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H Street streetcar will carry passengers on February 27

DC Mayor Muriel Bowser just announced the H Street streetcar will officially open to passengers on Saturday, February 27. Of this year. Hallelujah!


Photo by the author.

Mayor Bowser's announcement should mean the DC fire department has certified the streetcar as safe to run and submitted its paperwork to the federal government, thus accomplishing the last step before the streetcar can open. With that done, it's ready to carry passengers.

The opening party and first passenger-carrying run will take place at 10:00 am on Saturday, February 27, at the corner of H Street and 13th Street NE.

After that, streetcars will run between Union Station and Oklahoma Avenue every 15 minutes the rest of the day. Rides will be free for everyone for the first few months.

The streetcar will close again Sunday the 28th; for now it's only scheduled to run six days per week. But passengers will be able to pick it up again on Monday the 29th, and every day thereafter except Sundays.

Many of us will be there to enjoy the festivities, and we'll try to all meet up to make a GGWash contingent. Join us if you can! Or ride the streetcar to our 8th birthday party on March 8. Or both!

Dan Malouff is a professional transportation planner for Arlington County, but his writing represents only his own personal views. He has a degree in Urban Planning from the University of Colorado, and lives in Northeast DC. He runs BeyondDC and contributes to the Washington Post

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I'm sure she meant February 30th?

by BTA on Feb 18, 2016 1:37 pm • linkreport

better late than never!

by Richard B on Feb 18, 2016 1:38 pm • linkreport

Not an April fools? Yipee!

by JDC on Feb 18, 2016 1:40 pm • linkreport

Um. Why won't it run on Sundays?

by Gray on Feb 18, 2016 1:44 pm • linkreport

BTA - YES

by asffa on Feb 18, 2016 1:46 pm • linkreport

Sunday is a day of rest.

by alurin on Feb 18, 2016 1:46 pm • linkreport

Yay! (Though it was originally supposed to be every 10 minutes, wasn't it? And operate everyday, including Sunday? Not to mention it's years late and millions over budget and exposed a raft of incompetence within various government agencies)

Nevermind - I'll try to stay positive...yay for the streetcar!

by Travis Maiers on Feb 18, 2016 1:47 pm • linkreport

No Sundays and 15 min headways?

Is there any good reason (aside from the novelty) why someone should take the streetcar and not the X2? I can't really think of any.

by Mike M. on Feb 18, 2016 1:55 pm • linkreport

Is there any good reason (aside from the novelty) why someone should take the streetcar and not the X2? I can't really think of any.

Because it's free?

by Chester B. on Feb 18, 2016 1:57 pm • linkreport

@Chester B.

Okay, sure. But what about once they start charging fares?

by Mike M. on Feb 18, 2016 1:58 pm • linkreport

@Mike M.,
You got me there!

by Chester B. on Feb 18, 2016 2:01 pm • linkreport

If you're waiting for a ride and the streetcar comes first then why not get on it? It's a free transfer between buses already (that's probably the case here) so on a cold day like today I may hop on even if I was trying to get somewhere beyond N. Capitol Street.

The line is due to be extended anyway.

The planning of the streetcar was done horribly and that really messed up some of its utility. At the time there was an attempt to see if things could be done quicker. Instead things stalled and apparently DDOT under Vince Gray just pretended to actually work on things. Then the recent delays all came from FEMS who somehow just didn't want to actually let it run for reasons unknown to anyone (including FEMS).

But since its been running issues with the actual operations have been rare and easily dealt with. So the line will probably run exactly as its predicted.

by drumz on Feb 18, 2016 2:04 pm • linkreport

Rather ironic, the opening will happen exactly one month short of the 40th anniversary of the opening of the first segment of Metrorail.

by Sand Box John on Feb 18, 2016 2:05 pm • linkreport

The X2 runs every 8 minutes, pretty much all day, and operates on Sunday. Oh yeah, and it doesn't get stuck behind double parked cars.

