Greater Greater Washington

Spingarn remains the best option for streetcar barn

A group of residents in the Carver-Langston neighborhood of Ward 5 have successfully lobbied councilmember Kenyan McDuffie to oppose a streetcar maintenance facility in the southeastern corner of the ward. If they succeed in blocking the planned facility at that location, the city is left with few options that aren't very viable.


Photo by M.V. Jantzen on Flickr.

Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie released a letter asking the Gray administration to find a location for the facility that's not adjacent to Spingarn High School.

The letter said, "Many residents have indicated that they found the justification for the Spingarn site to be one of expedience, rather than necessity."

Letter makes several specious arguments

McDuffie's letter goes on to say that residents felt "disrespected" because more meetings weren't held in Ward 5. This is a straw man argument: Ward 6 meetings were held within blocks of Ward 5. A streetcar meeting at the Atlas Theater may have been outside of the ward, but it was close enough that anyone from the Trinidad or Carver Langston neighborhoods could walk to it.

A hypothetical meeting in North Michigan Park would be in Ward 5. While that would allow planners to say they held more meetings inside the ward, it wouldn't actually make it easier for neighbors voices to be heard.

The letter further says that residents are "dismayed that a major decision affecting our ward was made without the benefit of a Councilmember at the table to represent the community's interests." While this might be true about the apparent "final" decision to place the bar at Spingarn, Harry Thomas, Jr. was in office for years during the planning and construction along Benning Road. Perhaps he didn't reach out to members of the local neighborhoods for their input because he was busy stealing from them?

McDuffie used the term "dumping ground" as well. While he didn't say whether he feels this is an appropriate term to describe the ward, it's disappointing to see him giving the term credence by perpetuating its use. In debate and discussion during the election season, he distanced himself from the use of that term, but chose not to in this instance. Why?

Push DDOT to address real neighbor concerns

Finally, in his letter, McDuffie laid out five points that he classified as major concerns coming from neighbors. They include:

  • Lack of material benefits to the Carver Langston neighborhood;
  • Safety of students during and after the construction phase;
  • Environmental impact;
  • Level of noise from repairs and maintenance;
  • Resources and job opportunities available at the training center for Spingarn students and Ward 5 residents.
On the first point, increased, reliable, safe, affordable transportation towards downtown is already a material benefit to the neighborhood. DC officials have frequently stated that streetcar pricing will be the same as Circulator service. That would be cheaper than taking the X2 bus along Benning Road and H Street.

The safety of students is an important concern. The streetcar project would be subject to the same safety requirements as any construction project in the city. After construction, when operations begin, the concern likely turns to students being hit by streetcars. It's worth noting that students stand a higher risk of being hit by cars speeding down Benning Road or 26th Street, yet neighbors are not seeking a ban on automobile traffic on those roadways.

The environmental impact of the construction can be mitigated with a green roof, solar panels, or other carbon-neutralizing accommodations.

The level of noise is a very valid concern, and DDOT should provide hard data showing the current decibel level at the site, and the expected future level, along with concrete plans to mitigate any increase in noise.

DDOT and DCPS also need to show plans for how a training program run through the school would work, how many spots would be available for students, etc. This is something these agencies should have worked on already, and it's certainly the city's fault for not having this information available by now.

Other options are not practical now, though it's worth pursuing them for the future

If all of these points still do not satisfy the residents of Carver-Langston, what options does the city have for alternate sites for the maintenance facility? Other locations were discussed at an April meeting at Spingarn High School. One of those is the RFK Stadium north parking lot area, across Benning Road from the Spingarn site.

However, the federal government owns this land, and leased it to DC with the limitation that it be used only for recreational purposes. Perhaps McDuffie could initiate a serious discussion with Eleanor Holmes Norton, for whom he interned before attending law school, about relaxing this requirement and allowing a car barn to be built on this land.

Another possibility was the site that is currently home to the Pepco plant just east of the Anacostia River. Unfortunately, that site is not under the control of the DC government either, and is much larger than what a streetcar facility would require.

If the District were able to get control of that site (which may require years of environmental mitigation), there would still likely need to be a small-area plan created for the entire site, which would take even more years of planning and meetings. Even if there were a way to fast track all of that, the line doesn't yet extend that far. DDOT plans to build the line there and beyond, but can't do that before next year, when they hope to open the line.

