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.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Another example of DC insane exceptionalism: difficulties parking next to streetcars

Drivers in Portland, Oregon seem to manage just fine with a parking lane to the right of streetcar tracks, which is the same way that streetcar tracks have been installed on H Street NE.  (Note that there is a lot of dedicated transitway in Portland too.)
NW 10th Avenue
Portland Streetcar running next to a row of parked cars on NW 10th Avenue.   Photo by Travis Estell, on Flickr.

Portland Streetcar ~ Arriving NW Northrup and 21st
Portland Streetcar ~ Arriving NW Northrup and 21st by LaValle PDX, on Flickr.

Here, the Washington Post and neighborhood listservs declare that this particular design is horrid and impossible to work with.

Maybe it is true that DC drivers are some of the worst in the nation.

But that isn't an example of "American Exceptionalism" that we should be proud to espouse.

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At 2:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you are asking why DC can't do the streetcar if Cincy and other places do it. To which I would reply, as usual to stop comparing DC to other places, and start with an understanding of what makes DC unique (uniquely bad or good, uniquely troublesome as the case may be) and proceed from there. However, I won't do that because in this situation, I don't think it is what really applies. But I admit that about this issue, you know far more than me. The reason I don't think it applies, is that I think it has been about EXECUTION. And the execution has been horrible, which just fuels the fire for the people who were against it from the get go, which from my amateur anecdote gathering seemed to be people who don't really use public transportation that much in the first place and also cab drivers. (And maybe in Cincy and the utopian Portland, the constiuents, those requiring "buy in" are different?)


At 5:09 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

all places are comparable.

.. but your basic points are right on. The proponents aren't super organized. The car centric are quick to defend their perceived privileges and exalted place within the mobility system.

At 11:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

DC drivers are not the worst, Maryland drivers are. DC is 2nd worst. No surprise, since DC is really part of Maryland anyway (ducks).

At 12:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Streetcar will be killed on safety issues. The proponents of the SC settled for "yes" you can have it.....then the city gave it to them in their typical fashion...shitty.

R - What are the great advantages to the SC over buses again? Still can't see it.

At 11:29 AM, Blogger Travis Estell said...

@Anonymous: Advantages of streetcars over buses? Streetcars can carry about 3x more people than a bus. Streetcars last about 30 years while a bus lasts about 12. Streetcars are fully ADA accessible, allowing people in wheelchairs or with a stroller to board quickly and easily. (Modern vehicles such as the CAF streetcars made for Cincinnati and Kansas City are 100% low-floor as well.) Streetcars are electric so they're not pumping diesel exhaust into the urban core, and could run on renewable energy. Finally, streetcars simply attract more ridership than buses; people can debate the reasons why, but it's simply the reality.

At 11:44 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Travis. Thanks for this comment. I didn't know CAF was building streetcars for Cincinatti and KC. They provide the tram equipment in the Basque Country (and probably elsewhere in Spain).

I don't always get copies of the Anon comments in my regular email box, so I missed the question from Anon@12:38.

YOu summarized the benefits well.

Other benefits include reduction in noise and a significantly improved ride. The former benefits the city more generally -- even buses that run CNG are noisy as hell, and bus corridors are known for horrible noise (you can't sit on your front porch and enjoy it if you live on a frequent service corridor like 8th St. NE).

And the improvement in ride quality is significant as well, which benefits all riders, especially the transit dependent.

At 11:45 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Anon -- also, the safety issues that are claimed are probably spurious. There is nothing unique about how DC is implementing the streetcar that differs from Portland. Portland seems to manage just fine.

Yes, H St. has more traffic than most of the Portland streets where the streetcar runs, but it isn't a particularly traffic engorged arterial. ADT on H St. has dropped about 15% in the last 12 years also.


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