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Streetcar

Transportation Nation

Arlington Streetcars Won't Go To Referendum. Now What?

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Both sides in the battle over Arlington County's proposed streetcar lines are weighing in on a big decision by the county board.

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Transportation Nation

Streetcar Funding Slashed By D.C. Council

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The D.C. Council voted to cut spending for a planned 22-mile network of streetcars — and use the money to pay for tax cuts. But Mayor Vincent Gray says that puts the entire program in jeopardy.

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Transportation Nation

Maya Angelou Was San Francisco's First Black Streetcar Conductor

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Maya Angelou, the poet, writer, and performer who passed away at the age of 86, also has a place in civil rights transportation history: at the age of 16, she says she became San Francisco's first black streetcar conductor.

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Transportation Nation

As H Street Changes, Can Long-Time Residents Stay?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

WAMU

The new streetcars coming to D.C. are expected to bring billions in economic development, but residents who lived through the bad times might be priced out of staying through the good.

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Transportation Nation

For D.C. Residents, Streetcar Return Will Pose Practical Challenges

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

It's been 52 years since streetcars last ran on D.C. streets, and city officials have been working to prepare residents, drivers, cyclists, and business owners for what life with trolley will look and feel like.

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Transportation Nation

Price Tag of Proposed Arlington Streetcars Increase -- and So Do Ridership Projections

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Arlington County officials say that when its new streetcar line is built out, it will provide the majority of transit trips in the area. But opponents say that's overstated -- and that the increasing cost doesn't justify the project.

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Transportation Nation

Special Election In Arlington Prompts Debate Over Streetcar Plan

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

WAMU

In their final debate before two upcoming caucus votes this week, the three Democratic candidates running for their party’s nomination to fill a vacant seat on the Arlington County board laid out their positions on one of the most divisive issues in the race: the future of the $300 million Columbia Pike streetcar project.

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Transportation Nation

Debate Over Streetcars To Take Center Stage In Arlington

Friday, January 03, 2014

WAMU

Arlington County -- one of the most densely populated places in Virginia -- has already voted to move ahead with a streetcar plan. Now it must figure out how to pay for it.

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Transportation Nation

VIDEO: D.C.'s First Streetcar Test Goes Well -- If Slowly

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

WAMU

The District’s first streetcar in a half-century was towed down its tracks on H Street NE at four miles per hour Monday, the first in what will be months of safety tests before passengers can finally hop aboard next year.

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Transportation Nation

D.C. Streetcar To Make Long-Awaited First Appearance

Friday, December 13, 2013

The first streetcar to glide down tracks in Washington in half a century will make its first appearance Friday, as the District Department of Transportation intends to transfer one of its new streetcars from its Anacostia test track to the H Street/Benning Road NE corridor.

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Transportation Nation

When Will D.C.'s Streetcar Run? Officials Stick With 'Soon'

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

WAMU

D.C.'s first streetcar line in 50 years may be ready for passengers service by spring or early summer of next year, but an exact date remains elusive.

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Transportation Nation

VIDEO: What It Takes to Build D.C.'s First Streetcar in 50 Years

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

WAMU

The H Street/Benning Road corridor is undergoing a permanent—and highly anticipated—transformation.

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Transportation Nation

D.C. Studies Nine-Mile Streetcar Line Running Through National Mall

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

WAMU

The District Department of Transportation is launching a one-year study of a nine-mile streetcar line between Buzzard Point in Southwest D.C. and Takoma in Northwest. It's a key segment of a planned 22-mile streetcar system supposed to integrate wiith Metro buses and the D.C. Circulator.

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Transportation Nation

VIDEO: The First D.C. Streetcar in 50 Years Takes a Test Drive

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

WAMU

D.C.'s streetcar won't be taking passengers for several more months, but engineers are already putting the vehicles through their paces, testing braking and acceleration -- and a feature called "dead man."

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Transportation Nation

Virginia Keeps Designing Its Un-Funded Streetcar Plan

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

WAMU

They haven't figured out how to pay for the project yet, but the Arlington County Board has approved a plan to move ahead on the Columbia Pike Streetcar.

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Transportation Nation

Will D.C.'s Streetcar Open Before 2014? There's a "65/35" Chance

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

WAMU

D.C. officials say they're hopeful the city's new streetcar system will be up and running by the end of the year.

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Transportation Nation

PHOTOS: D.C.'s First Streetcars Roll in For Testing

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

D.C. is officially welcoming its new set of streetcars this week -- marking the first time the vehicles have been seen in the District since 1962. And to drum up ridership, Mayor Vincent Gray said fares could be free -- at first.

