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DC Streetcar's exuberant opening day, in photos and video

DC Streetcar is open and carrying passengers, following a festive opening day on Saturday. Enjoy this photo tour reliving the fun, and see even more at GGWash's opening day Flickr group.


Passengers boarding the streetcar. Photo by Dan Malouff.

The party began at a 10:00 am opening ceremony at 13th and H NE, where a huge crowd gathered to celebrate.


The opening ceremony crowd. Photo by Dan Malouff.

After years of delays and frustration with the streetcar, the crowd's jubilant emotion was a sight to see. Supporters waved pennants, the Eastern High School marching band entertained, and at least one awesome kid brought the day's best costume.


Band and streetcar cosplay. Photos by Malcolm Kenton and Dan Malouff.

Mayor Bowser, DDOT's Leif Dormsjo, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, and DC Council members Charles Allen and Yvette Alexander all spoke happily about the project.

Most notably, Mayor Bowser declared we "gotta" extend it east and west.


Bowser and Dormsjo. Photos by Brett Young and Dan Malouff.

The crowd was far too big to fit in a single streetcar. But DDOT was prepared. They queued up four trams all in a row, to carry as many riders as possible.

After the speeches, VIPs boarded onto the first two streetcars, and off they went. Cheers erupted as the first passenger trip took off towards Union Station. It was railcar 202.


Streetcars queue, and the VIP-only first trip takes off. Photos by Malcolm Kenton and Dan Malouff.

The third streetcar to leave was the first open to the public. It was car 201, and when it pulled out, the streetcar became officially in service.

Here it is, the first public streetcar, pulling out of the station for the first time.


Video by Kelli Raboy

The GGWash contingent made it on that first public streetcar.


The GGWash contingent, boarding and riding the first public streetcar trip. Photos by Dan Malouff.

One amazing rider named Nathaniel Jordan says he was also on the first-ever Metrorail train, way back in 1976.


Nathaniel Jordan. Photo by Dan Malouff.

The first streetcar wrapped up its first trip at Union Station before turning around and heading back the other direction.

Streetcars approaching Union Station stop midway up Hopscotch Bridge, amid a short section of dedicated lanes.


Hopscotch Bridge / Union Station stop. Photo by Matt Johnson.

Inside Union Station, bright wayfinding signs point the way through the parking garage to the streetcar station. It's a long walk from the station's interior to the streetcar platform, but it's nonetheless an improvement over the X2 bus, which doesn't stop on the bridge at all.


Union Station wayfinding and passageway to the streetcar. Photos by Matt Johnson.

At the other end of the line, at Oklahoma Avenue, the platform is more simple.


Oklahoma Avenue station. Photo by Dan Malouff.

Near Oklahoma Avenue station, union members demonstrated in favor of the streetcar workers. Next door, the permanent streetcar car barn rises under construction.


Union workers and the car barn. Photos by Dan Malouff.

Streetcar trips continued up and down H Street all day, where crowds continued to pack on for the novelty of a first day's ride.


Photos by Brett Young and Malcolm Kenton.


Photos by Matt Johnson and Malcolm Kenton.

It was a great day. Hopefully we'll do it all again in a few years as the system expands east of the Anacostia River and west into downtown. If that happens, DDOT's plans call for a dedicated transitway on K Street.


Proposed K Street transitway. Image from DDOT.
Dan Malouff is a professional transportation planner for Arlington County, but his blog posts represent only his own personal views. He has a degree in Urban Planning from the University of Colorado, and lives car-free in Washington. He runs BeyondDC and contributes to the Washington Post

Comments

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Congrats GGW! This colossal white elephant you have cheerleaded for is in operation. People can now travel slower down H St. than if they took the bus.

So what's next? Getting on the bandwagon for the Georgetown cable car?

by Beatbox on Feb 29, 2016 10:25 am • linkreport

So the "it will never run" meme is dead. The value of it is another thing of course. Clearly some people are excited to ride it. Hard to determine the times with such crowds I imagine. The economic development impact will not really be easy to determine by watching it in operation.

The other question answered though, is that Mayor Bowser wants to see it expanded both east and west. I think this is the first time she has said this?

by CrossingBrooklynFerry on Feb 29, 2016 10:36 am • linkreport

So what's next? Getting on the bandwagon for the Georgetown cable car?

