Greater Greater Washington

Budget


Breaking: Gray DOES NOT cut streetcars

DC Council Chairman and Mayor-elect Vincent Gray and his staff have released their proposal for the FY2011 budget gap, and are not reprising the adventure of May 26: the H Street-Benning Road and Anacostia streetcars are still in the capital budget.


Photo by thisisbossi on Flickr.

This was the last financial hurdle to start the project, and the Council is expected to approve the streetcar plan as well today which passed its committee unanimously on Friday. The streetcar should open in 2012.

As with most transportation projects at this stage, small details still need to be worked out. DDOT has to come to a final agreement with Potomac Development and Amtrak about logistical issues in the H Street underpass, though DDOT officials say that they are making lots of progress.

DC also still needs to work out a sustainable "value capture" system to let the streetcar system directly benefit from the economic development that flows from its very existence. That should include mechanisms to alleviate displacement from higher property values.

The value capture will be necessary to help DC pay for the rest of the system given the expected hostile climate in Congress to transit funding at least for the next few years.

But we're getting a streetcar. And Gray kept his campaign promise to support the program. Now is the opportunity to move beyond the pro-streetcar camp fighting with the seemingly anti-streetcar camp and arguing about which camp Gray is in. Now, we're all in the "make the streetcar a success" camp. One streetcar project, one city.

This is good news, but the budget has plenty of bad news for a lot of people. That's why, as someone who would pay more taxes under Wells' plan, I nonetheless support his proposal for a tax increase to cover part, but far from all, of the budget shortfall and preserve some of the most critical social services.

Gray's proposal does make a few changes from the Fenty proposal, including a 4-day furlough for "nonessential" DC government personnel, and restores funding to the Healthy Schools Act, low-income energy assistance, and the Main Streets programs, including the funds to pick up trash in neighborhood commercial corridors.

A bit over 6 months ago, we shut down the phones in Gray's office to ask him to pull back the streetcar cuts. Let's thank him now. Contact Gray at vgray@dccouncil.us or 202-724-8032 to thank him. And while you're at it, suggest that the Council work out some kind of reasonable tax increase to make sure those of us who are more comfortable share in the responsibility of this budget.

Update: Added PDF of the budget proposal. Also, here's the accompanying Budget Support Act.

Update 2: Clarified that the Anacostia line is also still in the budget.

David Alpert is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Greater Greater Washington and Greater Greater Education. 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 loves the area which is, in many ways, greater than those others, and wants to see it become even greater. 

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This is a smart move, I know budgets are tight but it would cost so much more to start this project again later. Both because some aspects of the project would have to be done again, and the cost of construction is very low at the moment.

The real budget issue would be can the afford to keep the trains running once its built.

by Matt R on Dec 7, 2010 8:37 am • linkreport

Is there a link to the Gray budget proposal?

by Just161 on Dec 7, 2010 8:55 am • linkreport

Putting it up now.

by David Alpert on Dec 7, 2010 8:56 am • linkreport

Interesting. It's looking increasingly like Gray is Tony Williams with unfortunate taste in spectacles. While both DC's conservatives and the "Snow Plows...For Who?" crowd will be disappointed, this is a good sign for everyone else.

One slight criticism:

DC also still needs to work out a sustainable "value capture" system to let the streetcar system directly benefit from the economic development that flows from its very existence. That should include mechanisms to alleviate displacement that higher property values will cause.

Could you rewrite this with the objective of revealing--rather than obscuring--what it is you're trying to say? :)

by oboe on Dec 7, 2010 9:00 am • linkreport

Ooops. Looks like you forgot to close the "italicize" tag on your "Update" note...

by oboe on Dec 7, 2010 9:04 am • linkreport

--for now---

by oboe on Dec 7, 2010 9:05 am • linkreport

Italics fixed. And links to the budget info are up now.

by David Alpert on Dec 7, 2010 9:09 am • linkreport

David, could you expand on the paragraph that Oboe quoted? Are you suggesting a permanent property tax along the streetcar route, perhaps with a rebate in place for existing owners?

by Dave J on Dec 7, 2010 9:49 am • linkreport

I'll do a followup post. I'm not sure yet exactly what I am suggesting.