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Transportation Nation

Bike Modification Lets You Ride on Train Tracks, Probably Get Hit by Train

Monday, July 16, 2012


(Jess Zimmerman -- Cross-posted from Grist.org) If you live in a city with a thriving streetcar system, chances are you live in Europe and your burg is pretty bike-friendly anyway. But you have to admit that sticking to the streetcar tracks would make it much less likely for you to be hit by a car, while simultaneously making it much more likely for you to be hit by a streetcar. If that sounds like fun, or if you’ve just always wanted to “ride the rails” but don’t actually understand what those words mean, you can take inspiration from this project by German urban collective We Are Visual.

The Bahnradbahnrad (trainbiketrainbike) basically just adds training wheels (ha ha, get it? TRAINing wheels?), so the bike can slide through the streetcar’s track groove without losing stability. Off the track, you will look like a six-year-old. But on the tracks, you’ll be able to get anywhere you might want to go — streetcars hit most of a metropolis’ best offerings — while being relatively unmolested by everything besides large multi-car vehicles bearing down on you. But hey, they run on a schedule, and they have to stop — you can outrun a silly little train, right? Go find out!*

* Don’t go find out.

(Original post on Grist.org)

 

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Transportation Nation

Will Walker's Wisconsin Win Mean No Milwaukee Streetcar?

Monday, June 11, 2012

A rendering of a Milwaukee streetcar, from milwaukeestreetcar.com

Governor Scott Walker’s triumph in the Wisconsin gubernatorial recall election seems to vindicate yet again his anti-rail campaign strategy. Supporters of the Millwaukee streetcar, his latest punching bag, must be worried now that Walker will make their pet project the next piece of trophy taxidermy on his office wall, right beside the high speed “boondoggle train to Madison.”

If we’ve learned anything these last few years it’s that an empowered Governor can do a lot to frustrate local wishes, be they for a commuter rail tunnel, a potentially profitable high speed train line, or a cherished lack of interstate highway.  But there’s reason to think Walker might be powerless to stop the streetcar plan, even if he wanted to do so.

A year ago, before the recall campaigning, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel ran a thorough piece elucidating one possible reason the Republican Governor wasn’t making a big deal of the streetcar at the time:

A 10-year-old civil rights settlement could explain the governor's reticence.

That deal prohibits the state from blocking the streetcar project, according to a top federal transportation official and an attorney involved in the settlement.

Faced with allegations that it was discriminating against urban minorities by favoring freeways over light rail, the state agreed in November 2000 to cooperate with the Milwaukee Connector study and to incorporate its recommendations into the state's long-term transportation plans. That study eventually spawned the streetcar.

(For more in-depth reporting and context on the historical confluence of race and transit, listen to Transportation Nation’s Back of the Bus documentary)

We reached John Norquist, the President of the Congress for the New Urbanism, who was mayor of Milwaukee at the time of the agreement. He agreed that it wouldn’t be possible for the streetcar funding to be re-purposed without the consent of the mayor, which seems unlikely since Mayor Tom Barrett was Walker’s recall opponent. “Walker can’t take the money. It’s a joint agreement,” Norquist said. “If Barrett doesn’t agree to move the money, then the money stays where it is.”

But keeping the funding safe for one project shouldn’t be the end of the story, Norquist said. “I think the transit advocates in Milwaukee need to attack the wasteful road projects that Walker’s engaged in, the boondoggle of widening Interstate 94 to eight lanes between Milwaukee and the Illinois state boundary. That’s something like 4 billion dollars. Just to go from six to eight lanes.”

(Repeated calls and e-mails to Walker's Office were not returned.)

Agreeing with certain regretful comments made by Wisconsin State Representative Brett Hulsey to Transportation Nation last week, Norquist said that the Democrats and pro-train advocates were too timid and passive in the face of Walker’s barrage of criticism. “They need to have an intellectual theory behind what they’re doing. We did this back in the ‘70s and ‘80s. We threw out a bunch of pro-highway legislators in Milwaukee, and a bunch of us got elected on an anti-freeway campaign. We killed all three pending freeways in Milwaukee.” The streetcar money originally came from funds returned for the unbuilt Stadium North Freeway.  “Originally it was $500 million. And the state DOT has been trying to steal it ever since.”

Since those anti-freeway heyday that brought him into power, the pendulum has swung the other way, he says, largely because of racial fears tied to transit in Wisconsin. “This last election Walker ran against the city, tried to wrap the fear about the big city around Barrett’s neck,” Norquist observed. “It’s all very hardcore. They treat transit like it’s a welfare queen sashaying down a welfare promenade.”

