Greater Greater Washington

DC studying streetcar to Takoma or Silver Spring

DC will start a one-year study of a north-south transit corridor from Southwest DC to Takoma or Silver Spring. While it's too early to tell what officials will decide, it's clear that Silver Spring's jobs, amenities, and other transit connections make it the most logical terminus.


Photo by BeyondDC on Flickr.

This new corridor, which could operate as BRT but more likely a streetcar, will be one of the largest transit expansions in the District. This study, which is the first step in a longer planning process, will analyze alignments and modes through the entire study corridor to produce no more than three alternatives.

Historically, streetcars ran up 11th Street, 14th Street, and 7th Street/Georgia Avenue, spurring the development of commercial nodes along the way. You can see the vestiges of those lines today at their former termini: the Trolley Turnaround Park at 11th & Monroe Street NW, the streetcar terminal at Colorado Avenue, and downtown Silver Spring, just beyond the Georgia Avenue line's end at Eastern Avenue.

According to project manager Jamie Henson, DDOT has not committed to any exact alignment, but the study will consider corridors from 16th Street NW to as far as a quarter-mile east of 7th Street or Georgia Avenue. The original 2010 plan for the 37-mile network depicted a line running from Buzzard Point through downtown on 7th Street SW/NW and F Street NW, then along 14th Street NW, U Street NW, and finally on Georgia Avenue NW to Takoma. The plan described Silver Spring as a future extension along Georgia Avenue.


Image by the author, based on a DDOT map.

Though DDOT will study BRT and a wider range of alignments, the original alignment is still a possibility. The agency just announced that its preferred alternative for the Union Station-Georgetown transit line is a streetcar on H Street NE/NW, New Jersey Avenue NW and K Street NW, mirroring the original mode and alignment in the 2010 streetcar plan.

DDOT will compare streetcars to BRT, but not entirely

This phase of the study will consider modes such as BRT and streetcars, assessing the travel time, reliability, level of service, access to jobs, and types of trips served. The study will consider the trade-offs and desirability of running the line in dedicated lanes versus mixed traffic. DDOT will also contemplate whether the new service should prioritize speed and install fewer stops, or increase the number of stops to reduce walking.

Henson said the study will consider construction and operating costs of BRT versus streetcar, but Henson dismissed the differences in real estate development each mode sparks, saying development along the north-south corridor will happen regardless of mode. The Office of Planning's 2012 Streetcar Land Use Study, however, clearly favors streetcars' development potential for the District:

Although well-designed BRT systems attract some development, their impacts are typically much less than those for railand the BRT systems that have generated the strongest development response operate on exclusive rights of way at all times and not in mixed traffic, as the District streetcar would. In cities without the potential to attract much development investment, implementation costs and other factors give buses a clear advantage. In the District, however, streetcar service appears very likely to attract significant real estate investment.
Weighing the costs of construction and operation without accounting for land value appreciation misses an important part of financing the eventual project. DDOT recently announced that the District government will finance the streetcar, while contracting to a private firm to design, build, operate, and maintain the system.

The District has not decided whether it will finance the full streetcar network through TIFs, general tax revenue, or special bond programs, but one thing is clear: bonds will have to be paid off through some stream of tax revenue, either a special account or the general fund. It's essential to compare the new tax revenue each mode generates, but this will likely wait for a later phase.

Extending the corridor to Silver Spring is in DC's interest

While keeping the north-south streetcar entirely in DC would be politically easier, there are many compelling reasons why terminating it at the Silver Spring Metro station would benefit the District and the region as a whole.

One of the main lessons our region learned from constructing the Metro is that all parts of the region thrive when everyone cooperates on transportation planning. The streetcars provide a valuable opportunity to further knit together the region's many vibrant walkable urban places both socially and economically.

When connected with urban-oriented transit infrastructure, urban places make each other more desirable because people in one location enjoy the benefits of all the other urban places. Even though it's on the other side of Eastern Avenue, District residents will more easily enjoy all that Silver Spring has to offer with more robust transit access via the north-south streetcar.

Silver Spring is a regional jobs center with 40,000 jobs and more to come. DC's northernmost neighborhoods would have an easy, quick reverse commute just across Eastern Avenue to a major regional jobs center. And unlike the Takoma Metro Station, Silver Spring is a major transit hub connecting not just the Red Line, but also MARC, the future Purple Line, and numerous bus lines to places throughout DC and Maryland.

It's also a regional shopping and entertainment hub, home to the Fillmore music hall, the American Film Institute Silver Theater, a public outdoor ice rink as well as free concerts at Veterans' Plaza, a farmers' market, and some regionally notable bars and restaurants. Not surprisingly, the 70/79 Metrobus, which serves the 7th Street/Georgia Avenue corridor between Southwest DC and Silver Spring today, is one of the most popular bus lines in the system.

Even though Silver Spring is just outside DDOT's jurisdiction, it would obviously win out over Takoma if transit projects followed economic, not jurisdictional, boundaries. Furthermore, two Montgomery County Councilmembers have asked DC Mayor Vincent Gray to consider Silver Spring as a terminal.

Share your views with DDOT next week

The District is hosting four meetings to kick off the study next week. In this first round, the agency is interested in learning your views on the eventual plan's features. Do you prefer faster travel times to frequent stops? Do you think the new line should run in its own dedicated lane at all or only in certain places? What impacts on street parking would you consider unacceptable? Do you prefer Takoma or Silver Spring as a northern terminus?

