Tuesday, March 08, 2016

I rode "DC Streetcar" today, for free, felt like a Lilliputian; remember how cities lost their light rail in the past

It is well known that in earlier decades, oil companies pressured governments to pull up streetcar lines so there would be a better market for their oil. (See movie reviews, “Pump!”, Jan. 27, 2016.)

When my own mother moved from Ohio to Washington DC in 1934 to start working for the YMCA downtown, she lived in a Y herself and traveled by streetcar.  I remember the streetcars as a boy as later as the early 1950s. Gradually the tracks were removed, and when I commuted from Arlington to GWU in the early to mid 1960s, I depended on an inefficient bus system.

Today I tried the DCStreetcar and “It’s free” for a while. I missed the Metro Union Station stop (reading) and tried to walk to it from NOMA.  On 2nd St, there is no intersection with the overpass of H St, and you can’t easily walk to it from 3rd ST (there is a narrow sidewalk along the track that is closed off at the top), so I had to border at 3rd St.  The ride to Oklahoma Ave. on Benning Road was slow and noisy.  The lane needs to be kept clear of cars, and lights need to be timed.  The end of the line is about ½ mile walking from the DC Eagle bar (across the river and 295).

Using the train made me feel like a Lilliputian in somebody’s model train set.  The ends of the line look like typical streetcar setups in model railroad layouts.

The businesses along H Street are colorful (like the Atlas Theater) but some are in disrepair.  The streetcar line should lead to gentrification, real estate development, and condo, office and retail development, and increasing property values (and driving the poor people out to PG County even more).

There has been a controversy over a possible streetcar line in Arlington on Columbia Pike, but it was turned down.  An effective light rail line is effectively another Metro line.  Right now, the streetcars don’t take SmartTrip, but that ought to be fixed.  (In fact, why can’t one system be developed to serve all the transit systems in the East Coast with one card, like Ezpass?)
Dedicated “bus train” lines (electric or natural-gas two-coach vehicles) can work well, as in Cleveland (along Euclid Ave.) and are cheaper than laying down track.  

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