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Posted at 5:40 PM ET, 02/10/2011

Metro to study streetcar integration

By Luke Rosiak

A $250,000 regional study will examine ways in which the handful of streetcar projects being considered by various jurisdictions can integrate with Metro in a way that is cost-efficient and makes for a fast, integrated metropolitan transportation system, Metro said Thursday.

"Metro is leading the regional coordination effort to ensure that riders can readily use the light rail and streetcar projects when they open, easily move from one system to another, or connect with existing Metrorail and regional bus service. The transit agency is working with project sponsors, including the District of Columbia, Arlington County, Fairfax County, Maryland and other jurisdictional partners," it said.

One difficulty planners have already encountered is how the H Street trolley will connect with Union Station under the Hopscotch Bridge.

But in addition to the already-under-construction District lines, several other light rail systems are under consideration, including one near Columbia Pike and Maryland's Purple Line. Rapidly-urbanizing Tysons Corner, too, has considered a system.

A preservation group recently warned that purchasing decisions should be made with adaptability, uniformity and interoperability in mind, largely out of fiscal prudence.

Transit systems become much more useful when they facilitate multi-modal travel. And with Metro slated to reach capacity in the coming years, and no longer in the business of building rail lines, other systems are necessary--both for getting around the urban core and for expanding transit into far-out suburbs. And to be convenient for users, they should all use a common fare, like SmarTrip.

"Goals include identifying ways to achieve capital cost savings for the region and efficiencies in maintenance and operations through shared design standards for vehicles, track and structures, and traction power, shared maintenance facilities and practices. The study also will encourage flexibility to support future regional network expansion and ensure customer convenience, including uniform signs, common fare collection methods and fare media," a press release on the study said.

By Luke Rosiak  | February 10, 2011; 5:40 PM ET
Categories:  Metro, Transportation News, Transportation Politics  | Tags:  Streetcars  
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Well, I think that....

1) SmartTrip cards need to be accepted on all of these modes. You'll have to tap when you switch modes.

2) The fare systems and structures need to be integrated. If I take a Red line from Shady Grove to Bethesda, then the Purple Line from Bethesda to Silver Spring, and then the Red Line again to Glenmont, there is no reason I should be charged 2 separate Metro fares plue a light-rail fare. Nor should I be charged the equivalent Metro fare from Shady Grove to Glenmont, since I didn't travel the "long way". I would think that Metro to light rail or vice versa could be charged like a bus to rail transfer is charged now, but Metro to light rail to Metro should be charged some form of a distance based fare. How that fare is distributed amongst WMATA and the light rail operating agency is up for debate. But with computers, we can sort it all out.

Posted by: thetan | February 10, 2011 6:43 PM | Report abuse

While the headline describes the story perfectly, I couldn't help but picture a different kind of integration. Told my wife about it and she said, "Well, February IS black history month!"

Posted by: 1995hoo | February 11, 2011 7:49 AM | Report abuse


As a native of Washington, DC who clearly remembers the “STREETCAR
ERA,” I cannot understand why there is ANY DISCUSSION ABOUT BRINGING THEM BACK. There is a long history of their operating problems in this city AND obviously the reasons that they are removed and replaced by buses and a subway system. They don’t operate in snow, clog up the already awful traffic in this city and are oh so noisy, not to mention the fact they don’t carry very many people. WASHINGTONIANS DON’T WANT OR NEED THE RETURN OF THE INFAMOUS STREETCAR. Why would a city totally get rid of its streetcars only to “spend money years later to STUDY BRINGING THEM BACK AGAIN?” Looks to me like there are some pockets waiting to be padded selling streetcars to DC again!!!

Posted by: hotezzy | February 11, 2011 11:16 AM | Report abuse

@hotezzy...Actually, the streetcars weren't really removed soley to be replaced by bus and metro. The growth in autombile use had something to do with it. Also, modern day streetcars are quieter than buses, and in addition can transport a larger number of people than a bus. Getting rid of them was a mistake. Bringing them back will bring help the city grow in a smart way, and provide better econmic development.

Posted by: bikeDC | February 11, 2011 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Metro can't handle the system it runs now. What makes anyone think they can handle more?

Posted by: PeggyH1 | February 11, 2011 3:32 PM | Report abuse

@PeggyH1: Metro may be in dire straits pertaining to its maintenance record, but it is also perpetually, cripplingly, underfunded. Try maintaining a home when you're falling 20% behind on your expected budget year after year after year. Things are gonna fall through the cracks. Maybe the surrounding municipalities (and people) should take their lumps and actually pay a dedicated tax to the transit system they rely on.

@ The article in general:There's something intangible about that rail line that attracts economic development. Take a look at the Orange line corridor in Arlington, with high-density (high tax-revenue) development. Rail attracts people to live close to each other, business to move in and for community to develop.

Rail, while having rather shocking up front costs, is cheaper to maintain than highways. Light rail (which is generally higher capacity than streetcars) can move as many people as two lanes worth of single-person cars. Light rail / streetcars don't require diesel (or CNG) to run, and diesel and CNG prices are only going to increase.

Rail runs quieter than a bus (definitely diesel buses, probably CNG buses). Streetcars / Lightrail have a noticeable rumble when they go by, but in comparison to a roaring bus engine they are quiet. I encourage anyone who questions that to visit Toronto, which still operates old-style PCC street cars on historic routes. They aren't silent, but they surely aren't noisy. Modern streetcars in Portland and San Francisco are much quieter.

The most straight-forward argument for streetcars is that in the future roads simply will not be able to carry all the region's people effectively. Urban planners have known for a while that it is impossible to simply add more lanes to a road and expect it to alleviate capacity issues. More lanes simply attract more drivers, and in a short time, the road is at capacity again. (Let alone, as I said above, that highways are the most expensive form of transportation to continually maintain).

As density in the region increases - and it will - the area must provide more choices in transit or it will be crippled by constant gridlock. Streetcars provide that transit, while encouraging high-density mixed-use development, which is good for business, god for tax revenue, good for the environment, and good for people's health (they walk rather than sit behind a wheel). That said, all forms of transit in the region have to be effectively connected, or they don't work.

It's a good thing, they should build more. Wow that was a long post...

Posted by: Sayne | February 11, 2011 6:44 PM | Report abuse

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