  • Buzzard Point to Downtown: Monday, November 4 from 6:30 to 8:30pm, St. Augustine's Episcopal Church, 600 M Street SW.
  • Downtown to Petworth: Tuesday, November 5 from 6:30 to 8:30pm, Reeves Center, 2000 14th Street NW.
  • Businesses (entire study area): Wednesday, November 6 from 2pm to 4pm, Reeves Center, 2000 14th Street NW.
  • Petworth to Silver Spring: Thursday, November 7 from 6:30 to 8:30pm, Emery Recreation Center, 5701 Georgia Avenue NW.
All project studies involve trade-offs of some sort and the agency is interested in hearing what the public's priorities are. Everyone is welcome to attend any meeting, regardless of residence. For more information, visit the study website.
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Eric Fidler has lived in DC and suburban Maryland his entire life. He likes long walks along the Potomac and considers the L'Enfant Plan an elegant work of art. He also blogs at Left for LeDroit, LeDroit Park's (only) blog of record. 
Cavan Wilk became interested in the physical layout and economic systems of modern human settlements while working on his Master's in Financial Economics. His writing often focuses on the interactions between a place's form, its economic systems, and the experiences of those who live in them. He lives in downtown Silver Spring. 

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Great article. What's politically easier shouldn't trump what's best for the region as a whole. Not absorbing all that existing and future transit volume (purple line) would be disasterous. It also seems vital that the line have a dedicated route the whole length, or else how else would it be different than the various bus routes. Whether it shoudl be BRT or a street car I'll leave to those who know better, but this will be a boon to the whole Georgia Avenue Corridor.

As for the exact route, 11th, Georgia, 14th or 16th, I'd say either 14th or Georgia. Eitherway, it will cause a sea change in how cummuters use that route and in where development will happen in the next 20 years.

by Thayer-D on Oct 31, 2013 10:28 am • linkreport

I hope Montgomery County elected officials do everything they can to convince DDOT to have the streetcar go to Silver Spring.

by Chester B. on Oct 31, 2013 10:33 am • linkreport

Given that MoCo seems supportive, I'm not sure why this would be that politically difficult. Yes some time and effort will be needed for negotiations on route details, financing, and any MoCo participation in operations. And some residents of Takoma may not like the SS choice. But I doubt the political obstacles will be as severe as those involved in redeveloping McMillan - and will be much less than those involved in say, the ADU issue or the parking minimum issue.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Oct 31, 2013 10:35 am • linkreport

Part of me wants to ask "Why not both?" but yes, Silver Spring makes sense because there are a lot of businesses in DC on that route that would miss out if it cut over towards Takoma Anyway. Particular the blocks around Geranium St.

by drumz on Oct 31, 2013 10:42 am • linkreport

Picking Silver Spring over Takoma should be a no-brainer on this. Less clear is whether it should stay on 7th or take the jog over to 14th thru downtown.

by Froggie on Oct 31, 2013 10:44 am • linkreport

16th Street desperately needs higher capacity - southbound buses are full before they even reach Spring Road.

by Matt on Oct 31, 2013 10:59 am • linkreport

It's encouraging to see that MoCo officials want it going to Silver Spring. At this early a stage they can really have a big impact on what will happen with this line.

by BK on Oct 31, 2013 11:11 am • linkreport

not going to silver spring would be a mistake. The purple line is going to be a big deal. The buses at the deathtrap SS transit hub are also important. It would be nice to hit MARC but I am not sure it is crucial.

If it did go to Tacoma, could it be routed up 320 to the purple line Long Branch station or up 410 to SS library or SS station.

by Richard on Oct 31, 2013 11:31 am • linkreport

Getting back to the Height Act revisions, the DC side of Silver Spring would be an excellent location for taller buildings, especially if the revenue from some of these taller 15-20 floor buildings could be used to fund this streetcar route.

by 202_cyclist on Oct 31, 2013 11:31 am • linkreport

If the District is really serious about high quality transit in that corridor, it will build a dedicated streetcar/light rail right-of-way similar to what you see in many European cities. And even some American cities -- see Main Street in Houston.Both 16th Street and Georgia Avenue have plenty of room for a dedicated transit-way. Of course, that approach would mean taking away travel lanes from cars. Given the debacle with the M Street cycle track, I'm not sure the District's political leaders have the courage to take lanes from cars and dedicate them to transit over such a long corridor. The opposition to such a project would be fierce. Some of the opposition, such as from merchants afraid of losing car capacity, would be short-sighted and against their own self interest. It's too bad, because a dedicated streetcar/light rail transit-way in that corridor would be fantastic.

by rg on Oct 31, 2013 11:33 am • linkreport

This is probably just a pipe dream, but since we are talking about early stages planning here, why indeed not both? We could address the concerns of drumz, Froggie, and Matt with TWO lines -- one predominantly along 14th and/or 16th to SS, and one along 7th and Georgia to Takoma, with the lines intersecting or sharing some track at some point to allow for easy transfers.

