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Friday, February 24, 2012

Counting (on) H Street Streetcars

There was a bit of noise on Twitter yesterday as Councilmembers questioned DDOT about details on Streetcars. Tommy Wells did not sound happy. One major concern is the initial number of streetcars. The recent cancellation of a streetcar manufacturing contract (for two cars) with a Portland based company has really focused concern on this issue. The thing is that, whicle they will be able to run the existing (three) streetcars on the rails, they won't have enough cars initially to meet the aimed for time between streetcars. Launching the streetcars before the system is ready could set it up for failure. DDOT still wants to launch next year, and they hope to have five cars when they do it. The window is getting pretty tight. Personally, I'd rather see a delayed launch than a system set in motion prematurely.

Full coverage of the issue (and yesterday's hearing) from the Washington Post and TBD.

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

If I remember correctly, the Czech company protested this. I know federal competitions get protested all the time, but does the district have to follow contract award guidelines? Who do they have to answer to? Can't this all go away if we say we want to buy from a US Company?

Seems like s stupid effing problem of our own making.

Anonymous said...

I disagree. Start it now. Bus routes that need more frequent service have more busses added to them- eventually. The X2 has vastly improved in the past 5 years, for example. We didn't just stop all service until it got better.

I know this is new technology, but if we're going to wait for complete buy-in of all the naysayers, we may as well wait until all 37 miles of ths system are built!

Hank Chinaski said...

Starting the streetcar prematurely would be a huge mistake. Cliche as it may be, first impressions matter. A lot. If the first experience people have with the streetcar is negative, it is likely to skew public perception about the project in a manner that will be difficult to overcome even if the problems are eventually fixed.

I'm as eager as anyone for the streetcar to be up and running. But, it would be a real shame if the launch is rushed in a way that tarnishes its long term image.

boris said...

Just wondering -- any possibility DDOT or eventual operator could simply lease two or three cars temporarily from somewhere while this is all sorted out? The track gauge and power source are standardized, aren't they?

I'm thinking DC should be able to get a heck of a deal from one of the manufacturers or streetcar operator in another city. Getting a foot in the door on this potentially high-profile system would be huge for companies in the streetcar business.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone really expect anything to function well under the Gray administration? Hell, the man and his cronies would fuck up a walk to the bathroom.

Anonymous said...

Wells needs to champion this for us and not give up because it wont' be unvailed properly. If he gives Gray this line it's all but dead. Regardless of what he says, Gray could care less about the street car line.

Anonymous said...

Soooo no mention of the building and installation of power sub stations? No mention of the maintenance facility? Or installation of the overhead wire(s)? No projected date when all these items will be completed?

How can we be concerned with the number of streetcars when no one is apparently even thinking about how or when to install the infrastructure to run this gd thing.

Ughhhhh.

Anonymous said...

i have no reason to believe that Gray will cause this to function any less effectively than Fenty.

except that it seems people really want him to fail.

inked said...

I think the streetcar is fine. We have another delay, but this is the first time DC has tried this in 50 years. I do think that we should have 5-6 cars ready to go BEFORE we launch. First impressions are key if you want to build up a solid rider base. Keep in mind that the streetcar will need to service locals, as well as visitors to our neighborhood. Starting off half-prepared is a recipe for disaster.

poo wonders said...

will the street cars run 24/7?

inked said...

Poo,
I don't know. I always sort of assumed they would run on the same schedule as Metrorail. If you need to get home after that you take the X2, the 90/92, or a cab.

Arch_NME said...

Frankly at this point I don't give a damn if it's team of mules dragging a boxcar that runs once a week. I just want to see something running on those tracks in my lifetime!

reflexive said...

bicycle powered streetcars. only way to go.

the more people onboard, the faster the ride.

Robby said...

While I've never been a fan of this boondoggle, DDOT has proven to be incompetent time and time again. Turn the project over to WMATA, the Human Capital infrastructure is there. They may even be able to leverage access to amtrak (BTW why doesn't DC hire a lobbying firm on the Amtrak issue). WAMATA would prevent the electoral pressure and inconsistency.