DC didn't plan adequately

The fact is that the District didn't plan well enough for the streetcar barn. DDOT officials long assumed that a space under the H Street "Hopscotch Bridge" would be available for a maintenance facility, and this never came to be. They should have put more time and effort into making sure that plans for the area under the bridge were solid, and should have planned for an alternate location in case the original plan fell through as it did.

As things stand now, the streetcar maintenance facility can't be built anywhere other than the area south of Spingarn High School without delaying the start of revenue service for at least another 5 years, at a cost of tens of millions of dollars, or both. If that happens, Ward 5 residents will definitely lose out.

Geoff Hatchard lived in DC's Trinidad neighborhood. The opinions and views expressed in Geoff's writing on this blog are his, and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer. 

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Is there any explanation on the Hopscotch Bridge space? I know it's not owned by the city, but that's exactly what public domain and easements are meant for. Did Amtrak have some type of other overarching authority to nix the city's plans?

by Adam L on Jul 11, 2012 1:38 pm • linkreport

Ready-fire-aim. Par for the course with this misbegotten project. Yes, your last point is well taken. In a NIMBY-rich environment, DDOT didn't do its homework...again. Just like it "assumed" Amtrak would roll over and welcome it with open arms.

by Phil on Jul 11, 2012 1:48 pm • linkreport

There is a lot of property on the south side of Benning Road, opposite the Pepco site -- a gas station, a taxi company, a car rental business, etc. These places would be an appropriate place to put the maintenance shed and would not require environmental cleanup. I assume eminent domain is available to get the needed site. Why not considered these places?

by goldfish on Jul 11, 2012 1:59 pm • linkreport

@Adam

Yes, Amtrak did it's thing.

This link here: http://www.bizjournals.com/washington/news/2012/07/10/amtrak-envisions-underground-expansion.html?ana=RSS&s=article_search&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+bizj_washington+%28Washington+Business+Journal%29

GGW linked that this morning on the breakfast links. Amtrak is looking to build a large underground station for its NEC HSR, and that tunnel will go the way of the dinosaur if that happens.

by Xavier on Jul 11, 2012 2:01 pm • linkreport

So basically,

opponents: why haven't you considered other sites for the car barn?
DDOT: we did, they were all unworkable for various reasons and this site allows us to open in the timeframe provided and keeps the costs grounded.
opponents: see! There is the proof that the research wasn't done and we can put the car barn anywhere and have the streetcar operational in 2013!

Cue the assertions that there are no cost/timeline/jursidictional hurdles to placing the garage anywhere but next to a school but within about 40 miles of H street or so.

by drumz on Jul 11, 2012 2:02 pm • linkreport

@goldfish

I don't think they have the money yet to extend the line over the bridge.

by Adam L on Jul 11, 2012 2:03 pm • linkreport

goldfish: I think it's a rather safe bet that you'll get all of the same NIMBY rationale from the people who live in River Terrace that you currently get from Carver-Langston. It would essentially be the same battles all over again.

by Geoffrey Hatchard on Jul 11, 2012 2:03 pm • linkreport

@drumz. If you trying to convince a neighborhood that they "need to take one for the team" you should do your due diligence. "The other sites are too hard and now we're out of time" just doesn't cut it. That said, in DC, way too much deference is given to "neighborhood groups," sundry gadflies and kingmakers. McDuffie is taking the cheap and easy route.

by Phil on Jul 11, 2012 2:12 pm • linkreport

Perhaps he didn't reach out to members of the local neighborhoods for their input because he was busy stealing from them?

Oooooh! Burn.

Seriously, where has the nimby contingent been these past 18 months? It's not like DDOT showed up last week and said, "Boom. It's going here. End of discussion." You choose your own level of involvement in Fight Club.

by monkeyrotica on Jul 11, 2012 2:19 pm • linkreport

They felt "disrespected"? Pretty thinly-veiled language if yuo ask me.

by MJ on Jul 11, 2012 2:31 pm • linkreport

Given McDuffie's letter, what are the chances this actually holds up the decision or this just a show to placate his constituents?