The Georgetown gondola would actually be fun to ride for tourists (and, I assume, faster than walking).

by Chester B. on Feb 29, 2016 10:40 am • linkreport

So this poorly-planned and poorly-executed publicly-funded "ride" is "finally" open.

We can't even call this theme ride real transit. It doesn't go anywhere people actually need to go (except for bar-hopping), it's slower than the bus (and walking), and it gets in everyone's way. Why, then is anyone cheering?

And people actually believe this a "start"? I give it 3-5 years before bean-counters declare running/expanding the streetcar a waste of taxpayer money and a Mayor and Council who are no longer afraid of bloggers and vocal advocates shuts it down.

I just sigh when I imagine what could have been.

by August4 on Feb 29, 2016 10:54 am • linkreport

Would people be happier if it had never ran?

I look forward to riding it myself soon. And to extensions along one of DCs busiest transit corridors.

by Drumz on Feb 29, 2016 10:58 am • linkreport

It is great that we live in an area and have people like GGW to get excited about transit and investment. The cars and platforms looks good and once it warms up on a consistent basis I am excited to get to H st and try it.

The windows and lower height (no more stupid kneeling!) look great. I've heard complaints on the bells, don't know how real that is and whether it might end up being a nice part of the city noise background.

I hope that the homeless don't decide to camp out in it, and that the cars gets cleaned regularly.

by charlie on Feb 29, 2016 11:15 am • linkreport

I for one am super happy to see this open! The capacity of H is already limited by the street design, Any Left-turns essentially half the capacity (as many studies have show is the case in most places), often walking is faster than driving down the road. While this wont be much faster than walking, it will not BE walking- and thus easier. It'll be nice to spare your outfits on hot days, or stay warm on cold ones during errands on H Street (where I do most errands). ALL TRANSPORT is subsidized anyway, and DC traffic is so slow and aggressive sometimes, that this would be a welcome way to sit back and tune out, especially if it reaches G-Town in the Future! This would be way better than the Circulator Bus for sure!

by Zach on Feb 29, 2016 11:21 am • linkreport

@Charlie, I can actually hear the Streetcar bells from my building 2-3 blocks north of the Line, and find it a wonderfully pleasant "sound of the city," I've not heard of noise complaints, but I could understand the issue if you lived directly above a station such as Senate Square, or the Apts above Giant Grocery.

by Zach on Feb 29, 2016 11:24 am • linkreport

Yay! DC has a streetcar! Just years after we ditched it for buses based on efficiency it's refreshing to go back to the future. And to all you naysayers: $100 million per mile is a drop in the bucket and who cares if it's a few years late? It's not like the government ever made you any promises. Better late than never, I always say! Move over Portland and Tucson: DC is now world class too!

by DCwalks on Feb 29, 2016 12:00 pm • linkreport

@BrooklynCrossingFerry

I'm pretty sure that the DDOT Chief and/or Bowser have said at least once in the past that they want a full build out of the line from EOTR to Georgetown.

That seems to be something that the critics of the streetcar miss. It will eventually go from Georgetown (in dedicated lanes) to H Street which will make it much more useful.

by VJU on Feb 29, 2016 12:01 pm • linkreport

I am assuming that eventually they will increase the speed of this line.
As for extending to Georgetown, K street is ideal. The service lanes can go.
But the big question is, where in Georgetown?
Does it go under the Whitehurst freeway?
Or does it go down M street? Because if it goes down M street, they should remove the street parking.
And if they go down M street, why not over the Key bridge into Rosslyn?
I would be happy with either route.
Even if it goes under the whitehurst freeway, they should remove street parking there too. There is plenty of garage parking that can compensate.
It will be interesting to see what happens next.

by Brett Young on Feb 29, 2016 12:29 pm • linkreport

Nice photos. I love the crowd shot one. In 100 years, long after the streetcars have been sold for scrap, the tracks covered over, and the roads redesigned to handle self-driving vehicles (people no longer drive) and catch fare paying rides in hovering pods, future generations will look back at these old photos (no doubt in a special GGW Mystery Photo feature) and wonder what our lives were like and where we ever got the idea that street cars had a future. They may see it as some weird retro-turn by a confused population. There will be a long thread about it, I predict, with no certain conclusion.

by kob on Feb 29, 2016 12:54 pm • linkreport

+1 Brett Young and Charlie

nice write-up/photos. thanks

by h st ll on Feb 29, 2016 1:24 pm • linkreport

Curiosity: why does the Eastern expansion force a choice between Minnesota and Benning? Why not have a branch to both? If it were to go to Benning anyway, the Minnesota spur would be relatively short.

by Doug on Feb 29, 2016 1:30 pm • linkreport

After the speeches, VIPs boarded onto the first two streetcars, and off they went.

