Update on the DC Streetcar program on the verge of launching Sunday service
Flickr photo by Ted Eytan.
In December 2015, a couple months before the DC Streetcar launched, I wrote a series of posts about the streetcar, making a few points:
(1) the poor launch of the program shouldn't be held against the mode;
(2) streetcars need to be judged in terms of what they are supposed to do, which is to provide "intra-city" and "intra-district" transit, not longer distance service;
(3) that you can't properly judge the program until there is more trackage--right now the line is only a couple miles line and poorly integrated with Union Station; and
(4) judged in terms of economic development impact, the DC Streetcar is a wild success, as in my conservative opinion more than $750 million in new development has been sparked or significantly accelerated by the streetcar, and H Street NE is the only corridor in the city without Metrorail service where development at this scale is occurring, especially as you go east on the corridor--what spurred post #4 was the announcement of a project on the 1700 block of Benning Road/H Street, east of Hechinger Mall.
-- "DC streetcars move to simulated service: passenger service expected within a couple months: DC streetcars part 1"
-- "DC and streetcars #2: STREETCARS ARE ABOUT TRANSIT, just in a different way from how most people are accustomed to thinking about it"
-- "DC and streetcars #3: More discussion (from almost two years ago)"
-- "DC and streetcars #4: from the standpoint of stoking real estate development, the line is incredibly successful and it isn't even in service yet, and now that development is extending eastward past 15th Street"
Tomorrow is the H Street Festival, now the city's largest neighborhood street festival, and on Sunday, the DC Streetcar launches 7 day/week service as originally the service was provided six days/week, because not all of the vehicles in the fleet were ready for revenue service.
post #3 on Rhode Island Avenue Metro Station) about plans for extension of the streetcar system east on Benning Road to Minnesota Avenue, and how failures in urban design planning illustrate that DDOT and most transportation agencies fail to acknowledge transportation infrastructure as an element of civic architecture.
This is wasteful because adding enhanced capacities and aesthetic elements within transportation corridors have extranormal return on investment when it comes to economic development, and I will get to that, after I read the new NACTO publication, Transit Street Design Guide, published by Island Press.
A counter-example I will use is Kansas City's successful streetcar launch and how they integrated "Smart City" elements within the street's new infrastructure as part of the project ("
Photo of the Smart City Kiosk and the KC Streetcar by Eric Bowers.
Launch of Sunday service. But the launch of Sunday service (I had hoped to get the city to consider adding heritage streetcars to the fleet to accomplish this, see "An idea for Sunday streetcar service in DC: heritage streetcars"), reminds me of two things.
A lot of money is being spent marketing the streetcar: does this make sense? First, I've been meaning to write about how I think it's somewhat of a waste of money to be spending a lot of money on promoting the streetcar since it provides such limited service, although I suppose the money spent can be positioned as promoting the H Street commercial district.
You could argue it's good to promote "the mode" so that people support its extension, but many people will see this as frivolous, since the line only provides intra-district transit on H Street, and people will have a hard time conceiving it as part of a bigger network.
Ad in the Express promoting the DC Streetcar. Ive also seen the ads posted on bike share kiosks.
That being said, DC needs to have a systematic program for funding the ongoing development and promotion of the city's sub-districts (like Capitol Hill, Georgetown, Dupont Circle, etc.) and it doesn't, and in any case the money shouldn't be coming from transportation funds ("New Jingle Very Enthusiastic About Streetcar, Will Costs Thousands of Dollars to Run," Washington City Paper)..
Updating the master list of H Street area development projects spurred by the streetcar program. Second, the original list of the various projects spurred by the Streetcar program failed to include some projects on Florida Avenue. Projects there definitely would not be happening without a streetcar.
These projects are small by comparison, but still significant and push the development value over $800 million. (And note that in the 2003 piece I wrote for H Street Main Street about the need to develop a "housing development policy" did discuss some of the opportunities present on Florida Avenue.)
I am not counting little projects on H Street (buildings at 1300 and 1301, a project on Linden Court) which may have occurred regardless as a form of infill and intensification, although in my opinion while these projects would have occurred some day, they are in process now because of the streetcar, so it would be fair to include them.
New real estate development along the H Street corridor associated with the streetcar
|Building name||Address||# of units||Value|
|Stationhouse||701 2nd Street NE||375||$165MM*|
|Senate Square||200 block north||476||$210MM*|
|Capital City Realty||301 H Street NE||25||$9MM*|
|Telesis||315 H Street NE||25-40||$12MM*|
|360 Apartments||360 H Street NE||270||$120MM*|
|Ava||300 block I Street NE||140||$60MM*|
|Douglas Development||501 H Street||25||$11MM*|
|H Street Condominiums||601-645 H Street NE||307||$135MM*|
|Apollo||600 H Street||430||$189MM|
|Rock Creek Realty||600 block north||32||$15MM*|
|H Street Connection||800 block south||368||$162MM*|
|Wall Development||1115 H Street NE||16||$6MM*|
|The Maryland||1350 Maryland Avenue NE||84||$40MM*|
|TBD||1401 H Street NE||34||$15MM*|
|Atlas Flats||1600 Maryland Avenue NE||257||$36MM|
|Valor Development||1603 Benning Road NE||300||$100MM*|
|1701 H Street NE||1700 Benning Road NE||180||$60MM|
|Ditto Residential||1326 Florida Avenue NE||45||$13.5MM|
|Corey Condominiums||1350 Florida Avenue NE||43||$13MM|
|Havana Condominiums||1124 Florida Avenue NE||52||$15.6MM|
* = the value of the project is an estimate, and the cost does not necessarily include the cost of land.
Note also that the original estimate for Atlas Flats failed to include the value of development rights on an abutting undeveloped parcel. The property later sold for $95 million ("Kettler JV Scoops Up Flats at Atlas, Lot for $95M," Globe Street).
The total of the projects listed in December was $769 million. The three Florida Avenue projects add $42 million to the total, taking it over $800 million. (I used a slightly smaller average valuation for the Florida Avenue projects, which is a judgment call.)