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Stretching the streetcar saga

Jim Graham and Chairman Gray filed a disapproval resolution to block DDOT's transfer of $20 million to extend, or move, the planned streetcar segment. (It's still not entirely clear if they're extending it or moving it.)

Photo by TheRocketeer on Flickr.

As the Examiner reported this morning, Graham doesn't actually disapprove of the new alignment or this reprogramming. And he's said he's a strong advocate of building streetcars in DC. But at the July 14 hearing he asked DDOT to provide more information about costs, ridership projections, and other information justifying their decision. They haven't, and so Graham is taking advantage of this procedural step to force DDOT to the table. That table will be in the Wilson Building on November 7th, when Graham plans to pick up where the July hearing left off.

The most important thing is that we build some streetcars. DDOT promised more information, and they should provide it. But then we should go ahead and build the damn streetcars. The worst outcome would be for the Council to decide that since we have a budget shortfall, we shouldn't add this $20 million to the streetcars, or worse yet, not build any streetcars at all. That'll set everything back years if not decades. We budgeted some money for them. We even already bought vehicles, which are still in the Czech Republic. Let's put some tracks in the ground and move on to the next set of tracks.

David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. 


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We really do need to get the streetcar system rebuilt in this city. Construction projects are always good when an economy is in a downturn. Congress is considering infrastructure spending (transporation included) in the next possible stimulus package. I am not sure if DDOT will get any money (I hope so). The point is to not abandon projects that create jobs.

Fact: USDOT job creation model: construction of public transportation projects create 19% more jobs than highway building and this does not include maintenance and operation after construction. Just imagine the impact this could have in DC. Source:

Keep pushing for streetcars in DC. DC used to have one of the best is North America (now that honor belongs to Toronto). Would be nice to have that title back.

Thanks. My 2 cents.

by Allan on Oct 31, 2008 2:24 pm • linkreport

Man I have been following this saga since I moved back down here in July. I can understand that when you create major infrastructure that it requires careful budgeting and debate...sometimes to the point where people are just going in circles. You are definitely right that they need to start building this stuff SOON, because if we build one set of tracks then the next set should (hopefully) fall in line.

by JBE on Oct 31, 2008 3:05 pm • linkreport


by BeyondDC on Oct 31, 2008 3:35 pm • linkreport

Any idea how many people currently take Metrobus through this stretch daily? Will it actually be used for transportation?

More than 13k people take metrobus down H St. NE daily, so I'm not sure why the trolley isn't going in there first!

by Tom A. on Oct 31, 2008 4:04 pm • linkreport

Tom, two reasons:

One, streetcars need a maintenance facility. There's a clear site for one in Anacostia, that's not the case on H Street.

Two, H Street is still subject to the overhead wire restriction. In-ground power is essentially not available off the shelf.

by Alex B. on Oct 31, 2008 4:47 pm • linkreport


From what I've read on here ... I think the reason is that by Act of Congress we can't use streetcars in the L'Enfant city (i.e., the original City of Washington) which have overhead wires. And for some strange reason the District has bought streetcars that run with overhead wires (vs. an underground cable or other mechanism.) So they can only use them in other parts of the District (the former "Washington County" parts.) Yeah, it would have made more sense to just buy the required kind and test them in the L'Enfant city (such as H St. NE) ... But after all, why should sense or costs enter into it. It's only taxpayer dollars? ;)

by Lance on Oct 31, 2008 4:51 pm • linkreport

Lance, it's not just a matter of purchasing these off the shelf, the in-ground power systems are either really old and out of production (as the old continuous vault system is) or they are brand new and full of problems (as with the latest French ones).

by Alex B. on Oct 31, 2008 5:51 pm • linkreport

There is always the system used in Bordeaux. I vaguely remember reading that Nice and a few other cities were going to adopt the new system. Like the conduit system did in DC, it uses the usual catenary/pantograph system outside of the historic center for cost savings.

It's not some totally new technology: it uses sectional electrification like a monorail or maglev track to keep people from being harmed. It's also been tested for five years and I think it's been adopted in other French cities. From a business angle, they're made by Alstom, with whom Metro already has a relationship.