I'm sure those VIPs will fondly remember the experience as the last streetcar they ever rode.

by Scoot on Feb 29, 2016 1:37 pm • linkreport

Nice write up and photos. Didn't check out the articulation from Union Station, so it's nice to know signs have been posted.

2. WRT the statement about extension, I can't claim that before Saturday I heard official pronouncements.

3. WRT service to georgetown, I am gonna write about it, but I argue the streetcar should go to Rosslyn Metro Station. Basically, DC needs to begin policymaking that virtually captures Rosslyn as a Metrorail station serving Georgetown. That's why the gondola should be pursued too.

I am not an engineer, so figuring out how to get it across the river is out of my bailiwick...

4. Compared to my experience years ago in Minneapolis, I didn't think the bell sounds were too loud. Minneapolis' were horridly loud.

5. wrt Doug's point about north and south legs for the eastern expansion, I agree wholeheartedly. It shouldn't be either or.

by Richard Layman on Feb 29, 2016 1:46 pm • linkreport

The Streetcar will go down K Street on the waterfront in Georgetown: http://www.dcstreetcar.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/9_Ch-8-DDOT-Recommended-Alt.pdf.

by VJU on Feb 29, 2016 1:47 pm • linkreport

@VJU What is the date of that document?

by Brett Young on Feb 29, 2016 1:57 pm • linkreport

To the people who say it's no faster than walking: You're wrong. I rode it end to end in both directions on Saturday at around 2 pm (once the opening crowds had died down a bit and it was more normal service). The total travel time was around 22 mins, replicable in both directions. Google Maps shows a walking time of 39 mins along the exact same route, so it's arguably twice as fast as walking. How it compares to the X2 times, I'm not sure, but the real advantage is a much easier Union Station connection, fewer stops, and a smoother ride. It will definitely attract a different crowd than the one that rides the X2 regularly.

by Mark P. on Feb 29, 2016 2:40 pm • linkreport

As an Arlington taxpayer I want to thank DC for paying for this pig in a poke. Your mess was was an eye opener. Enjoy those assessments.

by Pens on Feb 29, 2016 2:54 pm • linkreport

Ultimately, I am happy for DC. This streetcar(how ever much of a boondoogle-I agree with you there) is an important first step. As long as lessons have been learned during the construction of this line, i see no reason why the land won't finish construction from Georgetown to Benning Road.

by AroundtheHorn on Feb 29, 2016 3:01 pm • linkreport

We rode the streetcar on Saturday and enjoyed it. I am glad to see this open. It will bring improved mobility for the corridor.

Other than Union Station (perhaps the second busiest transit hub in the US), the H Street corridor (with two supermarkets-- one under construction and one completed, and 1,500 residential units planned or under construction), and a huge parcel of land at RFK ripe for redevelopment, nope, the streetcar doesn't connect to anything.

by 202_Cyclist on Feb 29, 2016 3:25 pm • linkreport

@202_Cyclist Don't forget the Safeway in Hechinger Mall and the Aldi across the street at 17th and Maryland NE. The Safeway isn't in great shape, but it is there.

So, that's at least three existing grocery stores, and one under construction.

by DAR on Feb 29, 2016 3:42 pm • linkreport

I guess for some folks having steel wheels on a track is good enough, regardless of whether they perform a distinctive or efficient transit function. Washington is a big tourist town, so the streetcar will be good for that. And hey, every big American city needs a streetcar to be a "major league town", just ask Mayor De Blasio.

by Wanderer on Feb 29, 2016 7:19 pm • linkreport

I missed opening day because I was at a Fuller House viewing party... which is too bad, because it sounds like the streetcar opening was a lot of fun.

