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Transportation Nation

Test Drives Start for D.C. Streetcars

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

WAMU
Simulated streetcar service begins September 29th, with normal operations but no passengers on board.
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Transportation Nation

D.C. Streetcars Putting the Squeeze On Cyclists

Thursday, September 04, 2014

WAMU
New rule changes could mean D.C. bicyclists have to either ride down the middle of H Street — or avoid it altogether.
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Transportation Nation

Streetcars Run Into Problems As Operator Training Begins On H Street

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Streetcars rolled down H Street NE Monday for the first time in decades, but testing revealed the kinds of issues it will face when it's up and running — and must share the street with other vehicles.

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Transportation Nation

D.C. to Start Testing Streetcars Next Spring

Friday, December 14, 2012

The first three streetcars to roll downs tracks in the District of Columbia since 1962 will be ready for testing next spring, DDOT officials said at a news briefing on Thursday.

The district is building a track in Anacostia to test its streetcars with the goal of launching them into service late next year or early 2014 on the planned H Street/Benning Road corridor, a two-mile, ten-stop segment of a planned 22-mile trolley system that will take five to eight years to complete -- barring further delays.

“From a safety standpoint, we have to start what we call burning in the cars, to get them used to the traffic systems,” said DDOT chief engineer Nick Nicholson. “We have to make sure everything, especially the emergency response, is working well. Sometime after that we complete that burn-in period and get a safety certification, we will begin revenue service.”

Fares and operating hours have not been decided, but officials said they are looking into seamless fare payment technologies, including using Metro’s SmarTrip cards. The final pieces of infrastructure have to be completed, too, on H Street/Benning Road.

“You will start seeing us build our switches in so we can switch the cars from track to track.  You will see power plants starting to come in to run the cars.  You will see the upgrades of the overhead wires and reinforcement of the Hopscotch Bridge to be a stop for the streetcar and we will build a maintenance facility,” said DDOT director Terry Bellamy.

Between now and the day the first passengers climb into a D.C. streetcar in fifty years, DDOT will employ a public awareness campaign to help businesses in the emerging H Street corridor.

“We think pedestrians will probably be used to streetcars because they are used to buses. Our real concern is the automobile driver, because he is used to having the road to himself,” Nicholson said. “Those cars in the district that like to double (park) or just stop and wait, in a streetcar path they're going have to move on.”

Nicholson said delivery trucks will have to alter their schedules or find alleyways to idle because the fixed-rail streetcar system cannot swing around them like buses. The streetcars will flow from the H Street’s median to pick up passengers outside the parking lane.

The district’s ambitious vision for a trolley system that will help residents and visitors efficiently move within the city, as opposed to Metro’s outside commuter-oriented design, foresees streetcars crossing east-west from Benning Road to Georgetown and from Buzzard’s Point to Anacostia, and north-south from Takoma to Buzzard’s Point.

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray has pointed to the transformation of Portland, Oregon by a new streetcar line as a model of economic growth, and district officials are depending on the H Street/Benning Road line to increase property values and enhance shopping and entertainment options in the corridor.

Progress may have a cost. A study by the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University found  that neighborhoods that get new rail transit systems like streetcars experience a significant increase in housing prices -- leading to renters and low-income households getting priced out.

In a prior series, WAMU examined the relationship between transit and gentrification in D.C.’s Ward 7, where a plan to extend the H Street/Benning Road streetcar line east of the Anacostia River is under consideration.

To learn more, check out D.C. Streetcar's latest media briefing here.

 

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Transportation Nation

In Age of Streetcar, Transit (not Cars) Fueled DC Suburbs

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Undated. Streetcars running on 14th Street, NW near the District Building, now known as the John A. Wilson Building. (Courtesy of DDOT)

(Rebecca Sheir, WAMU -- Washington, D.C.) Mount Pleasant, Anacostia, LeDroit Park...all three a part of our nation's capital, are probably not the first names that come to mind when one thinks of the D.C. suburbs. But these three neighborhoods actually comprised the District's earliest 'burbs. They were called "streetcar suburbs," since their development stemmed from streetcar lines.

In the case of Mount Pleasant, the streetcar transformed the community from a sleepy village to a bustling neighborhood. Local historian and writer Mara Cherkasky says the electric streetcar came up 14th Street NW around 1893, but everything changed when D.C. extended 16th Street past Boundary Street, which is today's Florida Avenue.