One has to wonder whether this would ever come into use here, as DC seems to only reluctantly and halfheartedly try new things. On the other hand, DC truly hates changing its monumental image, so the results of this clash of inertiae could be positive for the technology.

by The King of Spain on Oct 31, 2008 6:05 pm • linkreport

Once again, I want to know what the objective of this system is. This corridor already has Metrorail stations and a lightly used bus line (U2) that only runs on weekdays.


The Bordeaux system is unreliable. I have elsewhere on this blog ( advocated using advanced batteries or supercapacitors. The battery technology, in particular, appears to be ready. Next year, Adelaide, Australia will evaluate its "Tindo" electric bus, which started running in February.

by Chuck Coleman on Oct 31, 2008 7:01 pm • linkreport

" Once again, I want to know what the objective of this system is. This corridor already has Metrorail stations and a lightly used bus line (U2) that only runs on weekdays. "

It's about D.C.'s jesuitical denial about having a more balanced transportation network.

by Douglas Willinger on Oct 31, 2008 7:25 pm • linkreport


I'm not sure what you are trying to prove. So, DC is anti-freeway. It does not follow that DDOT should favor Anacostia LRT. (This is the logical fallacy of denying the antecedent: If X is a freeway, then DC opposes it. LRT is not a freeway. Therefore, DC does not oppose LRT.) I want to know what objective DDOT is maximizing.

by Chuck Coleman on Oct 31, 2008 9:11 pm • linkreport

@King of Spain:

I'm going to mention again that if the on-ground level train power system malfunctions, you have either an energized plate at ~600V at pedestrian level, or a dead train.

Do you really trust DDOT to keep this system working? Especially if it costs more than overhead wire?

The best proposal I've seen would be to do overhead wire on the streets, and use battery power to cross major intersections and at junctions, because overhead junctions and intersection crossings are the most visually obtrusive.

The batteries are nice, but they're at this point not capable of providing complete round-trip service for a line longer than a couple of kilometers.

@Douglas Willinger: We get it. There's a Catholic conspiracy to either prevent people from building a boulevard style park on South Capitol Street, or some sort of DC conspiracy to prevent people from tunneling under K street to build another freeway, or something like that. And your blog is singlehandedly responsible for taking down the Jesuits' conspiracy. Good luck with that.

by Michael P on Oct 31, 2008 9:55 pm • linkreport

You over look the obvious botching of the North Central Freeway with the 1963-64 study's routes all over the map grossly deviating from the B&O Route recommendation by the JFK Administration in 1962: a move with the clear political effect to seriously subvert support for the freeway that would have run by Catholic University of America. (Who would not be opposed to the planning of that 1963-64 report).

You also overlook the likewise reality that the only building along SCS saved by the promenade's cancellation is the St Vincent de Paul Roman Catholic Church, and that that conflict was completely blacked out by their minions in the lamestream media and the "e" organizations.

As for your last point, check out the tags "Wlodimir Ledochowski" and "Kulterkampf Revenge" at my other blog "Continuing Counter Reformation"

You are aware that Mr Ratzinger is having second thoughts about canonizing Pacelli?

by Douglas Willinger on Oct 31, 2008 10:37 pm • linkreport

I'm not going to sift through pages of Nazi conspiracy theories and pages of biography on Jesuit leaders to get to your point.

Show me, on a map, the proposed "North Central Freeway" and how it was changed in order to remove a conflict with Catholic University.

A link to a google map would suffice.

I am aware of the St. Vincent De Paul church and it's location right next to South Capitol Street.

Claiming that the Catholic Church has "minions" in the "lamestream media" and "e" organizations doesn't really make a good point.