Unfortunately, my first ride tonight after work was about as tedious as 7 hours of Fuller House. It took about an hour for me to get from Union Station to 15th Street and back. There were A LOT of double-parked and mis-parked cars in both directions, and we wasted a lot of time sitting at red lights (particularly at the transitional areas where the tracks go from the center of the road to the outside lanes). At one point we waited several minutes for a double-parked Maryland driver to return to her car from what I seriously hope was a very important errand (we later passed a streetcar traveling in the opposite direction that was waiting behind two double-parked cars). We also crawled past several poorly parked cars and an out-of-service ambulance.

Frankly, this thing isn't going to work properly until the city starts to come down HARD on bad parkers, and gives the streetcar priority at lights. I mean, it's been two and a half hours now, but I'm still seething about that Maryland driver. I'm a big fan of rail travel, but I have serious reservations about this particular design.

by Steven H on Feb 29, 2016 9:32 pm • linkreport

@Wanderer - Honestly, a larger selling point for me is that they're electric, rather than that they travel on tracks. The less internal combustion vehicles spewing emissions into the air in the city, the better.

------------------

@Steven H - I just got back from an impromptu evening ride up and down about half the route. I agree a lot with your assessment.

1. Signal priority would speed things up. Why wasn't this done as part of the original project? Even it was just done at 3rd/H and wherever the streetcar crosses back into the middle of the street it would be a huge help, but ultimately it should be on the entire corridor.

2. The streetcar seems capable of traveling at a decent speed, but the operators are being very cautious about parked cars. In areas without street parking, we moved along as a very respectable clip. I say, screw the cars. It's pretty obvious if someone is parked over the line, but as far as mirrors, etc overhanging the line, just take them off. If you can't park properly, that's what you get. If there concern is damaging the streetcar, perhaps some sort of appendage could be attached to travel out in front and knock any obstructions clear.

3. With regard to double-parkers, I would assume that most people would have learned by now. I'm not quite sure how aggressive the city has been, but I agree, if you impede the streetcar, even if you move your vehicle before it is towed, you should be ticketed. I'd be open to having a plate-reading camera mounted in the streetcar and just letting the operator flag offenders, who can be mailed a ticket.

by Ross on Feb 29, 2016 10:21 pm • linkreport

http://www.citylab.com/commute/2016/02/10-amazing-things-that-took-less-time-than-the-dc-streetcar/470847

It took MORE YEARS to get this short streetcar line running, than (1) to build the 1,900-mile trans-continental railroad (2) for Michaelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel (3) to build the English Channel Tunnel (4) to build the 363-mile Erie Canal (5) to build the world's tallest skyscraper (6) the lifespan of the Beatles band

by slowlane on Feb 29, 2016 10:45 pm • linkreport

"The Streetcar will go down K Street on the waterfront in Georgetown"

Nah - it's not going anywhere, and why should it? It has been a total disaster - an answer to a question only a few visitors to this blog asked.

by Nammy on Feb 29, 2016 11:51 pm • linkreport

[This comment has been deleted for impersonating another person.]

by D. Alpert on Feb 29, 2016 11:58 pm • linkreport

Would it be so difficult to close one lane of traffic and/or divert thru traffic to parallel streets? Would it be that difficult? Handicap laws perhaps?

by Umm...yeah on Mar 1, 2016 3:07 am • linkreport

Is it just me, or does the streetcar have a ridiculously long dwell time at each stop? If they can't figure out how to move it through the stops quicker, it'll end up being slower than a bus.

by SYSM on Mar 1, 2016 9:09 am • linkreport

@D. Alpert - I suppose what I said was poorly stated. Perhaps it is because the system is new, but I see the operators as being extremely cautious, relatively to Metrobus drivers, who are also operating in the same lane. I'm pretty amazed at the speed of some the X2 drivers as they travel up and down H St - but they know the width of their vehicles and there seem to be few accidents (although I assume they do occur occasionally).