But he also thinks that attitude might soon run its course. “I think Walker’s attitude still works because the a lot of those post-war generation are still voting their fears about the city and there’s still a lot of them around,” he said. “But it’s about to change. Young people—the Millenials—like urban place, and they don’t have a negative attitude toward transit.” In 1970, there were nine cities in the nation with rail transit systems, he pointed out, while today, some forty cities have it, including many in sun belt. “I think Walker will be one of the last of the people that are able to use transit as a wedge issue.”

 

Matt Dellinger is the author of the book Interstate 69: The Unfinished History of the Last Great American Highway. You can follow him on Twitter.

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Transportation Nation

Will Walker Walk, or Get Railroaded Out of Madison?

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker ran against trains, and won. Will it work again? Photo by WisPolitics.com

Next Tuesday’s gubernatorial recall election in Wisconsin means everything to the prospect of improved train service in that state. But local rail advocates are still unsure whether the passenger rail issue will hurt or help embattled Republican Governor Scott Walker, who is in a tight race against challenger Tom Barrett, the Democratic mayor of Milwaukee.

“I think we’ve taken it from a big negative for us to about a break-even,” said Brett Hulsey, a Democratic state assemblyman from the west side of Madison who is an outspoken supporter of both Barrett and better trains. “That’s progress. But Walker has TV ads now beating up Barrett for a $100 million dollar streetcar project in Milwaukee. Apparently this is still polling well for Walker.”

In the fall of 2010, when Walker ran for the statehouse, he made an issue of the Madison-to-Milwaukee high-speed rail project, which had received $810 million in federal funding, saying “I’d rather take that money and fix Wisconsin’s crumbling roads and bridges.” Walker also set up a website, NoTrain.Com.

The money wasn’t, in fact, fungible, and soon after he was elected, Walker returned it to the federal government, which redistributed it to other states, including California and Illinois.  Other Republican governors,  Rick Scott of Florida and John Kasich of Ohio, followed suit.

As it turned out, stopping the “Boondoggle train to Madison” was a political winner.

“Transportation choice advocates and Democrats, didn’t do a good job leading up to the last election, in explaining the benefits,” Hulsey admits. “We thought we had a done deal. And we should have done a better job making it part of the political discourse.”

Barrett, for his part, is trying to do just that, drawing a straight line between transportation improvements and the state’s hunger for jobs with visits to the. He recently visited a Talgo factory that has been making new train cars for the existing Hiawatha line. Funding for that too is in jeopardy, even though the cars are 99 percent complete.

Talgo is no passive prop. The company hasn’t been at all shy about their feelings for Walker’s leadership. Their Twitter feed has been quite sharp, and the company’s Vice President of Public Affairs and Business Development, Nora Friend, recently complained bluntly to Milwaukee’s WUWM radio. that the Walker Administration’s apparent intention to breach a maintenance contract would mean Talgo would have to close its current facility and lay off skilled workers.

“We find ourselves in this situation,” she said, “because of the blunder of returning $810 million dollars. The cost of that permanent maintenance facility was included in those finds that Wisconsin competed to get. We don’t want to have to litigate our contract. What we want is very simple. we want the state of wisconsin to do what it preaches, that it is open for business.”

Hulsey points to a report that Walker has actually given away $1.3 Billion in federal money, and thinks the public is starting to understand the Democrat’s view of the matter. “We have educated the public that of the 35,000 jobs that we lost last year, 5,500 of those jobs would have been people upgrading our train tracks, direct and indirect jobs.”

Hulsey likes to encourage train supporters in states such as Illinois to send letters to Walker thanking him for the re-appropriated funds and resulting jobs.

“Those jobs and the benefits of those jobs would have far exceeded any operating costs to maintain rail service to Madison," said Nora Friend.

Walker’s straightforward position, like that of Florida Governor Rick Scott, is that, given the economic climate and mounting deficits, federal and state governments cannot afford to risk millions and billions of dollars on rail systems they see as speculative and likely to require years of subsidy. Whether voters agree with this, or the argument that government is in a unique position to create desperately needed jobs and new infrastructure critical to economic development, won’t be clear until election day, if then.

But Hulsey counters Walkers claims with a classic Democratic argument. “The fact that this is happening in battleground states like Wisconsin, Ohio, and Florida is not an accident,” he told me. “This is part of the Republican do-nothing strategy to try to make President Obama look as bad as possible. Hurting workers to hurt Obama is the overall strategy.”

Matt Dellinger is the author of the book Interstate 69: The Unfinished History of the Last Great American Highway. You can follow him on Twitter.

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