I really don't understand why DDOT didn't plan for this further back (same goes for the west end terminus). They need to finish this section of the line and learn from their many mistakes for future lines.

by Mike on Jul 11, 2012 2:32 pm • linkreport

What I really think is at play here is that opponents view the streetcar as representing more DC gentrification. And they fear that their neighborhoods will attract yuppies who will displace those who are already there. The problem is that they are 20 years too late and that a lot of these trends are inherently irreversible. At the very most what they'll do is slow it down, but that wave of gentrification is going to come.

I also agree with people who think that "neighborhood groups" getting too much deference. For example those same "neighborhood groups" were able to slow down the Cathedral Commons project on Wisconsin Avenue. I remember Giant first proposing renovating their store there in late 1999 and early 2000. By the time that I left that area of DC the project had not broken ground and that whole block from Cactus Cantina to the Giant had become blighted. Groups of neighbors had been fighting each other and abused litigation to prevent it from going forward. Only until a court ruled against the project opponents last year was the project finally able to move forward--more than 10 years after Giant first proposed it. I'm really surprised that Giant didn't just give up and abandon the project.

I could see that stopping the streetcar. But I would also the people living there. What do you expect DC to do? Rip up the tracks that have been laid?

by Rain17 on Jul 11, 2012 2:34 pm • linkreport

I am disappointed in our new councilman for catering to these loudmouths. This is certainly not what I had in mind when I voted for him!

by OrrenStNE on Jul 11, 2012 3:04 pm • linkreport

phil,

I'll grant that DDOT didn't do its due diligence on the hopscotch bridge site, however I don't see any evidence one way or the other that it simply picked the school out of thin air either. I haven't been to these meetings that they held but those opposed need to have something more to counter than "we just don't believe you looked hard enough" since apparently they've done even less research except to look at other vacant spots in the area and assume the facility can just as easily go there.

In short, in lack of better evidence my gut is to go with the transportation professionals who have been working on this for years rather than a neighborhood group who can't decide on an appropriate timeframe.

by drumz on Jul 11, 2012 3:15 pm • linkreport

@GH: you'll get all of the same NIMBY rationale from the people who live in River Terrace

Neighbors are showing up to save a beautiful school ()saee picture above); they won't show up to preserve a gas station.

@Adam L: I don't think they have the money yet to extend the line over the bridge.

They considered the Pepco, which is on the other side of the bridge. So why not consider the Shell station?

by goldfish on Jul 11, 2012 3:30 pm • linkreport

@drumz,

You said it best. One group is comprised of "transportation professionals" and the other is a neighborhood group of dedicated amateurs. One wants to make changes to the neighborhood, the other wants to maintain the status quo. Guess which group has the higher burden of proof and, therefore, needs to work much, much harder to prove its case? That's the way it is. Having been in their shoes a few times, I don't envy the "professionals," especially if they've been sandbagged by the finger-in-the-wind pols.

by Phil on Jul 11, 2012 3:30 pm • linkreport

If you trying to convince a neighborhood that they "need to take one for the team" you should do your due diligence....That said, in DC, way too much deference is given to "neighborhood groups," sundry gadflies and kingmakers.

Not to be contentious, but these two assertions seem bizarrely at odds with one another.

by oboe on Jul 11, 2012 3:40 pm • linkreport

Well, I disagree as to why they want the status quo (because the barn will look ugly? Thats about as much as I can gather) and why they think that they don't need evidence to at least provide a counter argument to the current site (again, within the time/budget constraints). Meanwhile DDOT has been holding meetings for months and has a website dedicated to the project at large.

Which leads me to believe that I don't think that DDOT is lacking due diligence in this specific instance but rather that the oppositions claims are so bizarre that its been hard to predict a backlash. Maybe DDOT can do more to placate these new concerns but I don't think thats due to oversight.

by drumz on Jul 11, 2012 3:47 pm • linkreport

@Drumz: I don't claim to have the insight into everybody's mind here, but:

Many of the neighbors actually went to this school. They don't want a butt-ugly shed on its front lawn. Take a drive down Benning Road, which until recently was terribly neglected. In this marble-clad monument-filled town, there is very little on the street that is worth preserving -- save the golf course, the school is probably the only other thing. And it is offensive that they will build a shed here, when directly across the street is the unused, 1/2 mile wide RFK parking lot.