Can anyone explain this streetcar's benefit to transit riders, besides maybe a slightly smoother ride?

by Uptowner on Feb 18, 2016 2:05 pm • linkreport

at what point does GGW take responsibility for flogging this futile and costly planner porn project?

by aaaaa on Feb 18, 2016 2:13 pm • linkreport

Is it bad that part of me won't believe this date until I actually see it with my own eyes?

by Justin..... on Feb 18, 2016 2:21 pm • linkreport

Every day but Sundays? Does God run the streetcar? If so, how come he couldn't complete it on time?

by Joe Flood on Feb 18, 2016 2:27 pm • linkreport

HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO GET TO BRUNCH?????

by JES on Feb 18, 2016 2:27 pm • linkreport

Wow! I actually thought the hyperloop would begin service before the H Street streetcar...

All joking aside, this is great news for DC and I look forward to riding this next Saturday.

by 202_Cyclist on Feb 18, 2016 2:28 pm • linkreport

The streetcar holds up to 150 people, more than an articulated bus. For people like me who live near the line and ride the X2, we know the X2 is often overloaded at rush hour by the time it reaches 14th and H sts heading west. I think this will relieve some pressure. Plus, lots of students also travel east towards 26th street, so this will help with that crowd too. As a parent of a student at Two Rivers at Young, the ease of boarding the streetcar compared to the bus, especially with a stroller or a bunch of kids, makes it really attractive. I will be organizing a group of fellow parents from Two Rivers to start using the streetcar to get our kids to school, taking a few cars off the road in a crowded part of Benning Road, easing traffic and reducing pollution...hooray for the streetcar!

by dcmc on Feb 18, 2016 2:28 pm • linkreport

not running it on Sundays is stupid. The whole point of a fancy streetcar is to impress tourists.

by asffa on Feb 18, 2016 3:09 pm • linkreport

Running it every 15 minutes is the first (100th?) nail in the coffin. Running it so rarely means people wont want to stand around waiting for it. You can walk the length of H st in that time. This was supposed to run every 10m and that was too long.

Hopefully it will prove proof on concept, theyll run it more, and all the dumb things about this will get worked out and they will build an actually decent line up 7th/Georgia.

by DAJ on Feb 18, 2016 3:14 pm • linkreport

Could have atleast made it go to North Capitol Street or New Jersey Ave instead of to the top of the bridge that would have made it alot more useful !

by kk on Feb 18, 2016 3:25 pm • linkreport

Part of me thinks that the free fare period is because they havent figured out the fares or put any machines in

by kk on Feb 18, 2016 3:26 pm • linkreport

@kk

Good news is that will probably take DDOT another 4 years to figure out, so free indefinitely basically!

by VJU on Feb 18, 2016 3:31 pm • linkreport

It goes without saying that if DDOT and the City Council knew that it would take so long to open the starter line, it would never have happened.

But it's opening and we should give it a fair chance to succeed.

In honor, last year I made an in-car fantasy map of an expanded line west to Georgetown and east to Benning Road / Minnesota Ave.

by Paul J. Meissner on Feb 18, 2016 3:36 pm • linkreport

@Paul J. Meissner: Those are some impressively long stop names.

by Gray on Feb 18, 2016 3:48 pm • linkreport

Now let's start talking about the extension to Georgetown.

by Brett Young on Feb 18, 2016 3:55 pm • linkreport

@alurin

Ok, do the mechanics get to rest on Sunday? Should we also give police / fire the day off and close all the hospitals? Are all the businesses along H St closed on Sunday?

by MB on Feb 18, 2016 4:00 pm • linkreport

Shouldn't we talk about the extension EOTR before the extension to Georgetown?

by CrossingBrooklynFerry on Feb 18, 2016 4:05 pm • linkreport

@CBF

I imagine that when the Benning Ave bridge is replaced, streetcar tracks and bike infrastructure will be part of the project.

by Paul J. Meissner on Feb 18, 2016 4:10 pm • linkreport

>Is there any good reason (aside from the novelty) why someone should take the streetcar and not the X2?

1. X2s are often extremely crowded, even articulated ones. More buses won't help that much because of bunching. Dedicated lanes would help, but absent that a higher capacity vehicle will definitely help a lot.

2. More level boarding and more doors will make getting on and off faster and easier. Dwell time at stations should be lower. This won't be enough to make someone waiting at a stop skip an X2 is it comes first, but it will help the streetcars bunch less than the X2s.

3. The transfer at Union Station is more convenient than the X2s. It's far from ideal but it is legitimately more convenient.