by mike on Oct 31, 2013 11:38 am • linkreport

Picking Silver Spring over Takoma should be a no-brainer on this. Less clear is whether it should stay on 7th or take the jog over to 14th thru downtown.
No, the real question is whether it should shift to 16th Street, 14th Street, or 11th Street. Keeping it on 7th makes absolutely no sense when full-bore Metro is already online underneath 7th street and providing a high level of service that would be exactly replicated by a 7th street streetcar. Sending it down 11th instead expands the coverage area and distributes foot traffic over the four blocks between 7th and 11th at what is essentially zero convenience cost to streetcar users. 14th or 16th Street is farther away and does impose a convenience cost on streetcar users in the form of one transfer to get to Mount Vernon Square instead of a five-minute walk, but would go a long way towards filling the Metro hole between MVS and Dupont Circle.

by Ryan on Oct 31, 2013 11:51 am • linkreport

It would be nice to see Montgomery do a few things to make it easier for DDOT to do the right thing planning-wise...like offer to help with planning costs or anything to show they don't just expect to do the whole lift themselves. Spoken as a former Montgomery Silver Spring res...

by jnb on Oct 31, 2013 12:02 pm • linkreport

SS makes more sense than Takoma, in terms of potential riders, particularly given SS's function as an employment center. the real boon, though would be to upper Georgia Avenue's commercial areas and the redevelopment of Walter Reed. Given DTSS's not entirely successful embrace of chain retailing and chain restaurants and neglect of other stuff, the old streetcar strips on Georgia have potential to be quirkier, more interesting areas with more vitality than they have now and the streetcar would bring customers from DTSS as well as from DC neighborhoods. The streetcar also would mitigate Wal-Mart's probable destruction of much of the existing small business.

I tend to be a DTSS pessimist--it's been "turning a corner" for the last 20 years yet remains dead much of the day, and frankly depressing at night, even when AFI and the Fillmore have big events on the same night. Last time I was there on weekend evening, only Red Lobster seemed to be operating at full tilt among the restaurants. the hotels are in the wrong place and the successful retail is in an awkward place to drive, far from Metro. The streetcar might give a lift to the non employment functions in DTSS, but I would bank on that less than a revival of the upper NW neighborhoods in the Georgia corridor.

Using 11th to Georgia may be the simplest routing (wide streets) with a little less green line overlap than 14th and would help some moribund commercial areas. Using 16th street makes less sense--no retail and it's relatively narrow as a right of way and is mostly low density residential.

by Rich on Oct 31, 2013 12:06 pm • linkreport

It would be nice if the capacity of the 16th street bus lines could be increased. It would also be nice if the street car line traveled through the commercial part of 14th street. Maybe multiple north south lines are appropriate running on 16th, 14th, and 7th streets, all meeting somewhere to allow passengers to transfer to other lines. Basically, replace the existing bus lines with streetcar lines. Perhaps a lightrail solution similar to San Francisco's Muni Metro is an option too.

As for dedicate vs mixed lanes, I think it's a no brainer. Dedicated lanes are the way to go to ensure reliable and on time performance. It seems like most successful transit systems in the world use dedicated lanes for buses, streetcars, and light rail.

As for parking, I have never understood why parking along a major corridor, such as 16th and 14th streets, is allowed. As a DC tax payer and car-free household, I do not understand why my tax dollars go to subsidizing parking for others at the cost of increasing travel times and congestion for public transit. I think placing parking garages (possibly under ground) in key locations near multiple transit lines is a better solution. Then repurpose parking lanes as dedicated transit lanes.

by Derrick on Oct 31, 2013 12:33 pm • linkreport

I think there is a strong argument to be made to have this run up 11th or 9th. 9th is already considerably wide given the amount of traffic it handles, and as Ryan noted, it makes sense to have a streetcar address the transit gap b/t MVS and Dupont by having it run along something west of 7th.

9th, IMO is ideal because of the capacity issue, and the fact that the 9th street corridor easily links up with Sherman/Georgia and is already zoned for commercial uses.

by JTS on Oct 31, 2013 12:37 pm • linkreport

Even though there's a Metro underground, running the streetcar up 14th to Columbia Heights and then cutting over to Georgia would be better. The Howard U. area is much more self-contained and the area between U and Irving on 14th is increasing in population rapidly.

Of course ideally both the 14th Street line to SS and the 7th Street line to Takoma would both be restored.

Metrorail has far too few stops for urban transit.

by Tom Coumaris on Oct 31, 2013 12:40 pm • linkreport

Streetcar to Silver Spring via any north-south alignment is a no-brainer.

As for the alignment, I prefer a Georgia Avenue alignment; it is already a historic commercial corridor that extends all the way up to Silver Spring. There is far more development value along that route especially the Walter Reed plans, all of which favor Georgia Avenue for the bulk of the development.

16th Street, while it definitely needs bus improvements (light timing, dedicated transit lanes, etc.) doesn't have the same development potential as it is almost purely single-family residential north of Columbia Heights.

by Adam L on Oct 31, 2013 12:55 pm • linkreport

Dedicated streetcar tracks in/replacing the 16th St median would be a huge help to not only the quiet, upper NW neighborhoods but the ones south of Piney Branch as well. The Georgia Ave corridor is already helped (if not 100%) by Metro Rail. Or maybe have it go (from north to south) Georgia-Colorado-16th.

by Kev29 on Oct 31, 2013 1:22 pm • linkreport

I would LOVE for this to happen, and live right in the middle of that corridor in 16th st heights. I would use it wherever they end up putting it.

My vote would actually be for up 13th street.

