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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.

A potential streetcar stop layout. All images from DDOT unless noted.

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.

Possible streetcar routes. Click for a larger map (PDF).

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.

A sidepath next to a streetcar stop in Portland. Photo by Matt Johnson.

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
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. 


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I went to the meeting yesterday and was somewhat disappointed at the level of detail I could get. For instance, there's no indication which alternative could have a dedicated lanes and which couldn't (among the widest roads). And the argument that dedicated lanes wouldn't help strikes me as a bit odd, that somehow a street has to fall in this Goldilocks zone where there is enough traffic to need a dedicated lane but not too much that we can't run a streetcar there. Also, I couldn't find anyone who could tell me what route 6C takes.

And I find it hard to believe that the 74 won't go away once the streetcar opens. Depending on the routing, it would almost completely duplicate service along the route and WMATA wants to kill it anyway.

by Steven Yates on Feb 19, 2014 2:29 pm • linkreport

Is anyone else as infuriated as I am that, even with the streetcar stop-avoiding bike lanes, DDOT still wants to put them in as regular bike lanes rather than cycletracks? With the tracks right there it seems even more obvious that bikes belong between the sidewalk and the parked cars, not parked cars and traffic.

by David Edmondson on Feb 19, 2014 2:30 pm • linkreport

What route goes by the fewest number of churches? I fear that Sunday church parking will end up creating big headaches for route selection.

by Michael_G on Feb 19, 2014 2:31 pm • linkreport

Interesting. Two questions:

How much does each turn slow down the streetcar?

How are they going to have the streetcar run down Pennsylvania Avenue without serious battery backup?

by Neil Flanagan on Feb 19, 2014 2:35 pm • linkreport

Is it even worth going to this meeting? Sounds like proper center-aligned dedicated lanes are already off the table, rendering this entire exercise utterly worthless.

by LowHeadways on Feb 19, 2014 2:36 pm • linkreport

Oh, and P.S.: did DDOT just rule out dedicated bus lanes in Columbia Heights? Such a terrible decision. End on-street parking around the shopping mall and just give the buses their own damn lanes on 14th St.

by LowHeadways on Feb 19, 2014 2:37 pm • linkreport

The streetcar should go to Takoma, as was long the plan. People have invested in the area because of it and shouldn't have the rug pulled out from under them. It will transform the neighborhood by helping to connect Takoma to Petworth, Walter Reed and the rest of the city. The bus service really isn't that great right now because many of the GA Ave buses go to Silver Spring and many or the 14th St buses stop at 14th and Colorado. DC's leaders need to put Takoma DC ahead of Silver Spring, MD.

by TakomaNick on Feb 19, 2014 2:39 pm • linkreport

@David Edmondson
If it makes you feel any better, I have to think that alternative as currently configured is politically a non-starter. You'll take away any passing opportunity for cars, so when the streetcar (or bus) stops, everything stops. They could fix this by splitting which side of the intersection the streetcar/bus stop is on, giving a lane so that the streetcar can essentially pull out of traffic.

by Steven Yates on Feb 19, 2014 2:39 pm • linkreport

Imagine if 14th Street was closed to vehicular traffic—completely—between Thomas Circle and U Street with plenty of room for streetcars, bikes, pedestrians, maybe buses, as well as cafes, market booths, shade trees, event/play spaces, etc. (Of course, cross streets would remain open.) To make up for N/S traffic, 15th Street could become one way SOUTH from maybe Florida Avenue to H Street (via the Vermont Avenue leg at McPherson Square) and 13th Street could become one-way North from maybe New York Avenue to Park Road or even Spring Street. Would love for DDOT to study something bold like that.

by That Guy in DC on Feb 19, 2014 2:43 pm • linkreport

They do a good job at the meeting in recording your thoughts (you fill out some a printout with which routing you prefer) and if you have insights into specific alternatives I think it's probably worth going.

I disagree. Silver Spring is more of a destination (even for people in DC) than Takoma. I'd also bet there is more development opportunity continuing on Georgia. Though maybe going to both would be an option in the future. And I agree Takoma could use better transit connections to the west, particularly with the Walter Reed redevelopment on the way.

by Steven Yates on Feb 19, 2014 2:46 pm • linkreport


Considering 14th street along that stretch is a 6 lane road that carries what, 30-35,000 vehicles per day, that idea is a non-starter.

by Arkie on Feb 19, 2014 2:50 pm • linkreport

On the issue of Takoma or Silver Spring why not both as the streetcars did back in the 50’s? Some streetcars went to Silver Spring and others went to Takoma and on to Takoma Park.

The 50's, 60's, and 70's were all streetcar routes and did they all go to Silver Spring no so why should all streetcars go there today. Why not have 1 of out 3 go to Takoma while the other two go to Silver Spring. Or they are to go to Silver Spring make it as easy as possible to transfer between a Streetcar bound for Silver Spring and a bus that is bound for Takoma via sharing the same stop and not having stops blocks apart or even on the other side of the street like which is design on H Street NE.