I'm not sure what I'm supposed to get from those tags or the comment about not canonizing Pacelli. Are you saying you exposed him and now the Vatican is changing their mind?

by Michael P on Nov 1, 2008 12:58 pm • linkreport

@Michael P:

What are trying to do here? Apply logic someone's arguments? How dare you! ;-)

I'm not saying that LRVs should run only on batteries. That would be silly. What I am saying is that they can store power delivered from normal overhead wires and from charging umbrellas at stations. The station charging umbrellas would not only provide power via an overhead wire or bar, but also some shelter to waiting passengers. Do them right and you could have some attractive architecture.

by Chuck Coleman on Nov 1, 2008 1:27 pm • linkreport

There was no direct conflict. Rather the jesuit mentality that I encounted at my summer 2005 DC NE Historical Society presentation to an audience of jesuit priests at the Archbishop Carroll HS was against having a highway anywhere near Catholic University of America (that's SOME 'social justice');

The B&O rr corridor is that which includes the Red Line. Are you telling me that you are unaware that CUA is near the Brookland/CUA WMATA station?,+D.C.&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=X&oi=geocode_result&resnum=1&ct=title

The JFK Administration in a report dated November 1962 proposed a B&O route North Central Freeway that would tightly hug that rr corridor to redce local impacts.

The subsequent engineering study of 1963-64, instead would deviate sharply with 37 potential routes that vered all over the map with some only partially along the railroad (such as the recommended oute #11 which veered 1/3 of a mile away in Takoma Park, upon a LONGER route with far far more local impacts (and objections).

The South Capitol Mall would have been one of the greatest additions to monumental Washington DC since the McMillan Commission's west mall extension and the Jefferson Memorial. You don't find it strange that it, along with the conflict with the St Vincent de Paul Roman Catholic Church was unreported by the media and the "e" groups? (Especially when other such plans and conflicts were reported?)

I am but one of many exposing Pacelli, but I am at the cutting edge of exposing the man he idolized, Jesuit Superior General Wlodimir Ledochowski who took power after his predecessor and the Pope died within hours in August 1914.

Please note the influence of the Jesuit Order over Georetown University, and Georgetown University's influence in Washington, D.C. and nationally.

by Douglas Willinger on Nov 1, 2008 2:32 pm • linkreport

Here are the 1964 and 1966 plans for the NCF with the plates for the segment near CUA:

Regarding the Google link, I cut and pasted the url after zooming in, but the zoom did not carry. You can find it by zooming on the US Capitol building and scrolling north to Union Station and then 3 WMATA stops to the north.

by Douglas Willinger on Nov 1, 2008 3:26 pm • linkreport

Chuck and Michael:

The APS system was 99% reliable in 2006 and 2007, so the reliability is no longer a problem. Bordeaux spent an inordinate amount of money to fix it, tearing out the entire system at one point to replace the main cables and all of the switches and control studs and install an extensive drainage system. But it works now and people moving Bordeaux willingly suffered a lot for three years to get it working but by the time any streetcar is built in the Federal City, I'm sure Alstom will have improved it further.

Even in the first phase of design, there were no issues I know of people stepping on a live rail, since it's failsafe and actually grounded when in a puddle. I would expect WMATA or DDOT to maintain the system well, just as I would expect them to maintain a catenary or a railroad switch, which can crush feet.

by The King of Spain on Nov 1, 2008 5:43 pm • linkreport


The only thing I see in this article is that at a 2005 presentation on the controversy with constructing NE DC freeways, there were two priests in attendance, and that the younger of the two was astonished that people would propose building a freeway. You ended with a graphic showing two options: a parkway or the current ballpark and surface roads, and the priests didn't comment.

You attribute their silence to nefarious purposes. I think they might have just not found you convincing.

I am aware that CUA is in NE DC. I looked at it with a Google and saw it. What's your point?

With all of the local planning options for the northeast freeway, we eventually decided to build none of them and instead spend the money on the Metro. I don't see anything in this post about the Catholic Church.

In this article you allege that the newspapers covered up opposition to a parkway due to the presence of the St. Vincent de Paul Church along the route. Do you have any proof or evidence that there actually was any opposition from the church, or are you using the absence of evidence as proof of a conspiracy?