Based on my experience on the 14th and 16th street busses during rush hour, unless they can create real right of ways, it wont be particularly helpful. 13th street is similar to the way 11th street trolley lines used to be. Having them on a smaller "neighborhood" road will give them more of a right of way without having to compete with thoroughfares. 13th also goes from SW all the way up to Piney Branch road and Ft Totten (or GA Aave to Silver Spring).

by DAJ on Oct 31, 2013 1:47 pm • linkreport

Terminus: I've lived in Takoma DC for a few years and really hope that the streetcar goes there. I bought a home there partly with the expectation that we would eventually be getting a streetcar. It will really help with the neighborhood's development. The commercial strips still have lots of parking lots and 1 story buildings. Some development is on the way but far more will come if DC sticks to the original plan and restores the historic Takoma streetcar. They can make a DC metro station a transit hub or they can help a suburb.

Route: I think it should go on Georgia once it gets to U St but from there through downtown I'm not sure. 14th St south of Mass is such a clusterf*ck every afternoon. If they were able to get a dedicated lane for buses and streetcar there, and enforce it, then I would be supportive. I'm skeptical though. The buses take a lot of time on-boarding and off-boarding people in that area so even that would really slow down the streetcars.

14th and 16th: I would like to see BRT connecting downtown DC to Silver Spring along 16th St. The buses on 14th and 16th are often packed and this will help meet that demand. There is also more room for dedicated lanes on 16th St than on 14th St. They could also change the route to Georgia Ave once it gets to Walter Reed. The streets are close together up there so it wouldn't be a big detour. That would allow it to go right across the front of Walter Reed, reinvigorate the area between there and Silver Spring, and enter Silver Spring via Georgia Ave. It could even share a stop at Butternut and Georgia with the Takoma streetcar.

by TakomaNick on Oct 31, 2013 2:55 pm • linkreport

TakomaNick, the development situation in Takoma and Takoma Park is by choice. Both places have a history of restricting development of all types. A new streetcar isn't going to change that.

by Cavan on Oct 31, 2013 3:21 pm • linkreport

why not put the street car on N. Capitol? That's where the huge gap in public transport is. This street car line looks like it would just duplicate existing green-yellow infrastructure.

by jcbhan on Oct 31, 2013 3:38 pm • linkreport

+1 jcbhan. North Cap needs a lot of help - the 80 bus can hardly handle the people now. Metro had an opportunity to do something big and bold with the 80, but it seems like they're punting and only making small changes. Bad move, imo. If McMillan happens - which isn't a given, but if it does - something big needs to be done for North Cap or else you may as well start referring to it as the North Capitol Parking Lot. DC should get going on that brown line (http://tinyurl.com/mgesm6o) or prioritize the Michigan Ave and Rhode Island Ave Streetcars.

by Shipsa01 on Oct 31, 2013 3:53 pm • linkreport

Cavan,

It's the old generation who has worked to block development in Takoma. Sara Green runs ANC 4B and opposes everything. Her husband, Richard Holzsager, moderates the local listserv and also opposes everything as does her friend Faith Wheeler, who is also an ANC member. There are hundreds of new apartment units either under construction or in the planning stages in Takoma DC. The new residents are unlikely to agree with the existing leadership.

Local ANC members and other activists may be able to win concessions like setbacks, more parking, or making a building a little shorter, but economic forces will prevail and development will come. Building a streetcar would make those economic forces stronger.

Takoma Park (MD) is far more anti-development than Takoma (DC). All of the development in the immediate future is on the DC side. Takoma Park residents like Councilman Seth Grimes often try to block development in Takoma DC but they really don't have say and they shouldn't.

by TakomaNick on Oct 31, 2013 4:07 pm • linkreport

NorthCap would be interesting, but you have to consider the development potential. I've always thought there was a tremendous amount of land around North Cap that was way under-developed, minus the Soldiers Home, but I think most of the potential is on Georgia. BTW, I'd get the Historic preservation people to put a hold on some of the nicer nodules of character up Georgia before the money boys get in there.

by Thayer-D on Oct 31, 2013 4:10 pm • linkreport

North Cap is a bit of a no man's land for about 2 miles around the Old Soldier's Home, Catholic University, Rock Creek Cemetary, Archbishop Carroll High, and Ft. Totten Park. There is some residential once it connects with Blair but still no commercial areas for it to transform like H St. In my opinion the Georgia Ave streetcar is more about spurring gentrification on Georgia Ave than about improving transportation options.

I would love for that dead zone on North Cap to be redesigned at some point and turned into a neighborhood. There are more travel lanes than necessary and there is grass on the sides. Perhaps it could be developed in some interesting way. That would come in long after McMillan though.

by TakomaNick on Oct 31, 2013 4:18 pm • linkreport

"In my opinion the Georgia Ave streetcar is more about spurring gentrification on Georgia Ave than about improving transportation options. "

gentrification = adding more housing stock. The city would have to be crazy not to think about development potential when laying out this route. The city needs to think about the people who are coming to this city and where to best accomodate them.