4. Streetcars are a transit gateway drug. People who don't ride the bus will ride the streetcar, and then they'll start to ride the bus. This isn't a reason for anyone who's currently willing to take the X2 to switch, and it's not a good enough reason to build a lot of streetcars on its own, but it is of long-term importance and is worth saying last on the list.

Bottom line: Unless you're transferring from Union Station, for most people it'll make sense to just take whatever comes first. But the capacity and bunching improvements will be an upgrade.

by Dan Malouff of BeyondDC on Feb 18, 2016 4:14 pm • linkreport

[Deleted for violating the comment policy.] Wishful thinking and a lot of cash and hard work that should have gone to more and better buses.

by aaaaa on Feb 18, 2016 4:31 pm • linkreport

I would take the streetcar over the X2, for the following reasons:

1) Less stops. If the X9 was available, I'd certainly consider that, but that only runs during rush hour periods. The X2 will hit twice any many stops going out to 14th St (about as far as I usually go).

2) Lower fare. Even when it starts charging, it will be $1 vs $1.75 from what I have read.

3) I work adjacent to Union Station, so it is relatively convenient for me.

I don't think it will be a runaway success, but I think it will get decent ridership. I do hope that they offer real time tracking on launch, as that would allow me to deal with the infrequency a bit better.

All this being said, I almost bought a place on H St NE last year - and backed out primarily as a result of the service cuts and delays on the streetcar. Particularly now that I know it won't run Sunday, I don't regret that decision in the least.

by Ross on Feb 18, 2016 4:33 pm • linkreport

@MB: Relax. Is joke.

by alurin on Feb 18, 2016 4:39 pm • linkreport

15 minute headways?

6 days a week?

WOW

by JJJ on Feb 18, 2016 4:48 pm • linkreport

No need to suoer freak out about frequency and six days a week. That will all be studied and revised in 6 months per DDOT
http://m.wamu.org/#/news/16/02/18/its_true_dc_streetcar_opens_to_public_on_feb_27

by h st ll on Feb 18, 2016 4:53 pm • linkreport

Mannn... pedestrians can't even cross the street on foot without getting hit by a car or bus or bike; now a streetcar to nowhere adds to the calamity. Hope they're not depending on 911 for help because that's a dead issue. If it actually crossed the river there maybe a benefit, but it doesn't. The majority of the car traffic that people love to justify this stupidity with comes from where? MARYLAND, so No car relief there. All this did was make a congested situation worse.

by Dummies and Death on H on Feb 18, 2016 5:20 pm • linkreport

Dan Malouff and kk are both right.

Paul J. Meissner's map is great, but needs a base color line treatment different from Red because of the Red Line. One quibble is that the line should go to Rosslyn Station, not end at 33rd St. Of course, for that to really work, Key Bridge would probably have to be widened or something. But basically, with the gondolas and streetcar the Rosslyn Metro Station needs to be repositioned as "a DC Metrorail station serving Georgetown."

And yes, the articulation with Union Station will change with the reconstruction of the bridge, the expansion of Union Station, and the development of Burnham Place.

I agree with CBF that promoting EotR extension is key. But both is best as it will make the system more useful for everyone. As long as the streetcar stops a bit of the way up the bridge it's not that useful.

Yes, 15 minute headways is not ideal, even if that's what they do in Portland and have for more than 10 years. 12 minutes might be a good compromise. You need more vehicles to run them more frequently.

Speaking of more vehicles, I'd rather have more vehicles to have redundancy and then to be able to offer 7 day service, rather than to close the system one day/week. While Alex B. and I have sparred over this, I don't think it's ideal from a regularity and reasonable expectation of usage standpoint.

P

by Richard Layman on Feb 18, 2016 5:20 pm • linkreport

> I do hope that they offer real time tracking on launch

This is already available.

by Dan Malouff of BeyondDC on Feb 18, 2016 5:55 pm • linkreport

This is the treatment for the Seattle First Hill streetcar. I don't know how it's rendered within the vehicle. This is from the shelter.

Seattle Streetcar transit shelter, graphic inset listing station stops

Seattle Streetcar transit shelter

by Richard Layman on Feb 18, 2016 6:10 pm • linkreport

@ Richard Layman

Sure, the fantasy line stopped in Georgetown to make way for that long-awaited Rosslyn/Georgetown metrorail tunnel that will someday be built. One can only hope.

