POLL: Should D.C. Scrap the H Street Streetcar Project?

by Andrew Ramonas March 9, 2015 at 2:20 pm 31 Comments

H Street Streetcar

The head of the District Department of Transportation made jaws drop Friday when he said he would kill the H Street streetcar project if additional reviews reveal “fatal flaws.”

Leif Dormsjo said he prefers to keep the project on track, but won’t “ask for money from the citizens of this jurisdiction, nor from this council, for something I can’t manage.”

Here’s how some Facebook users reacted to the news on Hill Now’s page:

Jeff Davenport: There are test cars running up and down that line successfully all the time. This project is at the brink of success. Abandoning it now sounds like people with a hidden agenda want to kill it. We need a comprehensive public transport system in the city that gets you everywhere and works for everyone. Streetcars have to be a part of that system.

Diane Kohn: I want my money back.

Daniel Herman: This project needs to continue. We need to make progress not keep progress from happening.

Mona Evans Butterfield:Waste of money. It is so annoying to see those empty cars driving up and down wasting time.

What do you want the city to do? You can weigh in through the poll and in the comments.

  • Smiley Rouse

    Finish the H Street trolley line 🙂 OUR money is already in it ….scrap the other lines NOW 🙁

  • Patrick

    Finish what’s been started on the H St line since it’s already doing test runs. In the mean time, analyze risks and rewards. If it makes sense to build it elsewhere, then expand it. If there are better options, then run tests to use those options. It would be nice to have more information shared on what’s going on other than “safety concerns”. I will say that I think having cars park on one side of the streetcar and driving on the other side already puts it in a vulnerable position. I would also look at what the cost is to use the existing tracks but lay them in the center of the road OR move the tracks to where the cars park now, move the parking to where the tracks are now, add a curb to separate and go from there. I would hope all of the scenarios have been discussed. People want to make living decisions based on the transportation working so any info would be nice.

  • Andrew

    It seems like it’s had a negative impact on the community (increases traffic congestion, hits parked cars, catches fire). Also, if the original goal was to bring more people to H Street from other parts of the area, the streetcar doesn’t seem to achieve it. Adding more X2 or X8 lines seems like it would have been the smarter move.

    • OhWelll

      Had you driven on H Street previously? Just getting rid of the double parking has helped with congestion.

      It’s not about commuting from across town at this point. It is about connecting adjacent communities while offering a sense of place.

      The X8 only has one stop in the corridor and the X2 doesn’t help connect Benning to H Street. It only stops at one stop on H Street NE and one stop on Benning Road. That does nothing to help adjacent communties in a meaningful way when it is only coming very 20 minutes (when you’re lucky).

  • hflakker

    We should not give in to the ‘it gets in the way of my car’ crowd.

  • Daniel Herman

    Finish what progress has been made. It helps DC because it would hopefully stop the amount of car traffic around the H street corridor, and it would create more jobs. This is a great project, so don’t give up and fail us DDOT!!!

  • Hstresident

    Finish it already, please! I’m tired of looking at it w/o being able to ride.

  • B

    Bowser is the worst. And she seems to be caving to the worst elements in this city by even publicly entertaining the prospect of scrapping the streetcar at this point. Truly outrageous, but what else did we expect from her content-free campaign, based largely on playing the “my opponent-is-dissing-me-by-pointing-out-that-I-have-a-lousy-record-and-no-agenda card.

    • DC.Dancer

      Hear hear

  • Susan

    DC traffic is too congested and with all the difficulties connected with just the few blocks of H–does not bode well for any expansion. Grew up here with street cars, but those were different days.

  • James L Bullock

    Light rail has a role to play in many cities, and probably could in ours, as well . If nothing else, we should get as much experimental operating data as possible from this already sunk nvestment. The current test system may be too small to be really successful, but we need to start operating it to find out what we can learn. I personally would love to see more little red street cars running frequently along our major surface axes, many of which are not well enough served by buses now. Too bad the roads can’t be completely redone – that may be the biggest lesson of all.

    • Brett M

      The H Street line isn’t “light rail,” it’s a mixed-traffic streetcar or trolley. No right of way, extremely slow speed, and little versatility.

  • LetDCVote

    Finish it, and then realize that any future expansion will require DEDICATED LANES, and that’s how any additions to the system should be built. And CONNECT them to transit hubs, and especially other Metro stations. It should be part of the long term transit solution, but not in its current, ineffectual state. Light rail with DEDICATED lanes is the answer.

  • Marcello

    H st needs an underground metro line with 2-3 stops between 3rd and 15th. The money that went toward this street car could of been a down payment toward such a project, which is the ultimate solution. I never saw how this street car was any better than the X2 other than looking newer. In fact is slower, less flexible, eliminates bike lanes, and clogs the roads. Very poor planning.

  • flak

    There are streetcars running just fine in cities all around the US. The system in Philly is ancient. Of course there are going to be glitches and fender benders with something this new — have you seen the way people drive on H Street?! Whatever problems need to be fixed can surely be fixed now that the infrastructure is all there. Good heavens I can’t believe we’re even discussing this. All the people who invested in the H Street Corridor because this was coming…. Agh!

  • stellamommie

    We have invested too much time, talent, and treasure to declare defeat. And, streetcars were a vital component of DC’s public transportation system, for decades, and streetcars are a vital component of urban public transportation systems, worldwide. We should commit to making this project a success story!

