Thursday, August 23, 2007

A Streetcar Named (Un)desire(able)

I was of the mind that the District never takes a holistic view of traffic congestion and parking planning, but I recently heard some news about the Anacostia streetcar plan, which seemed like a step in the right direction. After some rudimentary research I found two relevant websites — the Streetcar Project page on within DDOT's site and DC's Transit Future, a fairly comprehensive report on where we need more mass transit and the available types of transit.

I really really like the idea of streetcars, both because I think they are charming and because I welcome non-vehicular transportation options. However, in order to ensure the success of any new mass transit initiative, DC has to completely understand problems with the existing transit systems, particularly the bus network. As well, they need to know why and how people travel through the city as they presently do. I encourage everyone to provide their input here and here.

One of my concerns us that any streetcar that makes the same number of stops as a bus and is subject to the same traffic lights (the current plan), would probably just be a large expensive vehicle that is not particularly convenient to use. I also fear that the definition of corridors per the Transit Future site will lead to more meandering transportation routes that no one wants to take the time to figure out let alone the tourists and weekend drunks that we really don't need driving on city streets. So go forth and submit your comments. And keep your fingers crossed!


poo poo said...

i dunno about that....

i mean, your concerns are legitimate, but do you really think folks haven't studied this from a variety of angles?

many cities time traffic lights AROUND rail cars, because the idea is replace the automobile.

check here for some more information on rail.

14th & You said...

I'm not so much against a streetcar system in DC as agitating for very careful analysis by DDOT and its consultants. Our city is different from others with streetcars in so many ways, so existing models will require some adjustment before they fit us.

I'm also concerned by some of the information on the DC Transit Future site. A few of the already defined corridors overlap with existing Circulator, Metrobus, and Metro line service in upper Northwest and downtown. It's also a little disconcerting to see that they are of the opinion that, as compared to buses, streetcars are more expensive per vehicle and have a slower average speed. I will offer a correction to my earlier statement; the slower average speed could be due to the operating speed, the number of stops, time to board, or traffic lights, and I can't know for sure which of those factors will be in play locally.

Let's just be sure to share our enthusiasm and concerns with DDOT as plans progress.

Mr. 14th & You said...

Perhaps they are taking this into consideration...I received a response from a DDOT analyst working on this project that touches on how they will decide upon the stops, which I'll post here later. But reading that the cars will "feature all the convenience of buses" concerns me, because it is the preponderance of stops that can make a MetroBus trip unnecessarily long, and why I typically avoid them. (Riding any of the 50 buses down 14th street can be a painfully slow experience).

Whether or not they're working on timing the street lights around the cars, I don't know, I imagine that's something they'll address during the operational planning stage.