by David Alpert on Dec 7, 2010 9:50 am • linkreport

That "furlough" proposal looks like a euphemism for a pay cut to me. If they are simply not paying staff for holidays during which staff otherwise would not have worked, it's a pay cut, not a furlough. I think to qualify as a furlough, the pay decrease would require a commensurate decrease in work. If my understanding of the proposal is correct, I wish they would at least call it what it is.

by Mark Jordan on Dec 7, 2010 9:58 am • linkreport

Fair enough. The language you used there reflects that confusion, then. ;) I do agree that a dedicated source of at least capital funding needs to be identified quickly. The streetcars should not be plagued with Metro's budgetary uncertainties.

by Dave J on Dec 7, 2010 9:58 am • linkreport

That "furlough" proposal looks like a euphemism for a pay cut to me.

That's exactly what furloughs are: they are reverse bonuses.

by Dave J on Dec 7, 2010 10:02 am • linkreport

@Dave J: I think that's false. At least, I think we can distinguish between two scenarios: one in which you pay someone less for the same amount of work (a pay cut) and another in which you pay someone less for doing less work (a furlough). It sounds to me like Gray is proposing the former.

by Mark Jordan on Dec 7, 2010 10:10 am • linkreport

@Mark, It's not like they're not going to have to catch up on the work that piled up while they were off. Dave J has a point even if you're correct that a furlough is supposed to be for 'work days' ... And the bottom line is that they have that much less take home pay.

by Lance on Dec 7, 2010 10:19 am • linkreport

If you type define: furlough into google, one of the definitions that comes up is:
Unpaid time off given to government employees for the purpose of reducing the budget.

None of the other definitions require a reduction in workload as part of the furlough process, either. In general, employees are allowed to burn available vacation days on furlough days: that reduces benefit accrual, which is accounted for just like salary expenditures and will lead to a similar cost savings. Back in the last recession, the non-profit my Mom worked for furloughed their employees from Christmas to New Years for a couple of years, and you were allowed to save your vacation for it. Their objectives and workload for the year remained unchanged.

by Dave J on Dec 7, 2010 10:20 am • linkreport

Sounds offhand like David is proposing a TIF (Tax Increment Financing) district along a given streetcar line...whereby proceeds from the TIF district would help pay for the streetcar construction and/or operations. At least, that's my read on his statement.

by Froggie on Dec 7, 2010 10:22 am • linkreport

DC also still needs to work out a sustainable "value capture" system to let the streetcar system directly benefit from the economic development that flows from its very existence. That should include mechanisms to alleviate displacement from higher property values.

This sounds like a way of ensuring that those benefiting from the streetcar line coming in (i.e., large land owners, developers, etc.) get taxed, and those most likely to be pushed out by such development get 'assistance' to help them pay for the higher taxes etc that they'll be paying on their more valuable land. Interesting ...

by Lance on Dec 7, 2010 10:23 am • linkreport

Glad I'm not a DC tax payer. With a 10 figure budget deficit how are they going to pay for streetcars?

by Peter on Dec 7, 2010 10:33 am • linkreport

Peter: The streetcar was already in the budget. Other measures close the gap. Also, the main gap being debated was in the operating budget, not capital.

by David Alpert on Dec 7, 2010 10:44 am • linkreport

Isn't saying that the H Street underpass issue is a "small detail" sort of like the captain of the Titanic saying the iceberg was a small detail?

If the streetcar can't get to Union Station, that's a bit of a major failure of the program. Likewise, if it can't get to the other side of the Anacostia, that's another major failure. The streetcar would just become a novelty toy to go back and forth on H Street, without doing anything constructive for transportation.

by Fritz on Dec 7, 2010 10:47 am • linkreport

This is CRAP. And people wonder why blacks in SE and NE are so disgusted with local government. Kids are dying in failing schools and being gunned down in poor neighborhoods, but white yuppies and businesses they frequent get a 2 billion dollar streetcar system. I am a professional. I am in the class of people who would ride a streetcar. But my selfish desires can take third place.

by Tony Smith on Dec 7, 2010 10:57 am • linkreport

Yet DC has one of the highest per-pupil expenditures on education in the nation. The problem with the "failing schools" is not money. I'm not sure I know what exactly would fix them, but I do know that simply throwing funds at the problem has failed.