Oh, and it takes time to build neighborhood opposition to something dropped on the front lawns of people that already have busy lives. These people are NOT gadflies.

by goldfish on Jul 11, 2012 3:59 pm • linkreport

How about DC just eminent domain Uline Arena? Its a couple blocks off H St, but it has the positives of putting the building to use and sticking it to Douglas Jemal. Uline is next to the existing rail lines and on an industrial blcok, so nimbyism should be minimized...

by dano on Jul 11, 2012 4:21 pm • linkreport

Well,

a. I don't think there has been anything said about its design, you can make it look nice. That is something I would reccomend that people make clear to DDOT and the gov't at large. For maintenance facilities and pretty much everything.

b. The school is being preserved, the actual entrance is on 26th street, its just that more people drive by on benning. Moreover, while nice views are nice (and what constitutes a nice view is not subjective) none of us are really guarunteed one unless we can pay for it somehow. Its asking that we preserve a positive externality for a small (relatively) group of people at the expense of a bigger group.

c. the streetcar is being explicitly put on benning road to actual help jumpstart a lot of the investment that the area has missed out on in the past.

So we come back to the fact that basically its down to aesthetic (based on nostalgia apparentlY?) concerns which can a. be mitigated b. aren't as important (I'm not saying they're unimportant and should be ignored) as the other factors that come with the placement of the barn there.

by drumz on Jul 11, 2012 4:22 pm • linkreport

Let's get it built ASAP, no more delays.

I do think McDuffie wrote the letter to placate some loud residents. I think he won't put up too much of a roadblock to its timely construction.

by H Street Landlord on Jul 11, 2012 4:23 pm • linkreport

@drumz: ALL of those qualifiers are delt with if the shed is built elsewhere, such as the Shell station.

by goldfish on Jul 11, 2012 4:31 pm • linkreport

I'll make it clear,

while those concerns could be easily met by moving the facility, it is not the only or most important concern. Operational ease, cost, and jurisdictional issues are also in play and there has been nothing to suggest (from either side admittedly but again, how do you predict backlash like this) that moving the site will meet those criteria either.

In light of that and absent evidence that we can have our cake and eat it too, I think the amount of outcry against this is unnecessary.

Saying "damn the costs, we can't have it here" seems eminently unreasonable to me.

by drumz on Jul 11, 2012 4:37 pm • linkreport

goldfish: I'm not trying to start a fight with you (and please, if you respond, use my name, not an abbreviation, thank you), but that's next door to a school as well. Sure, it's not "beautiful" (and yes, River Terrace Elementary is slated to be closed for now), but I guarantee you the issues about noise, safety for kids, etc., would all come up again.

Plus, the city is trying to avoid eminent domain issues. Recommending sites like this is simply adding more complexity rather than making the process easier.

by Geoffrey Hatchard on Jul 11, 2012 4:39 pm • linkreport

Here's an idea: build the car barn now, with room for reconfiguration and really sturdy bones. Clad it in something inoffensive, but cheap and easily recyclable.

Make a retrofit, aesthetically, as well as the possible addition of storefronts, etc a required part of Phase II, to an extremely high level of design. This way, it gets it built quick, makes a promise to the community, and offers the opportunity to add another strong streetscape element that works for both the school and Benning Road.

by Neil Flanagan on Jul 11, 2012 4:54 pm • linkreport

@Geoffrey Hatchard:

Putting the maintenance barn on the front lawn of the Spingarm campus would is a mistake that will be regretted for generations. But progress seems to be unstoppable: lord knows, there is money to be made here! Calling people that oppose it "gadflies that have too much influence on the political process" does not address their (and my) concerns. Forsaking the only nice thing on Benning Rd. is not smart, and it is not "smart growth".

I've provided numerous posting on this topic, and I see that the tide is against me. So be it.

by goldfish on Jul 11, 2012 5:02 pm • linkreport

goldfish: One correction - the Benning Road frontage of Spingarn High School is not the front yard. It is the side yard. The front of the school is on 26th Street NE.

by Geoffrey Hatchard on Jul 11, 2012 5:21 pm • linkreport

One simple question:

Why wasn't the car barn location settled on before DDOT started laying track?