I could go on, but I'm getting bored.

by Michael Perkins on Nov 1, 2008 6:33 pm • linkreport

They were astonished about how could they dare build a freeway ANYWHERE NEAR near CUA, (which is right next to D.C.'s sole rr-industrial swath which fortuitously sits about directly between the n-s section of the MD Beltway and the Potomac River).

Can you come up with any explanation why the 1963-64 engineering report would so deviate from the 1962 JFK Administration plan to have the highway hug the rr to minimize the impacts, to instead maximize the impacts for LONGER, LESS DIRECT alignments with MORE earth moving, and way MORE displacement? Clearly the political effect would be to maximize impacts to maximize local opposition to a highway anywhere near CUA.

The McMillan plan, the Jefferson Memorial, the aborted East Mall, the conflict between the Center Leg with the Bibleway Church on New Jersey Avenue (the reason why the Center Leg bends to the west between Mass Ave and K Street), and even the opposition of the Vatican to the 1960 NE Freeway routing through Catholic Sisters were ALL reported by newspapers. Yet there was nothing about the SCM-St Vincent de Paul conflict from either the newspapers or the "e" groups- both which refused to even bother mentioning it to their membership-newsletter readers at all.

Yes, I was told that they opposed it by some people that I met at the National Building Museum who heard my asking Joseph Passoneau about it in 2005; they said that they attended meetings regarding the SCS planning and that they witnessed some jesuit priests shaking their heads saying no we refuse to move our church for the SCM.

What is there to be not convinced about- that the SCS corridor be just another boulevard of which the city has many rather then something more special that appeared throughout and on the front cover of NCPC's Extending the Legacy: Planning America's Capital for the 21st Century program; that such a matter was not even worth mentioning by the newspapers and the "e" groups, that there was no conflict, and that black is white and white is black?

by Douglas Willinger on Nov 1, 2008 8:53 pm • linkreport

Douglas, It sounds like you've been reading the Da Vinci Code. That's good. You're beginning to understand why you should be looking out for the Church's interests. After all, you don't want to be on God's bad side now, do you? God bless. Say 10 Hail Marys and 1 Our Father ... and you might be on your way to some redemption.

Btw, while you're at it. You know that ass that has nothing better to do than bother the folks rounding the corner near the Papal Legation on Mass Ave? ... Could you please ask him to "get over" being ignored by the priests in seminary school ... go home ... and get a life?


by Lance on Nov 1, 2008 10:42 pm • linkreport

I have not read the DiVinci Code, but rather history and the Bible.

I don't know about anyone on the corner of the papal Legation on Mass Avenue, but if you believe that the RCC is on God's side, I suspect that you have been reading relatively little history.

Why else is Mr Ratzinger having second thoughts about canonizing Pacelli, let alone dare consider that for Wlodimir Ledochowski.

by Douglas Willinger on Nov 1, 2008 10:54 pm • linkreport


Do you have more recent information than Wikipedia ?

"Before use in Bordeaux, APS was tested and proved viable on a short section of reserved-track tramway in the French city of Marseilles. Nevertheless, Bordeaux has experienced problems, with APS being so temperamental that at one stage the Mayor issued an ultimatum that if reliability could not be guaranteed, it would have to be replaced with overhead wires. Although things have improved, in October 2005 it was announced that 1 km of APS tramway is to be converted to overhead wires.

Problems have included water-logging, when the water does not disperse or flow away quickly enough after heavy rain."

The second paragraph is particularly relevant, given DC's recent history of drainage problems.

by Chuck Coleman on Nov 2, 2008 11:01 am • linkreport

A friend lives in Bordeaux and is pretty proud of the system, but always mentions the insane cost.

Alstom at least publishes this information. Biased, I'm sure, but it is newer. Alstom says: in a press release. ANother interesting note on this website is that Nice uses batteries to avoid catenaries, but the gaps are relatively small and scattered about.

What drainage problems are you talking about? DC has a combined sewage overflow problem, and issues with leaves, I suppose, but what more precisely do you mean? Alstom seems to think that there might be a problem with corrosion by road salting, according to The Overhead Wire.

by The King of Spain on Nov 2, 2008 4:00 pm • linkreport

"Insane cost" - that's deal-breaker for me.

