project is beyond daffy, it’s dangerous and boarding on being exploitive.

andrew said...

@Robby: There's always been a plan for a good connection to Union Station. It just won't happen right away.

For the past several years, Union Station and Amtrak have been floating the idea of constructing a "North Entrance" off of the Hopscotch Bridge that would provide very direct access to Amtrak, Metro, the Streetcar, and the new bus terminal.

This will likely happen in conjunction with the construction of a new commercial development on top of the railroad tracks, which will make the Hopscotch Bridge feel like just another segment of the street, instead of a barren bridge.

The streetcar is vitally important for kickstarting both of these other projects.

There's already a plan to extend the line to Minnesota ave and beyond. Ward 7 will eventually be served, once the city can come up with the money to build the extension. I'd have to imagine that this will be one of the first extensions to be built, as it will offer a good bang-for-the-buck, in terms of ridership vs construction costs.

If you've used the X2/X9 recently, you'll also know that those buses are currently packed to the hilt, have issues with long dwell times at stations, and grind to a halt whenever a person in a wheelchair wishes to board. Streetcars will solve all of those problems. This is not a solution in search of a problem -- we can't cram any more buses down H St, so it makes sense to invest in new transportation options that offer increased capacity.

John said...

I agree with Robby - the DC streetcar project has been so poorly implemented that cost and time overruns are likely going to cause significant problems.

Whoever compared this with the bikeshare program is way off base - streetcars and bicycles (with clearly multiple route options) are very different modes of transport (streetcars and buses are not very different).

For those who label nay-sayers as "conservative" -- what is wrong with fiscal conservatism in this day and age? Why is that stigmatized?

A white friend of mine recently said to me, "white people don't ride buses". That statement really annoyed me (maybe because I am white and I frequently ride the bus). I suppose that white people will ride the streetcar, and maybe that it why the project is supported as a very different and superior form of mass transport than the X1, X2, and X9 buses.

oboe said...

The disparity in information between the pro- and anti-streetcar folks really is staggering. @Robby, it's not a matter of "drinking the kool-aid" but of understanding the purpose of a streetcar. You say "trams are great" but then fall into the standard argument that we shouldn't build a streetcar because there's already a bus.

You understand that anywhere a streetcar could be routed, a bus could also be routed, right?

As @andrew touched on, the reason you build a streetcar is that fixed-rail lines spur further investment (why build a Metro rail station when you can build a bus???). On top of that, they're cheaper to operate and maintain than buses over the lifetime of the system.

It's an investment that's going to save the city money over time, and improve the level of service. There's a ton of literature to support this.

On the opposing side, you have typical unsupported hand-waving about how "cost and time overruns are likely going to cause significant problems" along with not-even-barely-veiled racial resentment-stoking.

Yes, the reason for support of building out a comprehensive streetcar system in DC is that white people hate buses and love streetcars! And since we're all working towards that grand day when The Plan is finally implemented, and only those with Nordic heritage and a household income above $100k will be allowed to enter the city, we need to get ready. Look forward to the opening of the first Cracker Barrel EOTR any day now!


oboe said...


...streetcars and bicycles (with clearly multiple route options) are very different modes of transport (streetcars and buses are not very different)...

Wrong. Streetcars and buses are also very different.

H Street Landlord said...

Maybe I'm missing something, but this streetcar money is small potatoes ($99 million over six years) in a government which anticipates spending 5.3 billion next year.

Plus it will increase the tax rolls significantly with all the new development and residents.

Dave B said...

Those 36 reasons street cars are better aren't very good. Some are anecdotal, opinions, minor, or confuse cause and effect.

The big one i see a lot is that it spurs development. Lots of things spur development. Areas might have developed even without the streetcar.

I am a proponent of buses and the streetcar might not improve my life that much.

However, riding buses requires a good amount of savviness. People unfamiliar with an area are not very likely to jump on a mass transit bus and go somewhere. NextBus has made using buses much easier, but if you are going to use one in a non familiar area they require a good amount of planning.

Streetcars are a bit easier to use and remove a lot of the uncertainty that buses have. The first time you might get on a bus route you might think to yourself "shit, i hope this goes where i want and stops where i want. then you wonder if that map you looked at was up to date"

Something like a street car with visible fixed tracks and fewer more clearly defined stops are kinda like buses for dummies. There might be some class divisions, too, but lack of understanding is a much greater factor in bus-aversion. I lived on Capitol Hill for 4 years before I ever got on a bus, mostly because I just defaulted to Metro and didnt know anything about buses aside from the random poles in the ground.

In a city such as DC with lots of new people moving to the area and a high turnover rate, we will have a lot of bus-ignorant people.

As more areas are sought for development, they need to be easier or at least be perceived to be easier to get to. Metro expansion would be great, but impossible. Streetcars are the next best thing.

oboe said...

@Dave B,

All reasonable points, and I agree that the big one is that it spurs development. It may be rational, or it may be irrational that people vastly prefer to travel by rail over bus, but there it is.

I also think not many folks are aware of the fact that, on a heavily traveled line, streetcars are much more cost-effective over time. Maintenance costs are much lower for the vehicle, the rails, and the streets that don't have to bear the brunt of heavy bus traffic.

One thing we know for certain: if we're planning on having a bus line run through that route for at least the next 20-30 years, we're saving money by converting to light rail. And giving people a superior experience.

That's the exact opposite of a boondoggle.

As far as the question of rider education, I think the goal should be to maximize the number of riders across the broadest demographic swath, not to create a small group of super-savvy riders.

I prefer bike-share to bus, or Metro rail (and streetcar as well), but also realize we need something for people who aren't willing or able to ride across town in a 35 degree rainstorm.

Anonymous said...

Oboe - stop trying to prove your point about streetcars spurring development. Dave B's point was that he sees that claim often, but there are actually many factors that can spur development. You don't have to be "super-savvy" to ride a bus - you just have to make an effort to look into bus schedules and timetables.

Dave B - Thanks for bringing sensible discussion to the table.

H Street Landlord said...

@ 4:02, re-read Dave B's post. The last line says Streetcars are the next best thing compared to Metro expansions. Hardly a negative outlook. And streetcars causing development is not some pie in the sky theory. Look at Portland, New Orleans (before and after canal street line) and more

And again, regardless of other benefits, the streetcars are cheaper in the long run than buses. Do you not want to save money?

Anonymous said...

" How do you do this easily and quickly now from, say, 8th and H? "

"from people who really, really hope the future of DC looks exactly like Largo Town Center."
What does this mean? You mean do we want it to look busy and filled with stores, a movie theater and people?