Streetcars should replace bus service along some routes since the service was a streetcar before 50, 60, 70, 80, 90 etc. As long as the service has the same or greater frequency as the bus routes now there is no reason to not replace it. If it is due to number of bus stops as why people don’t want buses replaced then survey the area block by block (by actually visiting the area not looking on a map) to determine where the best place for stops would be by looking at whether it has apartments or single family/row houses, senior citizen buildings, schools, major stores (large grocery or other store which would draw large amounts of people), hills vs flat land, busy bus stops, crossing bus routes etc.

To be rather blunt if the person is old and does not want the streetcar I would straight up ask how long have you been in DC and have you ever ridden the streetcars back in the 1930’s, 40’s, 50’s, or 60’s and if yes what is your reason for objection now. If the logic is sound perhaps have a discussion about it if not next on the agenda.

by kk on Feb 19, 2014 2:55 pm • linkreport

Considering 14th street along that stretch is a 6 lane road that carries what, 30-35,000 vehicles per day, that idea is a non-starter.

Between Thomas Circle and U Street, it's a four lane road and carries substantially less traffic than that:

20k per day, not 35.

by Alex B. on Feb 19, 2014 2:58 pm • linkreport

I like ThatGuy's idea, but offer my own (previously posted here): What if 14th St. became 1-way (N or S) and then 13 or 15 became 1-way the opposite way? 14th St. heading just one direction would give MORE lanes to cars but still leave enough room for parking (off hours) as well as dedicated bus/streetcar lanes and maybe a cycletrack, too.

by JDC on Feb 19, 2014 3:01 pm • linkreport

I'd say something like: 1A, 2A, 3B, 4A/E, 5B, 6B/C Wouldn't make sense to follow any one metrorail corridor for too long, better as a parallel route.

by BTA on Feb 19, 2014 3:02 pm • linkreport

4 lanes plus two for parking right? I can't recall if there's a rush hour restriction on parking though in that stretch.

Is there an issue with putting the set of streetcar tracks on the same side of the road?

by drumz on Feb 19, 2014 3:03 pm • linkreport

Has there been any thought of just giving bus & streetcars one side of the road and cars the other.

Have the sidewalk, fence (except for certain spots for midblock crossing) transit lane, platform/stop, other transit lane, fence(except for certain spots for midblock crossing), southbound/northbound traffic lanes where the number depends on the width of the street and sidewalk.

by kk on Feb 19, 2014 3:05 pm • linkreport

4 lanes plus two for parking right? I can't recall if there's a rush hour restriction on parking though in that stretch.

North of Thomas Circle on 14th, the parking is full-time.

by Alex B. on Feb 19, 2014 3:08 pm • linkreport

The agency also eliminated 13th Street, Henson said, because the streetcar cannot climb the steep hill beside Cardozo High School.

Wow, just wow. One of the original advantages used to sell streetcars over 100 years ago was how well they could climb hills. We are regressing in ways I never even thought possible.

by Tom Veil on Feb 19, 2014 3:11 pm • linkreport

That Guy in DC -- the significant congestion and narrowness of the street on 14th St. isn't between Thomas Circle and U Street, it's from Irving to Spring Street. It's that area that makes providing dedicated lanes and fast service through Columbia Heights very difficult.

TakomaNick -- "the plan" for streetcar to Takoma was only during the Klein period at DDOT, before then it was for Silver Spring. And it was never a good idea, only one to appeal to parochialism on the part of people coming out to the meetings.

I doubt many people have bought housing in Greater Takoma expecting streetcar service.

but regardless, I agree with kk, that it shouldn't be one or the other. I also think that a 16th St. routing along with the Georgia Ave/Alternatives routing should be pursued. I understand the point about low density housing on 16th St. from a certain point, but it is the highest ridership busline now, greater than the 70s, which ought to put it up near the top for a streetcar line, something that wasn't the case back when DCAA was first launched.

by Richard Layman on Feb 19, 2014 3:11 pm • linkreport

14th Street is busy, but doesn't have enough activity to justify closing off the entire ROW to vehicles. 7th Street downtown, on the other hand, should be turned into a transit mall. It's the most constantly busy area in the entire city. What do you think?

by BJ on Feb 19, 2014 3:12 pm • linkreport

So, Columbia Heights has too much density for a streetcar?

For those who didn't know, all the neighborhoods we have now were built because of the streetcars opening on 14th (The Cloumbia Line) and 7th (The Independence Line). So now I guess the idea is to revitalize Georgia Avenue by putting a streetcar on it, even though it may not have the highest traffic. At what point do we start planning transit as transit instead of an economic development tool?

I don't think the awful poles in the middle of Benning Road will work in a historic district so on 14th, at least, lanes in the middle requiring them won't pass. Better to stick with the ones on light poles like H Street by keeping the streetcar in the lane by the sidewalk.

Having it as a dedicated lane works extremely well for this, putting the streetcar exactly under the streetlights; a better look than even H Street where there's a rush hour/ parking lane between the street lights and the streetcar and wires stick out 15 feet or so.

Historic preservation (and federal law BTW) is an excellent argument for dedicated lanes under streetlights.

by Tom Coumaris on Feb 19, 2014 3:14 pm • linkreport

@ That Guy

Nice idea but Buses will definitely have to travel along the street or else whole neighborhoods will b**ch about it especially with the distance between 15th & 13th Streets and some points where its further than others.