Anyway, I get what the critics here are saying though, the Streetcar begins on the nether-side of Union Station and ends in another rather obscure point. And if it is never expanded, the Streetcar is destined to become another urban novelty--like the Seattle Monorail or the Detroit People Mover--and the X2 will still do the heavy lifting on the corridor.

But even this starter segment is a big deal. I hope a contingent from GGW will try to be there.

by Paul J. Meissner on Feb 18, 2016 6:38 pm • linkreport

I'm not sure I understand. Why won't the streetcar be running on Sundays? How is it related to not having enough streetcars owned by the system? I understand how that affects headways, but not days of the week in service.

by DAR on Feb 18, 2016 6:53 pm • linkreport

I remember when DC Transit proposed installing barriers on 7th St/ Georgia Ave to create a dedicated right of way for streetcars. The city refused and the last streetcar ran in 1962. Soon thereafter DC Transit folded and along came Metro. Oh well, what goes around comes around.

by John Anderson on Feb 18, 2016 8:04 pm • linkreport

Since the tracks are in the curb lanes, maybe they want to use those for church parking on Sundays.

by Frank IBC on Feb 18, 2016 8:06 pm • linkreport

@ John Anderson - the streetcars were removed because Congress required O. Roy Chalk to do so, when he bought Capital Transit a few years earlier.

by Frank IBC on Feb 18, 2016 9:21 pm • linkreport

Hey, y'all. Try and remember this is just the beginning of what will hopefully become a great network of lines.

by Steve K on Feb 18, 2016 10:13 pm • linkreport

I'll believe it when I see it.

by August4 on Feb 19, 2016 12:33 am • linkreport

Every 15 minutes is a joke. If you "just miss" the streetcar, you are definitely better off walking the length of the journey than riding the streetcar, unless you are at the very end of the route.

Congrats to all homeowners who had the rest of DC taxpayers subsidize the value of their homes!

by James on Feb 19, 2016 7:35 am • linkreport

From conception, the street car has been "ONE" of the worst ideas that DC has undertaken. As the opening date has come and gone over the years, DC realized that we were "Too Far In" to back out. It has been plagued with disaster after disaster. The street car was a 'cute' idea; no matter how self-serving it was. The streetcar serves a specific community between Union Station and Farmers Market. Having personally used the metro bus, the H-street corridor needed more safer, reliable and frequent transportation. Guess which commuters got left out?? Not to mention the traffic nightmare they cause. DC, you REALLY drop the Ball on this! DC, Shame on you for continuously wasting our taxpayer money. If the goal is to continually push out long term residents, then you are on the right TRACK!

by Kevin S on Feb 19, 2016 8:44 am • linkreport

Agree with @KevinS:

I'm half-European and think streetcars/trams work wonderfully...in Paris and Milan and many other cities where they operate on headways that are more frequent than WMATA and -- when in mixed-traffic environments -- in city centers with congestion charges.

This "streetcar," however is a disgrace and nothing more than a subsidy from poor DC taxpayers to wealthy homeowners and commercial property owners on a small portion of H Street. The Atlanta Streetcar also runs at 15-minute headways and nobody uses it, except for people without homes trying to keep warm.

This is not transit. This is a boondoggle. I say this as a pro-congestion charge, pro-transit, DC resident with a Western European passport.

by James on Feb 19, 2016 8:50 am • linkreport

I've been waiting for the streetcar to open for a long time. I can't wait to take a ride on it. Maybe in the future they will operate it on Sundays too.

by chip on Feb 19, 2016 8:53 am • linkreport

Frank IBC/John Anderson -- what actually happened is that Congress used the provocation of a strike by transit workers to refuse to renew the streetcar franchise.

O. Roy Chalk bought the system after that decision, and lobbied Congress to change their decision and did things to show that streetcars could still be modern (e.g., adding air conditioning to at least one car as a test), but Congress wouldn't budge.

There could have been that kind of GM-Firestone-oil company influence that led to the conversion of many streetcar systems to buses in other cities as back story. But we'll never know.