"Starting in 1905 stores started popping up, and apartment buildings and row houses," she says. "So that streetcar coming up Mount Pleasant Street in 1903 turned this neighborhood into what it is."

Cultural Tourism DC's Chief Historian Jane Freundel Levey compares the impact of the streetcar to the impact of modern-day Metro.

"Every place where we've had a new Metro station we've had a tremendous amount of the most modern style of building," she says. "And that's what happened here in Mount Pleasant, too."

The electric streetcar had its last run in 1962. Levey says its demise was connected to the advent of the highway lobby in the 1950s.

"The government was giving huge amounts of money to build roads and the number of cars just burgeoned," Levey says. "And cars and streetcars were not very compatible. Streetcars were not maneuverable; they had to be on the tracks. Cars were zipping in and out; it got dangerous, it got very dense."

In terms of when a suburb like Mount Pleasant stopped being known as a suburb and started being known as a part of the city proper, Levey says it's hard to pick a date.

"We have generational changes in how we define a suburb," she says. "So, what was a suburb, as in Mount Pleasant, that lasted really only a short amount of time until other suburbs developed. This was a suburb that pretty quickly took on urban forms, so the next rank of suburb is a little bit farther out from Mount Pleasant, especially going up Connecticut Avenue."

Levey says suburbs were attractive in D.C.'s early days because the city was "chock-a-block with industry and commerce, and you didn't want to mix that kind of activity with where you lived."

She says that same idea is still attractive to many people today.

"There are still a lot of people who just want to have their house, their castle," she says. "They want to have land around them that belongs to them, and they don't want to have to look out the kitchen window and be able to read the newspaper of the guy sitting in the kitchen next store. There will always be people who look at it that way."

Washington D.C. is looking to revive a streetcar line by the summer of 2013, though not for the suburbs.

The audio version of this story at WAMU has additional information, gripping voices, and sounds like a trip back in time for a streetcar ride. Listen

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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: California's Governor Says Cap-and-Trade Will Fund Bullet Trains, Lots of Christie Loyalists Work at Port Authority

Monday, January 30, 2012

Top stories on TN: House Republicans intend to use their upcoming highway and infrastructure bill to push for approval of the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline.  Congressman John Mica says he will unveil a major five-year transportation bill to allow more public private partnerships to expand the capacity of interstate highways. Transportation Nation got a fan-composed jingle. Florida's SunRail commuter line broke ground. And: everything you ever wanted to know about biking in the Bay Area.

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Repairing DC streetcar tracks, 1941. (photo courtesy of Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Photograph Collection via Wikimedia Commons)

Patronage at the Port Authority? Dozens of people with ties to NJ Governor Christie have been hired at the agency. (The Record)

California governor Jerry Brown calls $100 billion high-speed rail estimates "way off," and says cap-and-trade will help fund the program. (Sacramento Bee)

Bus rapid transit may come to Nashville (The Tennessean) and Des Moines (Des Moines Register).

California's low-carbon fuel rule has become embroiled in a fierce public battle and has been barred from being enforced. (Washington Post)

Streetcars will roll out once again in DC in 2013 -- so it's time for a look back at the District's system, 50 years ago. (Washington Post)

San Francisco has removed public seating from almost the entire city to discourage the homeless from using it. (Bay Citizen)

A rail transit hub in downtown Minneapolis that officials want to begin building this year will go up for public review this week. (Star Tribune)

Trading places: London police are running safety events which give bicyclists the chance to experience exactly what a truck driver can -- and can't -- see. (The Guardian)

NYT Economix blog: the way to unsnarl city traffic -- especially in the face of more taxis on the streets -- is congestion pricing. (New York Times)

In New Jersey, toll cheat violations have dropped from 9 percent to 3 percent since photo enforcement began to target scofflaws in the exact change lanes on the Garden State Parkway. (AP via NJ.com)

A Basque company wants to manufacture an electric car that folds upward when parked. (The Economist)

Is President Obama's 2005 Chrysler worth $1 million? (The Takeaway)

A journalist whose bike was stolen -- twice -- puts technology to use for a sting operation. (Outside)

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Transportation Nation

NYC DOT Poised to Nix Streetcar Plan in Brooklyn

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

An old New York streetcar at rest on the Red Hook waterfront. (Photo by nickherber / Flickr Creative Commons)

(New York, NY -- Jim O'Grady, WNYC) The New York City Department of Transportation says it won't support a proposed light rail line in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn because it's not worth the cost.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg promised to pilot a streetcar line along the Brooklyn or Queens waterfront during his 2009 re-election campaign. One possible location was a Red Hook line connecting the transit-starved neighborhood to subways in Downtown Brooklyn and nearby Carroll Gardens.

