Sometimes you have to wonder if transit/transit projects are being deliberately screwed up to make transit expansion almost impossible
In fact, in 2016, Seattle opened its second streetcar line, on First Hill. Work is underway to connect the two lines, and further extend the streetcar, which complements light rail and bus modes within the city.
DC's failures in streetcar planning contributed to Arlington's decision to drop its parallel streetcar effort in 2014 ("5 years later, battle scars over Columbia Pike streetcar are still healing," Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA). If only Arlington was near Seattle.
It certainly helped opponents to the Purple Line light rail program in Suburban Maryland.
And the failures of DC in planning for and implementing the streetcar is often held up by opponents to streetcar and light rail projects elsewhere as an example of failure, incompetence, and by extension, the likelihood of failure of in their own communities ("A streetcar not desired," Politico, 2014).
In fact, I've since made the point that planning and transportation officials have a duty to not fail as part of their overall professional responsibility, because of how their failures can have unintended negative impacts elsewhere.
Since these failures, DC has decided to not extend the streetcar west to Georgetown ("D.C. drops plan to extend streetcar line to Georgetown," Washington Post), crippling its potential to be useful, although they are willing to extend it eastward.
Planning for other lines has long since ended, making the line a one-off making the mode generally un-useful ("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 NE," 2015).
Ironically, even as a failure, the streetcar has shaped as much as $1 billion in new development on the H Street NE corridor, and further extending development up Bladensburg Road and beyond 14th Street to Benning Road.
2. Suburban Purple Line light rail project, Montgomery and Prince George's County, Maryland. This project has been going on for a couple decades all told. It was junked during the Republican Ehrlich Administration (2003-2006) in favor of a toll road. Then it was revived under Democratic Governor Martin O'Malley (2007-2014). Then new at the time Republican Governor Hogan threatened to eliminate it once again (2015), but at the expense of a similar project in Baltimore ("Five years later, many across Baltimore bitterly lament Gov. Hogan’s decision to kill the Red Line light rail," Baltimore Sun).
But the Republican Governor, eager to have the private sector fund it, created a "Public-Private Partnership" to partly finance, design, engineer, build, and operate it. Disputes over cost overruns led the construction group to bail out.
(I tried to get a job with one of the bidders. But they lost, and the experience was so bad they decided to shut down the unit of the corporation that was to bid on similar projects across the country.)
Now Maryland has found a new construction "partner" but the line will be delivered more than 4 years later than initially planned ("Purple Line will open 4½ years late and cost $1.4 billion more to complete, state says," Washington Post).
The ongoing debacle of the Purple Line certainly doesn't help the arguments of proponents of transit.
Maybe that's what Governor Hogan planned all along? (After all, he prefers high occupancy toll road projects, expanding freeways, "County officials say Maryland governor made ‘empty’ threats to get toll lanes plan approved," Washington Post).
How's that partnership working out with the private sector?
... recently I saw an article recently making the point that in privatization and outsourcing we redefine transactions as partnerships.
3. DC area Metrorail (Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority) and the failure to proactively deal with faulty wheels. I haven't written about this even though it's been a problem for months because it's just so depressing.
The tragic thing is they knew about the problem, had frequent derailments, but kept letting it slide, until they were forced to take the trains out of service ("WMATA Experiences Continued Delays Following Train Derailment, Inspection," Georgetown Hoya, "Metro 7000-series safety problems 'could have resulted in a catastrophic event'," WAMU/NPR), "Washington Metro Pulls Most Train Cars From Service After Derailment," New York Times) so many that on most lines they operate fewer than 3 trains per hour, making transit completely unusable as a single train has capacity of about 1,200 to 1,800 passengers.
It makes the "service" completely unusable. Forcing people to drive, to buy car even..
4. WMATA is systematically failing. Worse, the derailments are merely one and the latest problem in a long list of severe safety failures, evidence of ongoing systematic failure:
- the signal control failures that led to the deaths of 9 people in 2009 (Collision of Two Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Metrorail Trains Near Fort Totten Station, Washington, D.C., June 22, 2009, National Transportation Safety Board)
- ventilation failures and emergency response failures which killed one person in 2015 ("After deadly D.C. Metro smoke incident, nationwide audit recommended," Los Angeles Times, "Safety board determines cause of deadly DC Metro accident," The Hill, WMATA progress report, 1/22, and
- general operational failure all along ("Metro’s rail control center a ‘toxic workplace’ where procedures put riders at risk, safety report says," "Federal investigation into suspended rail cars puts focus on inspections, maintenance," Washington Post).
As they say, the fish rots from the head. 12+ years of systematic failure ought to have consequences.
Much of the top management should be canned.
All of these incidents remind me of the discussion in the Asimov Foundation book series, in the discussion about the decline of the Empire, the inability of people to manage and operate things:
Mallow goes spying at a Siwellian power plant, noting that it is atomically powered (atomic power is the benchmark of technical civilisation in the Empire) but that the technicians – the tech-men – don’t actually know how to maintain it.
Note that despite funding problems which will lead to severe delays in building out the system, Sound Transit continues to expand the Seattle area light rail system, with the newest extension just having opened in October. Each expansion results in significant increases in ridership.
And Seattle's new Climate Pledge Arena includes free transit use (except ferries) with tickets for hockey and women's basketball games, and other ticketed events, like concerts.
Streetcar in Tucson is seen as successful ("PLANNING PROFESSOR ARTHUR C. NELSON SHARES ANALYSIS AND LESSONS FROM DEVELOPMENT AROUND TUCSON’S SUN LINK MODERN STREETCAR," University of Arizona). Same in Cincinnati--despite some construction issues, and Kansas City.
Oklahoma City 's streetcar opened in 2018 and seems to be supported ("Development, rather than ridership, a measure of success for Oklahoma City streetcar," Daily Oklahoman).
But the failures seem to garner a lot more attention.