DC and streetcars #3: More discussion (from almost 2 years ago)
And in DC, the arguments for extending the streetcar down on K seem a bit weaker on a transit side. I think officials are ignoring a key reason why the Circulator is so popular on the K st route -- it is much cheaper than the metro for getting cross town. No question that the metro should be a better experience, but I see a lot of lower income people riding the streetcar all the way from farragut to union station.
And the plans for redoing K st don't include the non-streetcar buses and commuter buses which severely jam up traffic (and will continue to do so) during rush hours.
Honestly the best place for a streetcar in DC would be the crosstown route, or Georgia Ave. I do think Georgia Ave has the possibility of exploding in next 10 years.
One of the problems in recent discussions about "streetcars" and "trams" and "light rail" is that a lot of the discussion lately has been muddled.
There is a difference of opinion on how to define the difference between streetcars and LR. Jarrett Walker says the difference is really based on distance between stops.
-- Making the case for intra-city> (vs. inter-city) transit planning
3. I think people get "confused" because LR can "act" like a streetcar in a city's core. This is how it works in Portland, theoretically in Baltimore, and in other places.
and even though the mixed traffic operation sucks, in the core, it's functioning as a streetcar. However, it generally operates with signal priority, which speeds it up a bit.
4. But for me LR is about the size of the vehicle, speed of the system, and general intent of the service.
As you know, in most places where it is deployed it is for longer distance trips, in places where heavy rail doesn't make financial sense (not enough riders to justify the cost).
5. In the case of the proposed services in Arlington County and DC, some should be LR, not streetcar. That's been one of my biggest criticisms of the DC planning effort for at least 5 years.
6. As you know in our comment back and forth with the last entry, you made the point that the ArCo services aren't designed to be well integrated into the transit network.
I don't know the particulars of that area well enough to say. But it is that discussion that made me react so vehemently to the Next City piece.
If you say "it's for economic development, the transit effectiveness elements don't really matter" you're likely to f* it up.
Because if it doesn't work on a need basis, it's not going to do much for "economic development" unless people want it for the "entertainment value."
While it is true that San Francisco's F Line comprised of heritage streetcars is heavily used by tourists, it does get people to and from places they want to go. It's not merely a fun ride, unlike the SF Cable Car routes, although residents do use the cable cars for transportation.
7. The reason DC has pushed a streetcar in Anacostia is for ec. dev. and access reasons. It's out of a sense of social equity.
But I argue that you want to lead from strength and the f*edupedness of the community (an issue in Takoma too wrt streetcar) caused significant delays that weren't worth it.
The streetcar from Benning Road to Georgetown makes sense because you have to think of it as 4-5 intra-district [sections linked into one streetcar line]--Downtown to Georgetown, inside Downtown, Downtown to Union Station, H Street to Union Station, Benning Road/Minnesota Avenue to H St.
But I can't imagine the city is thinking of it that way.
It is the 15th St. NE to Minnesota Ave. section that has the most economic potential--rebuilding Hechinger Mall, the northern parking lots of RFK, Pepco site, etc. And then the long term benefits beyond Minnesota ave. in terms of repositioning [that part of the city as an attractive place to live].
8. That being said I agree with you that building the Crosstown Line first would have been the easiest way to build support overall, and that long term, a line on Georgia Ave. (although I'd prefer it to be light rail) will also have great ec. value--PROVIDED, and this is very controversial, and I would be pissed myself were I affected by it, that it is accompanied by an upzoning process comparable to what Arlington did for the Wilson Blvd. corridor.
Oh, but then such an upzoning would support the idea of a separated yellow line up Georgia Ave. and partway into Montgomery County (with a branch for MoCo from Fort Totten out New Hampshire Blvd.).
There are other examples of "tram" services in the US--what we define as light rail--like in Baltimore, Buffalo, arguably the River Line in New Jersey (Greater Camden)--that in and of themselves haven't been enough to spur substantive economic revitalization of those communities.
That is equally true of "streetcars" and "economic development" and the Portland (and Seattle) experiences.
In both cases, the streetcar was an element of a broader revitalization program. If the streetcar hadn't been built, in both cases, revitalization still would have been quite successful.
In the case of Portland, it wouldn't have been as successful, but it would still have succeeded.
In the case of Seattle, it wouldn't have made much difference at all. They could have done a circulator bus. Or nothing. But the streetcar created an incredible sense of branding for SoDo.
Here's what the conclusion of the cited journal article about Bilbao says:
"... even though it appeared within the framework of an international tendency that is producing similar examples, the Guggenheim Bilbao was a specific creation that resulted from special historical, social and political circumstances and should only seen as such. Its uncritical replication could only produce indifferent clones, which would not only be deprived of any originality but would also perpetuate the misuse of art and of the museums that host it."
I like the phrase "uncritical replication."
That tendency of "uncritical replication" costs us a lot of money and time in revitalization and produces a lot of failure or at least significantly substandard results
What bugs me about the rest of the blogosphere on this issue (except sometimes in comments) is how uncritical they are in touting and explaining surface rail transit, pushing for it, etc.