by Dave J on Dec 7, 2010 11:02 am • linkreport

Was the Anacostia Initial Line Segment cut? It didn't seem particularly useful in itself but important for increasing the chances of constructing a line from the Metro station to Historic Anacostia. I'm wondering if I missed something.

by Phil LaCombe on Dec 7, 2010 11:05 am • linkreport

Fritz,

The H Street Underpass is a small detail, because the problems aren't technical in nature. Rather, they are legal. And DDOT has a clear public use - the only question is if they use eminent domain to take an easement or if PDC agrees to sell. Nothing about it is a dealbreaker, and quite frankly nothing about it is uncommon for any kind of urban construction project.

by Alex B. on Dec 7, 2010 11:06 am • linkreport

No, that's not cut either. I'll amend the post.

by David Alpert on Dec 7, 2010 11:07 am • linkreport

alleviate displacement from higher property values
Isn't part of the idea of the streetcar specifically that it will induce displacement? Like displacing the AutoZone's enormous parking lot with urban street-facing retail?

by Gavin on Dec 7, 2010 11:07 am • linkreport

I love how people without kids in failing schools always say the problem is not money -- or that we shouldn't "throw" money into a school system. NO one suggested throwing money anywhere or even that all problems are caused by a lack of money. But it is indisputable that the poorest areas in the city need deep investments in human capital much more than the H Street corridor. If you disagree with that, then you are blind to the plight of the poor people in this city and from my perspective -- very selfish.

by Tony Smith on Dec 7, 2010 11:10 am • linkreport

The H Street/Benning Road streetcar will serve the poorest part of the city. It will make transportation to jobs and services much easier for those coming from across the Anacostia. I don't envision many yuppies from Capitol Hill riding it to go out Benning Road.

by Tom Coumaris on Dec 7, 2010 11:19 am • linkreport

Tom: keep telling yourself that. The heart of this thing is to transport folks from Union Station to shops along H street. I is secondarily, if at all, about the things you mention.

Furthermore, this does not respond to my point about priorities. Constructing the streetcar, however admirable some of the goals, should not be a priority for DC with so many deep structural problems. Investing in the city cannot mean investing only in high income zip codes. From that perspective, the project is a complete waste. It's the equivalent of replacing a three-year old car for a wealthy family, while the poor family walks several miles to work. The defenses sound selfish in light of the deep poverty, violence and unemployment in parts of DC.

by Tony Smith on Dec 7, 2010 11:33 am • linkreport

@Tom Coumaris, have you seen the areas you mentioned? Are you suggesting that the H street line will serve Anacostia? Well yes, I guess that is what you are saying but how exactly is that possible since they are not neighboring areas?

Although there could be more than what I obviously don't know, your suggestion is like stating "The H street line will serve...making it easier for those coming G'town." Does it really?

by HogWash on Dec 7, 2010 11:33 am • linkreport

HogWash, I believe there will be some type of symbolic Anacostia line. The whole thing smacks of trickle down after the fact justifications. The people of SE did not ask for this streetcar system. Now, its primary beneficiaries are saying -- but it will help you. I can list 100 things that poor blacks in the city want more than the buses and subways that already take them home. Make no mistake: this project was not designed with poor people in mind.

by Tony Smith on Dec 7, 2010 11:50 am • linkreport

Let me get this straight: black people in NE and SE should be angry about a significant investment in transportation infrastructure that will almost unilaterally benefit predominantly black neighborhoods in NE and SE? Because...why, again? Because our schools suck? Because Wards 7 and 8 have a 20% unemployment figure? Because gangbangers are still shooting gangbangers? This isn't an either/or proposition, you know. And these projects (both the Anacostia line and the H Street line) are serving underserved, majority-black areas of the city, and will provide jobs and help spur development.

It's also worth noting that "$2 billion" is a tremendously misleading figure, since only $37 million of FY2011's budget is allocated to the streetcars.

Or is it simply the fact that white people are hanging out on H Street these days that has pissed you off?

by Steve on Dec 7, 2010 11:50 am • linkreport

So why did we start the streetcar with lines to places people wont go in the first place ?