I agree with North Cap though. Just at that mini highway intersection with Michigan, one could plat the heck out of that area for some serious housing.

by Thayer-D on Oct 31, 2013 4:23 pm • linkreport

Without a dedicated right of way, there may as well have a lot of stops. The thing is going to sit in traffic and be restricted to slow speeds anyway. If instead it gets a dedicated right of way, the streetcar can operate more like a Metro line with fewer stops and higher speeds. The second option is clearly better if this is to be a serious transportation option. In terms of real estate development, the no-right-of-way option probably gets you more 'nodes' around the less frequent stops, whereas the right-of-way option probably gets you more consistent development.

The choice on the right of way for me comes down to one of weighting and purpose. Is this going to be a 'development project' or a 'transportation project'?

by David G. on Oct 31, 2013 4:56 pm • linkreport

@TakomaNick

It's funny that you call the place that has the jobs, the shopping, the cultural amenities, the transit, and (of course) the tall buildings "a suburb," yet Takoma, which has much less going on but happens to be on the right side of Eastern Avenue, is "the city." It says a lot about the words we use and how inaccurate they can really be.

As Cavan and Eric point out, the jurisdictional lines we draw are often irrelevant to how people actually work. Running the streetcar wouldn't be "helping a suburb," as you describe it, but helping DC by bringing its residents to the place where many of them already work and shop.

by dan reed! on Oct 31, 2013 5:25 pm • linkreport

It currently takes a little more than 30 minutes to travel from Petworth to the downtown core during rush hour via bus. The buses are slowed mainly because they stop at every other block and car traffic. So yes, lets give the street cars a dedicated lane (my vote is 11th all the way up to Georgia Ave and then to 9th street for the rest of the trip to Silver Spring) and space the stops every four or five blocks and we can have a relatively fast and comfortable thing going for ourselves.

Let the cars have Georgia, 14th and 16th, put the street cars in dedicated lanes on 11th/9th street, and move the bikes over to 13th. Everyone gets a ride.

by Sherman Circle on Oct 31, 2013 5:29 pm • linkreport

North Capitol, 7th/Georgia, 11th, and 16th with their own dedicated lanes down the entire route, for starters. Even that isn't thinking big enough but it would be a start.

But most importantly, 100% dedicated lanes or GTFO.

by MetroDerp on Oct 31, 2013 5:36 pm • linkreport

FWIW, it's not a good idea to call the 2010 plan "original." The 2003 plan and the alignment shown in the 2006 Comp. Plan Transpo. ELement show a Silver Spring destination.

I criticized the very hermetic approach to streetcar planning in the previous administration--which ended up with the Takoma alignment--"we only want to serve us"--us being DC citizens.

http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2010/04/looking-backwards-vs-looking-forwards.html

2. As far as the discussion here goes, you have to separate the service within the core from outside the core. Georgia Ave. makes a stronger case from U St. than 14th St. or 16th St. do from U Street, especially in terms of the need for a revitalization spark.

The problem is within the core. As people point out maybe 7th St. isn't the most important street to have service on.

3. As far as the service to both Takoma and Silver Spring question goes, that's how it worked historically. Theoretically, a line to Takoma could be continued through Takoma Park to U. Blvd. and connect with the Purple Line.

4. 16th St. is an interesting question. If streetcars could add capacity, maybe it's deserving of its own line, given that it is now the #2 busline in terms of ridership in the city.

5. WRT the comment that Georgia, 14th and 16th Streets could all have streetcars, of course 14th and Georgia did. It's interesting to figure out why 16th St. didn't, I would guess because the apartment development along that corridor came long after the heyday of streetcars.

by Richard Layman on Oct 31, 2013 7:17 pm • linkreport

What about doing both or restoring the old streetcar lines that have a proven track record the 50's, 70's and 30's all of which get huge ridership and then afterwards focus on these lines.

Why should development matter or not whether a place gets a streetcar what about the benefit of the community. Other things are not built for development purposes so why this why not provide service to areas that have no service first as someone mentioned North Capitol or any other street in DC.

Hubs for transit as a reason for Silver Spring as I recall all metro stations outside of Gallery Place, Metro Center, Archives, Smithsonian, L'Enfant Plaza, Capitol South, Eastern Market, Benning Road, Cleveland Park, Forest Glen, White Flint, Grovesnor, Pentagon City, Virginia Sq, Court House, Morgan Blvd, Clarendon, Landover, Waterfront and Navy Yard are all transit hubs. There are many Ride On buses as well as Metrobuses that terminate at Takoma

by kk on Oct 31, 2013 9:02 pm • linkreport

I agree with kk on restoring the older lines if that makes sense, but a street car would be about improving transit options to current residents and future development. It's like the old time lib's in S.S. who decry that the Purple line is all about the benjamins when thier own community developet exactly the same. Allow for more smart growth and by increasing supply, you then create more affordability.

When the original street cars where laid out, development followed. Infact one can still see the old stops on Georgia Avenue by where and how the architecture flares up in density. Point being the original lines where built for handling future growth (development), where as now they need to do both that and make the most sense with-in already developed areas.

This is where the city seems to really be missing. Where are the numbers on what kind of development can be handled with these proposed lines? We all know why they shy away from this point, but it seems ridiculous becasue who dosen't work for money besides some serious do-gooders (god bless them)? Stop tip-toeing around this point, tell citizens that growth is coming and show why building around transit is the best way to preserve and even enhance the quality of life for all it's citizens. And for god's sake show drawings of what up-zoning would/could look like around these stops. Don't pretend that it's just about removing current cars off the road, but explain intelligently why they call it smart growth.

by Thayer-D on Nov 1, 2013 6:11 am • linkreport

Terminating the route in Silver Spring would make perfect sense since most of the buses going up Georgia Ave terminate there already.

