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D.C. streetcar preview starts Wed.

District streetcars arrive at the Port of Baltimore from the Czech Republic on Dec. 15, 2009. (Courtesy District Department of Transportation).

The District's much-talked about streetcars will be available for people to tour Wednesday through Saturday this week.

The District Department of Transportation brought one of the cars to the site of the old convention center at 9th and H streets NW. The car is on temporary tracks in Lot B of CityCenter DC for four days. The District purchased three streetcars more than three years ago for a future streetcar network and is storing them at Metro's Greenbelt rail yard. The cars were kept for several years in the Czech Republic, where they were made. They cost $10 million total.

DDOT is billing the event as a "Streetcar Showcase" to whet riders' appetites while construction is underway in Anacostia and along H Street and Benning roads, the first two lines of a planned 37-mile, eight-line system. Funding has not yet been secured for much of the network, but it has stirred debate in the District over whether the trolleys will run on overhead wires or be powered by wireless technology.

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and DDOT Director Gabe Klein will kick off the event Wednesday morning at 10:45 a.m. The streetcar will be open for touring Wednesday through Friday, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

-- Staff reports

By Michael Bolden  |  May 4, 2010; 6:21 PM ET
Categories:  Transportation Politics , transit  
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Would it be cheaper to run the buses along the routes instead of street cars? It takes up car lane and create ugly overhead electrical wires.

Posted by: nevercheck | May 4, 2010 11:09 PM | Report abuse

1. No, it wouldn't actually be cheaper to run buses. Streetcars have higher capacity than buses, and streetcar vehicles themselves last many decades longer than bus vehicles, so on high ridership routes streetcars are less expensive to operate. More expensive to build up front, yes, but the longer you run them, the more money you save. If you only consider the first 10 years then it might not be a good deal, but once you've run them for 40 years you are saving money.

2. Streetcars are much more comfortable to ride than buses. One of the big reasons why many Americans don't like buses is that they are so rumbly. They jerk you up down side to side. Streetcars glide along a rail and are much smoother. This isn't often discussed, but it is a really big deal.

3. Because you have to invest in tracks, streetcar routes are easy to understand. People are often confused by circuitous bus routes that go every which way. Streetcar routes are straightforward.

4. Partially because of points 2 and 3, streetcars always attract more riders than buses for otherwise comparable service.

5. Streetcars serve as economic development magnets, just like Metro stations. Buses do not.

6. Streetcars use electricity rather than gas. Although it depends on how the electricity is generated, this has the potential to be much more environmentally friendly.

7. Streetcars are much quieter than buses. They are more neighborhood friendly.

8. Streetcars are iconic in a way that buses are not. They will very shortly become a symbol for the city, like the Metro or like the cable cars in San Francisco.

Posted by: Cirrus42 | May 5, 2010 9:46 AM | Report abuse

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