Posts about H Street
Silver Line will beat DC streetcar to opening, but Tucson shines a streetcar light at the end of the tunnel
When Metrorail's new Silver Line opens to passengers on July 26, it will soundly beat DC's H Street streetcar in the unofficial race over which opens first. But one day earlier, a sister project to the DC streetcar will have its day in the sun.
At 9:00 am on July 25, less than 30 hours before the Silver Line opens, Tucson's Sun Link streetcar will carry its first passengers.
Although Tucson is 2,000 miles away from H Street, their streetcar project is related to DC's. Manufacturer United Streetcar built the railcars for both DC and Tucson, and the same factory delays that have slowed delivery of DC's streetcars also mired Tucson's.
Sun Link was originally supposed to open in October, 2013. Its 10 month late opening is just as frustrating for Arizonans as the late transit openings are for us in the DC region.
But frustrations aside, the impending opening dates for the Silver Line and Tucson streetcar are also a light at the end of the tunnel for H Street. Overcoming the obstacles of a big new infrastructure project is hard, and takes a long time, but these projects do eventually open.
Cross-posted at BeyondDC.
The H Street streetcar will take even longer to open than many thought. It's past time for DDOT to be more honest
There's more bad news for DC streetcars: The latest estimates show the H Street line may not open until early 2015. This isn't an additional delay, but rather seems to be simply a more genuine timeline of how long the remaining work will take. That's a step forward. Unfortunately, DDOT is still not being fully forthright about what's going on.
What's left to do, and how long it will take
The streetcar team sent a construction update yesterday. It said that crews would move the streetcars currently on H Street back to the Anacostia testing and commissioning site for 6 weeks of vehicle maintenance and equipment installation. That was enough for Aaron Wiener at the City Paper to start digging for more details.
Here's a breakdown of what he found out.
First, the maintenance and equipment phase beginning today will last 6 weeks. Six weeks from yesterday is July 16.
Following that, DDOT will conduct final system integration tests. DDOT hasn't said how long that will take. Since we don't have a timeline, let's come back to this later.
Next, DDOT will train its day-to-day streetcar drivers. Each operator will have at least 30 hours of training, but DDOT hasn't said how long this will take overall. Let's come back to this later too.
Following that, the Federal Transit Administration will oversee final safety certification. In other cities with streetcars this takes 90-120 days, although engineers caution it could be more for DC since this is DC's first time doing it. Let's assume 120 days, or 4 months. Starting from July 16, that pushes the streetcar to mid-November.
Once safety certification is complete, passenger service should begin within 30 days. That puts us in December, before we've even accounted for the integration tests or the operator training.
Unless those tasks take no more than about one week each, an opening date after the new year looks unavoidable.
Honest communication will help regain trust
This may not exactly be another delay. Rather, it seems a more honest account of the timeline all along.
Last year, Mayor Gray trumpeted a late 2013 opening that now appears to have never been technically realistic. Was DDOT under orders from the mayor to hide the true timeline? Or maybe DDOT officials felt pressure to give Mayor Gray overly optimistic assumptions, and the mayor never knew the real timeline. Or maybe it's just taken a lot longer than anybody thought.
Either way, having been burned by this, the streetcar team now seems afraid to give many timeline details at all, forcing reporters like Aaron Wiener to try and piece things together.
But fear of missing another deadline is hurting DDOT more than missing deadlines would. Instead of setting expectations for 2015, DDOT officials keep saying they don't know how long work will take. Washingtonians hopeful to ride the streetcar soon have nothing to go on, and assume opening day is at most a month or two away. Every couple of months feels like a fresh delay.
Instead of one clear delay and one negative news cycle, DDOT's lack of communication have resulted in fresh news cycles reporting mounting delays every couple of months. The press has had an ongoing joke about a "race" between the streetcar and the Silver Line for which will open first. (It looks like the Silver Line will "win.")
DDOT may not know exactly how long every task will take, and it's understandable that the timeline needs padding to account for problems. It's taken longer than expected for Oregon Iron Works to build the streetcar vehicles. Officials say the extra-harsh winter slowed some things down. So did historic preservation at Spingarn High School for the maintenance facility (though in a city where preservation has a hand in many big projects, perhaps it shouldn't have been such a surprise).