Anacostia - Bolling AFB line why is DC building a Fed shuttle. This is DC's bridge to nowhere; there are millions of better choices than this route.

the H Street line from Hechinger Mall to RFK lot who the hell is going to ride it considering there is probably going to be one stop between the two. There is a high probability that anyone riding it in this area will be walking for than a few block/taking the bus to the stop and then transfering to the a bus route or the metrorail

Why not just start at Benning Road Station or Minnesota Ave and go west. The distance would probably be near the same but it will stop where people are actually going Minnesota Ave or Benning Rd on the east and 8th & H, Hechinger Mall on the west. With the current route the streetcars will be empty for 1/3 of the route.

by kk on Dec 7, 2010 12:01 pm • linkreport

If the H Street Streetcar had not yet broken ground then maybe you could make a case for postponing it in this budget crisis. But the cost to complete this segment is not THAT high and leaving capital projects around town half finished is plain dumb.

by Jason on Dec 7, 2010 12:03 pm • linkreport

kk: The Anacostia line no longer goes to Bolling. It goes from the maintenance facility across from Anacostia Naval Station to Barry Farm to Anacostia Metro and then will be extended through Historic Anacostia to the 11th Street bridge.

The H Street line doesn't stop at Hechinger Mall. It will go to Union Station.

by David Alpert on Dec 7, 2010 12:04 pm • linkreport

@Tony, Tom: The Anacostia Portion of the line will eventually run over the new 11th St Bridge, and duplicate/enhance much of the 90-93 bus route. A great many residents south of the river use these buses to commute to work each day. The streetcar will offer a nicer ride, and will hopefully also increase frequency, capacity, and transfer options along this route. I would say that this is a *very* big deal for those communities.

I won't argue that the The Anacostia Initial Line makes no sense by itself. It was intended as a technology pilot so that we could "learn" how to most effectively build streetcar tracks without disrupting a busy part of town. Instead, it got hopelessly delayed, and the H St project served that purpose instead. Still, it will serve a useful role once the system is built up -- you've got to start somewhere. The fact that Gray included this in the budget seems to indicate that he's serious about seeing that the rest of the system does get built.

The political difficulties associated with the Anacostia line are nothing new, and seem to echo the difficulties encountered during the planning/construction of the Green Line. I'm honestly very disappointed that there are no immediate plans to build tracks over the bridge, or make the (now very expensive) line as useful as was originally intended.

by andrew on Dec 7, 2010 12:06 pm • linkreport

Okay, I have to give David his due. I hereby walk back my "mistake" comment form the other thread.

I of course reserve the right to reverse this should events change. ;)

by John on Dec 7, 2010 12:09 pm • linkreport

Steve: if you polled blacks in DC, they hate this project. Again, it was not done with their interests at stake. Instead, it was done for the businesses and homeowners in the H-street area.

And you can belittle the problem if you want, but the issues of race, poverty and neglect are very real and have dire consequences. Even assuming the project has some benefits, it is absolutely fair to question the priorities and the distributional benefits. Liberals love to scream at the Bush tax cuts, but when things hit closer to home, they engage in the same obfuscation as conservatives.

Andrew: I will reiterate the point that even if you can point to some benefit for poor areas, this is at most a trickle down benefit. Poor people did not organize to create this project, and they almost uniformly oppose it. But I guess they do not know what's good for them.

by Tony Smith on Dec 7, 2010 12:17 pm • linkreport

@ Steve

"And these projects (both the Anacostia line and the H Street line) are serving underserved, majority-black areas of the city, and will provide jobs and help spur development."

For Anacostia Line

Who the hell is going to use it except for employees or visitors to Bolling AFB, The only other place it goes is past Barry Farms and as of now the W2 does a better job of serving this area.

For H Street Line

I'll give you one with it will spur development

But what is the chance the people who reside in the area of the streetcar will get the jobs that come from the development.

What percentage of these people will still be here if gentrifying occurs.

How is the H street line serving underserved areas the X2 serves H Street and Benning Road and will go where the people want instead of this streetcar which will most likely have 70 % of the riders transferring. The upcoming X9 will beat the streetcar in terms of riders because it goes where people want and the street goes nowhere.

