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H Street-Benning Road could get streetcars by 2012

The H Street-Benning Road streetcar could become a reality as soon as the end of 2012, if the DC Council approves a reprogramming gap budget capital proposal to fund construction of the line.

Photo by J-Blue.

The reprogramming gap budget capital proposal, recently circulated around the Council, cobbles together $63 million in unused capital funds from the Great Streets program, fire station and other facilities modernizations, and capital funds designated for WMATA's federal match which has been delayed due to FTA processes.

That money would fund the proposed streetcar line from 1st Street, NE along H Street and Benning Road to Oklahoma Avenue, including 6 streetcar vehicles and a maintenance facility. The line would go under the H Street "Hopscotch Bridge" north of Union Station, where there is an old ground-level passageway.

While the overall vision for a 37-mile system across the city carries a general target date of 2030, Councilmember Jim Graham and councilmembers around the H Street-Benning Road area have agreed to make that line the top priority. They also feel that a strong, immediate commitment from DC would help the streetcar system attract federal funds for future segments; to begin with, DC is seeking a federal grant to extend the line across the Anacostia River to Benning Road Metro.

DDOT has determined that it can replace local money with federal funds for the Great Streets program along Georgia Avenue, Nannie Helen Burroughs, Minnesota Avenue, and MLK Avenue/South Capitol Street, freeing up $20 million. Projects from the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, fire station modernizations, and school modernizations also are not ready to spend capital money; the proposal would reprogram move $28 million, $20 million to streetcars and the rest to a number of recreation centers and shelter energy efficiency.

That generates $40 million of the $63 million price tag. The remainder is proposed to come from the money set aside to match federal grants to WMATA, but which is delayed because of the way the FTA is administering the grant. DC had reserved $50 million in case the FTA gave WMATA all the money right away, but that's not happening.

At the earliest, the FTA will start coughing up actual dollars in the first quarter of WMATA's FY2011 fiscal year, July to September, which is the last quarter of DC's FY2010 fiscal year. If that's the case, DC would need to contribute $12.5 million in this fiscal year. But if it doesn't, then DC won't have to pay anything until its FY2011, whose capital budget contains another $50 million for that year's capital match to WMATA.

Whether it's $37.5 million or $50 million, that fund could cover streetcar construction. It might be better for WMATA to have the money to fix failing infrastructure, but DC won't give WMATA millions unless Virginia and Maryland are doing the same, and the O'Malley administration is already trying to delay other existing capital commitments (which DC is still funding) and opposing new ones.

If the money isn't going to WMATA (or, some would argue, even if it could), building the streetcar is the best project, and also the closest to the money's purpose of improving transit. It will upgrade transit on one of the most overloaded lines in the District, the X2, and catalyze development along H Street which local residents are very eager to bring.

Depending on the FTA's timeline, the fund could still have anywhere from $14 to $27 million left. Coming up next: What DC should do with the remainder.

Update: The Council's Sarah Campbell has explained that technically this isn't a reprogramming but a part of the proposed revised FY2010 budget. The Mayor submitted a new FY2010 budget because the current budget has a gap for the remainder of the current fiscal year, and this is part of it. It's just a technical terminology difference, and affects the timing of the money by a few months, but doesn't substantively affect the issue.

David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. 


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Yay, streetcar to Langston! Is there a golf-bag policy on the Circulator?

by HM on Apr 14, 2010 11:23 am • linkreport

Whoa. Are they going to widen that tunnel?

by NikolasM on Apr 14, 2010 11:32 am • linkreport

I think the tunnel is wider and that's just a door through the barrier that was placed across the opening, or something. Not sure of all the details.

by David Alpert on Apr 14, 2010 11:33 am • linkreport

I thought the Maryland dispute over MetroMatter capital funding agreement was different than the FTA grant.