But a summary of the NYC DOT's study says the line would cost $176 million to build, and nearly $7 million a year to keep going. It also argues streetcars would attract only 12 percent more riders than a local bus route already carries. That's because the study assumes that with Red Hook car ownership rates barely breaking 20 percent, most people take mass transit already.

Mayoral spokesman Stu Loeser said other plans for light rail have been put on hold because of expected cuts in federal and state transportation aid.

Residents in favor of a streetcar line say it would be more durable and reliable than the bus. The department's findings come from a summary given to neighborhood groups. The full report is due out on Wednesday.

Read more on the report here.

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: Canadian Oil Keeps Midwest Gas Prices Lower Than The Coasts, Republican Budget To Hit NY's MTA, and Americans Like Transportation, They Just

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Rockefeller Foundation survey says Americans support road upkeep and transit systems --  but they don't want to pay for them. (Washington Post).  (A storyline we've been following:  check out these stories from September 20, 2010: "Election Report:  Give Us Transportation, Just Don't Make Us Pay For It," and this one from November 1, 2010;  "Wariness about Spending on Transportation and Infrastructure Accompanies Voters To the Polls."

Gas prices are rising faster on the coasts than they are in the Midwest, thanks to bargain-priced oil coming in from Canada. (NPR)

New York's MTA would lose $73 million in federal aid under the House Republicans’ budget plan to be voted on this week, according to a study released yesterday by Rep. Anthony Weiner. (AM New York)

All five candidates in Tampa's mayoral race support light rail and improved transit -- as well as high-speed rail in Florida. (Tampa Tribune)

A light rail system that would stretch from Detroit's downtown to one of its business districts and then several miles further to the border with its northern suburbs was the topic of a hearing this weekend. Some fear that even if the project advances beyond its initial 3.4-mile stage and links the riverfront to the Eight Mile Road city limits, it will not stretch far enough. "Where's it going to go from there?" said one resident. "Ain't no jobs in this city. It needs to go into the suburbs, not just stop at Eight Mile Road." (Chicago Tribune)

NPR says the U.S. is in a streetcar boom, and more than a dozen cities either have them or are actively planning for their development, according to Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer.

The NY Daily News rejects one local politician's idea to make platforms safer -- but says the MTA "has a responsibility to do something when a train hits someone on average once every four days. It should test platform doors in a pilot program and not be rattled by critics."

Colin Beavan (remember No-Impact Man?) says bring on the bike lanes. "The fact of the matter is that it would be safer for New York as a whole if we had more bike lanes. And not just the people who travel along the streets, but the people, like you and me, who live on them

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: Transportation projects are set to take a massive, immediate hit under a spending bill headed for the floor of the House of Representatives this week. One city in France is considering an 18 mph speed limit. We test drive the MTA's real time bus info. And there's a new lawsuit for Indiana's I-69 highway project.

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: Rise in NYC's Transportation Costs Outpaces Inflation, American Airlines Breaches Protocol, and Did WI Gov Set Transit Back 20 Years?

Monday, January 03, 2011

(Michelle Thompson/Flickr)

NYC transportation costs rose 3.7% in last 12 months, outpacing inflation. (New York Times)

The New York Daily News has some suggestions for the MTA about how to handle blizzards. Step one: admit your mistakes. "A series of screwups before and during last week's blizzard contributed significantly to the stranding of scores of bus and subway riders."

If Fort Worth doesn't want its $25 million in federal streetcar funding, Dallas will be happy to spend it on its own ambitious efforts. (Dallas Morning News)

NJ Transit's "quiet commute" program "significantly" expands today.

The Examiner says Governor Jim Doyle set back transit in Wisconsin by 20 years.

NPR follows one man's illegal journey into New York's subterranean infrastructure.  Remember: "The big thing here is not to get killed. So don't touch the third rail. If a train's coming, get out of the way. That might mean — in the worst situation I can imagine — that might mean standing in between two third rails and two pillars with trains coming on either side of you."