It will make traffic horrible; I don't know if you were born, an adult or living in DC when Pennsylvania Ave, Madison Place and Jackson Place closed infront of the white house but traffic was a lot better in the area than it is now this would be 20X worst than that as it would require more rerouting for WMATA than that did, you would have to find new spots for all bus stops and the residents may b**ch about new bus stops on their street, plus the additional traffic.

by kk on Feb 19, 2014 3:17 pm • linkreport

Takoma is just not enough of a destination. I wonder if they could serve both but using Blair Rd/Eastern Ave? Might not be practical because they are narrower streets...

Totally agree about the 7th transit (and bike/ped) mall. However I think the streetcar makes more sense on 14th because the 7th st corridor is served by Metro.

by BTA on Feb 19, 2014 3:20 pm • linkreport

Wow, just wow. One of the original advantages used to sell streetcars over 100 years ago was how well they could climb hills. We are regressing in ways I never even thought possible.

Feel free to correct me but I think the advantage of steepness goes to cablecars because of the eponymous cable which the DC streetcars won't be using.

by drumz on Feb 19, 2014 3:21 pm • linkreport

The goal should be to replace all of the major bus lines running North-South with streetcars or buses on dedicated lanes. Please name and shame any politician opposed to such a common sense idea so i can vote against them.

by 11luke on Feb 19, 2014 3:23 pm • linkreport

I didn't say there is too much density in CH, just that from Irving Street to Spring Street in particular, the road is narrow.

_without changing significantly how the traffic lanes-ROW is used_ to prioritize transit, likely at the expense of parking, surface transit service gets significantly congested at this point.

From Park to Spring (and beyond) there is one traffic lane and one parking lane in each direction.

It's why in another GGW entry on bus service, where 14th St. came up, I made the point that while there should be a 50s line that truncates in CH, there aren't good turnaround options, so it wouldn't make much difference. I suggested putting in a kind of turntable area--basically a part of the roadway where traffic is blocked (like in front of a fire station) and a bus could do a 180 degree turn.

by Richard Layman on Feb 19, 2014 3:32 pm • linkreport

BTA -- I do see your point. Even the 13th Street hill, which is pretty steep, I hate to bike it, might be traversable with a streetcar, judging by the use of trolleybuses in SF on routes with steep hills, such as the line that serves Chinatown via Clay Street.

I don't know enough about electricity-engineering to know if a streetcar has significantly different requirements from a trolleybus.

But in any case, 13th St. would be a really bad routing in any case in terms of potential ridership and activity centers.

by Richard Layman on Feb 19, 2014 3:37 pm • linkreport


I thought about both also but I doubt Blair Road could fit transit and travel lanes I did about Butternut or Aspen Street to Cedar St/Carroll St then through the bus right of way, to Eastern Ave then Piney Branch Rd.

From there it would either be

Option 1 Piney Branch to Dahlia with a right on to Georgia
Option 2 Piney Branch to Blair to Fern Pl or Gernanium St to Georgia
Option 3 Piney Branch to Blair to Eastern Ave
Option 4 Eastern Ave to Takoma Ave to Fenton St to Burlington Ave to Georgia
Option 5 Eastern Ave to Takoma Ave to Fenton St with a bridge over the tracks to Blair Rd to Eastern & Georgia Ave

Option 2 and 3 may cost a few homes on Blair Road or the use of cars along it. This would be unpopular due to there being no transit for 5 blocks in any direction.

Another issue with any Streetcar going to Silver Spring for the moment is where would it terminate at who knows when the Silver Spring Transit Center will open the streetcar could be finished before that ever opens and it would be extra cost to add more tracks when the transit center does open

by kk on Feb 19, 2014 3:37 pm • linkreport

Is it just me, or could many many problems related to efficient traffic flow, bus and streetcar right of way, bike lanes, and pedestrian space be solved in one easy stroke by making more of our roads one way? The few one way roads we have north of downtown are only a single lane, but if we made wider streets one way we could improve efficiency while increasing available right of way by not clinging to two way traffic patterns and reserving space for both directions.

by Chris T on Feb 19, 2014 3:44 pm • linkreport

Tom Veil raises a point I've been wondering and maybe someone here can shed light on this:

I've read that railroads can handle about a 3% grade. What's the maximum grade streetcars can handle? Is it the same? What factors come into play other than simple friction of the wheels/rails?

by Inclined on Feb 19, 2014 3:44 pm • linkreport

Another question will be jurisdictional cooperation since this is a DDOT project and WMATA won't be the operator. How will DDOT coordinate with Montgomery County on operating transit within its jurisdictions. I'm sure funding, legal liability and insurance issues would be implicated. I think thats the only reason Takoma was ever floated as a terminus.

by BTA on Feb 19, 2014 3:45 pm • linkreport

It's best practice to avoid one streets as much as possible. It can encourages speeding and for people taking the bus it makes them walk an extra block to get to that stop. What you could gain in streetcar benefits you could lose in those other ways.

One way streets with contra-flow transit/bike lanes can mitigate some of that but it doesn't make the planning/engineering any easier.