Sad to say, but the DC streetcar project has never had even the slightest apppearance of being professionally planned or thought out. Who ever heard of buying rolling stock and laying track without first figuring out where the power source (overheard wires) would go, finalizing the location of the maintenance facilities, and deciding where to put the turnarounds - for starters?

And whose bright idea was it to decide to end the H Street line at Union Station - and drawing up plans for a connnection to Metro - without first checking with the landlord (Amtrak)? How much time, effort, and money was wasted on that?

Let me get this out of the way: I'm a supporter of the DC streetcar project. I think it can be an asset. I just got back from Toronto, which has a great streecar system, and riding it was a pleasure.

But the DC Streetcars project has morphed into a monster that more and more resembles something that was rushed into willy-nilly by amatuers. DC has spent millions on this project and what does it have to show for it besides 3 streetcars that have been mothballed for the last 4 years and some tracks to nowhere?

As it is, the only reason to complete this project is that DC will look even more ridiculous for not finishing it than it does now.

And that doesn't say much for DDOT.

by ceefer66 on Jul 12, 2012 9:41 am • linkreport

ceefer66: The track was laid quickly because there was a full street reconstruction project on H Street, and it was determined that laying the track at the same time would save money (instead of going back and ripping the street up a year or two or three later). I think that was a wise choice.

The problem (to me) has been that, since the tracks were laid, expectation of them being used immediately quickly rose. Speculation on real estate in the corridor increased the demand and expectation that there would be revenue service quickly. I personally believe that created a self-fulfilling feedback loop that led to rushed decisions on many fronts. Any slow-down at this point appears to be backtracking, fairly or not, to many supporters.

by Geoffrey Hatchard on Jul 12, 2012 9:46 am • linkreport

Geoffrey,

I guess I'm one of those with high expectations. But it appears to me that a "cart before the horse" situation existed.

As a project manager myself, I'm amazed at the appearance of a lack of any logical, structured sequence of tasks, deliverables, and milestones. I'm sure I'm not the only person who sometimes thinks that the extent of planning at DDOT was limited to someone showing up for work one morning and saying "Guys, the mayor and I think it would be cool if DC had streetcars, so let's get to work!".

I'm certain it didn't actually happen that way, but that's how it often looks and perception is key.

by ceefer66 on Jul 12, 2012 10:09 am • linkreport

ceefer66: I agree. The planning (and outreach) could have been much better.

by Geoffrey Hatchard on Jul 12, 2012 10:13 am • linkreport

@Geoffrey Hatchard
The problem (to me) has been that, since the tracks were laid, expectation of them being used immediately quickly rose. Speculation on real estate in the corridor increased the demand and expectation that there would be revenue service quickly. I personally believe that created a self-fulfilling feedback loop that led to rushed decisions on many fronts. Any slow-down at this point appears to be backtracking, fairly or not, to many supporters.

Agreed, and also the fact that they bought cars years ago also increased expectations that it would open after the tracks were complete. They may have saved by piggybacking onto Portland's order but I question if those savings were lost since they've been sitting in Greenbelt for nearly 3 years. I do think a little more planning and a more comprehensive timeline would have been a good idea to set realistic expectations. I think they did a good job in saying that they were putting in tracks NOW during the street reconstruction to add only a few months of construction, rather than a new years-long project. But on the rest of it, especially the maintenance facility location, they didn't seem to care - maybe they envisioned a longer time frame than the public did, but they should have said that. Also there was a bunch of confusion in the administration turnover at DDOT it seems.

by MLD on Jul 12, 2012 10:35 am • linkreport

Your last point, lack of planning, is why this Spingarn site is inappropriate, ill-conceived, and an affront to the community. No ANC in Ward 5 was ever presented this proposal. Even us Michigan Park residents have a stake in this mess and my opposition is not grounded in nimbyism but transportation logic. Viewing the ten-year timeline of this evolving fiasco, why are we so hyped to get 20 blocks of trolley to nowhere up and running? This "short line" adds nothing of transportation value that the Metrobus doesn't already provide. If this line is actually ever going into NW, or to Minnesota Ave Metro, any site on that broad path should be considered for the carbarn (not the least of which is RFK... the H Street trolley is surely more for recreational use than commuting). If a mere high school are so unimportant then lets put the carbarn right next to Gonzaga's football field in the unit block of H NW? Why not on David Wilmot's WalMart lot at 2nd & H NW? The Benning Rd PEPCO site or transfer station both make more sense than Spingarn. The Uline site is an excellent proposal, as is the NOMA area around North Capitol St. Don't blame us for being late to the game when DDOT specifically designed not to alert Ward 5 ANCs.

