North-South streetcar starts to take shape
A north-south DC streetcar will almost certainly use Georgia Avenue north of Petworth, but could take one of several different paths downtown and to Buzzard Point. DDOT has narrowed down options for this streetcar, and designed potential configurations with and without dedicated lanes.
This week, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) is holding its second round of public meetings on plans to build a line between Buzzard Point and either Takoma or Silver Spring.
Residents can weigh in on routes along Sherman Avenue or Georgia Avenue between Petworth and U Street, 4 possible routes downtown (14th, 11th, 9th, or 7th), 2 across the Mall (7th or 4th, and several options for navigating Southwest to Buzzard Point.
At the northern end of the line, DDOT planners are still deciding whether it should go to the Takoma Metro station via Butternut Street NW or all the way up Georgia Avenue to Silver Spring, which has far more merit as a terminus.
Streetcars could get their own lanes, but planners aren't enthusiastic
Street widths vary greatly throughout the corridor, and the streetcar study team has proposed a number of configurations. Some include dedicated lanes, which could provide a faster, more reliable ride but would involve removing curbside parking, which will be controversial.
Other options would place the streetcar in the center of the street, but have it share the lanes between streetcars and private vehicles. DDOT planner Jamie Henson said it would be possible to convert center lanes to dedicated lanes in the future.
Are dedicated lanes worth it for the speed advantage? Henson said that in many areas, including parts of Georgia Avenue, the traffic volumes are not heavy enough to provide a significant speed benefit from dedicated lanes. Aside from downtown, DDOT planners have deliberately excluded congested corridors that would make service unreliable and slow.
Right now, the study does not assign specific layouts to portions of the corridor, but offers alternatives based on how wide each street section is.
Cross-sections with dedicated streetcar lanes and with streetcars in the center of the street. Click to see all of the options.
DDOT is also contemplating ways to accommodate cyclists and streetcars in the same space. One alternative, Option E, includes a bike sidepath around streetcar stops.
Other cities, like Portland, have used a similar design.
14th Street and 13th Street through Columbia Heights are off the table
Boardings and alightings along 16th Street, 14th Street, and Georgia Avenue NW. Click for a larger version.
Henson said 14th Street NW in Columbia Heights is too congested to ensure reliable, high-capacity service, especially as the street narrows to one lane in each direction north of Irving Street. The agency also eliminated 13th Street, Henson said, because the streetcar cannot climb the steep hill beside Cardozo High School.
Furthermore, DDOT looked at adjacent land uses to consider the development potential of specific routes. Georgia Avenue is the only north-south corridor that has room for the higher-density, mixed-use development that transit investments spur.
Meanwhile, 16th and 14th streets north of Columbia Heights consist largely of single-family homes, with a few nodes of commercial and apartment buildings along 14th. Georgia Avenue, however, has a greater variety of uses and densities along its entire length.
This disparity between 16th Street, 14th Street, and Georgia Avenue is also evident in how people use the bus routes in each corridor. Throughout the length of Georgia Avenue, there are consistently high numbers of boardings and alightings on the 70/79 Metrobus, while on 14th and 16th Streets, they drop substantially north of Military Road.
Streetcars won't replace bus service
Some residents, particularly in Southwest, have voiced concern that the streetcar may reduce bus service in the neighborhood, which has already lost Circulator service and the 70 bus. Henson said that streetcar service is intended to supplement, not replace, bus service.
What do you think? DDOT wants to know
DDOT is hosting its second round of public meetings this week and next week, including one meeting this afternoon. All of the meetings are open to the public so they can comment on the proposals. Here are the remaining dates:
- Wednesday, February 19
3:30-8:00 pm (presentations at 4:00 and 7:00 pm)
Banneker Rec Center, 2500 Georgia Avenue NW
- Thursday, February 20
3:30-8:00 pm (presentations at 4:00 and 7:00 pm)
Emery Rec Center, 5701 Georgia Avenue NW
- This building is way too short
- Petworth residents complained drivers are speeding. DC says it's true, but "acceptable."
- Chicago has examples of a cheap way to bring rail transit to more people: infill stations
- Here's where a protected bikeway could go on the east side of downtown
- A dedicated bus lane and 30 other ways to improve bus service on 16th Street
- Metro wants to connect Farragut North and West with a tunnel
- DC Council chairman Phil Mendelson is blocking Mayor Bowser's zoning board nominee