We had a storm a few years ago that overloaded the sewers and caused more flying manhole covers and sewage in the streets.

I found the Nice press release @ . It says that Nice uses NiMH batteries to go 500m without a wire. I can't find any information on the battery capacity. For example, doubling the number of NiMH cells creates 1 km of range. Molten salt batteries are now available with higher energy densities and lower costs than NiMH batteries (the Tindo bus uses them). Switching to these increases range. My problem is that I can't find information regarding the feasibility of using molten salt batteries in LRVs. So, I can't evaluate the feasibility of my own idea. But, then, DDOT's engineers should be able to. They can require the information in rail vehicle bids. But, then, we're back to determining the objectives of LRT in DC.

by Chuck Coleman on Nov 2, 2008 4:39 pm • linkreport

I didn't realize that Bordeaux's trams could be up to seven car trains, but this bird's eye view looks like they do.

I also didn't realize how beautiful the city of Bordeaux is. I just love that Windows now has international cities for it's bird's eye view.

by Reid on Nov 2, 2008 5:37 pm • linkreport

Chuck: the battery does not care about the type of wheels. That said... an intermittently electrified rail line is the last usage profile I would expect to see ZEBRA gear applied to, even in combination with supercaps.





Mature tech

Service life: ~1000 deep cycles

Indefinite Shelf Life

No self-discharge

Operates at solder-melting, fire-starting temperatures, which it needs to be warmed up to, but no runaway failures





Rapidly improving tech

Service life: 2000+ deep cycles

Shelf life: Negligible calendar capacity degredation

Moderate self-discharge (5%/month)

Operates at carefully moderated cool temperatures

Much safer than the traditional lithium cobalt cells, even when physically stressed

For bus-stop charging: (5% of course electrified)

ZEBRA batts simply can't be charged fast enough to maintain charge over the course of daily operation. The supercaps that you'll inevitably include with them (if you don't want your powerpack to weight several tons per traincar) are the only thing that will charge appreciably, and if you're just charging them up and down all day, why include the ZEBRAs at all?

For rough-spot clearance: (95% of course electrified)

Good luck lugging around several tons and hundreds of thousands of dollars of batteries for every time you want to accelerate out of a turn.

Yes, they're too expensive for long(200+ miles) and even medium (50-200 miles) range EV applications, but in the last 2 years A123 and their competitors have made a stop-charging transit line entirely practical, even economical.

Give me a low-floor trolley/streetcar/LRV model, let me tack on $20K for a 200KG battery pack on each traincar per year, build me some canopies (nice opportunity to create bus stop lanes), and you've got your system - ICE-free. About 22km range, about 800 horsepower.

by Squalish on Nov 2, 2008 7:55 pm • linkreport


I'm happy to see that you have been looking at the off-wire possibilities seriously. I love to see numbers, as I can sink my teeth into them. Given what you have learned, it should be possible to create realistic conceptual systems and publicize them.

by Chuck Coleman on Nov 2, 2008 8:23 pm • linkreport


I was of course being sarcastic. But frankly, I think you're prejudiced. It might do you good to learn more about the church from which all other western christian churches came out of. Education is the best way to counter ignorance and prejudice.

by Lance on Nov 2, 2008 8:32 pm • linkreport

The canopy system needs to be capable of putting out (very approximately) 240kw for a 15 second stopping time per car, for a 1km maximum stop spacing.

I'm assuming that one traincar gets 1000wh/mile (based on a quote for a bus at 600wh/mile @ highway speeds), and that it moves at 10km/hour average speed(pessimistic for an urban street grid).

Whether we need the rails or not is another question entirely.

by Squalish on Nov 2, 2008 9:02 pm • linkreport

Sorry, that was 600wh/km highway for the bus & 1000wh/km for my figure of city driving for our hypothetical vehicle. Another assumption at the 240kw chargerate: the charging for these batteries needs to be safely doable at 1/3 the maximum sustained load, which is approximately the type of claim I've observed.