But officials should have a general idea of roughly how long each task will take. Instead of giving no information at all about integration testing and driver training, officials could share a range. Instead of leaving us to guess how long until the line opens, they should give a range.
Then, if there's a setback that is out of everyone's control, like a lot of snow, honestly reassess the timeline. It doesn't help to insist that the line can open by July 2013 when it's also clear the vehicles won't arrive by then, for instance.
The agency's inability or unwillingness to articulate a realistic timeline is frustrating, and is clearly having a negative effect on streetcar politics. In 2010, a lot of people rose up to defend a streetcar project which seemed just around the corner. Four years later, there's much less enthusiasm to fight for streetcars, in part because DDOT has lost credibility.
DDOT's problem has now become similar to WMATA's. There's a lot of legitimate work to be done, and some understandable reasons why it hasn't been done yet. But problems and bad communication have caused the public to stop trusting the agency, and fear of potential negative stories has led people on the inside to keep quiet even more when they need to be communicating more. That's an enormous problem. Understandable delays sound like excuses when trust doesn't exist.
This is a difficult phase for any project
Infrastructure projects are expensive, time-consuming, hard on the community, and politically challenging. It's common for big projects like this to face obstacles in the home stretch. Costs and criticism have been mounting for years, while benefits remain off in the future.
Having to wait longer to actually benefit from the streetcar is frustrating. Not knowing how long it will take, or hearing timelines which are obviously unrealistic, is especially frustrating. But this difficult time will eventually pass.
Meanwhile, however, while it's still ongoing, DDOT must shed its fear of disappointing people, and begin to communicate with the public as openly and honestly as it possibly can.
Celebrate the arrival of June by learning something new. Get involved in the DC streetcar planning process, learn about the intricacies of urban housing markets, explore the history of H Street, and more at events around the region.
Streetcar planning: DDOT is holding its final round of open house meetings for its study of a future north-south DC streetcar. You can see DDOT's analysis of possible streetcar routes and weigh in. All three meetings last from 3:30-8:30 pm, with overview presentations at 4 and 7 pm. The full schedule is:
- Central meeting: Monday, June 9, at the Banneker Rec Center, 2500 Georgia Ave NW.
- South meeting: Tuesday, June 10, at the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, 2nd floor community room, 1100 4th St SW.
- North meeting: Thursday, June 12, at the Emery Rec Center, 2nd floor community room, 5701 Georgia Ave NW.
Affordable housing panel discussion: Affordable housing has been a popular topic in the news, especially in the Washington area. Possible solutions range from free markets to public housing, but what are the implications of these ideas?
On Thursday, June 5 from 6:30-8:30 pm, Matthew Yglesias from Vox.com, Matt Robinson of MRP Realty, Christopher Bledsoe of Stage 3 Properties, and Chad Ludeman from Post Green Homes/Hybrid Construction will talk about housing costs at Georgetown University's School of Continuing Studies (640 Massachusetts Ave NW). You can RSVP here.
H Street walking tour: There's still one more chance to attend one of the Coalition for Smarter Growth's spring walking tours! This Saturday, June 7, explore H Street NE and learn about one of DC's most rapidly changing neighborhoods. Plus, get the scoop on the DC Streetcar. The walking tour runs from 10-noon.
RSVP soon to secure a spot! Update: the CSG tour is now sold out, and their waitlist is at capacity.
Meet the 11th Street Bridge Park designers: The field has narrowed to four teams competing to design a park on the piers of the old 11th Street Bridge across the Anacostia. They haven't actually done designs yet, but each of the four will talk about their approaches and early ideas on Tuesday, June 10, 6:30-8 at THEARC, 1901 Mississippi Avenue SE.
Dead End book talk: On June 12, hear Greater Greater Washington contributor Ben Ross talk about his book, Dead End: Suburban Sprawl and the Rebirth of American Urbanism, at the Tenley-Friendship Library (4450 Wisconsin Ave NW) at 7 pm. A lively discussion on walking and biking in cities will ensue. Please RSVP here.
Do you know an event that should be on the Greater Greater Washington calendar? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the details and a link to a page on the web which has more information.