Given the weakened state of both DC and WMATA's budget, I'd rather save the $50 million for WMATA. Is there a guarantee in DC FY2011 budget that you will be able to find $50 million? We are talking about a potential 500 million budget deficit this year, and there is very good chance it might be larger. That is larger than LA's, by the way.

by charlie on Apr 14, 2010 11:36 am • linkreport

If they could keep it tunneled just a bit further they could get past the viewshed on North Capitol Street.

by NikolasM on Apr 14, 2010 11:40 am • linkreport

Diverting funding from the WMATA capital program would be a mistake. The unfortunate fact is that 300 million annually is not enough to maintain the Metro system in a state of good repair. Delays will ultimately lead to other major failures. The City is building it's own transportation system with little thought of the ongoing operating costs of the system. At the same time they complain about the costs of the Metro system. Don't get me wrong. I loved the old streetcars and I look forward to their return. I worry that the city and the region are ill prepared to pay the price in the long run.

by Interested on Apr 14, 2010 11:42 am • linkreport

Maybe we should check with Michelle Rhee for the money instead.

by Interested on Apr 14, 2010 11:45 am • linkreport

Err. I'm 99% positive that that door leads to a parking/maintenance facility under Union Station, and that the Red Line tracks would almost certainly be in the way on the other side, as that's almost exactly on the point at which they dip underground.

Also, how would you get the streetcars under the bridge in the first place? Seems to me like it would make the most sense to have them go along 2nd St NE (via 3rd and G), and turn up along F St to the Union Station circle.

Alternatively, a 1-way loop to this effect could work. (Cars heading west turn right up to K St, loop around Union Station, and return to H St via 2nd & F.

by andrew on Apr 14, 2010 11:46 am • linkreport

This is not diverting any money from the WMATA capital program. This is extra, new money that we'd hoped would go to the capital program, and still will, but 1 year later than hoped. It'd be great if it went in now, but the feds have different plans. Given that, we might as well use it for something else good.

charlie: Yes, the Maryland issue is separate from the FTA. DC will have the $50 million next year; it's already in the capital budget for next year. DC has budgeted to spend the $50M every year. But there's an extra year of money floating around because of the timing.

by David Alpert on Apr 14, 2010 12:00 pm • linkreport

@NikolasM, David Alpert, Andrew:
According to DDOT (presented at their Union Station Intermodal Transit Center meeting a few months ago), the H Street Underpass (the tunnel in question) is the same width as the K Street underpass, which is still used for traffic and is located 2 blocks north. (

Also, there is an uncompleted pedestrian tunnel running from the northern Metro mezzanine at Union Station to H Street under the Red Line tracks.

by Matt Johnson on Apr 14, 2010 12:17 pm • linkreport

@DaveAlpert; why do strongly suspect you will be recommending the remaining capital budget be given to WMATA for operating money this year...which isn't likely. Fenty seems quite content to starve WMATA.

by charlie on Apr 14, 2010 12:24 pm • linkreport

Where exactly would the western terminus on the initial segment be (i.e. to connect to Union Station)? It seems worrisome if it won't connect to Metro on either end.

by Gavin on Apr 14, 2010 12:45 pm • linkreport

The western end would be on 1st St, NE. As Matt mentioned, there is space reserved for a walkway from the north mezzanine of Union Station (outside the faregates, where you turn to go up the escalator) through to H Street. Presumably that would be right next to a streetcar stop with signs directing people through the tunnel to transfer between Metro and the streetcar.

by David Alpert on Apr 14, 2010 12:48 pm • linkreport

I just finished watching a hearing by the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee about innovative ways to fund highway and transit. Many states have state infrastructure banks that allow them to use a future source of revenue (tolls, sales taxes, fees, etc...) and leverage this revenue to make loans to local transit agencies at lower rates than what the private sector can offer. This can also speed project delivery by providing an up-front source of funding. Perhaps Adrian Fenty and DDOT should look into creating such an organization for the District to pay for the streetcar network. Parking revenue from the increased $2/hr rates can be used as the capital to obtain these loans.

by Ben on Apr 14, 2010 1:47 pm • linkreport


Whoa. That's very cool. A direct platform connection to Metro and Union Station would be incredible (especially if it also loops around Columbus Circle to pick up the MARC/VRE passengers, bus riders, and capitol employees.