Turning streets one-way should be a measure of last resort, not first.

by drumz on Feb 19, 2014 3:49 pm • linkreport


One of the DDOT-administered Circulator routes goes to Rosslyn, so I expect they could come up with some similar arrangement for Silver Spring if that's what's chosen.

by Peter K on Feb 19, 2014 3:57 pm • linkreport

@ drumz

"Feel free to correct me but I think the advantage of steepness goes to cablecars because of the eponymous cable which the DC streetcars won't be using."

East Capitol Street on the DC side near the Capitol Heights Metrostation; Martin Luther King Ave near St Elizabeth and Wisconsin Ave all had Streetcars each of those streets/avenues have steeper hills.

The worst of the 3 would be MLK considering the bottom is completely transformed and is unnatural with a steep hill ending at a completely flat surface.

If Streetcars could make it up and down East Capitol, Wisconsin or Martin Luther King Ave safely I assume a streetcar could make it up 11th, 13th, 14th, 15th or 16th Streets fine.

by kk on Feb 19, 2014 4:02 pm • linkreport

@Tom Vail, @Inclined

My assumption is that modern streetcars are like tiny electric trains, which are apparently much more limited, whereas the old streetcars used traction for locomotion. They could climb hills because they are literally towed up the hill by big steel cables.

by Uriel on Feb 19, 2014 4:05 pm • linkreport

I think everyone is getting way too granular on this.

Take a step back and ask why the streetcar is a good idea.

(And it isn't development -- it is moving people).

You're building a line to connect Silver Spring to SE, and there is very little evidence that you actually need a line that long.

Where people are complaining is Columbia Heights (for some reason they don't like the green line), 16th (too many buses) and lower Georgia Ave (development).

You don't need a 10 mile North South corridor for those uses.

by charlie on Feb 19, 2014 4:28 pm • linkreport

The streetcar should run in the center.

DC should also buy buses with left hand doors so buses can also use the streetcar stops in the center.

Cambridge, MA has MBTA buses with doors on both sides.

by JJJJ on Feb 19, 2014 4:38 pm • linkreport

"You're building a line to connect Silver Spring to SE, and there is very little evidence that you actually need a line that long."

Thats not how transit works. It makes stops. Its not a non-stop trip. Not one person has to ride end to end to make it worthwhile.

IE: The red line. Nobody goes from end to end. Doesnt mean its not used.

by JJJJ on Feb 19, 2014 4:45 pm • linkreport

Plus, it'll be easier to build a 10 mile line now and have supplemental service in the crowded area than to build short now and deal with expansion down the line.

by drumz on Feb 19, 2014 4:53 pm • linkreport

The streetcar is going to have stops every ~1/4 mile. Metro stops every 1/2 to 2 miles or so, it's a completely different mode. Also except for downtown which is itself a destination the streetcars are largely designed to cover areas not already served by metro plus logical transfer points.

by BTA on Feb 19, 2014 4:54 pm • linkreport

@ Charlie,
"Take a step back and ask why the streetcar is a good idea.
(And it isn't development -- it is moving people)."

Development is people, present and future, just not in the suburbs.

by Thayer-D on Feb 19, 2014 4:57 pm • linkreport

@Richard Layman
I don't know enough about electricity-engineering to know if a streetcar has significantly different requirements from a trolleybus.

It's not the electric power, it's the steel wheels on steel rails that limit the grade you can climb. Trolleybuses can climb hills better than diesel buses because of their electric motors. They can climb steeper grades than streetcars because they have rubber tires.

Streetcars can climb about a 9% grade. This has always been a limitation. Maybe the old idea comes from the fact that an electric streetcar can climb a hill better than a horse-drawn streetcar. But for really steep grades you'd need a cable car.

by MLD on Feb 19, 2014 5:03 pm • linkreport

East Capitol Street on the DC side near the Capitol Heights Metrostation; Martin Luther King Ave near St Elizabeth and Wisconsin Ave all had Streetcars each of those streets/avenues have steeper hills.

No, those other places are not as steep as 13th. And we are only talking about 13th. 13th between Florida and Clifton is over a 10% grade. East Cap is a big hill but not particularly steep. I'm also not sure there was a streetcar out there. Wisconsin is also long but not steep.

The streetcar could easily go up 16th or 14th. It can't go up 15th or 13th which are MUCH steeper.

by MLD on Feb 19, 2014 5:18 pm • linkreport

I was at the meeting last night (talked Veronica Davis' ear off about why I think streetcars are not the answer and buses are better!). One issue I'd really like considered is how the streetcar will cross the Mall. I know DDOT doesn't think it could go through the tunnel at 12th St., but to me that is the clear best option because then it could go down Maine Avenue past the pending Wharf development. If DDOT has enough $$$ for a 10-mile-long streetcar plus all the other things they're planning, they can make it work on 12th street. Now's the time; the Wharf is coming and it's going to bring a ton of traffic and other changes, so we might as well prepare. DDOT's other tunnel option (9th St.) only goes a block or two along Maine and seems inferior.