Next DC should look at building a streetcar along the Rhode Island Ave/Rte 1 corridor going over the DC line to Hyattsville or even College Park.

by King Terrapin on Nov 1, 2013 10:40 am • linkreport

King Terrapin -- I suggested a RI Ave. streetcar in the DCAA back in 2003, but it never made it into the plan then. It was added in the 2010 planning.

I did find out around 2004-2006 that MTA did a streetcar study for Rte. 1 in association with the Gateway Arts District planning efforts in the late 1990s.

In a meeting once with Peter Shapiro in 2005 he suggested such a line could go to Laurel, and another side conversation probably in 2007 at the Gateway CDC annual meeting, a board member suggested that such a line could start at Dupont Circle, rather than the RI Metro, which I thought was a pretty good idea as well.

by Richard Layman on Nov 1, 2013 10:57 am • linkreport

That's very interesting, Richard. A RI Ave streetcar that starts at Connecticut Avenue and ends either at the intersection of Baltimore Ave and East-West or at Baltimore Ave and University Blvd makes a lot of sense. It wouldn't be about through trips as taking the Metro would be a lot faster. There are a lot of good walkable nodes on Rhode Island that are between Metro stations and are too far to walk to them such as Bloomingdale, and Mount Rainier. Such a streetcar would be about hooking such nodes up to fixed rail transit that will get them to the Metro.

by Cavan on Nov 1, 2013 11:35 am • linkreport

I criticized the very hermetic approach to streetcar planning in the previous administration--which ended up with the Takoma alignment--"we only want to serve us"--us being DC citizens.

The Takoma terminus is indeed hermetic, but I don't think it's for that reason. Rather, it's about $$$.

Running the streetcar to Silver Spring makes a great deal of sense, but the benefit would be more for Silver Spring that for DC. To make it happen, MoCo has to chip in.

Does it make sense for the line to go to SS? Yes. Does it make sense for DC to pay for the entirety of a line that goes to SS? Probably not.

by Alex B. on Nov 1, 2013 11:58 am • linkreport

That RIAve Streetcar would do wonders helping the future car-centric McMillan Development (as would a Michigan Ave one (from the 37-mile priority plan: http://www.dcstreetcar.com/projects/37-mile-streetcar-system/)). As of now, there are no plans provided by either the contractors (http://envisionmcmillan.com/resources/) or the city, to help with traffic and getting people out of cars. North Cap is going to be a nightmare - even more clogged and congested (and worse, 1st Street) - as a result.

Aside from McMillan though, there's also Walter Reed and the Washington Hospital Center that could use the help of a streetcar. Could you have it go from Silver Spring down Georgia past Walter Reed, cut over to Wash Hospital and then down North Cap past McMillan? Something like: http://goo.gl/maps/p0s10

by Shipsa01 on Nov 1, 2013 12:01 pm • linkreport

Alex B. -- I don't see how a streetcar going all the way to the DC line wouldn't help Georgia Avenue revitalization significantly. This days it remains the only significantly languishing corridor in the Northwest Quadrant. And that includes the section from Butternut to Eastern Ave. But it doesn't make sense to stop the line at Eastern Ave.

2. The follow up point that Cavan made to mine wrt RI Ave. is that a streetcar doesn't provide through service. True, the strength would be that it provides more reliable connections from neighborhoods to higher speed transit service at Metrorail stations.

This being a great benefit for the RI Ave. corridor would also pertain to a streetcar on GA Ave. going to Silver Spring.

THE OTHER THING that people like me didn't realize and Alex B., you probably don't either, is how many Upper NW DC residents take buses to and from Silver Spring Metro because it is easier to get to than other alternatives.

I didn't realize this, but MoCo people I know who were doing political pamphleting at the Silver Spring Metro in the 2008 election cycle commented to me about how they were struck by how many of the station users were DC residents--unless they were lying because they didn't want to listen, which I doubt.

Of course, to confirm it, we'd need a zip code analysis of riders.

Anyway I see the value of doing a loop to the Metro at Takoma as part of a Georgia Avenue corridor service.

The other issue would be a separated yellow line long term and a South Silver Spring stop, on the Red Line too. As just as we are talking about long term changes to see the results from a height limit, the same goes for the Eastern Ave. edge of DC there. It would intensify over time, especially with the build out of Walter Reed and intensification between Missouri Ave. and Piney Branch Road.

by Richard Layman on Nov 1, 2013 12:41 pm • linkreport

Shipsa01 -- during the Brookland Small Area Planning process, I argued that development at McMillan and AFRH should be tied into transit improvements of the streetcar. OP was very resistant to tying the two together and they didn't put such a recommendation in the plan.

But that was for the line from Woodley to Brookland (which separately I've argued should be extended to Georgetown and Tenleytown on the west and as far as to UMD on the east -- http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2009/11/dc-streetcar-planning.html). I didn't mention the RI Ave. idea as part of that process, although I did mention streetcar connection between Brookland and RI Ave. and Providence Hospital, which a CUA urban design studio took up and studied.