The only other concern would be leaving room under Union Statinon for that crazy blue line extension that will almost certainly be built in the next 20-30 years.

by andrew on Apr 14, 2010 1:59 pm • linkreport

Just to clarify, the tunnel would run from the streetcar station at H & 1st NE to the mezzanine of the Metro. Passengers would still have to pass through the faregates and descend to platform level to get to the Metro.

by Matt Johnson on Apr 14, 2010 2:05 pm • linkreport

Also, if that's the case, can we just bulldoze that godawful overpass, returning the street to its original configuration?

by andrew on Apr 14, 2010 2:06 pm • linkreport

@Matt Oh, yeah. I know. It's still pretty cool, considering that the transfer will be as painless as possible. They'd be crazy to not do this.

by andrew on Apr 14, 2010 3:19 pm • linkreport

so, will the x2 stop at 1st ne, or will it keep its same route?

by sh on Apr 14, 2010 4:03 pm • linkreport

Taking money away from our schools, fire houses, and Metro to fund this 'tail wagging the dog' project is going to impress the feds that we're acting responsibly and are deserving of federal funding for the larger system ... ? I really don't follow the logic here ...

by Lance on Apr 14, 2010 4:22 pm • linkreport

Yeah, I agree with Lance. A City that's half a billion in the hole as it is reprogramming ~60 million dollars to a new shiny, EXPENSIVE transportation toy that we don't need isn't exactly the best fiscal decision. We dcan't afford the trendy transportation toys we already have (a'hem...metro) and now we want to buy more?

Even when we were running budget surpluses an expenditure like this would have been borderline irresponsible. But now, with the current state of the city finances, if you are going to reprogram money, you better be reprograming it to fill existing gaps in the city budget. Not spending it to create a bigger gap in the future.

by nookie on Apr 14, 2010 4:50 pm • linkreport

I suggest we forget about the streetcars and build a monorail!

by Fritz on Apr 14, 2010 5:39 pm • linkreport

YES! YES! YES! Let's stop subsidizing the transportation toys that people drive recklessly through my city and store in front of my building all day. I don't have to stand for this unjust allocation of funds!!!!

by Neil Flanagan on Apr 14, 2010 6:56 pm • linkreport

In all seriousness, though, what firehouse NRM or construction is being deferred to do this?

by Neil Flanagan on Apr 14, 2010 7:02 pm • linkreport

I wounder would this streetcar system in the future get to link up to other streetcar systems outside of DC itself in that the area outside DC has become very built up in the last ten years?

We could have saved hunderds of milllons of dollars if they didn't rip up the old streetcars in the 1960's. I'm very glad they are comming back but I think the new streetcar system will have to far bigger then the one in the past do to the city is far bigger now then in the old days.

by Ocean Railroader on Apr 14, 2010 9:13 pm • linkreport

@Ocean RR, what you describe already happened. For instance there was once street car service from downtown DC all the way out RI ave/Rte 1 to Laurel MD (from ~1900-1960). That's just one line. There were many more. It will be great when we return to that service.

by Bianchi on Apr 14, 2010 9:41 pm • linkreport

Wow, I had totally missed the Union Station Intermodal study

Good to know that DC is thinking about Union Station. Is that process still alive? Does the plan address the lousy lousy pedestrian flow / connectivity of the area?

From the study, though, it looks like they anticipate the streetcars going over the H St bridge (see fig 6-6).

by DavidDuck on Apr 14, 2010 10:06 pm • linkreport

How much would it cost or is it even possible to put all the rails underground and raise the ground to the level of where the rails are currently so that they could get rid of the H street Bridge.

I know people will hate this idea but what about just tearing it down and building a new station that can fully function as a train/commuter/intercity bus/city bus terminal and a mall.

I know people may say things about the building its an icon, architecture from the past etc if it does not suit its purpose in a decent manner it should be torn down and replaced with something that can.

What about gutting the place like was done 20 something years ago to redesign it into a modern station.

That Union Station Intermodal Transit Center Feasibility Study forgets to mention the Ciculator or Metrobus in anyway except for saying where they go now but the plans depicted would effectively forced the buses being moved with no answer as to where they might go.

by kk on Apr 14, 2010 10:49 pm • linkreport

@kk Umm, but there's nothing really wrong with Union Station. It functions perfectly well. I mean, I wish Amtrak NEC service to NYC were fifteen bucks cheaper and there are too many women's clothing stores in the mall, but besides that it's fine and it looks amazingly better than that lovely "modern" train station they have on 8th Ave in Manhattan.