I wonder if streetcar speeds will improve as operators get more familiar with traveling up and down H St - although they have been out there running simulated service for a while. I think there needs to be a balance between the speed of the streetcar and protecting every improperly parked vehicle. Human safety, of course, needs to be the absolute priority, but I suppose I'm not terribly concerned if they occasional mirror is damaged because someone improperly parked their vehicle. Of course, I don't think an operator should ever intentionally strike a vehicle, but I don't think proceeding at 5-6 MPH down the street is reasonable either. There are very clear lines as to what is clear of the streetcar's path and what isn't.

As another solution, could the curb be moved back a few more inches to allow drivers to pull a bit farther off the road and provide more clearance for the streetcar?

by Ross on Mar 1, 2016 9:59 am • linkreport

As another solution, could the curb be moved back a few more inches to allow drivers to pull a bit farther off the road and provide more clearance for the streetcar?

Whoa, pedestrians won't like that!

by Chester B. on Mar 1, 2016 10:11 am • linkreport

@Chester B. - Even with a decent amount of pedestrian traffic, I've never felt constrained in terms of sidewalk space like I have in some parts of the city. Generally, I'm loathe to give up any sidewalk space, but I'm looking for realistic solutions to improve the speed of the streetcar. I don't think 3-4" of space is going to make a significant difference to the pedestrian environment, but if it providers a greater buffer between the streetcar and parked cars, allowing operators to travel faster, that may be worthwhile.

by Ross on Mar 1, 2016 10:23 am • linkreport

It will be interesting to check back in a generation to see if the Streetcar has made any progress towards Georgetown. Given the debacle that was the H Street project, it's hard to see any political/business support for ripping up K Street for years of work. Also, there's no extension until - at least - the Hopscotch Bridge is replaced.

Better for the Streetcar to head eastward to Minnesota/Benning, with stops at the RFK parking lot for the eventual new football stadium/waterpark and at Kingman Island. Which then will lead to much hand wringing as gentrification moves ever eastward.

Will residents along the eastward tracks support it? Where will the city find the money to pay for it?

by Lurker on Mar 1, 2016 10:44 am • linkreport

Ross -- this has been a problem on H St. (double parking)long before the streetcar was a gleam in anyone's eye. I've advocated stationing a couple of police tow trucks in the corridor and a little lot, and a massive fine/ticket for blocking the lane, say $1,000. And immediate towing, drop the car in the lot, and go back on patrol.

After a few weeks of this, people would "straighten up."

by Richard Layman on Mar 1, 2016 11:02 am • linkreport

I think every night I have been on H St (including weekdays) there has been a tow truck stationed and working - ticketing and towing cars. For the ones sticking out just a little bit, I have seen them push the car back into the spot rather than tow away.

by MLD on Mar 1, 2016 11:06 am • linkreport

@Richard Layman - Sure, I'm aware double parking has been a longstanding issue. I guess what I'm trying to get at is more subtle - when I rode last night, all of the cars along the route were properly parked. But the streetcar operator proceeded very cautiously past them nonetheless, I assume just in case a mirror was slightly over the line, which could be hard to judge until you are very close to a vehicle. A double parked or very improperly parked car is visible from a good distance away - the issue seems to be more caution regarding mirrors, etc.

As soon as we passed the major project in the area of 5th St (heading WB), we picked up to a decent speed, as there's currently no parking in that area. I'm wondering what can be done that does not impact human safety that will allow the streetcar to pass properly parked cars at a decent speed, much like WMATA drivers seem to do on a daily basis. Maybe it is just that time needs to pass and the operators need to get more experienced and confident, I'm not quite sure.

by Ross on Mar 1, 2016 11:36 am • linkreport

I'm wondering what can be done that does not impact human safety that will allow the streetcar to pass properly parked cars at a decent speed, much like WMATA drivers seem to do on a daily basis.

My guess is that eventually, over time, the streetcar will speed up.

However an important thing to remember is that the driver of a bus is trained to see improperly parked cars and can move a bit to the left to avoid hitting them (just as any driver of a normal car would).

The streetcar operator doesn't really have any control over the lateral movement of the streetcar. Either the streetcar will hit an improperly parked car, or it will have to stop and wait for the car to be moved.

by Scoot on Mar 1, 2016 4:30 pm • linkreport

I've set up prediction for the DC Streetcar on my website, TransSee. It's has quite a few features NextBus doesn't have.

by doconnor on Mar 2, 2016 10:30 am • linkreport

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