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Committee voting on DC streetcars

By Luke Rosiak

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.

By Luke Rosiak  | November 17, 2010; 2:44 PM ET
Categories:  District, Metrobus  | Tags:  Streetcars  
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This is the second day in a row Barry has been a voice of reason, what gives??

Posted by: Redial1 | November 17, 2010 3:36 PM | Report abuse

Aside from enriching contractors and some "developers," D.C.'s horrific traffic problems need streetcars like Anacostia needs more odor, garbage and slums.

Posted by: kinkysr | November 17, 2010 3:37 PM | Report abuse

The city needs more foresight and investment in projects such as streetcars. It will be a huge improvement in the city's core. The H Street line will will be huge for that corridor. The former New Yorker quoted has it exactly dead on. Metro's to move people in and out of the city. Streetcars will be for us residents. BRING IT!

Posted by: mbm1 | November 17, 2010 4:22 PM | Report abuse

"spur development" = GENTRIFICATION

Posted by: getjiggly1 | November 17, 2010 4:32 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, getjiggly1, why exactly, are you implying that gentrification is bad? Are you aware of its true meaning, and are you aware that most people who move in and out of a neighborhood do so willingly?

YAY FOR STREETCARS! Honestly, how are a few traffic-calming potholes and bumps in the road a more pressing issue for Marion Barry (other than for a minor political score)? I drive everywhere and I've realized that they're really just a cost-effective way to slow cars to the point where they won't endanger human life so easily.

Posted by: crzytwnman | November 17, 2010 4:44 PM | Report abuse

Please, please don't let WMATA manage the streetcar system! Also keep ATU Local 669 way the hell away from it. (Though I guess they can ride it to get to work when their own system has inevitably broken down.)

Posted by: yatesc1 | November 17, 2010 4:50 PM | Report abuse

DC cannot afford to fund streetcars at this time. Get a new director who can hire someone in DDOT that can prepare grant applications correctly and hope for federal funds.

Posted by: bill121 | November 17, 2010 5:12 PM | Report abuse

Hood on wheels...Will these street cars take people to work..hmmmm? Oh yeah why not spend billions on more transportation instead of something more useful as in addressing the deficit...WOW politicians are sneaky

Posted by: pusha-d | November 17, 2010 5:19 PM | Report abuse

It absolutely PAINS me to say this, but Marion Barry is right on this point. Wards 7 and 8 are being sadly neglected as money is poured into the pet projects of the rich yuppie crowd, led by Goggle multi-millionaire Dave Alpert. If the Alpert crowd has its way, this entire city will be devoid of anybody except rich white 20-somethings. I'm a middle-aged white woman, and I can say that.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | November 17, 2010 5:54 PM | Report abuse


I am curious how the rich white 20 somethings living in that area are going to lobby to get rid of all the black owned barbershops, hair salons and Korean owned carryouts and replace them with bars and coffee and antique shops.

Posted by: ged0386 | November 17, 2010 6:50 PM | Report abuse

They'll get rid of them by NOT patronizing them. It's called death through lack of business.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | November 17, 2010 7:06 PM | Report abuse

Damn crackers.

Posted by: getjiggly1 | November 18, 2010 10:23 AM | Report abuse

Clutch the pearls. Barry is actually right on point. The city is desperately trying to close a $175 million dollar budget deficit for FY11 and facing a $400 million dollar deficit by 2012. That, and double digit unemployment in Ward's 7 and 8. We simply cannot afford a multi billion dollar luxury pet project like a streetcar system.

The streetcar program was denied federal matching funds because the Department of Transportation submitted a poorly written grant application. The feds funded the program of other state jurisdictions. In response, what does the Councilman from Ward 6 (Wells) say "well, we'll just have to take it from local funds". Question: When you have a deficit WHAT local funds?

Gabe Klein really needs to be replaced. He has absolutely no idea what he is doing. Instead of exercising fiscal discipline, living within the budget of DOT, he caters to a small niche' group of local residents hell bent on continuing the reckless overspending of the current administration. We need a bonafide transportation chief with the requisite credentials, track record, and skills.

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | November 18, 2010 12:27 PM | Report abuse

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