Streetcars to Return to Georgetown (Eventually)

Wednesday night DDOT hosted an open house at Hyde-Addison to discuss the city’s plans for a brand new streetcar network. The long term plans for this network include a branch into Georgetown. This would bring an end to the nearly 40 years that Georgetown has been without streetcars (which traveled Georgetown’s streets for about a century before they were shut down).

The saga that is the DC streetcar effort has been well documented at GGW, among others. Long story short: During the Williams¬†administration, DDOT performed a study for DC’s transit future. The study concluded that better interneighborhood transit was necessary. This was to be achieved through the use of multiple tools including streetcars and bus rapid transit.

The first streetcar line was to run through Anacostia. This is about when the plans spun off the tracks, if you can pardon the pun. Questions about the route and just who exactly owned the CSX tracks increasingly made a mockery out of the ground breaking ceremony staged in 2002.

Gabe Klein Speaks to Ward 2

But new DDOT Director Gabe Klein, along with Councilmember Tommy Wells, have rededicated the city towards building an ambitious streetcar network. Initially lines will go to Anacostia and along H St. NE. If all goes as planned, the network will eventually look like this:

For Georgetown, this will mean a streetcar coming from Washington Circle down K St. to somewhere around 33rd St. This line will travel from Georgetown down K St. all the way to New Jersey Ave. where it will snake down to H St. It will then pass Union Station (where it will be incorporated into the Union Station Intermodal Transportation Center) and continue on along H St. NE until it reaches Benning Rd.

The Georgetown extension is not planned to be built until the second of three phases. DDOT is hoping to finish all three phases in seven to nine years. That would probably mean streetcars would reach Georgetown in four to six years. Although further delays are probably inevitable.

The big issue when it comes to streetcars in DC is how to power them. All over the world streetcars are powered with overhead wires. However, in central DC (including Georgetown) overhead wires are prohibited by federal law. DC will probably end up using a hybrid system involving some overhead wires and batteries. There is zero chance that any overhead wires will go up in Georgetown.

Finally, you’ll notice from the map above that there’s an arrow going from K and Wisconsin northward. That’s because DDOT is considering Wisconsin as an extension to the Georgetown line. That could mean that it gets incorporated into the third phase or it could just mean that it would be among the first expansions considered after the 37-mile system is built.

In reality, besides the H St. and Anacostia lines, nothing is set in stone. The true driving force will be whether the city can find money for the system. That’s a huge ‘whether.’

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12 Comments

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12 responses to “Streetcars to Return to Georgetown (Eventually)

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  4. asuka

    The streetcars won’t have their own dedicated lane, which means they’ll be just as slow as buses but even less mobile. The result will be increased traffic, not reduced traffic. The money (if they find any) would be better spent on continued development of a Georgetown metro stop.

  5. Ken Archer

    asuka,

    The lack of mobility of streetcar routes has not been found to be a serious problem in other streetcar systems, primarily because cars and trucks that would otherwise park illegally never park on rail tracks. I’ve spent alot of time in Prague and found this to be true, but all tram systems report the same result. If you find a streetcar system that claims this to be a problem, let the DDOT Director know.

    The traffic reduction from streetcars derives from the fact that far more streetcar riders than bus riders would have otherwise driven. People ride streetcars who wouldn’t ride a bus. A secondary source of traffic reduction is that streetcars can carry more people, and more flexibly add and remove cars, than can buses.

    Other than a metro stop, which would dwarf the streetcar route in terms of costs, and market-rate parking meters in the neighborhood, which are in the works, there is nothing that would reduce traffic and parking congestion as profoundly as a return of streetcars.

  6. asuka

    Data for all those claims, besides anecdotal?

  7. Ken Archer

    @asuka,

    This is resembling our pedestrian fatalities dialogue, in which you make anecdotal claims and then expect others to do your research to find out whether your claims can be substantiated. There is research behind my counterclaims, but you should really live up to the same standard that you hold for others online. Here are some great places for you to get started to do your own research on streetcars:

    DDOT Streetcar Site: http://ddot.dc.gov/DC/DDOT/On+Your+Street/Mass+Transit+in+DC/View+All/DC+Streetcar

    Wikipedia Page on DC Streetcar Plan: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DC_Streetcar

    2 Blogs Discussing Streetcars: http://www.greatergreaterwashington.com, http://www.streetcars4dc.org

    Take care.

  8. asuka

    You’re the one advocating a policy, so its up to you to support your position. If you’re going to promote, then provide the sources of your claims. If you’ve thoroughly researched the issue, that shouldn’t be hard to do.

    Wikipedia isn’t a source, and neither are blogs. DDOT will obviously be biased, as its their plan. You must have data from other American cities (SF, NOLA, etc.) showing that trollies are more than tourist attractions, right?

  9. asuka

    I’d like to say I’m not opposed to trollies generally, but I would like to know how the trollies will impact Georgetown specifically. While I’m sure that there are neighborhoods in the District that will benefit from trolly service, what value will such service be to Georgetown? DDOT’s site is much like your posts – lots of general claims (“street cars improve business development”, “street cars reduce traffic”, etc.), but no citations to data. Before we start a massive capital works project that may include unsightly over-head wires, I’d like to know the specific justification for it and how it will benefit Georgetown. Personally, I just don’t see how a trolly is much different than one of the seven or eight bus and circulator lines that already serve Georgetown, particularly when the proposed plan does not included dedicated lanes. So change my mind – tell me how they differ, why they’re needed, and what they’ll accomplish for Georgetown specifically.

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