The streetcars stopped running on the day that the streetcar franchise expired.

by Richard Layman on Feb 19, 2016 8:55 am • linkreport

I also can't wait to experience it -- but none of us here should pretend that this is anything close to good public transit.

by James on Feb 19, 2016 8:56 am • linkreport

Hey, y'all. Try and remember this is just the beginning of what will hopefully become a great network of lines.

Do you really think that's going to happen, given the mess that was the construction of this line?

by Chester B. on Feb 19, 2016 9:10 am • linkreport

Planning =/= operation.

I don't think we should plan future lines like we did this one but there's no reason why more lines wouldn't be an improvement to the city's transit.

But if this has poisoned the city against building more streetcar lines there still needs to be something to be done. If political leaders can only stop the streetcar without coming up with good, specific new options then that's a failure of leadership all over again.

by Drumz on Feb 19, 2016 9:14 am • linkreport

The next extension will be across the Anacostia on Benning. That is well along in planning, IIUC. How much funding there is for it and other extensions, was a matter of dispute some months ago. The extension after that on K street gives it dedicated ROW, which is what opponents typically deride it for lacking.

by CrossingBrooklynFerry on Feb 19, 2016 9:24 am • linkreport

"The extension after that on K street gives it dedicated ROW, which is what opponents typically deride it for lacking."

Not necessarily opponents. Just people with common sense.

That it won't run on Sundays also came as very unwelcome news to me, but it seems this thing has an endless supply of such news. I suppose it's just another concession to the Ward 9 churchgoing constituency.

by dno on Feb 19, 2016 10:11 am • linkreport

dno

where is there church parking that would be impacted by Sunday operations?

by CrossingBrooklynFerry on Feb 19, 2016 10:27 am • linkreport

CBF, I don't know, so perhaps my supposition is wrong. It was based on 1) past DC government decisions that showed a frustrating willingness to placate that particular constituency and 2) no other compelling justification for it not to run on Sunday. H Street has become quite the dining and retail destination, so I would imagine Sundays would be a banner day for its use relative to other means of travel to and from the corridor. The lack of ROW makes its use during weekday rush hour gridlock less compelling, relatively speaking.

by dno on Feb 19, 2016 10:41 am • linkreport

This is pretty exciting as far as I'm concerned. I've been living near the H St corridor for about 11 years now, so I can certainly appreciate all the twists and turns it's taken. Even as a supporter, I think not having a dedicated lane really handicapped the entire concept. That was the one thing that would've given it real tangible benefit above all other options.

by E in Rosedale on Feb 19, 2016 11:05 am • linkreport

The reason for no Sunday service is that they only have 5 of the streetcars available right now and they need time to do maintenance since they'll be running all of them at the same time during the week. When they have an additional streetcar available for service they can rotate the vehicles in and out of service for maintenance as needed.

This was explained some months ago when the original announcement of no Sunday service was made.

by MLD on Feb 19, 2016 12:01 pm • linkreport

@ MLD

If they only have 5 Streetcars how can they run every 15 minutes ?

It will take 15 minutes to get between Union Station and 15th Street not including any delays due to pasengers getting on or off and wheelchairs. Then another 5 to 10 minutes from 15th Street to the RFK lot.

There will be a point during the day where streetcars wont be every 15 minutes and will turn into every 20 minutes.

If all 5 streetcars are running than you would need them be leaving the terminals at the same time, two at Hechinger Mall one going west, one going east and one near 8th & H going west to achieve the every 15 minutes taking into account time to turnaround.

by kk on Feb 19, 2016 3:27 pm • linkreport

If it takes 25 minutes to go end-to-end you should be able to do 15-minute headways with 4 vehicles, with a little time left over to lay over.

by MLD on Feb 19, 2016 3:40 pm • linkreport

No service on Sunday? Why Sunday? Why not say .... Tuesday? Plenty of folks want to move around H Street on a Sunday. Grocery stores have their biggest day on Sunday.

by Tour Guide on Feb 20, 2016 2:22 pm • linkreport

44 years and a month after DC Transit shut down streetcars.

by david vartanoff on Feb 20, 2016 3:33 pm • linkreport

Did everyone forget last week's missed deadline? DDOT told us passenger service would begin February 20, 2016. Why are we sure they'll keep the new 27th deadline?

by DCwalks on Feb 22, 2016 12:36 pm • linkreport

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