Enough engineering/physics knowledge to fill a napkin, combined with Google for reference, is a very dangerous thing. Here, I feel that even if most of my calculations have underestimated significantly, the worst-case scenario is that you have to double or triple the number of battery packs, which remain considerably cheaper than diesel or catenary maintenance.

by Squalish on Nov 2, 2008 9:25 pm • linkreport


Explain to me how your system would work (not the technical electrical side, but the practical user-end experience).

How frequently would the train need to stop? Say only one person gets on at a stop, would the train have to sit there for the full 15 seconds each time (that would seem too slow to me)? What would this canopy look like?

Sounds like a really innovative and potentially problem solving idea. Is anyone working on a real world application of it?

by Reid on Nov 2, 2008 10:07 pm • linkreport

My opinions are based upon education and observation, particularly of the dynamics of the ways things work.

If I am wrong about Wlodimir Ledochowski, why does the RCC almost never mention him, even though he's described as one of the Jesuit Order's greatest leaders, the "last of the great Roman superior generals?

With all of the concern regarding religious terrorists in this post 911 age, how can anyone pretend that the RCC deserves no scrutiny, particularly with its political influence via Jesuit Georgetown University? Whatever happened to the 1st Amendment guarantee against an establishment of a religion?

You do know about the clerical fascist regime in WW2 Croatia, and how potential "saints" as Pacelli covered up knowledge of that atrocity (worse then what happened with the Jewish peoples even with the gorging out of peoples' eyes and tongue BEFORE killing them).

by Douglas Willinger on Nov 2, 2008 10:53 pm • linkreport

We build 100' long articulated LR vehicles that can raise a catenary. We build what is essentially a small Metro platform shelter 50 foot long perched atop central supports on the curbs before an intersection about every quarter mile. We put high-voltage cables on the underside of the shelter, 15 feet above the roadway. We don't worry about electrical connections to the rest of the rails, but we make sure to connect the track right underneath the shelter to a ground/return circuit.

Rider comes to the shelter, hangs out under it, perhaps ups their Smartpass from a kiosk there. LRV starts to come down the block, follows rails into the right lane, slows down, puts up pantagraphs for last 50 feet of stopping. Opens his six sets of doors. Driver watches/counts riders hit their SmartPass cards against the opposite-side nub through CCTV. Driver hits 'traffic control' switch. In 10 seconds, all lights have turned red except for a green right-turn light in his lane. It stays in that mode for 10 seconds as he pulls into the next block, then goes back to normal. He's had more than enough time to charge up his batteries.

Next station, 500m down the line, has no riders & noone wants to get off, so driver pulls in, keeps his doors shut to preserve climate control, and holds (whatever the light) his position in the right turn lane for 15 seconds with the catenary up, before merging back into traffic using the same mechanism as before.


Likely, something could be worked out involving a battery indicator and only being *required* to stop at one out of every 4 stops or so for a solid minute, or something along those lines. I don't have an engineering study on how a 2% battery duty-cycle compares to an 8% battery duty-cycle in front of me, so I assumed that smaller is better while not correcting for load damage to the battery - a pessimistic correction on both counts.

Technically, the canopy can look like anything you want it to look like, as long as it presents a contact area for a pantagraph that lines up with rails that are placed in the right lane. The contact area needs to be maybe 3 feet wide, 2-4 feet above the roof of one of the vehicles, built of heavy-guage wire. Above, I mentioned it being 50ft long for safety & use-in-motion purposes, but it only needs to be 10ft or so if the driver can stop reliably and only puts his pantagraph up while stopped.

by Squalish on Nov 3, 2008 12:15 am • linkreport

Douglas: I'm going to say this once, bluntly, speaking solely for myself using the royal 'we':