I apologize if I missed this above, so a streetcar is coming west up H St NE at 3rd, how does it get to the passage under the overpass? Is DDOT going to punch a hole in the ramp to the overpass? Also, I assume plans include a set of stairs from the first floor of the bus garage down to ground level so circulator bus passengers can get to the streetcar. How would people coming from the Hill and Mass Ave get to the streetcar station? I guess through Union Station to the north side mezzanine and through the new tunnel?

by Steve S. on Apr 15, 2010 12:33 am • linkreport

"How much would it cost or is it even possible to put all the rails underground and raise the ground to the level of where the rails are currently so that they could get rid of the H street Bridge. [?]"

Good question. Though how desirable would that be as an at grade crossing.

I know that without raising the ground level, the tracks would have to be dropped to pass below H Street- but what then about the terminal at Union Station? Would the platforms have to be then lowered?

by Douglas A. Willinger on Apr 15, 2010 12:37 am • linkreport

@ Douglas A. Willinger

Couldn't all of the rails be lowered to the level of the ones that lead out to Virginia then lower H street.

by kk on Apr 15, 2010 1:08 am • linkreport

@Steve S.
I've never seen any information on how DDOT plans to get the streetcar around or through the H Street ramp.

Regardless of whether a streetcar is built, the Union Station Intermodal Transit Center project calls for the construction of the ped tunnel between the Metro mezzanine and 1st/H NE. It also calls for a staircase and elevator shaft to connect H Street above with 1st Street below and the ped tunnel.

People living on the Hill who needed to get to the streetcar wouldn't have to walk to the Union Station streetcar station. There would be other streetcar stops (probably every 2-3 blocks) along the route, so they could walk up 3rd or 4th Streets as well.

I'm not sure what your objection to the H Street bridge is.

However, let me describe a few of the circumstances, and maybe I'll answer your question accidentally.

At H street, the ground level is below the level of the platforms and tracks at Union Station. This is why cars and pedestrians used to go under the tracks. It is also why there is an abandoned underpass which the city apparently wants to use as a streetcar tunnel.

At H Street, the railroad viaduct is above grade, but it is not all at the same grade. Trains headed for the First Street Tunnel and Virginia are sloping downward slightly. The other tracks are approaching flatly approaching the terminal.

Above all of this is H Street, and its access to the Union Station parking deck. Also above all of this is Burnham Place, the proposed air-rights development above the tracks. H Street's bridge is one major access point for both, so removing it is not an option, even if the underpass could be reopened to cars.

Now, trains can't take grade change as well as cars can. So relocating the level of the tracks is not an easy proposition. They don't drop all that much to reach the First Street Tunnel. You see, what actually happens is the level of the ground changes. They call it Capitol Hill for a reason.

Moving the tracks to below grade would mean that they would actually have to slope upward to reach the First Street Tunnel, meaning the platforms at Union Station (in order to remain flat) would have to remain at their current level. There's no way to have a train rise two "levels" between the platforms at Union Station and an tunnel under the H Street underpass.

That would mean a complete reconstruction of the First Street Tunnel would be required.

Also, lowering all the tracks at Union Station to a level below the H Street underpass would mean that the slope would either eliminate the tunnels under the tracks at K Street, L Street, M Street, and Florida Avenue or, that the slope would have to begin further north, which would make connections to the rail yards more difficult.

I'm not saying it's impossible (because I'm not an engineer), but it would be extremely disruptive, expensive, and only dubiously beneficial.

So, what exactly is your problem with the H Street Bridge?

And just to clarify your most recent comment, the rails are already at the level they are when they lead out to Virginia, or pretty close to it when they cross H Street. As I pointed out above, the ground itself rises, between H Street and the Capitol.

by Matt Johnson on Apr 15, 2010 8:43 am • linkreport

@ Matt Johnson

Oops. when I said "the Hill" I meant the place where people work, (IE the Capitol) rather than the residential to the east.

by Steve S, on Apr 15, 2010 8:55 am • linkreport


Why are you such a wet towel when it comes to discussing streetcars?


by Fun Police on Apr 15, 2010 8:57 am • linkreport

@FP, Sorry I brought a little reality into the discussion ;)