Also, I'm not sure Buzzard Point makes any sense as a terminus, except for the fact that perhaps there is land there for a turnaround/service facility. Seems continuing the line to Navy Yard would make a lot more sense. If a soccer stadium ends up at Buzzard Point it would allow folks to get to it via the Navy Yard metro and would connect people in Near SE to the Wharf and other amenities in SW.

by sbc on Feb 19, 2014 5:32 pm • linkreport

@ charlie
"Take a step back and ask why the streetcar is a good idea.
(And it isn't development -- it is moving people)."

If thats the case we need to get rid of the asinine Streetcar routes,redo most of the bus routes in DC, shift some bus stops and terminals. Track smartrip cards to determine where people are going and by which ways.

Universal fare system between bus and rail with no extra fees for transfers so people can get from point a to b the easiest way be it rail only, bus only, or a combination of rail and bus. Listing of all bus stops on the appropriate website for each jurisdiction or company/origination running that bus service (which no service around here does but many in other places do)

Right now the goal seems to be moving most people but try not to cannibalize bus or rail with the other and make as much money as possible through transfer between bus and rail.

"Also except for downtown which is itself a destination the streetcars are largely designed to cover areas not already served by metro plus logical transfer points."

I beg to differ most Metrobus, Circulator routes and I would bet the Streetcar routes also in the future do not have logical transfer points.

Many buses cross each other and don't have stops that are easy to get between, some routes travel along the same street for a distance but don't have shared stops thats not logical.

Somethings that I think should be done in DC which is not done but is done at Seven Corners Transit Center is that most of the buses wait there for a while for transfers. This should be done at certain spots in DC.

Along with certain spots where all buses in a certain area could meet at to help with transfers when not by Metrorail stations. Examples are Lakeforest Transit Center, Seven Corners Transit Center, Tysons Westpark, Tysons Corner Mall etc about 99% of the buses that serve the areas around the places I listed stop at those places either for transfers or as that as the terminal.

by kk on Feb 19, 2014 5:45 pm • linkreport


You were right I was mistaken I was thinking about the Columbia Railway Company's District line which went to Seat Pleasant along a different route, but bus have used East Capitol Street over there for a long time.

by kk on Feb 19, 2014 5:51 pm • linkreport

Streetcars made it up the escarpment on 14th for 100 years.

by Tom Coumaris on Feb 19, 2014 6:13 pm • linkreport

This needs to run in the center, so dedicated lanes can be added on the future, even if they aren't part of the design now. The H St streetcar could have avoided many problems (delays from double parked cars, cyclists getting stuck in tracks, etc) by designing it to run in the center. Anything else is foolish. They should also consider left turn restrictions, which would increase bus speeds, without dedicated lanes.

If they really want this to work, though, frequencies will need to be high. H street will actually have significantly worse headways than the bus routes it replaces, and I predict that this will not make it a very popular service.

by TransitSnob on Feb 19, 2014 8:39 pm • linkreport

My concern about pulling the route off Georgia to head to Takoma is that it will strand the last mile of Georgia to the District line. Takoma is already thriving with all kinds of new development and, with Metro, an easy way for neighborhood residents to get downtown. Most of Shepherd Park is a schlep to either metro and desperately needs the connectivity, as well as an activated GA Ave streetscape north of Fern. When the GA-Eastern development and Walter Reed happen, there will be significantly more residential density in that stretch, which would be a captive audience for streetcar ridership. We are SO CLOSE to being able to create a continuous, walkable environment all the way from Shepherd Park up to DTSS, I'd hate to see a bad streetcar routing decision condemn that stretch of GA to permanent no-man's-land status.

by Shepherd Parker on Feb 19, 2014 8:40 pm • linkreport

In the SE portion, why can't the streetcar go across M Street and then down South Capitol, either ending or turning down Potomac Ave? That way the line could later be expanded to cross Douglass Bridge into Anacostia. And because all the businesses are on M Street and Capitol.

by 7r3y3r on Feb 19, 2014 8:41 pm • linkreport

I suspect that Logan Circle made 13th a non-starter as much or more than the grade climb. Georgia's more commercial profile and the marginal state of a lot of the retail would make the streetcar easier to pull off than 14th. Routing the lower end on 11th street would enable it to tap into commercial areas that need a boost and would take it close to people living on 43th.

I went to one of the presentations. BRT has been ruled out along with anything like the trackless trolleys that still run in places like Vancouver. The rationale for not using "rubber tires" seems to be accessibility issues (not having to use air suspension when boarding the disabled. The NIMBY sentiment was mostly around parking and dealing with breakdowns.

by Rich on Feb 19, 2014 9:01 pm • linkreport

The best route seems to be from Silver Spring to Buzzards point. Silver Spring for obvious reasons, this needs to be part of a regional system to move people and Buzzards Point because of the development potential. Ideally, Ft. McNair will go the way of the Walter Read site. Such prime real estate should be in the hands of the city, not the military.

As for what road configuration, the dedicated lanes at the outside with four travel lanes in between seems like the best system. The worst part of the plan is the loss of on street parking. The best part will be that the lanes will be dedicated and could then run more frequently and dependably. Also, it would allow the most traffic to continue to drive through.