Do you have feedback for the National Park Service? For Arlington about transit or cycletracks? For Alexandria about a street in Del
Rey Ray? Weigh in this week, plus a history lesson about the waterfront and walking tours all over the region.
Town hall with NPS: Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton is convening a town hall meeting with leaders of the National Park Service in our region to talk about how they are managing many of DC's parks, large and small.
David Alpert will participate on the panel, along with NPS National Capital Region Director Steve Whitesell, Richard Bradley from the Downtown BID, and Greg Odell of Events DC. The discussion is Wednesday, May 21, 6:30-8:30 in Room 412 of the Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue NW.
What topics should David bring up? Post your qualms, frustrations, plaudits, and questions in the comments.
Arlington Transit forum: Give Arlington's government your input on transit service at a public meeting from 7-9 pm tonight, Monday, May 19 at the Arlington Mill Community Center, 909 South Dinwiddie Street. If you can't make it, you can take an online survey to give your feedback.
Monroe Avenue, a complete street: Alexandria wants to redesign Monroe Avenue in Del Ray to calm traffic and better accommodate bicyclists. Officials will present options and hear from residents on Tuesday, May 20 (tomorrow), 6-8 pm at Commonwealth Academy on Leslie Avenue.
South Eads Street cycletrack: What should bike lanes, cycletracks, or other infrastructure look like on South Eads Street in Arlington? The county will be building a pilot cycletrack on a part of South Eads, and wants your feedback on the long-term plans for the road. Speak up on Wednesday, May 21 from 7-8:30 at the Aurora Hills Community Center, 735 18th Street South, or take the online survey.
History of the DC waterfront: Ever wonder about the early days of the DC Waterfront? The DC Library is hosting a book talk with author John R. Wennersten on his new book, The Historic Waterfront of Washington, DC. He will discuss the history of the area and the current issues facing the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers. The talk is Wednesday, May 21 at 6:30 pm in the Black Studies Center at the MLK Memorial Library (901 G Street NW).
Search for the W&OD in Alexandria: Join the VeloCity Bike Co-op for a community bike ride in search of the remnants of the Washington and Old Dominion railroad in Alexandria. Hear about some area history and envision future uses for the space. The ride will begin at the VeloCity Co-op (2111 Mount Vernon Ave in Alexandria) at 10 am on Saturday, May 24.
MoCo candidates on transportation: Maryland is having a primary election on June 24, and in many races the primary will be the deciding contest. A group of smart growth, transit, bicycling, and other organizations are sponsoring a forum for candidates for Montgomery County Council.
WAMU's Martin Di Caro will moderate the forum, and you can submit questions online ahead of time. The candidates will face off on Thursday, May 29 from 7-9 pm at the Silver Spring Civic Building, One Veterans Place in downtown Silver Spring.
CSG walking tours: The Coalition for Smarter Growth is leading two more Saturday walking tours in the coming weeks. Come hear about the past and future of Pentagon City, on May 31, and H Street NE, on June 7, while enjoying some spring sunshine.
- Saturday, May 31: come hear about how recent development projects are transforming Pentagon City into a community that is more than a mall.
- Saturday, June 7: explore H Street NE and learn about one of DC's most rapidly changing neighborhoods. Plus, get the scoop on the latest addition to the community: the DC Streetcar.
Do you know an event that should be on the Greater Greater Washington calendar? Contact email@example.com with the details and a link to a page on the web which has more information.
This week, learn about infrastructure and support smart growth advocacy. Next week, weigh in on projects that will make communities better in DC, Arlington, and Alexandria. And enjoy the nice weather, get outdoors, and explore the Washington region with more walking tours.
CSG Livable Communities Leadership Award: The Coalition for Smarter Growth's annual awards ceremony is an important way for all of us to support smart growth advocacy and honor people who have made a difference.
This year, CSG will be honoring Arlington County Board Chairman Walter Tejada for his work supporting transit, revitalization, and affordable housing on Columbia Pike, and upper Northwest's Ward 3 Vision which pushes to make Ward 3's neighborhoods more walkable and sustainable.
Tickets are $125 and go toward furthering the goals many of us share on this blog. The reception is Thursday, May 15, 6:30-8:30 at Epic Studio, 1323 Connecticut Avenue, NW. Buy your tickets here.