Btw, nookie's concerns aren't mine. Any system we build should and must be self-sustaining ... at least from a DC perspective. Between federal funding and the revenues brought in, there should be no net cost to DC. If that weren't the case, then it would be hard to justify the system. So, I don't agree with nookie that getting in a streetcar system means competing with other issues for DC funds. Yes, there's a cash flow/timing issue. But that can be dealt with by government backed bonds, where investors/lenders provide the money, and DC gives its backing to lower the cost of the borrowing for the system. That's not a problem. That's like what happened with the baseball stadium where we may not be making any money on it (and there may be other issues) but at least in principle it is supposed to be paying for itself. My objection to the current funding issue address in this post is that we ARE stealing from our schools and firehouses and Metro. And we think that's going to impress the feds to put money into the project? We show how responsible we are by reprogramming much needed money into 'another transportation system'? We'd be much better off going straight for the government grants and raising money through bonds ... BUT OF COURSE, only after we've laid out a business plan ... along with all the other planning that is yet to be done. Sorry to be the wet towel ... but if this thing is going to get done, there has to be some in reality in it.

by Lance on Apr 15, 2010 12:06 pm • linkreport

And just how will the streetcars be powered inside Florida Ave in the Old City? Will we all have to pile off and push?

by Fred on Apr 15, 2010 1:40 pm • linkreport

Lance I love how you were against fiscal restraint before you were for it--up until today you've been an ardent advocate of the Committee of 100's position against a streetcar system that would use ANY wires, and instead proposed a far more costly wireless system.

Also love how you were allegedly for streetcars before you were against them--you've told me and others that the Committee of 100 was always an active supporter of bringing streetcars to DC (just not with wires, but I doubt the claim regardless), and now you're saying they're a wasteful transit toy.

It's 80s night at the next Cmte of 100 mtg. "You spin me 'right 'round, baby, 'right round..."

by Joel Lawson on Apr 15, 2010 4:42 pm • linkreport

@Matt J
But the plan for Union Station from last summer shows the streetcar platform on top of the H St Bridge. See fig 6-6.

@Steve S
I don't agree with kk at all but do you really think that Union Station works well? Of course its better than Penn Station NY, which everyone agrees is the worst of the worst.

- hardly anywhere to wait. Seriously, less waiting room than LA, let alone Philadelphia
- completely walls off passengers from access to the east (and northeast)
- horrid pedestrian flow in & out of the Metro station where the largest number of riders begin or end their trip
- the whole taxi stand / Columbus circle fiasco (perhaps this is a separate issue; DC does have a new plan for C circle)

Someday Union Station has to adjust for the success of rail transit since 1988 and make itself back into a train station. Right now it is a mall.

Thing is that streetcars will be a lot more expensive to build, buy, and maintain with any wireless technology, compared to the wires you hate so much. And they will take a lot more energy and therefore a lot more CO2 emissions, compared to conventional streetcars.

I've never seen you acknowledge this. Forgive me if you have. But this may be why people get annoyed when you bring up costs. I happen to agree with your skepticism about this tunnel idea, but wireless mandates for streetcars will make the costs of this tunnel seem affordable.

And I understand your argument that wires are completely impossible in the L'Enfant city so it is uneconomical for DCDOT to consider them outside the L'Enfant city. I don't agree with it, but I get it.

by DavidDuck on Apr 15, 2010 8:12 pm • linkreport

@Joel, "now you're saying they're a wasteful transit toy.

That was nookie that said that. I said I disagreed with nookie. I made the opposite case, that they can indeed be bought by us ... because they will be self sufficient, and shouldn't be considered a trade-off for other costs. And like I added, if I didn't believe that they can pay for themselves (vis revenues and federal grants) than I don't think they could happen since DC is not in a position to spend $1.7 B now or later of its own money. Fortunately, if done right DC money will not be needed. Now reprogramming school house, and fire house, and Metro money isn't going to help us prove to the feds that we're responsible and worthy of federal grants.

And incidentally, why do you think we're having to steal funding from the schools, firehouses, and Metro to pay for this 'demonstration project'? Probably 'cause we have don't the planning and studies that would be required to get federal grant money.

by Lance on Apr 15, 2010 10:13 pm • linkreport

@DavidDuck, I don't remember talking about the tunnel ... You may have confused me with another poster on that issue.

Also "And I understand your argument that wires are completely impossible in the L'Enfant city so it is uneconomical for DCDOT to consider them outside the L'Enfant city. I don't agree with it, but I get it.