by Cary on Jul 12, 2012 3:03 pm • linkreport

" trolley to nowhere up and running"

They must have torn down all the stuff that's on H st. NE since the last time I was there.

by drumz on Jul 12, 2012 3:07 pm • linkreport

This is too bad. Mi had high hopes for McDuffie. He turns out to be just another pandering spineless politician. What is sad is that it only took a few weeks for the real McDuffie to come out.

I don't even like the street car system that much, but I am extremely disappointed in how he has sold out transit improvements (even less than ideal ones). This isn't why I voted for him. If the election was held again today, I'd strongly consider voting against him

by Too bad on Jul 13, 2012 5:35 am • linkreport

"The environmental impact of the construction can be mitigated with a green roof, solar panels, or other carbon-neutralizing accommodations."

This comment explains why we have issues with environmental concerns. Being in the architecture field, and working on many sustainable projects, this is way too narrow minded of a response to mitigating the environmental impact. A lot more goes into construction and life cycle of a building to simple just say, "Oh, we have a green roof". There is construction waste management, energy efficiencies of the new building, water use requirements, and more.

If it were so easy to offset environmental impacts as described, then every building would be sustainable, and it would be easy to become LEED Platinum.

[Deleted for violating the comment policy.]

McDuffie is only doing what his neighbors and constituents ask him too. It seems that it is fine in today's world to sacrifice for others benefit. While, these residents will be able to utilize the streetcar (though I wouldn't be surprised if most do not, since they have made it this long without), should they suffer the burden so that it becomes easier for the rest of DC to explore H Street? Seems to me that these longterm residents would rather not have their lifestyle disrupted, and are hoping to have their voice heard. [Deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by Steven Sorrell on Jul 13, 2012 9:52 am • linkreport

Steven, you're spouting nonsense. I'm sorry but I dont find a single one of your statements to have any merit whatsoever. The first half is full of strawmen arguments that you could use to oppose any new building anywhere.

As for your second paragraph, humans did fine without electricity for a long time too. I dont see how this is a useful statement.

Their lifestyle isnt going to be disrupted by the construction of a building on land that they arent currently living on. Get real.

This is all a proxy battle over the future of the streetcars. It has nothing to do with anything except the long-time opponents of the street car retreating, reforming, and attacking from a new position.

by Too bad on Jul 13, 2012 11:19 am • linkreport

@Too Bad

I'm not quite sure how you can find all of my statements without merit. My discussion on environmental impacts is in fact true, as whenever new construction takes place, there is more involved than just "adding a green roof". I work at a firm which is the sustainable consultant on over 100 LEED certified projects in the city.

In addition, I was only playing devils advocate and explaining the other side, since the article was a bit more subjective.

by Steven Sorrell on Jul 13, 2012 11:44 am • linkreport

"discussion on environmental impacts is in fact true, as whenever new construction takes place, there is more involved than just "adding a green roof". "

that would be true whereever the carbarn is located. The only difference between the springarn site and other proposed sites is the loss of pervious surface. A green roof addresses that directly.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 13, 2012 11:50 am • linkreport

Why not finish the rest of the line before deciding what to do for a streetcar barn.

Since the route is "supposed' to go to Benning RD station why not place in the median of East Capitol Street there is enough room about 2 blocks worth of empty space and DC probably owns the land and trains would not be backtracking along the route to get to a barn.

Another option could be near Capitol Heights station on the DC side as there is huge amounts of empty or cheap land and DC has to own some over there.

by kk on Jul 14, 2012 7:04 pm • linkreport

@goldfish,

So, how much money would you be willing to pay to have the car barn south of the PEPCO station? I'm not asking how much the land at Spingarn is worth, I'm asking that between these choices:

A. Carbarn at Spingarn and businesses south of PEPCO
B. Grassy lawn at Spingarn and carbarn south of PEPCO

How much should the city be willing to pay for B?

