Committee voting on DC streetcars
Update 7:15pm: In discussing the Circulator, District leaders floated the idea of the District taking over many Metrobus routes in the city.
"I think DDOT should assume ownership of some bus routes," said Jim Graham, operating them as Circulator routes.
"We always say [of Metro] that they're not up to snuff. They're working very hard," responded Gabe Klein. But "I think you're really on to something, Chairman Graham. We may have to look at taking on more local routes, from a fiscal standpoint."
Klein, DDOT's director, suggested that if the District does not take over the routes, Metro should consider contract out their operation. "If we have so much success with a private operator, is there a way for Metro to look at a private operator?"
Original post: The District City Council's Committee on Public Works and Transportation is currently meeting to approve the plan for streetcars.
The Anacostia streetcar line would help spur development east of the river as well as provide affordable transportation, said Tommy Wells. But Marion Barry urged "caution" in proceeding with the streetcar when money could be better spent addressing immediate concerns, such as poorly paved streets in Wards 7 and 8.
Streetcars will relieve crowding on Metro and connect neighborhoods, testified DDOT Director Gabe Klein.
In Portland, $3.5 billion was invested within blocks of its first streetcar line, said a Sierra Club representative.
A New Yorker who has lived on Capitol Hill for two years said that while NYC's subway moves people through the city, Metro seems focused on bringing suburbanites to the business district and back. Streetcars would facilitate those short trips, he said.
A member of Metro's union urged DDOT to contract with WMATA to operate the streetcars to capitalize on Metro mechanics' experience and to save money by using Metro rail yards instead of constructing a new one.
"The time is now to build the streetcar on H Street and Benning Road," said David Alpert of Greater Greater Washington.
Another criticized Barry's "shortsightedness" and "narrow thinking." Barry later responded: "The citizens of ward eight don't like disrespect... Don't interrupt me."
"May I speak?" the man said.
"No, you may not," he replied. "I want you to spent two days walking with me in Anacostia so you can feel the pain, feel the hurt."
To another who testified, he said, "That's the kind of constructive testimony this council wants to hear."
Others advocated for aggressive assistance to H Street businesses, some of whom said business had declined by up to 70 percent during construction of the streetcar and widening of the sidewalks.
"This thing is like a caterpillar. We know it's going to end up a butterfly, but right now we're hurting," said one connected to a barbershop there.
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