Noone cares about the Catholic Church's internal machinations. We don't believe they have that much interest or pull, or that it would matter if they did. We not only don't care about random Polish & Italian archdiocese, we've never heard of them. The last time we tuned into a story about the Catholic Church, it involved a coverup of pedophiles and the DA's unwillingness to prosecute priests, not transit planning; We are not their friend. Whoever runs our private institutes of higher education, if they can manage to keep Georgetown as one of the top schools in the nation and not bother us too much, we don't care. There are actual overt fascists in this country who aren't hiding behind 60 years of degrees of Kevin Bacon, and until they terrorize or assassinate us (which has been suggested), we don't particularly even care about them when they're busted plotting to go on killing sprees. You are very possibly the *only* person on earth obsessing over the defeat of a ridiculous 1960's highway plan by a fascist clerical conspiracy. We're worried about you. We think that even if you were to find an absurdly effective smoking gun on the topic (one which we doubt exists), it wouldn't make another blog, much less the evening news. We say this as people fascinated by history, habitual learners, holding a strong interest in particular in the DC area & transit planning. You appear to speak coherently, even cogently, about everything else, and we would like to hear more of that unmixed with nutty conspiracy theories about obscure topics.

If anyone here disagrees with me & would like to hear more, please speak up.

by Squalish on Nov 3, 2008 12:35 am • linkreport

>I didn't realize that Bordeaux's trams could be up to seven car trains, but this bird's eye view looks like they do.

The trams we're getting in DC can also operate in consists. You just don't see that in the news because Portland doesn't do it.

by BeyondDC on Nov 3, 2008 10:09 am • linkreport

Won't the trams be limited by the shortest block length? You may be able to attach the train physically in a 7-car consist, but if you're going to be street running you don't want to block an intersection while you load passengers.

by Michael P on Nov 3, 2008 11:10 am • linkreport


If you can't answer anything specifically, why then do you pretend that history does not matter?

Rather then repeat my words, I will turn this discussion back to transportation planning, and ask why the great hullaboo over a few billion hear and there for a trolley line or a freeway, yet so little about the trillions wasted on the pentagon upon their criminal wars (including that of the crimianl 'drug war')? (You do care about civil liberties and public health, don't you?)

This reminds me of the great 'controversy' over the alleged 'boondoggle' of the highly sensible Westway project in NYC (1974-85) which was used it induce so much 'activist' rantings over $2-4 billion: rantings which far exceed that on the billions given away to Wall Street and their executive bonuses (which in one year or two pay for BOTH a revived Westway and a full 2nd Avenue Subway.

The entire trolleys versus highways argument is an excellent distraction from the larger picture.

And I am hardly the only person to note the RCC's ill effects in just planning. Why don't you peruse Richard Layman's site about say what he has written about the RCC and their destruction of that landmark apartment building in Baltimore as a start?

by Douglas Willinger on Nov 3, 2008 11:45 am • linkreport

Their was absolutely nothing ridiculous about the 1962 JFK Administration plan for the B&O Route North Central Freeway (except the lack of mention of having it covered to block the traffic noise).

What was ridiculous was the 1963-64 study that betrayed it, and the "e" mindset that was too emotional to see that.

And what is ridiculous is pretending that history does not matter simply because it was not taught in the 'schools' (jesuits do specialize in education and hence censorship).

Check out this example of such regarding DC planning:

by Douglas Willinger on Nov 3, 2008 11:51 am • linkreport

Douglas: There's little hullabaloo over the war? Really? Have you ever read, say,

Transportation and urban planning blogs don't talk about the war a lot because it's not about those subjects, but I read enormous numbers of blogs and email lists who have spent years opposing the war. Whole nonprofits were formed after 2006 to try to get the Democratic majority to stand up more for the war. Hillary Clinton's war support likely cost her the nomination.

I've never seen so much activism as there has been against the war. Just because it's not here doesn't mean readers don't care about it; they just focus those energies in the forums devoted to the subject.

by David Alpert on Nov 3, 2008 11:52 am • linkreport

I think there needs to be lots more activism against the war[s], and a lot more reporting of such.

I am sure you are aware of stories of large protest marches that go right past such landmarks as a CNN building, with plenty of noses pressed against the glass, yet with barely a mention in the reporting.

As an example of lack of reporting, when was the last time any of us saw something in the media about "REX 84".

Ask yourself why with such a recent history as WW2 that there is so little about that program- both in reporting and opposition activism?