If I were a businessman being threatened with losing his business thanks to eminent domain, I'd be pretty upset to find out that it was to preserve a lawn.

by David C on Jul 14, 2012 11:49 pm • linkreport

@David C: You seem to be confused who has the burden of proof. I am just a lowly taxpayer; it is my job to show alternatives and raise reasonable doubts. And they have indeed been reasonable, and neither have they been sastified. DDOT, on the other hand, works for people like me, and they are ones that are obligate to show that their choice is the best use of land, resources, and money. Consideration of where the line will go -- Minnesota Ave? -- it is obvious that the Springarn site is a mistake.

If I were a businessman being threatened with losing his business thanks to eminent domain

I proposed using what is currently a Shell gasoline station. This will not put Shell or Joe Mamo (who buys gas station for the real estate investment) out of business.

by goldfish on Jul 16, 2012 11:29 am • linkreport

@goldfish, No, you're confused about what I'm asking you. I'm not asking you to prove anything. I'm trying to determine how much you value things. The argument here is that you think it is worth spending more money to put the streetcar facility somewhere else, and others think it isn't. So I'm just trying to determine the magnitude of that difference. How much is B worth to you over A? It's an opinion, so obviously no proof is needed.

As for the business loss, you also proposed the taxi business and car rental business, so it wasn't just the gas station. I'm not sure Joe Mamo owns that land, but I am sure that once you go to eminent domain, you have an unwilling seller. It's called a taking for a reason. The reason they're unwilling to sell, or why they bought the land in the first place is irrelevant. And if you have no concern for the business owner, how about the people that work there. I'd also be angry if I lost my job to preserve a lawn.

by David C on Jul 16, 2012 11:41 am • linkreport

@David C: I'm trying to determine how much you value things.

Nobody, least of all you, cares how much I value things.

by goldfish on Jul 16, 2012 11:43 am • linkreport

Nobody, least of all you, cares how much I value things.

Well then, why are you making a value argument here? You're whole position is that you value that lawn so much that the facility should be elsewhere. But if no one cares then why are you telling us this? If what you value is irrelevant, than I guess you agree that the lawn is the best location.

by David C on Jul 16, 2012 11:53 am • linkreport

@David C: Let me summarize my arguments: building the streetcar maintenance shed in front of the Spingarn HS is a terrible mistake. The wires, train tracks, and building that will comprise this facility will be ugly. Compared to open grass currently there, this shed can not provide a comparable view of Spingarn HS. The proposed use does not satisfy any education use, and there is no indication that DCPS has any plans to incorporate the facility into its curriculum. The vocational training is better met by providing courses in other trades with higher demand and employment. There are many other commercial and light industrial sites available along Benning Rd that are better suited for this shed.

Your questioning my motivations are of no interest to other readers here. My arguments are to be considered at face value.

by goldfish on Jul 16, 2012 12:37 pm • linkreport

@goldfish, I don't believe I've questioned your motives, but I apologize if I have.

Moving the facility to any other location will cost money. That is the main argument against doing so. It will also make it less useful for education, but that is only a secondary issue. I am only trying to determine how much money you'd be willing to pay to mitigate the issues you see with the proposed location. If moving it to the site of the gas station cost $43 billion, would that be money well spent? Are you of the opinion that regardless of the cost, the facility should be moved elsewhere - even if that means no streetcar?

On one side is the argument that this is cheaper. You're making the argument that we should spend more money for something better. Fine, I'm not asking you why it would be better. I'm asking you how much more money should we be willing to spend for this?

by David C on Jul 16, 2012 12:47 pm • linkreport

DC has spent millions on this project and what does it have to show for it besides 3 streetcars that have been mothballed for the last 4 years and some tracks to nowhere?

...and also the fact that they bought cars years ago ...since they've been sitting in Greenbelt for nearly 3 years.

I just wanted to correct these real quick. The cars that have been sitting unused for years were purchased for the streetcar line in Anacostia/Barry Farm - not H Street. Not that this wasn't a mistake, it's just that it was a mistake on a different project.

by David C on Jul 17, 2012 8:50 am • linkreport

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