I'd like to hear why you don't agree? I.e., is it because we can just build lines within and without the L'Enfant City that are completely separate (other than perhaps transfer stations where the two systems would overlap.) Don't you think having to maintain to separate maintenance systems, and having to buy different parts from different sources will add costs that you wouldn't have if you had a single system? Are you going on the assumption that wireless will be so much more expensive, that it's cheaper to absorb the costs of two separate systems than for it all to be one system? The District hasn't done any cost studies. At this point we have absolutely nothing that tells us that the total cost of ownership of a wireless system is anymore expensive (or less) than a wired system. All we have is anecdoctal 'proof'. And that isn't 'proof'. If the District (finally) did a real economic and technological study and found that over the life of the streetcar system that wireless would be cheaper, would that change your mind? We don't know at this point. And that is the big problem. Of course the biggest problem is that an entire 37 mile system is being designed around 3 streetcars that were originally bought to be part of a light-rail demonstration project using CSX tracks in River East. It's the tail wagging the dog solution. We're the planning?

by Lance on Apr 15, 2010 10:35 pm • linkreport

*Where's the planning?

by Lance on Apr 15, 2010 10:37 pm • linkreport

@David "the proposal would reprogram move $28 million

so, how does 'move' differ from 'reprogramme'?

by Lance on Apr 15, 2010 10:39 pm • linkreport

You are correct that the Union Station Intermodal Transit Center proposal called for the streetcar stop to be on the H Street bridge. At the meeting where the report was released, DDOT representatives talked about the possibility of using the underpass instead.

Obviously, they recommended the upper level stop, but the streetcar planning process is a different planning process, and they aren't bound to follow the recommendations of the USIMTC plan.

I don't know that a specific recommendation has been made to use the lower level, but David's reporting indicates that it will. I was only clarifying that the underpass exists, is large enough for streetcars, and has been considered by DDOT.

by Matt Johnson on Apr 15, 2010 10:45 pm • linkreport

I think they should start consdering carrying out studys of how to extend streetcars south along the US Route 1 bus route or a route along Interstate 95 oppsite the VRE and Amtrak tracks that would allow streetcars to go down to Fredricksburg VA. Fredricksburg at one time had a streetcar system and if it was restored and linked up to a express streetcar line that went to Washingtion DC it would open up a lot more possiblies to get to Washintion DC Oil and gas free and car free. This idea could be carried out over 10 to 30 years.

by Ocean Railroader on Apr 15, 2010 10:52 pm • linkreport


I'd like to hear why you don't agree? I.e., is it because we can just build lines within and without the L'Enfant City that are completely separate (other than perhaps transfer stations where the two systems would overlap.) Don't you think having to maintain to separate maintenance systems, and having to buy different parts from different sources will add costs that you wouldn't have if you had a single system?

Wow, you won't need two completely separate systems just to change power sources. No one has ever proposed such a thing. The only actual working application of wireless, in ground power in Bordeaux switches seamlessly from overhead wire operation to in-ground power.

Are you going on the assumption that wireless will be so much more expensive, that it's cheaper to absorb the costs of two separate systems than for it all to be one system? The District hasn't done any cost studies. At this point we have absolutely nothing that tells us that the total cost of ownership of a wireless system is anymore expensive (or less) than a wired system.

And what are you basing your assumption that we'd need two entirely separate rail systems on? I can't think of a single plausible reason to assume this - it's not like they're switching track gauge.

As far as costs go, we do indeed have hard data that wireless systems are more expensive. See Bordeaux.

by Alex B. on Apr 15, 2010 11:05 pm • linkreport

@Alex, Even if the type of streetcars we have already begun purchasing can indeed be compatible with different types of power source (and that not a known fact at this point, trust me), there's a lot more to a streetcar system than the streetcars. If for no other reason, you'll have to have two separate asset management and mantenance systems/programs just to handle the two different types of power sources. (I.e., you don't have the same part and problems to keep track of and take care of for a wired system as you do for a wireless system. Hence you need two different sets of systems ...)

by Lance on Apr 15, 2010 11:22 pm • linkreport

@Ocean Railroader, the distances you are talking about (54 miles for streetcar from DC to Fredericksburg) are inappropriate for streetcars, which should be limited to routes only a few to ten miles long. Very few people are going to be willing to travel to Fredericksburg at the typical speed for a streetcar, which is around 18-25 mph, or about two hours one-way.