Two comparable examples of linking development approvals to transit infrastructure: (1) the Chevy Chase Sector Plan in MoCo has two tiers of development recommendations triggered by the building of the Purple Line; (2) new construction at Potomac Yard is tied to both TDM planning and targets, and investments in bus, streetcar and heavy rail infrastructure--otherwise permits for construction can't be released.

by Richard Layman on Nov 1, 2013 12:45 pm • linkreport

The one thing I get from reading lots of comments about the streetcar route is that North Capitol Street should have more bus service.

The ridership and uses along that corridor absolutely does not support a streetcar at this point, but it seems like people are really clamoring for more transit there.

Of course, the streetcar plans include a line going along Irving/Michigan Ave and serving this area, which is probably the way people at McMillan will want to travel.

by MLD on Nov 1, 2013 1:08 pm • linkreport

I don't see how a streetcar going all the way to the DC line wouldn't help Georgia Avenue revitalization significantly.

It would, I don't doubt that. But that's not very useful in terms of transportation.

And none of that changes the fact that if we (the broad based public) wants the streetcar to go to Silver Spring, then some Maryland entity will have to chip in to help pay for it.

THE OTHER THING that people like me didn't realize and Alex B., you probably don't either, is how many Upper NW DC residents take buses to and from Silver Spring Metro because it is easier to get to than other alternatives.

No, I am fully aware of this.

But that still doesn't change what I'm saying. DC can't do it without partnership from MoCo, and part of that partnership will likely need to involve some cold, hard cash.

Asking if Silver Spring makes more sense than Takoma as a terminus is asking the wrong question. The right question to ask is what deal needs to be made to make this cross-jurisdictional project a reality?

by Alex B. on Nov 1, 2013 1:23 pm • linkreport

Alex B.,

I wondered whether the project would run into some strange state law in Maryland that makes streetcars onerous to operate on state roads. Obviously in DC, we can easily change our own laws, but requiring an act of the Maryland legislature for a short segment of streetcar track might be difficult. I guess we'll find out.

However, I'm not so sure that Montgomery County needs to pay for anything. What if the first stop after the Silver Spring Metro is inside the District? I'm not sure that benefits Montgomery County enough to warrant any contribution.

Furthermore, though I understand it may be inappropriate to compare buses and streetcars, Montgomery County Ride On buses cross into the District to service Sibley Hospital, Eastern and Western Avenues, and to access the bus bays at the Takoma Station. I doubt the District pays for those Ride On routes.

by Eric Fidler on Nov 1, 2013 1:43 pm • linkreport

Eric and Alex,

There is no state law that would a problem for streetcars. Georgia Avenue is U.S. 29 between Colesville Road and Rhode Island Ave. NW. In Maryland, as in D.C., U.S. Highways are maintained by the State DOT (DDOT in D.C.). There are two types of counties in Maryland, charter and commissioner. Commissioner counties are the mostly rural counties and are reliant on their state delegation for almost all funding. They have little say about state roads since all their funding comes from Annapolis.

On the other hand, the State Highway Administration (SHA) has a very different relationship with charter counties like Montgomery. Charter counties have their own council and executive branch and they also have more responsibility for funding their own non-state roads. They also have revenue streams that aren't dependent on the state delegation.

In the charter counties, the SHA has a default road configuration that they maintain if the county doesn't ask for changes. However, the SHA will make changes to a road if the county funds it. Streetcars would fall in this category. The SHA would either take the county's money (regardless of whether the money comes from county taxes and/or is routed from District construction funds) to add streetcar tracks or let the District and/or county contract it themselves and provide oversight.

I have no doubt that the lawyers from the District, Montgomery County, and Maryland would be able to draft agreements that are legal and satisfactory to all parties.

by Cavan on Nov 1, 2013 2:13 pm • linkreport

Alex B.,

Asking if Silver Spring makes more sense than Takoma as a terminus is asking the wrong question. The right question to ask is what deal needs to be made to make this cross-jurisdictional project a reality?

While that is a fair question, now isn't the time to ask it. Now is the time to articulate a vision then turn that vision into a plan. It's assumed that people behind the scenes on both sides of the border have a rough ballpark estimate of needed construction monies. First we need to articulate why the professionals and elected officials on both sides of Eastern Avenue should talk to each other.

Running the streetcar to Silver Spring makes a great deal of sense, but the benefit would be more for Silver Spring that for DC. To make it happen, MoCo has to chip in.

It's 3.5 miles from the Georgia Avenue-Petworth Metro to the border on Georgia Avenue, and an even 4 miles to the Georgia/Colesville intersection next to the Silver Spring Metro. That's 3.5 miles of small apartment buildings that are nowhere near the Metro. That's the densest residential part of the city that doesn't have Metro service (16th Street NW between Florida Ave and the Lion Bridge is proximate to U St and Columbia Heights). As Richard noted, thousands of D.C. residents take the 70/79 bus to the Silver Spring Metro. They also take the 70/79 bus to the amenities in Silver Spring. Heck, they take the bus to the Safeway in Shepherd Park that's north of the proposed turn-off towards Takoma.

I don't disagree that the northern terminus in Silver Spring would be beneficial to people in Silver Spring too. However, it won't be as beneficial as to D.C. residents who live between the Petworth Metro and Silver Spring given existing development patterns and known development plans in the pipeline. The key is that there is already a Metro station in Silver Spring while the folks in northern Petworth, Brightwood, and southern Shepherd Park don't have one that's an easy walk. There are negligible jobs and no regional-serving amenities between Petworth and Eastern Avenue, at least until the new McMillan project opens. Almost all of the District's jobs and regional-serving amenities are on the Metro so Silver Spring already has access to those. Therefore, the streetcar would be a bigger benefit to the District under existing development patterns.