Most people along this line are either going to

Minnesota Ave (does not go here)

Springarn/RFKlot (when something is happening there)
(stop will be used seasonally during events at RFK, when school is open, during Farmers Markets)

Hechinger Mall plus the stops just before and after it.
(goes here but not known where actual station will be and might not be worth it many transfer to other buses and stop might not be convinent to bus stops or might not actually be near the shopping center)

8th & H (goes here but not known where actual station will be and might not be worth it many transfer to other buses and stop might not be convinent to bus stops)

North Capitol & H (does not go here)

7th & H (does not go here)

11th & H (does not go here)

by kk on Dec 7, 2010 12:18 pm • linkreport

I’m going to admit that I don’t know the ins and outs of this. But can someone please explain how the streetcar design (based on David’s latest) helps those of us in Anacostia? In the immediate area David mentions, there is the Anacostia metro and at least 10-15 bus lines that serve it. Specifically, there are the 94 and w6-w8 “loop” buses that travels the entire Anacostia corridor. This is in addition to the 90, 92, 96, p6, w4, b2 et. al buses that travel similar routes. All of them, travel at 15 minute intervals during rush hour. Within the span of 20 minutes, I can walk to Anacostia, Congress Heights and Southern Avenue Metro stations.

IÂ’m not sure what the interest is in making Barry Farms accessible. Barry Farm is a 5-minute walk to the metro and a zillion bus lines.

All this said, I donÂ’t get how my area is supposed to benefit from the streetcar system. If the desire is to link us with areas west of the river, then what do the aforementioned modes supposed to offer us? I would love to get the perspective of someone familiar with the area who doesnÂ’t live in it because many times I get the sense that many of you have never traveled the areas you mention. The Anacostia Naval station to Barry Farm to Anacostia? In an effort to spur or support what?

by HogWash on Dec 7, 2010 12:26 pm • linkreport

@Alex B, The H Street Underpass is a small detail, because the problems aren't technical in nature. Rather, they are legal. And DDOT has a clear public use - the only question is if they use eminent domain to take an easement or if PDC agrees to sell. Nothing about it is a dealbreaker, and quite frankly nothing about it is uncommon for any kind of urban construction project.

It's really not that simple. Potomac Development Group, the land owner which DDOT would have to deal with the either purchase or take over (by eminent domain) has already stated in letters to DDOT that it's not going to happen, if they try to take it by eminent domain it's going to be a multi-year extremely expensive undertaking on the part of DDOT. I've heard estimates of 5 to 10 years for DDOT to get it by eminent domain if it came down to that. I.e., It's NOT a minor consideration. It's a show stopper. Just like not having federal funding to get it over the Anacostia is a show stopper. My guess is that Gray included it in the budget for the same reason that the Council voted to approve it going forward last week. No one wants to be seen as having killed it. And they don't need to. With these show stoppers in place, it'll die all on its own. Well, that and the fact that all kinds of federal environment studies still need to be done on it ... which could end up increasing the cost if these studies end up giving rise to new requirements not already budgeted for. It's still the same old story, had all these things been planned for in the beginning, we'd now have before us a real estimate of what it would take to finish this thing, and no one, not the Council, and not the incoming Mayor, could rely on it 'dying a natural death' to see it go away. We'd be in a better position to see it finished. Of course, I still maintain (my personal opinion) that it would make more sense to put the first lines in in places like 14th Street or Wisconsin Avenue where they can have an immediate impact on congestion. And, I also think that without having a dedicated ROW we're not getting anything of value. We'll just be making the traffic situation worse for everyone including the folks on the streetcar ... who won't get any advantage to being in a less expensive bus, but will get the disadvantage of anything blocking the rails stopping the streetcar in its tracks. But I guess that's cause I've seen streetcars operational in Europe, and their main lines always seemed to be in already well established areas where they were used to relieve congestion, and with (for the most part) dedicated Rights of Way. I feel like we've taken a good idea (no, a GREAT idea) and reworked it such in DC that it's no longer even a good idea.

by Lance on Dec 7, 2010 12:52 pm • linkreport

@HogWash--

The current route, that's being constructed, of the Anacostia line, won't really help anyone, at least not for a long while, depending on what else gets built.