Picking up the Sherman Avenue also has merit by moving the live further west where there's more existing density and to slip into 11th street via Florida Avenue. That looks to be the smoothest transition and will keep lower Georgia/7th street for cars, which considering how jammed they are, is realistically the least traumatic for traffic engineers. To keep Sherman Ave dedicated, they should get rid of street parking also.

Ultimately, what ever route they pick will be fine because if they can get this done in a timely manner, it will be the biggest game changer for upper DC in a long time. There's a boat load of gorgeous housing stock off upper Georgia Avenue with gorgeous little neighborhood centers from the earlier street car route. Now would be a good time for HPRB to put some of those mega character giving structures some protection, cause there will be a mountain of construction once this gets done.

by Thayer-D on Feb 19, 2014 9:16 pm • linkreport

It makes no sense to send the N-S line through Howard University (tiny demand) instead of Columbia Heights (huge demand). From Georgia it should shoot over to Columbia Heights and go down 14th around Park.

The Benning Road type ugly pole forest that center lanes require is a non-starter below Florida. Would absolutely be illegal. We'd rather not have a streetcar than have that ugly crap. Looks like a big day at Gethsemane with 1000 cruxifixes in a row.

by Tom Coumaris on Feb 19, 2014 10:37 pm • linkreport

Running the streetcar up Sherman Ave instead of GA Ave makes very little sense. Sherman Ave is mostly comprised of single family rowhouses and mom and pop corner stores serving immediate residents. Even at its best, Sherman Ave will be single fam residential & multifam residential, with corner restaurants and markets to serve the neighbors. In other words, Sherman Ave is upper Columbia Rd in Adams Morgan (as you approach Belmont/Mintwood/California etc.). GA Ave is Adams Morgan's 18th St. The commercial potential for GA Ave is limitless -- it could, and historically has, housed condos/apts, restaurants, bars, even department stores and theaters. Agree with the purpose or not, the streetcar is a catalyst for development. Let it be placed on Georgia Avenue where it has the most potential to succeed at that purpose. Once the businesses are there, there will be plenty of riders (in addition to those already taking the busses in the corridor) to make the transportation aspect of the streetcar a success as well.

by GoPetworthGo on Feb 19, 2014 11:21 pm • linkreport

@Tom Coumaris:

"Tiny demand"?! You've evidently never waited at the bus stops along Georgia from Florida (by Howard University's hospital) through Howard Place (by the main campus). There are always people waiting for buses at those stops, even late in the evening, and there are huge crowds for much of the day.

For all I know (I don't ride buses there much) 14th Street is even more crowded and has an even better case, but Georgia Avenue by Howard definitely has the demand to justify running the streetcar line that way.

by A Streeter on Feb 20, 2014 12:27 am • linkreport

Sounds like there is a good case for having the line run straight down to Howard, and maybe straight down 7th, but I'm most interested in how the dedicated vs. shared lane debate will pan out. Maybe a future line could go up 14th street where I agree something is needed, but it's hard to see how those two strong 90 degree turns from 7th to 14th and back to Georgia won't effect the speed of this thing.

by Thayer-D on Feb 20, 2014 8:26 am • linkreport

7th is redudant with the Green Line. It would be much more useful on 14th or 11th and could help diffuse some of the bus crowding around U st down.

by BTA on Feb 20, 2014 9:14 am • linkreport

7th is redudant with the Green Line.

Only with part of the Green Line.

I think Thayer is correct in the concern about zigging and zagging too much; Cutting from 7th to 14th then back to 7th/Georgia is an awfully indirect routing for a single corridor. Metro can get away with it because Metro is grade-separated and fast, but surface transit has a higher bar to clear. Zig too much and you'll slow down the overall trip enough that you won't actually serve the current bus riders that are going to be the base of the transit market in this corridor.

by Alex B. on Feb 20, 2014 9:22 am • linkreport

My worry with having the streetcar go down Georgia and then jog all the way over to 14th is those people who now take the bus on Georgia. Where are they going? If most people coming south are getting off at U Street or north of that, then great. But if most people are traveling further south then that, then you are creating more transfers and more congestion at transit stops.

It seems like this could be answered with more detailed data from smartrip cards rather than just looking at what the most heavily used bus stops are along this corridor. Hopefully DDOT is getting access to those data and using them.

by MLD on Feb 20, 2014 9:26 am • linkreport

Yes BUT a huge amout of destinations/jobs are in Metro Center and west of there. Right now the only way to get there on a one seat ride is a tremendously overburdened bus system. A 14th st route would meet that need but a 7th st route would just be a supplement to a faster metrorail route. I would never take the streetcar to go to Shaw or below from Columbia Heights. I would definitely take it to 14th st. Plus some of those people are taking the green line now and transfering at Chinatown or L'enfant and one of the purposes is to ease congestion at those central nodes.

by BTA on Feb 20, 2014 9:29 am • linkreport

I like clean lines as much as anyone but if the streetcar you're putting in is essentially redundant with metro from Petworth down I don't think it's going to be a great success. However if goes down GA as far as Petworth or Shaw and then covers the other side of downtown you'd added new functionality.

by BTA on Feb 20, 2014 9:37 am • linkreport

but if the streetcar you're putting in is essentially redundant with metro from Petworth down I don't think it's going to be a great success.