The NTSB says American Airlines breached protocol, and takes the unusual step of barring it from inquiry proceedings. "The National Transportation Safety Board ...said the airline improperly downloaded information for its own use from the flight-data recorder of a Boeing 757 that rolled past the end of a runway at Jackson Hole on Dec. 29.....It is the first time in decades that a major U.S. carrier has been kicked off an investigation into an accident or incident involving one of its own aircraft." (Wall Street Journal)

Much to the chagrin of mountain bikers, Los Angeles bans bikes from trails designated for hikers or horses (Los Angeles Times). "A comprehensive update of the city's bicycle plan still gives precedence to hikers and equestrians."

The Takeaway looks at the year ahead for the auto industry -- and Studio 360 looks at the future of car design.

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Transportation Nation

DC Streetcar...or National Monument View? Reason #4,080 Why D.C. Is Not Like Any Other City

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A prototype of D.C.'s new streetcar

(Washington D.C. - David Schultz, WAMU) So let's say you're a city. You want to build a big public works project, like a school or a fire house - or let's say a $1.5 billion, 37-mile streetcar network.

First you formulate a design for the project, then you find the money to pay for it and then you get local politicians to sign off. (Not necessarily in that order) In most cities, with most projects, that's how it works.

Not in the District of Columbia. In Washington D.C., you also have to make sure the project you're working on doesn't impinge on any of the august, historic symbols that populate the Nation's Capital.

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Transportation Nation

BREAKING: D.C. Transportation Director Resigns

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

(Washington, D.C. - David Schultz, WAMU) Just a few moments ago, Gabe Klein, the director of Washington D.C.'s Transportation Department and a strong advocate of transit and pedestrian-oriented policies, announced his resignation.

Klein was appointed to the post two years ago by Mayor Adrian Fenty, who, earlier this year, was resoundingly defeated in his reelection bid by City Council Chairman Vincent Gray. Klein and Gray had clashed earlier this year over funding for the city's urban streetcar program, so Klein's departure just a few months before the new mayor takes office is not a huge surprise.

Still, Klein enjoyed a fair amount of support for his agenda, which, along with the streetcar project, included the installation of more bike lanes on roads, beefing up the city's local short-trip bus service and, perhaps most successfully, launching a city-wide bike sharing service.

Vehicle sharing seems to be Klein's M.O. Before joining the local government in D.C., Klein was a regional vice president of Zipcar, the pioneering car-sharing company that has taken off in many urban areas.

For more on Klein's resignation, check back in with WAMU throughout the day.

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: More on the Number 7's Trans-Hudson Ambitions; DC Unveils First Public Car Charging Station, and Virgin Wants in on U.S. High-Speed Rail

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

ARC tunnel, we just can't quit you: The New York Times takes a look at the mayor's plan to run the number 7 train under the Hudson River to New Jersey.   And while Mayor Bloomberg didn't shed many tears when the ARC died...when it comes extending his beloved number 7 line? Si se puede! (WNYC)

Do Europeans do a better job of traffic safety than Americans? A new report says yes. "It's not that they have technologies that we don't have; it's that they use them more extensively and they manage their highway safety programs more [intensely] and better than we do." (NPR)

General Motors returns to the stock market; is expected to expand its initial IPO by 31%. (Wall Street Journal)

The head of the Transportation Security Administration went before Congress yesterday to defend new airport screening procedures. (NPR)

DC unveils its first public curbside electric car charging station (Washington Post). Also in the capitol: The DC city council is holding a hearing on the final details of a streetcar plan.  (WAMU)

A NYC Transit supervisor is suing his former employers; says he was fired after reporting safety and security hazards on the subway. (NY Daily News)

The National Transportation Safety Board wants all states to adopt motorcycle helmet laws. One cyclists' group calls the move "disturbing." (Wall Street Journal)

Good Magazine has images from the 15 finalists in its Best Bus Route in America contest.

Virgin's Richard Branson has formed a high-speed rail consortium; wants to bid on contracts in Florida. (Forbes)

On this morning's Brian Lehrer Show, TLC Commissioner David Yassky takes listeners' suggestions about the Taxi of Tomorrow. (WNYC)

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Transportation Nation

Moving Stories

Monday, August 30, 2010

Portland streetcar success has fueled interest elsewhere (USA Today)

Union members face potential buyer of GM plant set to be closed in Indiana (Indianapolis Star)

Baltimore Gas & Electric to create smart grid (and 250 jobs) (WAMU News)

Texas celebrates decision said to increase local control over transportation policy (KCBD)

Long Island Rail Road finally running on schedule, after a week of signal problems (NY Daily News)

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