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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Were so gallantly streaming

We're back in Portlandia from the nation's capital, where we did some business, took in a talk by a member of SCOTUS, jogged around his house but didn't see POTUS, and didn't see many bicyclists anywhere. There was a lot of poverty on the sidewalks, but the panhandling was not aggressive, and there were no dogs to accompany it.

A cab driver asked me about the Portland streetcars. Apparently D.C. is next for those. He asked me if they helped clear up congestion. I had to laugh. Yeah -- the congestion in my wallet. But hey -- when it comes to burning through money, Washington makes Portland look like Mayberry RFD. It's perfect for them.

Comments (8)

A couple thoughts on the DC Streetcar running down H street.

1) DC is much more dense than Portland. So a streetcar will get a lot more use. If you had a chance to enjoy DC's Metro, I'm sure you noticed that it was usually fairly crowded.

2) There isn't a culture of "free mass transit" in DC. I think folks will actually pay to ride this streetcar. Thus, I think it could actually generate revenue for the city.

3) Unlike Portland, where they build the streetcar through the richest parts of the city, in DC they are running the streetcar down one of the tougher areas of the city.

4) Northeast DC is desperately in need of some type of mass transit. This city actually really depends on Metro to get around, and NE DC needed something. A streetcar is still significantly cheaper than adding another line to Metro.

5) H Street is the next area of DC that is likely to develop, and this will hopefully spur that along. (And in that sense, the motivation is the same as Portland's)

Of course, you're right that it isn't going to do anything to clean up congestion. In fact, it's just going to make it worse. But I do think that it will make that area of DC much more livable. Or at least it will be more livable for folks who don't have a car. (like me)

Anyway, I'm very interested to see how the streetcar works in DC. The ultimate goal here is to increase development on the H Street Corridor, and I think it will have that effect.

If the Supreme Court of the United States is SCOTUS and the President of the United States is POTUS, should Congress be known as LOTUS, the Legislature of the United States?

So, buses do not work in DC, they need an Earl bowtie type expenditure to give them that "European" style experience of people moving??

DC's mayor proposed bike lanes down the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue, too. Now that's a really sensible proposal, eh? Top that, Portland!

Justin - Why don't they run buses (or more of them) down H street instead of putting tracks and streetcars in? Could buy some pretty sweet wheels at a fraction of the cost.

Justin - Why don't they run buses (or more of them) down H street instead of putting tracks and streetcars in? Could buy some pretty sweet wheels at a fraction of the cost.

They do run buses. And the new more upscale bars/restaurants on H Street actually have shuttles that run from major Metro stops to their establishments.

The thing about DC is that it's governed by the Metro/Subway. Areas that are easily accessible by the Metro are the desirable areas to live in and to visit.

Dupont Circle, Capitol Hill, U Street, Adams Morgan, Logan Circle are all areas that have seen significantly increased development over the last couple decades. And all these areas are also fairly accessible via the Metro/subway system.

The H Street Cooridor is next on the City's list of places that they would like to see developed. And there is no major Metro stop near this area. So people are reluctant to visit. The hope is that by providing another mass transit option, folks will begin to visit that area and move into that area. In addition, a streetcar is much less intrusive and much less expensive than expanding the Subway.

I don't know if it's going to work. Folks may shun the Streetcar. But that's the motivation behind it.

And honestly, people make a good living in DC. If the city can attract wealthier people (from Virginia and Maryland) to H Street, they will easily be able to pay for the Streetcar in increased tax revenue.

I guess to answer your question, would the area develop on it's own with buses? Maybe. Probably, actually. But it would do so at a much slower pace. I think the city is hoping a streetcar will spur development along much faster.

Will it work? Who knows.

Northeast DC is hardly a Metro wasteland. It's served by the Green Line, Yellow Line, Red Line and Orange Line.

And equating the development potential of DC Metro (an under and above ground high-speed, grade-separated, crossing-free rail system in and around the District of Columbia) to the development potential of a street car that goes down an existing street is a nonstarter. The Metro system provided new transportation conduits which dramatically increased and concentrated mass transit throughput, permitting easy location of new development around Metro stations, a generation after the system was built.

There is nothing mass about a street car. A street car has the same passenger capacity as an articulated bus, like the the hybrid electric articulated bus that I saw traveling down Greenwood Ave. in Seattle last night. The street car routes in the most of the planned areas of DC and across the river in Virginia would use travel lanes already used by buses. And street cars travel slower than buses. No gain for a lot of pain and needless expense.

Over the next few years natural gas burning, hybrid articulated buses will come to market in large numbers; they are greener than electric powered (mostly coal generated in the east) street cars, all things considered.

The Street Car faux green movement in the DC area has distracted the management and political leadership of the Metro system. As PC has become a substitute for safe and sure, negligent Metro operations have indiscriminantly caused 17 fatalities -- including passengers, pedestrians, employees and contractors.

As for why all the development inside and around (since Metro was opened the equivalent of a mid-sized city was built in Tysons Corner and along the Dulles Toll Road) the Beltway one might ask. Was it caused by rail? Nah. One need look no further than the always growing Federal budgets. That money does get spent you know.

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