We already have a rail system from Fredericksburg to DC. It's called VRE. DC should get a streetcar system to circulate passengers within DC as well as distribute passengers that arrive at L'Enfant and Union Stations. Maybe Fredericksburg is big enough to use a streetcar to collect folks to the train station and provide downtown circulation, but I doubt it. Probably a bus that runs every 12 minutes or so would be enough.

I've never been to Fredericksburg, but it's a town that looks like it has potential around its rail station. Two high streets in a T pattern with one parallel to the waterfront about two blocks away. The rail station on one leg of the T. Looks like if you had two bus routes, one going along the crossbar of the "T" and one going to the center of town and along the stem, each running about every 15 minutes during rush periods.

Looking at Fredericksburg Transit, they run their train feeder buses all day once per hour.

by Michael Perkins on Apr 15, 2010 11:33 pm • linkreport


Sure, there would be some added costs with having two power supplies. No system would ever require a transfer, however. Even DC's original streetcars did not require a physical passenger transfer to switch from overhead to underground power. Your assertion that they would is a fairly obvious strawman to make any hybrid solution look worse.

And the Capital costs in Bordeaux were 300% of standard tracks - you'd have to have an extremely expensive parts problem to ever make up that gap in life cycle costs.

This WaPo op-ed sums up the case against wires nicely:

by Alex B. on Apr 16, 2010 10:34 am • linkreport

The Union Station rails can't be lowered or raised - the whole station sits on a giant man-made hill built to take advantage of a flat grade in/out of washington and elevation above the city streets. (Trains going up or down hill can't really get started or stopped easily)

A really fascinating history about the planning/building of Union Station is available at this site:

by skinny on Apr 16, 2010 10:44 am • linkreport

@Lance: so, how does 'move' differ from 'reprogramme'?

It's just about the technical definition. Sarah Campbell explained it's not techncially a reprogramming. It's really immaterial to the main point — either way, they're proposing reallocating capital money — but I wanted to be technically accurate.

by David Alpert on Apr 16, 2010 11:49 am • linkreport

@David, thanks for the clarification.

by Lance on Apr 16, 2010 7:08 pm • linkreport

Lance: You and your Committee of 100 colleagues continue to drumbeat the allegation that there has been "no planning."

This is an incredibly vague and conveniently malleable allegation.

I'm more than happy to ask you, on behalf of the Committee of 100, for a very precise definition of what "planning" package would satisfy you. Not a long list of critiques of city actions, studies, etc., but a positive and proactive explanation of exactly what type/form/package would meet with the Cmte's satisfaction?

(Meanwhile, I will not concede the point re: fiscal restraint. You and the Cmte have mentioned cost as a factor of concern at numerous junctures, while simultaneously advocating for a truncation of the entire process, in favor of a system that would actually increase costs.)

by Joel Lawson on Apr 17, 2010 9:45 am • linkreport

@Joel, I'm more than happy to ask you, on behalf of the Committee of 100, for a very precise definition of what "planning" package would satisfy you.

I guess you don't read GGW often?

DAVID ALPERT WROTE IN GGW: "Buckley quotes me again in the page 7 continuation where I actually praise the Committee of 100's efforts, insofar as they seek to get information to the public about the various options."

Here is the planning which the Committee of 100 has suggested to DDOT:

Planning Studies

1. A Detailed Streetcar Route Plan - site specific information: the layout of tracks, pedestrian access, turnarounds on each segment; and the adequacy of the streets to support vehicular traffic as well as bicycles.
2. A Streetcar Business Plan - expected ridership; capital and operating costs over the life cycle of the equipment; acquisition of land and facilities for maintenance, storage, etc.
3. An Operations and Maintenance Plan - including interface with Metro buses and Metro rail personnel and training.
4. A Land Use Plan along the streetcar corridors that respects neighborhood aspirations articulated in the Comprehensive Plan (as opposed to being driven primarily by achieving greater density).
5. A Streetcar Technology Assessment Study on each type of streetcar technology, conducted by an objective engineering firm, to determine the pros and cons of all propulsion systems BEFORE DC commits to any one system.
6. A Public Streetcar Technology Showcase to engage the public in understanding new technologies, system interfaces, “open system architecture”, etc.

by Lance on Apr 17, 2010 1:15 pm • linkreport

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