It really is a sort of sad story: one of the original streetcar ideas, which was planned separately but at the same time as the 2003-2005 citywide Transit expansion Alternatives Analysis study, was to use the existing but nearly abandoned CSX railroad tracks as a "starter line." There was even a fancy groundbreaking ceremony in November 2004, complete with a tent, catered reception, and all manner of dignitaries, who each got ceremonial shovels in which to dig the ceremonial ground (gravel, actually) for a ceremonial picture. The route at that time was supposed to go all the way from the main entrance to Bolling (at Malcolm X Blvd) to Pennsylvania Avenue.

The (misguided, I have always maintained) idea was that by using the only unused railroad tracks in DC, there would be no conflict over street space allocation or parking, and there was a small incentive to provide transit to some part of Bolling, particularly where the new Defense Intelligence Agency building was being built. And everyone involved would get political brownie points for doing something East of the River. But there are no studies which show it as any sort of high-demand transportation corridor.

Nevertheless, the project had been sold to the community through dozens of meetings and presentations, and as far as I can tell it had buy-in. But then DDOT found out that the legal status of the virtually abandoned railroad tracks wasn't as straightforward as they had thought, and the negotiations to use the tracks (or at least the route the tracks follow) fell apart. Then the project went through a series of changes which, most importantly, were not done with any sort of community consultation. There was outcry when community leaders learned via the Post (and not through meetings with DDOT) that a new ideas was to run down MLK Blvd--a route which would make much more sense. Then the route was changed again, and perhaps a few more times, and what is actually under construction now is a half-mile line that won't get any ridership. And nobody along the way was willing to kill the project, and add to the ever-increasing list of broken promises East of the River.

In the day-late-and-a-dollar-short category, Jim Graham did ask some questions about the line about a year ago, but I have to wonder if he'd been paying attention for the last 5 years. (I think, but am not sure, that he was at the Nov 2004 groundbreaking.)

What's under construction now does go to the north entrance to Bolling AFB, but Bolling is about 3 miles long and few of the jobs are within walking distance of the north entrance. Barry Farms residents could take the streetcar, but as you point out, Barry Farms is already really close to the Anacostia Metro. Perhaps, if the line can be extended south to the main entrance of Bolling, and north to cross the 11th street bridges, it might get some use, but it's hardly optimal for anyone.

by thm on Dec 7, 2010 12:56 pm • linkreport

Maps posted right here on GGW show that the Anacostia line will eventually continue north across the 11th Street bridge to the Navy Yard and Capitol Hill and east along Minnesota Avenue to the Minnesota Avenue Metro station. This is only the beginning. Ditto with the H Street line, which as someone mentioned will go to Georgetown as well.

I'm getting so tired of the complaints that these improvements are somehow not meant for black people in D.C. I'm black and my family's from the Caribbean and has been here for over thirty years. They aren't rich, but they've managed to buy homes and start business here. You can bet that my aunt, who's opening a Caribbean restaurant on Georgia Avenue in Petworth, can't wait for a streetcar to deliver hungry people - white, black, whatever - to her kitchen. I'm sure there are lots of others in D.C. who feel the same way and are definitely not white yuppies.

by dan reed! on Dec 7, 2010 1:06 pm • linkreport

@Tony Smith,

So have their been polls of black people/poor people showing their uniform hatred of it? I would like to see it.

Not to mention that crime/schools in DC have been improving slowly over the past few years.

What sort of social metric does a city have to meet in order to build new transportation infrastructure? DC isn't the first city to add a streetcar (or light or heavy rail) while their were social problems. For that matter, DC had a lot of problems with schools and crime while the metro was being built.

by Canaan on Dec 7, 2010 1:11 pm • linkreport

As for Barry Farms, it will become a livable,walkable community with a few open green spaces. It is directly near the Department of Homeland Security Compound and also not far from the upcoming area of Downtown Anacostia. Look it up :
http//:www. planning.dcbiz.dc.gov
Search real deep into the Great Streets Initiative, under Barry Farms and click onto the planning links until you come across a PDF with at least 60-100 pages of info. Will this project be completed as planned? I don't know. However, I believe that it will due to the DHS Project. Also, please let me know if the link has worked. I'm giving this web address off of my memory, while not in front of my computer.

by Charmaine on Dec 7, 2010 1:11 pm • linkreport

Lance,

I'm not sure you're familiar with how eminent domain works. There is a clear public purpose. DDOT can take the easements they need, there isn't much of a legal question about that. The only question is of price.

