Monday, March 23, 2015

The Streetcar (Finally) Catches a Break


The streetcar's had a rough time lately. The District is not currently funding the larger system it had planned to build. It also suffered a small exterior roof fire and managed to hit more than a few cars (most of which had been improperly parked, or were otherwise out of place due to driver error). All of this generated more than a little schadenfreude on the part of many streetcar detractors who then called for the entire thing to be scrapped. That didn't sit particularly well with many H Street merchants, some of whom took to twitter reminding people that they didn't suffer through a multi-year construction project only to have the streetcar yanked before it carries its first passenger.

Whatever your feelings on the streetcar, I think you should read this article that recently appeared in the Washington City Paper: H Street NE May Not Need the Streetcar. Benning Road Does. Let's not forget Bladensburg Road as we ponder Benning's future.

Here's Friday's big news on where things stand: No 'Fatal Flaws' That Would Prevent Streetcar From Starting Service (WAMU). That title comes from the American Public Transportation Association's findings that the streetcar could be ready to start passenger service once the District follows the recommendations contained in the final report (due out soon). The article contains a particularly telling quote from DDOT's new chief Leif Dormsjo who told WAMU that: “Before, I didn’t have enough credible, expert advice to know whether we were a ‘go’ or ‘no go.’ I really now feel we are a go."

The Washington Post looks at those 18 recommendations: District wrestling with how to fix streetcar line’s numerous flaws. The bottom line is that we won't see passenger service on the H Street streetcar for month, but it will eventually happen.

The streetcar has a had a rough couple of months (ok, a rough start generally) and this New York Times article has been making the rounds on social media: Streetcar Revival Is Wavering in Some Cities.  Locally we also had a Washington Post piece by Clinton Yates: Mayor Bowser should shut down streetcar operation, concede it was a bad idea. That last one generated a lot of Twitter chatter. Some people agreed with Yates, others took issue with a number of points he made. Towards the end Yates writes that "very few things are open [on H Street] during the day." This line made me pause because although H Street is no 14th  and U Street NW, there are plenty of stores, restaurants, and service providers open on H Street during weekdays.

If you support the streetcar project, here are a couple of related petitions you might want to sign:

Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen petition

Move On petition


Anonymous said...

Another dump truck overturned on the 11th street bridge today. It seems like there is a wreck on that bridge every day. Too bad that it hasn't had the close safety review that the street car has had.

Anonymous said...

The union busting is a problem. It is a problem that can and should be fixed.

Anonymous said...

yes, the fact that all those streetcar workers got fired is really bad. doesn't that mean that new streetcar operators will need to be trained?

Anonymous said...

Great article. I agree with the notion that we should not forget about Bladensburg Road once the Streetcar starts running. I have been reading up on the planned Georgetown Gondola and think that a Bladensburg Road Gondola would be a great way to encourage development in Ward 5's most under developed corridor. The first gondola terminal should be at the park at the starburst intersection and should be named Graceland Gondola Terminal after the old Graceland Cemetery that used to be there (history fact: Fredrick Douglas buried one of his wives there). The gondola station could lead to displacement of some of the city's current residents that use drugs at this intersection. This fact should be taken into account before ANC 5D votes to move forward on this idea so that a "defined community benefits" package could be extorted from the developers of the Gondola.

The 2nd Gondola stop should be near Bardo's or Jimmy Valentine's.

The 3rd Gondola stop should be at the police precinct so that we can ride it to our ANC meetings or post bond.

I am open to suggestions for the other gondola stops but I think we can all agree that the terminal station should be at DC Brau.

Did you know that Gondola's don't require dedicated lanes and don't hit parked cars? Thats because the science behind the Gondola is far superior to that of the Streetcar.

I think this is a project that the DC government can deliver with little to no problem. Who's with me?

Jesse said...

I'd like to ride the Gondola in February.

The neighborhood seems to want to flourish with or without the streetcar. With it would be more fun for those who live here or visit.

Anonymous said...

I am all for the above Gondola plan. Let's make it happen. Gondolas are far superior to trolleys.

Annoyingmous said...


Anonymous said...

bumper boats/lazy river.

who's with me?

Anonymous said...

People wanted a streetcar....Henry Ford said if he asked people what they wanted, they would have asked for a faster horse!
No Gondolas! I want cable cars!

People in NE cant even hold an ANC meeting why would anyone ask them about complex transportation?

Anonymous said...

The gondola plan is one of the funnier things I've read on here

Anonymous said...

From reading about and watching the clips from the ANC meetings in our neighborhood, the people are clearly too stupid for a streetcar, gondola, or really anything nice.

It's time to put a big iron fence around the starburst plaza and try to contain the neighborhood evil.

Anonymous said...

Let's put the Bladensburg Road Gondola project to a vote at the next ANC 5D meeting. Votes on ideas this good should not be held up like we do with the security fund issue or the guy that wants to make our community nicer by building the new HR57 behind Union Market.

Anonymous said...

I think this project will be fully supported, as long as robert's rules of disorder are followed.

Anonymous said...

The Gondola plan needs to happen. Venice by the ghetto can be the new slogan.

pat said...

As someone who resides here on Benning Rd, we sure could use the Streetcar.

It's also a key feature to any developement of the RFK site or the Pepco site and would certainly contribute to Minnesota avenue.

Having a street car that ties the Red line to the Orange line and blue in a practical manner would add a lot of energy and growth to parts of the city that have been left out of the last 30 years.

If we have a system that ties the city together ad pushes investment it's a good idea