In the end the idea of it seems sorta absurd, and why it wont simply go to SA station is beyond me.

This project and other's like it are basically shelf ready, if the city stops getting in it's own way. As for the expense, lets sell some unused DC property and other tax neutral sources of income to pay for it.

The sourcing of this was failed to begin with. Yes DC should be getting better prices. Trolley's are non-developmental and commercial items. However, when and organization is half hearted so is their procurement strategy. If it fails they don't look stupid...but if the city was really committed, it would be a non-issue.

H Street Landlord said...

Meanwhile, Klein is doing big things with a forward thinking mayor in Chicago. Good thing Gray didn't retain him. What a joke.

I do think they can get the cars purchased and running by the end of 2013. It's not like a trip to the freaking moon, its building a couple of streetcars.

happy camper said...

what is klein doing in chicago? enlighten us.

also, note that chicago is not under the thumb of congress. who knows what the hell is going on behind the scenes, i could picture a congressman with an ax to grind against an oregon representative telling gray to deep six that portland streetcar deal in a backroom somewhere. smh.

Derek said...

@happy camper,
Klein joined the Fenty administration because of the connection to cycling. Fenty is an avid cyclist where Gray just don't care two $hits. He drives in convoy of SUVs where ever he needs to go. Fenty would actually ride his bike form time to time.
It was obvious that Klein was not going to keep his job. He got an offer in Chicago and quickly left.
Your back-room-deal comment is a bunch of crap. At least Gray was willing to go to jail for DC rights. To say that Gray could be bullied behind closed doors is wrong. That kind of deal happens differently.
BTW, I don't like Gray and want him to be replaced. I'm glad H St was re-done and is ahead of schedule. It was suppose to be after the Anacostia line.

H Street Landlord said...

@ Happy Camper -

He has already helped put in a ton of bike lanes, is working on a bikeshare system for Chicago, and is working to implement BRT there. Not sure if you missed it or not but he is running the Chicago DOT - obviously a significantly larger city than DC.

Meanwhile, I'm struggling to recall a single thing Bellamy has done since he got the job. Well, except delays and failures - like what we are discussing here.

Anonymous said...

I just think its funny that nobody commented on inked's previous post - - the armchair urban planner, the entitled mom, the entitled pet owner, etc. Mirror mirror.

Anonymous said...

Street cars ain't never gonna happen.

big green cat said...

Where is the streetcar going to go? Why would you take it?

Derek said...

Good question 'big green cat':

http://www.thetransportpolitic.com/2010/06/02/washington-comes-closer-to-bridging-the-gap-with-its-new-streetcar-network/

happy camper said...

my question wasn't clear enough. i knew what job klein got in chicago, i just don't know how effective he was since he was hired. bike lanes and possible cabi system. okay. someone on here made it sound like klein has chicago light years ahead of us, but it sounds like he's trying to get them to catch up to where we are now.

Anonymous said...

Street cars ain't never gonna happen.

Dolemite said...

Anon 5:22 am,

Thanks for your input, Vince!

heyktb said...

i agree with arch_nme...just get SOMETHING running on those damn tracks!

Anonymous said...

i am one of the biggest supporters of streetcars, but this thing has turned into one enormous embarrassing clusterf**k, and unless somebody with clout shows real leadership, or the people rise up and start picketing, I'm afraid this thing is going to be a smoking crater memorial to poor planning.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Washington's newest memorial has come to Northeast DC -- the memorial of epic failures in urban planning!

What a joke....

oboe said...

Hey! Streetcars are almost TWO FULL YEARS behind schedule!!! Let's panic!!1

Also, I'd like to point out that--in addition to being significantly larger than DC, Chicago is actually a functional city, rather that a dysfunctional bumper-car concession.

There's no surprise that Klein was snapped up by Chicago--and that the DC Establishment was happy to see the back of him.