Infrastructure Week, 2014 is this week, May 12-16. Join the US Council on Competitiveness, US Chamber of Commerce, AFL-CIO, and the Brookings Institution for a week-long discussion of our nation's infrastructure. Topics will include transportation, freight movement, and water management. Below are several highlights of the 20 events happening this week:
- Funding and financing America's infrastructure, Tuesday, May 13 from 9-11 am.
- Bridging the financing gap panel discussion, Wednesday, May 14, from 8:30 am to 12:30 pm.
- Forum on high speed train technology, Wednesday, May 14, from 2:30-4 pm.
- Economic impact of transit investment, Thursday, May 15, from 12:30-2 pm.
Great spaces: What makes a great space? Listen to experts from the Urban Land Institute, Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, Arlington County Center for Urban Design and Research, and the Coalition for Smarter Growth talk about the benefits of "great spaces" at the 2014 State of Affordable Housing talk. The talk is Wednesday, May 14 from 4:30-7:30 pm at the Walter Reed Community Center (2909 16th St South) in Arlington. Go here to RSVP.
CSG walking tours: The Coalition for Smarter Growth is leading three more Saturday walking tours over the next month. Next up: Twinbrook, on May 17, Pentagon City, on May 31, and H Street NE, on June 7. Come hear about the past and future of these changing neighborhoods while enjoying some spring sunshine.
- Saturday, May 17: Visit the Twinbrook Metro station and see how a community is taking shape on an area that used to be an expanse of parking lots.
- Saturday, May 31: Come hear about how recent development projects are transforming Pentagon City into a community that is more than a mall.
- Saturday, June 7: Explore H Street NE and learn about one of DC's most rapidly changing neighborhoods. Plus, get the scoop on the latest addition to the community: the DC Streetcar.
MLK library renovation forum: The DC Public Library is exploring renovation options for its central facility, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, and is looking to the community for input. The architect team of Martinez & Johnson and Mecanoo will host a public forum to present preliminary design ideas on Monday, May 19 from 6-7 pm at the MLK library (901 G Street NW).
Arlington Transit forum: Give Arlington's government your input on transit service at a public meeting from 7-9 pm on Monday, May 19 at the Arlington Mill Community Center, 909 South Dinwiddie Street. If you can't make it, you can take an online survey to give your feedback.
Monroe Avenue, a complete street: Alexandria wants to redesign Monroe Avenue in Del Ray to calm traffic and better accommodate bicyclists. Officials will present options and hear from residents on Tuesday, May 20, 6-8 pm at Commonwealth Academy on Leslie Avenue.
Have an event for the Greater Greater Washington calendar? Email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Enjoy the warm weather and learn about area history at events this month. Over the next two weeks, hear about how to plan great communities, help make Montgomery even greater, and hack on tools to help people understand DC laws.
Walking tours: The Coalition for Smarter Growth is leading three more Saturday walking tours over the next month: Twinbrook, on May 17; Pentagon City, on May 31; and H Street NE, on June 7. Come hear about the past and future of these changing neighborhoods while enjoying some spring sunshine.
After the jump: details about the walking tours, a hackathon, and talks about designing better communities.
On Saturday, June 7, visit the Twinbrook Metro station and see how a community is taking shape on an area that used to be an expanse of parking lots.
On Saturday, May 31, come hear about how recent development projects are transforming Pentagon City into a community that is more than a mall.
And finally on Saturday, June 7, explore H Street NE and learn about one of DC's most rapidly changing neighborhoods. Plus, get the scoop on the latest addition to the community: the DC Streetcar.
Each of the CSG walking tours runs from 10 am to noon. These events fill up quickly, so RSVP to secure a spot!
Hack on the DC Code: DC has become a pioneer in making its laws freely available to the public and open in computer-readable formats, thanks to strong support from the DC Council's General Counsel, David Zvenyach. The open data lets anyone write tools to browse and understand the laws of the District.
Coders started building such tools at a "hackathon" a year ago, and this Saturday, they're having another. From 10 am to 5 pm, people will talk about what the "DC Code Browser" can do better and start making it happen. The hackathon is at Mapbox Garage 1714 14th St NW.