But it's not entirely redundant. There is a huge stretch of Georgia Ave/7th between the Petworth Metro and the Shaw Metro that sees a ton of bus boardings right now. Check out the boarding graphic in the original post.

However if goes down GA as far as Petworth or Shaw and then covers the other side of downtown you'd added new functionality.

And no one says otherwise, just noting that this new functionality has a cost. And if the cost (in time) is too high, then the functionality isn't going to be worth it.

It will be interesting to see what the analysis comes up with.

by Alex B. on Feb 20, 2014 9:44 am • linkreport

@A Streeter-Going by the graph above which shows boardings and alightings there are decent bubbles above and below Howard but nothing compared to the huge bubbles on 16th and 14th around Columbia Heights. That's the elephant in the room the streetcar folks are trying to ignore.

I think it's pretty obvious that the 14th/16th transit corridor is in crisis. There must be a diagonal route that the streetcar could take from Georgia over to Columbia Heights. Thayer-D is right, the sharp turn on U isn't good but as GoPetworth says streets off 7th are heavily residential as are streets (including 14th) above Columbia Heights.

by Tom Coumaris on Feb 20, 2014 9:57 am • linkreport

The Petworth to U St leg on GA Ave is all about revitalization. There is a very significant but really underutilized commercial district along there, all one/two story buildings with definite redevelopment potential with improved transit. It's basically the commercial district for all of Park View and part of east Columbia Heights so it really does make sense there. Columbia Heights is messy because that is where all the cross town buses go through and the roads are narrow which is an issue but no one this streetcar will solve easily.

by BTA on Feb 20, 2014 10:10 am • linkreport

Arrrghhh why do we even have to choose? It's clear the demand is present already on both corridors. Let's quit thinking small already and build, you know, enough lines to satisfy that.

by Low Headways on Feb 20, 2014 10:14 am • linkreport

I mean in the long term I think bringing the Mt. Pleasant streetcar line back is a no brainer with maybe a terminal in Foggy Bottom which is always a pain to get to from uptown.

by BTA on Feb 20, 2014 10:17 am • linkreport

Yes. I'd hope that if demand warrants it we just have two (and more) major corridors for streetcars. The question is, who should get first?

by drumz on Feb 20, 2014 10:25 am • linkreport

drumz- Clear the crisis up first and then build for new development.

by Tom Coumaris on Feb 20, 2014 10:41 am • linkreport

Well the 16th st issue could be helped a lot by dedicated transit /HOV lanes which DDOT is supposedly looking into. At least I've heard more talk this year than ever before.

by BTA on Feb 20, 2014 10:49 am • linkreport

Tom C -- the grade of 14th St. is much easier than 13th St. Bike it and you'll see.

Green line and Georgia Ave. -- there is only one subway station on GA proper, at New Hampshire Ave. The distance from the Shaw Station on 7th to Petworth is 1.6 miles. The distance from Petworth to the DC line is 3.4 miles. The distance from Petworth to Silver Spring Metro is 4 miles.

It's why I've come along to favor the Dave Murphy separated yellow line concept, although it would require zoning changes to fully pay off. Which could put stations at Missouri Ave., Piney Branch/Walter Reed, etc.

In any case, even though it is 0.6 miles, I think there is value in considering the creation of a South Silver Spring infill station. But it would cost a lot and people argue, justifiably, it's a short distance to the current station.

But it would allow long term an intensification on the DC side and South Silver Spring is already intensifying on the Maryland side.

by Richard Layman on Feb 20, 2014 11:03 am • linkreport

it seems like the street car should be built on georgia and the yellow line needs to be taken off the green line and plopped somewhere along 16th street or 18th in admo

by corey on Feb 20, 2014 1:25 pm • linkreport

Re: Buzzard Point as a terminal vs. SE, a separate route is proposed that would meet this line at Buzzard Point, then head to Anacostia via the new 11th St bridge. Routes that are too long run the risk of bunching.

by Payton Chung on Feb 20, 2014 3:04 pm • linkreport

Tom's solution:

Put the dedicated lanes for buses on 14th instead of 16th from Columbia Heights down. 14th doesn't have nearly as many long-distance commuters and no rush hour lanes so the problem with them not wanting to lose rush hour lanes on 16th would be solved. The number of metered parking spaces on 14th to be lost would be minimal.

Then when the streetcar comes use the dedicated lanes that have been established on 14th for streetcars. The 16th street bus lines will be relieved of many people who will use the more rapid 14th Street line making many seats available on the 16th Street bus lines.

by Tom Coumaris on Feb 20, 2014 10:31 pm • linkreport

That would work for much of the length, Tom but around Columbia Heights the streets get too narrow and 14th is also not continguous above Walter Reed where the buses head to Takoma so it would require reworking a bunch of routes.

by BTA on Feb 21, 2014 1:46 pm • linkreport


Why would a contiguous 14th Street matter ? The streetcars can get up to 14th & Kennedy without a doubt; with Walter Reed getting redeveloped 14th Street could be fix. Anything that is a problem can be fixed.

Also whats stop the buses from leaving 14th Street and taking a side street over to Georgia or 16th there is room?