DDOT can take the property tomorrow and start construction the next day, if they like. The legal battle may well play our for years, but again, that's over price. Once the District decides to take the land, they then agree to pay whatever price the court process determines.

Look at the Ballpark - the District used eminent domain to evict several property owners for that project. They were able to start construction immediately, while the legal process took longer to reach financial terms.

Use of eminent domain is not the preferred method, since the legal requirements are quite high. Nevertheless, it does allow DC to take the land and begin construction very quickly, make no mistake about that.

by Alex B. on Dec 7, 2010 1:24 pm • linkreport


@THM, thanks for the background info.

@Dan Reed, I can't say I've heard many debate whether ANY improvements will help ALL blacks. What I have heard debated is whether the sought after improvements are really beneficial to areas east of the river, areas heavily populated by blacks. While I like the fact your aunt will open a business in Petworth, I can't imagine how a streetcar will benefit her since that entire area is metro accessible and walkable.

Moreover, as a resident during the time even before the baseball talks, does the AWI (Anacostia Waterfront Initiative) even exist anymore or has it been swallowed into another project? I ask because from what I recall, many of the improvement in the area were initially proposed under the AWI. Then as the stadium was built, there was supposed to be residual community benefits from that. Then after Fenty won and lost, most people attributed the advances and proposals to him.

I would wage that the new DHS will do more to serve the area than this streetcar proposal. For the casual reader not familiar with the Farms/Anacostia, you can throw a baseball from the Farms to Anacostia metro. This is the area that is supposed to benefit from the streetcar.

by HogWash on Dec 7, 2010 2:24 pm • linkreport

@Alex B Use of eminent domain is not the preferred method, since the legal requirements are quite high. Nevertheless, it does allow DC to take the land and begin construction very quickly, make no mistake about that.

There are major differences between the fellows who owned the land under the ballpark and this company with deep pockets, influential friends, and a need for this area which DDOT wants to take away that would prevent them from fulfilling the mission the govt./Amtrak brought them in for. Like the PA Bike Lanes, this is another instance of DDOT not fully understanding the political environment it is operating in here. Also I understand how the whole thing was handled by DDOT (i.e., lack of communication to the extent that the company didn't even know why DDOT had earlier asked for and been given access to survey this space, until DDOTs plans came out in the news) has resulted in this company vowing to fight DDOT to the extreme. It's not going to be as simple as you think.

by Lance on Dec 7, 2010 3:07 pm • linkreport

The part of DC across the Anacostia on Benning Road (Kenilworth) is the poorest part of the city not served well by transit now. People there depend on public transit.

When I'm on H Street I don't see any apparent well-to-do people using the buses now. It's the corridor for people coming into the center city from far NE.

Whatever the merits of any future lines or extensions of this one, I think this line will benefit those who need mass transit the most.

by Tom Coumaris on Dec 7, 2010 3:27 pm • linkreport

@Tony Smith

Your racist ideas about how every business and property owner is "white" are not very accurate. Maybe you should try to leave your housing project more, you might notice there is a very large "black" middle class in this city.

Also, who appointed you the ambassador and spokesman for the "black" people of DC?

by Doug on Dec 7, 2010 9:44 pm • linkreport

I stand corrected. The accurate link or web address to the site that I've mentioned earlier is:

www.planning.dc.gov/planning/frames.asp?doc=/planning/lib/planning/BarryFarmRedevelopmentPlan.pdf

by Charmaine on Dec 8, 2010 3:53 am • linkreport

Lance makes an excellent point that if streetcars are not run on dedicated rights-of-way, we're wasting our time and money on this new toy. They will be slow -- even slower than buses because they'll lack the ability to detour around obstacles.

by Streetcar Skeptic on Dec 8, 2010 5:04 pm • linkreport

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