Great spaces: What makes a great space? Listen to experts from the Urban Land Institute, Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, Arlington County Center for Urban Design and Research, and the Coalition for Smarter Growth talk about the benefits of "great spaces" at the 2014 State of Affordable Housing talk. It's Wednesday, May 14 from 4:30-7:30 pm at the Walter Reed Community Center (2909 16th St South) in Arlington. Go here to RSVP.
Urbanism book talk: Urbanism and transit are hot button issues, but should they be? Ben Ross, a Greater Greater Washington contributor and author of Dead End: Suburban Sprawl and the Rebirth of American Urbanism will discuss why these ideas face opposition from suburban value systems in a book talk at the National Building Museum (401 F Street NW) on Monday, May 12, 12:30-1:30 pm. You can RSVP here.
Healthy community design summit: Live Healthy Fairfax is sponsoring the Healthy Community Design Summit, a forum where residents and professionals alike can discuss how economic, environmental, and public health play a role in good communities. Local businesses and industry professionals will present and then discuss topics like planning, urban design, architecture, and real estate. For more info and to RSVP, go here.
Zoning update open houses: The Montgomery County Planning Department's zoning update open houses conclude this week with two chances to ask questions and provide feedback on the proposed changes. Planning staff will be in attendance to discuss the updates. The schedule of remaining open houses is below:
- May 5: UpCounty Regional Services Center, Germantown (6-8 pm)
- May 6: B-CC Regional Services Center, Bethesda (6-8 pm)
This week, think about the future of a plaza in Arlington and the urban landscape through photos and film at events around the region.
Join fellow residents at a community kick-off planning meeting and visioning session this Wednesday, March 26, 7-9 pm at Key Elementary School, 2300 Key Boulevard.
After the jump: See slides about H Street's past, watch films about the environment in our region, wish Metro a happy birthday, and attend a panel about whether government agencies listen to what you have to say online.
From pleasure gardens to streetcars: Enjoy a photographic history lesson on DC's H St NE, along with a lecture from local historian Sarah Shoenfeld. Shoenfeld will "present a slide show depicting H Street's lively past, from its early development as a transportation link between DC and Maryland, to circus parades, Louie Kavakos's night club at 8th and H, and the original Granville Moore."
This event is part of the DC Public Library's Know Your Neighborhood series and will take place at the Northeast Library (330 7th St. NE) on Tuesday, March 25 at 6:30 pm.
"Our Cities, Our Planet": This year's Environmental Film Festival focuses on urban environments around the globe, including many in this region. The festival wraps up on March 30, but there are a few films still to see that are relevant to our region:
- Reel Portraits: Jane Jacobs is a discussion with a filmmaker working on a project about Death and Life of Great American Cities author Jane Jacobs and her legacy on cities. March 26, 6:30 pm at the National Portrait Gallery.
- Student Shorts including ones about the Potomac River, Anacostia River, and Chesapeake Bay. March 26, 7:00 pm at American University.
- Farming for the Future: Enduring Traditions-Innovative Practices looks at how farmers, including 4 farms in Virginia, try to meet the demand for sustainable, locally grown food and remain profitable. March 29, 7:00 pm at American University.
- Sanctuary shows how at-risk teens in DC and endangered eagles help each other through life's struggles. March 30, 12 pm at the Carnegie Institution for Science.
Who listens to your opinion? A lot of people share opinions about public projects on blogs and social media, but what happens to all of that? Often, official government agencies accept official comments but don't see or factor in views posted in many other places. The National Capital Planning Commission is having a panel discussion about how public agency feedback systems and new online technology work together.
NCPC's William Herbig will moderate a conversation with Greater Greater Washington's David Alpert, Cheryl Cort of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, and NBC4 reporter Tom Sherwood. The panel is Wednesday, April 9, 7-8:30 pm at NCPC, 401 9th St NW, Suite 500.
See all of the interviews here.
Left to right: Muriel Bowser, Tommy Wells, Vincent Gray, Jack Evans, Andy Shallal. Images from the candidate websites.
Love it or hate it, DC is building a streetcar, but there have been a lot of delays in getting it running. We already posted videos of Ward 6 candidates Charles Allen and Darrel Thompson criticizing the slow pace of progress on the first line, which will be in that ward. The mayoral candidates running against Vince Gray had some sharp words as well.
