The co-existence of streetcars and churches elsewhere ought to counter anti-streetcar arguments by churches in DC today
This photo of the St. Andrews Latvian Lutheran Church in Toronto (Panoramio photo by AK Jones) indicates that religious buildings, services and streetcar service appear to co-exist just fine.
Probably the element of streetcar discussions today that I find most frustrating is that they tend to occur in a vacuum that ignores:
(1) the reality that new and old streetcar systems of various sorts function in cities in North America and elsewhere in Europe, Asia, and Australia
(2) that streetcars operated in Washington DC for about 100 years, and
(3) that DC or any other American city is not particularly exceptional so that it is fair to assume that historical or present-day experience with streetcar service elsewhere can provide extendable lessons relevant to DC.
Right: Saint Reinold's Church with tram, Dortmund, Germany, by James Havisham, on Flickr.
This comes up "again" because of a Washington Post article, "With D.C. streetcar's future unclear, this church raises concerns of K Street NW line," including remonstrations from members of Asbury United Methodist Church at 11th and K Streets NW, that having streetcar service on K Street, which would impact street parking or a taking of a portion of "their yard" (which legally is public space--on other blocks of K Street the equivalent space functions as a service drive with parking)--even though streetcar service operated on 11th Street NW next to the church for many decades.
From the article:
Now Nero, who turned 82 on Thanksgiving, is worried that the stone sanctuary in downtown Washington that has been so central to so much of his life will be undercut — spiritually and structurally — by the city’s plan to stretch a streetcar line down K Street NW.
“You are just knocking out the . . . togetherness of the congregation,” Nero said, standing under the church’s soaring, century-old Gothic bell tower just a block from the massive new CityCenterDC development that typifies the type of growth that D.C. officials say demands investment in a far-reaching streetcar system.From "Asbury UM Church to Fight Streetcar Line;" in the Washington Afro-American:
Tawanna Jackson, a church member, viewed the displays and said she supports progress but is wary of the city’s plans. “Streetcars are so large,” she said, voicing concern about church damage and parking. “Church members will have to park somewhere else and that will affect other cars and public transit.”-- Asbury Statement on Proposed Streetcar Line
Eglise St Louis, rue Félix Poulat et le tramway, Grenoble, France, by Frédérique Voisin-Demery on Flickr.
As a correspondent wrote:
I wish the members of the church opposing transit improvements in our city were as concerned about air pollution (including from their own cars), climate change, childhood asthma, dependence on foreign oil, noise pollution from cars and buses, etc. as they are about what appear to be overblown, indeed probably imaginary, impacts on their church.
Wikipedia photo: Inekon-built streetcar in Portland, Oregon, USA, on the Portland Streetcar system. Train is stopped at SW 11th and Clay with The Old Church on the right.
Note that separately, I don't have a problem with accommodating church parking on Sundays, provided that churches do transportation demand management planning, which DC churches tend not to do.
This is important as the residences of parishioners tend to become spatially disconnected from the churches they attend. See "SF leaders search for ways to blend car-reliant worshippers with transit-first policies," from the SF Examiner.
New Railway Report blog.
As the correspondent pointed out, it is not unusual for urban churches to be dominated by suburban members and this creates problems when attempting to mediate pro-urban policies for the built environment and transportation policy.
See the past blog entries, "Megachurch parking ministries set standard for church transportation demand management" and "Losing my religion: Shiloh Baptist Church and Neighborhood Destabilization."
First Grace Canal Street, New Orleans, and the Redcar streetcar. Flickr photo by Infrogmation of New Orleans.
Something I realized in the early 2000s was that it was not in the "best interest" of a church to improve a neighborhood if their primary interest was in acquiring property around the church, because an improving neighborhood experiences raising property prices, which made property acquisition more difficult and more expensive.
New Orleans streetcar + church. Flickr photo by thedillybar. Note that modern streetcars are much quieter than the historic streetcars in New Orleans.