Those street are not to narrow to fit a streetcar depending on where the tracks are placed if along the far edges near the sidewalk there is plenty of room.

by kk on Feb 21, 2014 6:19 pm • linkreport

Seems to me that the routes should be as simple and straightforward as possible. For example, just do Georgia/7th all the way or 16th all the way. One of the problems with buses is that they sometimes wander all over the place; no need to carry over that flaw into renewed streetcar service. Just stick to the main streets between the endpoints.

by johndmuller on Feb 21, 2014 6:26 pm • linkreport


I was thinking a short-route Columbia Heights down for the dedicated lanes. That's where the bus service is impossible now. Below Columbia Heights buses are full on 14th and 16th and won't open doors for additional passengers. While the regular 50's would use them, additional short-route buses could be added and we already have Circulators on that route.

This would be fairly easy to accomplish; especially as opposed to fighting Bowser and the car commuters from upper DC who will fight like hell not to lose a rush hour lane on 16th. That's an impossible fight to win while using lower 14th for the same thing would be a slam-dunk.

14th and 16th are basically the same route; almost half the people using 16th Street buses live between 16th and 14th. Most would be enticed to an express service on 14th. (A new 50's bus toward GWU should be added to match the S bus that way).

The benefit would be both immediate and long-term. Since the dedicated lanes are already there the streetcar would get them.


The lower half of NW DC was built along the 14th and 7th/Georgia streetcar lines. It would be great if they were both restored but I don't see that happening. 16th wasn't an
intense commuter route until the suburbs around Silver Spring mushroomed after 1954 and never had streetcars.

Even though the lion's share of transit commuters needing service are along 14th/16th I understand the city wants to build a line on Georgia to encourage development there plus, and as BTA points out above Columbia Heights streets are too narrow and too residential.

But also Howard U isn't going to close and become commercial because a streetcar comes by it. So a Georgia Ave/Lower 14th combination makes sense to encourage development on Georgia and to aleve the transit crisis in the 14th/16th corridor below Columbia Heights.

Or we could just continue to fight Ward 4 to get dedicated lanes on 16th instead and get nothing. And what's the side agenda? To make auto commuting from upper 16th so unbearable that people there are forced to take buses. Buses that already can't hold the number of people trying to use them?

by Tom Coumaris on Feb 21, 2014 9:18 pm • linkreport

With the case of neighborhoods or areas not wanting streetcars, buses, rail etc.

Would it be legal for DC, or any city, county or state to make a law that states any area that has had any type of transit lets say bus, streetcar, aboveground rail, underground rail, groundlevel rail etc can be subject to that type of infrastructure returning at any time for public benefit without neighborhood objection as long as it takes the same route?

That would shut up most people in DC, Alexandria, Arlington, Montgomery, Prince Georges, or Fairfax Counties that live near historic streetcar or rail lines and making planning transit 100 times easier than it is now.

by kk on Feb 22, 2014 1:41 pm • linkreport

Well cross town traffic just crawls in this city, always. In terms of buses youre better with a straight shot which is why I like 16th. But I think they would be great on 14th I just dont see it as feasible in Columbia Heights because you'd have to take out all the parking (which I'm fine with) and that is going to be too much for people. On the otherhand while a jog from Georgia to 14th at Columbia Heights and down would get the most bang for your buck in terms of ridership it ignores what I think is the commercial corridor with most development potential on Georgia between Petworth and U St. I mean if you look at Ward 1 as a whole that is the glaring admission for redevelopment in the past 20 years because it doesn't have metro. There is some potential on that same stretch of 14th but with the metro I think that will happen anyway. In terms of 14th st and 16th st commuetrs its about 50/50 DC and MD tags. If you could make the bus faster you are going to some of those DC people which I imagine are mostly from Brightwood north vs a small amount coming from east or west because they would be taking Connecticut Georgia or North Capitol. In many ways the frequency of buses already make it a bus only lane, but it would be much more efficient to remove all the car traffic from those lanes. Also getting rid of off peak parking would be big because its infrequent but when a car illegally stays parked it cause major traffic jams and pretty much doubles travel times through Dupont/ U st/Columbia Heights.

by BTA on Feb 22, 2014 2:17 pm • linkreport

BTA- One issue on the routing is the stretch of Georgia in front of Howard. That's one side of the street that streetcars can't help develop.

Areas around Howard would have been developing if Howard had it's act together development-wise. And even if it gets a streetcar Howard may still pass on development on all the parcels it owns on both sides of Georgia around there.

The rest of Georgia is prime for streetcar-encouraged development that probably wouldn't happen otherwise. Not all transit can be about future development though and there is a transit crisis on 14th/16th below Columbia Heights.

by Tom Coumaris on Feb 22, 2014 4:17 pm • linkreport

I second the idea of having the streetcar terminating near the Fredrick Douglass bridge for future expansion/connection into Anacostia and Congress Heights! We already have a streetcar line built near Bolling Air Force Base on S Capitol St. We might as well connect the two streetcar lines! Or is that already in the plans? Every time I check they change :)

by i heart newcomb on Feb 24, 2014 5:07 am • linkreport

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