Surely its cancellation would have provided far far more money to be transferred to building say a far reaching street car and high speed rail network then canceling the Washington DC freeway system.

by Douglas Willinger on Nov 3, 2008 12:13 pm • linkreport

To clarify, when I say little, I should say RELATIVELY little measured by some objective criteria as amount of money involved, or say number of trees cut regarding such comparisons as the efforts expended relatively towards saving the Montrose Woods versus reopening Klingle Road).

by Douglas Willinger on Nov 3, 2008 12:23 pm • linkreport

If all these no-overhead-wire technologies cost so much and involve so much risk, why not just revise the ban against overhead wires to allow an exemption for streetcars? It's not a Constitutional amendment or anything... I can't imagine you'd have a senator filibustering against such a bill.

by Just askin' on Nov 3, 2008 12:51 pm • linkreport

Just askin':

Here's my interpretation:

The National Capital Planning Commission , not to mention historical preservation voices that are often quite loud on issues like this, have come out against overhead lines because "Any planned streetcar line within historic Washington that features overhead power lines would violate federal law and threaten the open character and scenic views of D.C. streets." There's a desire for streetcars among planners, but not enough to both fight the issue out in the planning community *and* present the united front that is required for the District to get Congress to pass a law. This is local, not partisan politics.

It's not catastrophically risky - conduit current collection (a third rail buried a foot belowground) was used for quite a long time in the District, after Congress ordered the streetcars to start using it in the 1890's. Having a full circuit be so easy to complete by weather elements scares a lot of reasonable people, and so it went out of use in the mid-20th century. The Bordeaux system (which powers up one tiny segment of rail at a time while it's under the vehicle) was largely a prototype, and with the best practices already established it should only be 'very expensive' rather than 'ridiculously expensive.' My point (halfway down the comments) was that storing energy in the rolling stock itself could make an installation easier than even overhead wires.

Douglas: It's not a distraction, because it's not distracting - most people don't care. If you want to get into politics, I suggest that there are a great many people who are paying attention, have been paying attention, and watched Kucinich read out the 35 acts of the impeachment of President George W. Bush with actual hope that they would be voted on, despite the DLC's conviction that term limits were vastly politically preferable means of removing Bush from office to a constitutional crisis. The fact that we're not cluttering up this board with "But we spend that on the war every 28 seconds" is a testament to how old it gets & how hopeless it feels, but that doesn't mean it's been forgotten by any means.

A growing minority of us are even keeping track of the programs entirely worthy of conspiracy theories in disgusted disbelief. Torture legal? Suspension of Habeas Corpus? An anti-democratic coup? Wiretapping? Politicizing the entire bureaucracy? Black sites? Election theft?

This country's government is flat-out broken, and it goes far beyond our war of opportunity or highway planning.

These things are being noted because the internet has decided to shout so loudly the things that the traditional the media has neglected to tell us - it has become where legitimate political dialogs happen. The fact that we're not marching in the streets is a testament to just how ineffective that strategy is in this day and age. If Marie Antoinette had Karl Rove, Fox News, evangelicalism, wedge issues like race, and the US military she could have convinced the crowds to wait patiently while she baked them cake, then spontaneously recruited them to fight in a new royal legion. All we can do at this point is inform whoever we can and vote.

If you want a discussion as to the expenditures on the war, I suggest that there is better coverage at sites other than this one.

by Squalish on Nov 3, 2008 4:00 pm • linkreport

"... and it goes far beyond our war of opportunity or highway planning."

On this we agree!

by Douglas Willinger on Nov 3, 2008 4:30 pm • linkreport

My compliments to Squalish on his analyses!

One additional comment I have is that onboard storage can reduce construction costs by reducing the amount of overhead wire needed.

by Chuck Coleman on Nov 4, 2008 7:27 pm • linkreport

Sounds like a really innovative and potentially problem solving idea. Is anyone working on a real world application of it?
Alstom's STEEM system was announced in July, using supercapacitors.

by Squalish on Sep 22, 2009 11:26 pm • linkreport

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