Tommy Wells, the councilmember most closely identified with championing the streetcar, had plenty to say.
I think that it has been managed very poorly by this administration. I know that sounds political, but let's go through why.Later in the segment, Wells also talked about how important it is for the streetcar to go east of the river, and how he thinks it should never cost more than $1.
It's being run by engineers, and seems to have almost no coordination with the Office of Planning. Ward 5 is told, you're getting a streetcar barn and you're going to like it. Or whether you like it or not, we're putting a streetcar barn in, with very little creativity.
In Seattle, their streetcar barn has affordable housing over it. The most valuable land now is going to be where the streetcar runs. There's no retail plan there showing that we can bring in restaurants or other things facing Benning Road with the streetcar barn behind it. ... I think that the administration has not been creative, has not thought out of the box. There's a way to leverage in amenities along with the streetcar barn.
And then they kept failing at being able to procure streetcars, so finally they had to piggyback on someone else's contract. That's why the streetcars are so late in coming here. And they better not run it without at least 6 streetcars. You need 5 on the tracks and 1 in reserve. Otherwise, it's just a ride at Disneyland that comes by every 30-40 minutes. ...
The other thing was that
— my understanding is that the contract for design-build, for finishing off the line, it sat with the Attorney General's office for almost 8 months. This administration, it's like someone poured molasses over the government. I think they're going to get there, but it's not with a sense of urgency. It's not real smart how they're doing it. We're missing an opportunity to do this really creatively.
But we're going to get a streetcar line. We're going to be able to touch it, ride it, so that our residents can see what the future can be like, but it's not as good as it could have been.
Muriel Bowser also talked about DDOT's procurement follies, and says the administration wasn't honest enough with residents:
I'm just as frustrated as I think most people. Mostly, I want somebody to tell the truth. Every month it seems we have a new opening time.
I have no doubt that it's a complicated project. There is nobody more excited than me to figure out all the lessons learned from went wrong in getting this thing going and how we we can fix it, and next time, Mayor Bowser can go out to the community and say, "Listen, this is going to be
— dig up your street one time. And we know how we're going to energize it, we know where we're going to turn it around. We know where we're going to store the cars and we know about how long this is going to take."
I think where this mayor and this DDOT director lack credibility is, they won't go out to the community and level with them. And I think people just want to know what gives and what do you need to do to fix it and when can we expect the streetcar to be running.
Andy Shallal was the least enthusiastic about the streetcar, or at least most overtly unenthusiastic. He referred to concerns many H Street business have been voicing that the streetcar will interfere with deliveries.
I think maybe we need to figure it out, use it as an experiment nowLater, when we were talking about political obstacles to bus lanes, he suggested doing more projects that make it possible to experiment. He said,
— it's already built — before we continue to build the rest of what's proposed. I would suggest making sure we understand the challenges that a streetcar is going to bring to a community. I know there's issues with parking that are going to get in the way; deliveries with restaurants, how are those going to happen — many of them don't have alleys and have to depend on deliveries from the front; bicycles and how they cross those tracks.
It's a lot of stuff there. I think we need to really be mindful of how we go about completing the tracks and making sure that whatever we put in place on the H Street corridor is something that's workable and manageable and doesn't create more hassles than it tries to solve.
Things like bus lanes are a great way to try something out. What's the worst that can happen? you erase them. As opposed to a trolley, where you've spent millions of dollars, hundreds of millions of dollars. You've dug up the street for years, you've caused all this disruption, you've shut down businesses.
Jack Evans was very brief and much less critical. "It's just taking forever. It's on the right track, it's just taking too long to get down the track. ... What we have to do is get the program moving. To be honest with you, with any program it takes forever to get off the ground. And now we have lines built, we have the streetcars, maybe this will be the end but it needs to be moving a little bit faster."
See the full discussions with these candidates:
- WhichWMATA week 19: On vacation
- Ask GGW: Why do some stations have side platforms?
- Protected bike lanes could fit in DC's traffic circles; here's how
- Baltimore plans to replace beach volleyball with a parking garage
- Michelle Rhee takes a break from education reform
- This could have been the Silver Spring Transit Center
- A cycletrack appears in Pentagon City