  • Michael Rudolf

    Of course the project should continue. The H Street line is so near to completion that it would cost more to abandon it than to finish it. Streetcars will be a vital part of the D.C. transportation infrastructure. Many other cities are expanding or implementing their streetcar systems, and they are proving to be indispensable. And with as much publicity that has gone into this project, D.C. would be a laughingstock if it were to abandon the streetcars now. Not only should the H Street line be opened immediately, but study and planning should begin on the rest of the system, so that the D.C. streetcar system will be, in a very few years, an integral part of the district’s mass transit operation.

  • SeaQueen

    The only chance of ever recovering even a fraction of the larger than expected sunk costs of the project is to eventually put it into operation. While I think the project was ill-conceived from the very beginning, pulling the plug entirely would only be justifiable if it was demonstrably entirely unprofitable or dangerous, with no viable alternative for fixing it. So far, in spite of all the project’s many faults, that hasn’t been shown.

  • Retta

    We should keep the project. I personally hate the look of the wires above the street and I wish the street cars had a more traditional look than a hybrid street car / metro bus. However, a lot of businesses invested into this community with the understanding that the street cars would allow for increased patronage. This also increased values of homes within the area. This project doesn’t surround around the interest of the department of transportation. This street car is for the purpose of building a community.

  • Makesnosense

    What makes no sense to me is why anyone would want to spend millions on an antiquated means of travel and try to install it in an area that has no infrastructure whatsoever to support it. I understand progress, connect communities together, and moving forward. But wouldn’t a dedicated bus that looped around H St do the exact same thing the Streetcars as trying to accomplish right now? Instead we have a super slow Streetcar that is clearly not working. I have seen Vornado Electricians from PA working on the system because apparently MC Dean can’t handle it. On several different occasions, I have seen traffic come to a complete stand still. You had several people trying to make a left hand turn. You had the streetcar not moving because someone was double parked, with several open parking spaces just 15 feet away mind you. And you had a circulator bus stopped because it was trying to pick up people at a bus stop. Rest assured you will be sitting at that intersection for at least 5 light cycles. Great progress. Thank you Vincent Gray.

  • Sabrina

    The H St Streetcars are like the bridges to nowhere. It does not take you anywhere! It can’t transport anyone into the community or take them to other communities. There is already 3 bus line on this route and 2 metro station one at each end of the route .

  • Ginny Nagy

    There is already so much money sunk into this project, pulling the plug now would be ridiculous, especially after all of the spits and starts with getting this project actually going. I would have voted against it in the first place, since it leads to nowhere and I am not sure who will actually be riding this, but at this point, it should be lead to completion and at least offer some alternative public transportation options in a region saturated with cars.

  • anon

    Finish it, and then watch the businesses on H St die after being cutoff from vehicular traffic.

  • TK

    Scrap. Look to Denver’s 16th Street Mall. Pedestrian only with dedicated lanes in the middle that run public transport with great regularity. It’s a mystery to me why the street car lanes are on the outside on H Street. The Denver model would also allow for more sidewalk space for outdoor seating — always in demand.

  • anonymussssssss

    Sunk costs. If you don’t understand this concept, you shouldn’t be working in any level of government.

  • dcborn61

    The $200 million is a sunk cost. It was a monumentally stupid decision to run a streetcar on crowded H Street without a dedicated lane. Bus service is faster and cheaper, don’t throw good money after bad!

  • bedub

    I think it should be reassessed and not scrapped. maybe it won’t work in DC. H St line was so poorly planned. As a dc taxpayer I’m upset about how much money has been wasted and I think we are owed a refund/apology/explanation. There are plenty of good models out there and I don’t understand how we had supposedly top notch planners who didn’t anticipate the problems and come up with a better design. it kind of infuriates me.

  • Ed Havens

    The DC H Street-Benning Rd. streetcar line is constructed in the same manner — tracks next to the curb parking lane — as Tucson, Ariz., Sun Link which opened to public service July 25, 2014. District of Columbia Department of Transportation should consult with Tucson Department of Transportation to find out how they minimize motor vehicle conflicts with streetcar operations.

  • DC.Dancer

    Let’s get this right and prevent DC from again becoming a national laughingstock. Streetcars and even Cable Cars are a working benefit in San Francisco which is more congested than DC. Put the right people in charge and let’s make this work.

  • Gianna

    When the entire line is finished, stretching from Benning to Georgetown, it will connect people from segregated neighborhoods in the city (i.e., Georgetown and Benning). This will provide a one-seat ride for people headed to work downtown or beyond to Georgetown University, the largest private employer of the city. That mass transit option will be incredibly beneficial to low-income workers from Benning and further west. Additionally, it will provide a space for people from the west of the city to head East to take advantage of local businesses on H Street. This will increase the economic activity of that part of the city, and – so long as nobody is displaced – could lead to positive revitalization that actually uplifts those in our city who are struggling financially. Please keep the streetcar and expand it so that it gets the job done!

  • Caljoe

    By its very nature that it cannot move off the railroad track, makes the trolley car an obstruction in today’s automobile traffic. The broken down trolley car, is a twenty ton immovable obstruction, which trolley cars behind it cannot move around, or pass. Going back to a means of transportation wich is obsolete by today’s transportations standards, is foolish.


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