Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

DC streetcar in testing

Looking south on the 900 block of 2nd Street NW, with a streetcar eastbound on H Street.  On the left in the distance is an apartment complex under construction.  In the foreground on the right is the Senate Square apartment complex.

On the right is Station Place.  The building closest is occupied by the Kaiser Permanente Health System.



At 4:08 PM, Anonymous h st ll said...

Cool photo.

Hopefully the nw extension (even if only to gallery place) starts asap.

Urban turf article earlier in the week detailed the 1076 units on h and nearby now under construction. Ridership should be solid

At 8:06 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

I just got back from New Orleans and was blown away by the streetcar expansions.

The noise (from the outside, on the street) was much more than I thought. Granted, those cars looks pretty dated. But the rails + brakes were quite loud. At night next to the St Charles line they were about as much as a DC bus, if not more.

I hope that isn't the case here.

At 7:06 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

I haven't been to New Orleans since the streetcar has been extended to the Superdome...

Yes, the "historic replica" streetcars are loud. Modern streetcars are not. I can't remember about the PCC cars in SF. I don't think they are all that loud.

The historic streetcars in New Orleans are also pretty uncomfortable. I remember that, for the first time really understanding Dan Malouff's (BeeyondDC) point that having nostalgic streetcars isn't the way to go.

OTOH, the modern streetcars have very few seats, so the idea is that people ride for short trips, not long ones. (Probably a big difference compared to Toronto.)

At 7:18 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

h st ll -- I saw that article too. It's incredible to think of the amount of housing being added in the corridor.

When you add the second phase of the 200 block of K St. NE, whenever that comes, that's another 500-600 units. (And while Union Market is a different submarket, adding housing there, which is coming, will help the H St. neighborhood as well.)

Anyway, you're right that extension of the streetcar is necessary to make it useful, it's key. The Seattle Times had an article last week about the short streetcar in SODO not having much ridership and needing more financial support from the city.

While I think they should have gotten more money from Vulcan Investments to pay for operating costs, it is worrisome re H St. because of the short distance of the line. OTOH, more people will be going to H St. entertainment venues probably than tool around SODO.

And in Seattle, when the streetcar starts running in Capitol Hill (it's been delayed because of manufacturing delays), that likely will boost ridership overall.

At 9:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wikipedia says NO built "new" heritage streetcars, but same dated design.

I didn't find them uncomfortable. Granted it was October. Great branding and great use of the existing old steetcar right of ways.

Again, my view is the incremental advances in streetcars (better AC, noise, noise/vibration, etc) can be worth it. If done properly, the increase in capacity can help. You've still got the traffic issue and where to run them.

At 2:59 PM, Anonymous h st ll said...

I think you guys are talking about the St. Charles line in NO, which is slow, loud and uncomfortable, though it has the highest ridership of any transit line in that region.

The Canal line and the Loyola have nice modern replicas which are fast, quiet and ac/central heat. Ideally they would move away from the heritage style but they make them in N.O. and they do have a certain charm.

Note that the streetcar system there is not that long but carries one third of all transit passengers.

At 3:01 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

I agree. Similarly, when I was in SF riding streetcars, it was a cool time of year.

But the noise thing is the biggest plus when it comes to modern streetcars, compared to buses especially. But are much quieter than heavy rail too.

2. O. Roy Chalk did figure out how to add a/c to a PCC car, so it is do-able.

At 3:04 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

when I was in NO, it was after Katrina, and the Canal line was out of commission, so I didn't get a chance to try those cars.

... wrt your point about making them there, it reminds me that I made that same point in 2006, that if DC were really to do 8 streetcar lines (the plans back then), plus VA, plus the talk of a Charles Street line in Baltimore, that we could make a play for making streetcars here. That was before Oregon Iron Works got money via Rep. Blumenaur to create a streetcar manufacturing line in Oregon.

I proposed doing it in Ivy City.

Note that technically for cities, other than construction, transit is one of the only "heavy industries" there is that remains city-based.

At 5:24 PM, Anonymous Alex B. said...

New Orleans has two types of streetcars in service.

They have their red ones, which are retro-styled modern cars. The first of these entered service in 1999.

The green cars are not just old, but really old. They were built between 1923-1924 (!!!) and are still in service.

There are a few replicas of the 1923 design that were built in 1997, and these are also painted red.

At 9:43 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

I thought the Canal st. cars were yellow. Why did I think that?

2. watched a streetcar go through the 3rd and H St. NE intersection today. They do have signal priority at that intersection (and presumably others). So this stretch of H St. will be the first in the city to have transit signal priority.

At 8:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

@alexB; thank for the clarification.

When I say "noise" I meant when you have to hear the cars on the street, not internal noise.

On that measure, the "new" streetcars were extremely noisy as well.

NO may have unique issues there -- the roads were the worst I have ever seen. Groundwater issues probably.

At 11:46 AM, Anonymous h st ll said...

@RL - re your response about NO making streetcars in that city, I do think one of the potential positives of the DC system is that it will employ a lot of residents. Plus the tie in with a planned high school trade school. Opportunity for a (perhaps lower) middle class lifestyle.

At 7:03 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

well, "old" WMATA unionized jobs are pretty good. I know someone who did 20 and out and had a completely different second career.

fwiw, if you look at old Census data from the 1910s and 1920s, you will be amazed at how many people in the H St. neighborhood worked for the streetcar system or the railroad--either passenger or freight.

At 11:18 AM, Blogger Alan Page said...

I think the idea of manufacturing streetcars in Ivy City is an awesome idea, especially if Ivy City residents are given some preference (i.e. neighborhood based training programs). That could really revitalize that neighborhood.

re: the New Orleans streetcar. I haven't ridden one in decades but I have fond memories of riding the St Charles streetcar and I didn't find the seating uncomfortable in the least.

pps: I miss hanging with you from the old H Street Main Street days, Layman, we have to meet up some time.


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