That being said, I don't disagree with the concept that Montgomery County should chip in for its half mile or so of service. I am also confident that those details will be worked out at a negotiating table after the studies are completed and the political will to break ground is there.

by Cavan on Nov 1, 2013 2:36 pm • linkreport

Connecting DC residences to Silver Spring employment gives Silver Spring an advantage for attracting employers, over its competitors in NoVa and PG. The notion that a transit connection from a residential area to an employment/activity center only benefits the residential area seems incorrect to me (and maybe is why some DC residents are skeptical of the seperate Blue line?)

MoCo should definitely contribute something. But I agree, the details of that do not need to be worked out now.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 1, 2013 2:43 pm • linkreport

Richard Layman,

It doesn't really make any sense to factor into the streetcar discussion what our plans are going to be for a separated Yellow Line. While we are going to need to separate the Yellow Line eventually, there's at least four very good routings that I can see for it and two of them are wholly inappropriate for a streetcar (14th to NY Ave, NY Ave to Montana Ave, then either NEC to Cheverly or Camden Line to Riverdale, with provisions for future extensions).

I'm quite comfortable ignoring the Yellow Line in streetcar network discussions as there's basically no chance for us to build ourselves into a situation where we can't split off the Yellow Line without replicating infrastructure, never mind the fact that our spending priorities could change by that point in time such that we might even decide it's worth replicating the infrastructure to replace, say, the 16th Avenue Streetcar/Transitway with full-bore Metrorail.

And in any case, Separated Yellow Line is a 2045 issue, not a 2015 one, which brings me to my other point that I wanted to make...

(and maybe is why some DC residents are skeptical of the seperate Blue line?)
Personally, I'm skeptical of the separate Blue Line because Metrorail is hard at work trying to Rush Plus the Blue Line out of existence and nobody really seems to care, because hey, when the M Street Subway finally gets rolling all our troubles will be behind us!

You might as well start referring to it as the separate Silver Line, at this point, because I'm predicting it now: the Blue Line will be gone by the time the M Street Subway opens for revenue service in 2045.

by Ryan on Nov 1, 2013 3:40 pm • linkreport

I think that the streetcar should go to Silver Spring even though I live in Takoma DC. I think that the line would have better connections in Silver Spring to the Purple Line, Red Line, and other bus lines. But perhaps they might be better off having a spur that stops at Takoma and the main line to Silver Spring. Some of the streetcars would go to Silver Spring; others would divert to Takoma via Butternut Street.

by Rain17 on Nov 2, 2013 2:06 am • linkreport

@ Richard Layman

Thats not uncommon to see DC residents at Maryland metro stations or the opposite.

I see it all the time at Ft Totten, Deanwood, Takoma in DC with Maryland residents taking buses into PG County and at West Hyattsville, Friendship Heights, Capitol Heights, Southern Ave, Naylor Rd for DC residents taking buses into DC.

It has nothing to do with where people want to go but with the routing of bus routes. If the 70 line was switched to Takoma or Forest Glen tomorrow without stop at or near Silver Spring you would those stations have more riders.

Instead of complaining about the routing why not complain about the lack of ability to get around the city outside of downtown. Many parts of DC require trips to downtown even when you dont need to go there because of the way our bus routes and rail system is laied out.

Many major roads in DC do not have transit at all that could remove trips off of other routes. The reasons the 70 and the S Lines are so packed is due to those being the only buses.

In Upper North west the buses travel on 16th Street, 14th Street, Georgia Ave and 5th Street (between Takoma and Petworth) and below Petworth they travel on 16th Street, 14th Street NW, 11th Street NW, Georgia Ave NW, North Capitol ST NW, 4th Street NE, 12th Street NE, 18th Street NE and Eastern Ave.

You are basically forcing people to take the 70 and then walk the last mile or 3 to get to places due to that being the only bus route.

What DC needs to do is restructure the bus routes so that they are all not 1-2 blocks apart 50's , 70's and the S's in Upper Northwest then have no transit for miles east or west. of them

In most of Northeast and Upper Northwest buses either travel on the same road such as Mass Ave, Wisconsin Ave, Conn Ave, 16th Street, 14th Street or Georgia Ave or are miles apart.

The S1,2,4 all travel on 16th Street the next bus which is between 1 and 2 blocks over on the next street is the 52, 54 and next is the 70 which after Decatur Street is 2 blocks before Decatur it is between 6 to 8 blocks apart.

Next would be 5th Street with the 62, 63 between Takoma and Petworth. Below that it goes far to North Capitol ST which is 10 blocks from Georgia Ave or 7th Street exclude a few streets inbetween where are bus may travel diagonally.

After North Capitol It jumps to 4th Street north of New York Ave and 8th Street South of it. After 8th it is Trinidad/Montello Ave or Bladensburg RD depending which way traveling.

North or NY Ave it is then 4/8th Street, 12th Street, 18th Street and then Eastern Ave

Many of the lines do not provide service all day 7 days a week therefore you have more people taking the routes that do run all day every day from various stations inflating numbers

by kk on Nov 3, 2013 1:32 am • linkreport

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