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DDOT: D.C.’s Streetcars Are Indeed ADA-Compliant

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

After’s Mayor Gray’s transition team recently issued a report – which stated that D.C.’s “three trolleys that were purchased cannot be used because they do not meet federal ADA requirements” — I wrote a message to Mayor Gray submitted via his “Ask the Mayor” webform on February 18.  In it, I asked the mayor to explain why his transition team stated that D.C.’s three streetcars are not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and, if the statement was inaccurate, I urged him to direct his transition team to immediately correct the misstatement.

Eleven days later, on March 1, a special assistant to the mayor finally responded to my inquiry with an e-mail that did not answer my questions.  Instead, he referred me to the District Department of Transportation’s Interim Director Terry Bellamy to answer the question — even though he would not have been involved in preparing the transition team report.  Bellamy responded to my message in less than one hour by stating that D.C.’s three streetcar vehicles are in fact ADA-compliant.

Now that DDOT has confirmed what most of us suspected — that his transition team was wrong on this point — Mayor Gray should set the record straight that D.C. can use the streetcars the District already owns.  His transition team co-chairs Cellerino Bernardino and Thomas Downs should still answer for the misstatement in their report.  This also calls into question whether there are other inaccuracies in their report.

Surprise Guest Attends Streetcar Happy Hour

Friday, January 28th, 2011

Left to right: Lance Brown, Brad Green, Councilmember Sekou Biddle and Jason Broehm.

Councilmember Sekou Biddle (D-At Large) dropped in on the Sierra Club’s streetcar happy hour at SOVA on Thursday.  He spoke positively about streetcars, echoing comments he made the day before in a live chat on Greater Greater Washington (see 1:57 to 2:00 of the chat).

We’re planning to hold more streetcar happy hours in the months ahead.  If you’re interested interested in having a streetcar happy hour in your neighborhood, please send a message to info [at] streetcars4dc.org and suggest a location.

Streetcar Happy Hour on Thursday at SOVA

Monday, January 24th, 2011

On Thursday, January 26 between 6:00 and 8:00 pm, the Sierra Club’s Washington, D.C. Chapter will hold a streetcar happy hour at SOVA (1359 H Street NE).  Join fellow streetcar supporters for a drink, toast recent successes, and informally discuss what we need to do to keep streetcars “on track” (yes, it’s an almost unavoidable pun given the history of streetcars in D.C.)

DC Streetcar Goes Online with New Website, Twitter Feed

Saturday, January 15th, 2011

This week, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) unveilled a new website and Twitter feed for the DC Streetcar to provide D.C. residents with regular updates about DDOT’s progress building out the 37-mile streetcar system.

Gabe Klein Considering D.C. Council Run

Friday, January 14th, 2011

The Washington Post’s D.C. Wire blog reported yesterday that Gabe Klein, who recently resigned as director of the District Department of Transportation (DDOT), is considering running in the April 26 special election to fill the at-large D.C. Council seat recently vacated by Kwame Brown when he was sworn in as Council Chairman.  In a chaotic process on January 6, the D.C. Democratic State Committee (comprised of 80 Democratic insiders), selected Sekou Biddle, an education expert from Ward 4, to fill the at-large Council seat until D.C. voters have the opportunity to elect a replacement in the special election.

Klein was a very progressive DDOT director, who was responsible for reinvigorating D.C.’s lagging streetcar planning and implementation efforts.  He also focused on promoting a range of options to get around D.C. easily without a car such as expanding Circulator bus service, establishing the popular Capital Bikeshare program, and designating new bike lanes, including innovative approaches like the 15th Street bike lane that is separated from traffic by parked cars.

Klein’s entry into the Council race could excite and energize voters across the District who share his vision for a more livable city.

Former DDOT Director Makes Case for Streetcars

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

On Monday, The City Fix blog, which focuses on sustainable urban mobility, posted “The Case for Streetcars,” which features comments from former District Department of Transportation (DDOT) Director Dan Tangherlini about why D.C. needs streetcars.  During the administration of former Mayor Anthony Williams, it was Tangherlini who initiated D.C.’s streetcar planning efforts, which resulted in the comprehensive DC Alternatives Analysis laying out a long range vision for streetcars (and other transit improvements like rapid buses) in D.C.

Tangherlini makes the case that an important benefit of building a streetcar line is the economic development that follows.  The post cites Portland, Oregon’s 2008 study, which attributed $3.5 billion in economic investment to that city’s first streetcar line.  Tangherlini stated that when DDOT was planning D.C.’s streetcar routes during his tenure, the agency started by identifying current and future development — housing, offices, retail, restaurants and bars — and planned streetcar routes that would connect existing activity centers like Union Station with new ones like H Street NE.  He argues that transportation is about more than just getting from place to place; it’s also about “making places for people to go[.]“  This is probably the single biggest reason why D.C. needs streetcars, not just improved bus service, as some argue.

E Magazine Covers D.C. Streetcars

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

In an article that appears in the print edition of the January/February 2011 edition of E, The Environmental Magazine, Ethan Goffman writes about D.C.’s efforts to build a 37-mile streetcar system beginning with the two lines under construction on H Street and Benning Road NE and in Anacostia.

The article highlights several important benefits of streetcars including:

  • streetcar vehicles can carry more riders than buses;
  • they are an energy efficient and environmentally friendly form of transportation because they reduce air pollution and help fight climate change; and
  • streetcar lines have a record of acting as catalysts for significant economic investment in the corridors they serve.

Expanding on this last benefit, the article makes the important point that the District’s ”new streetcar system will spur renewal of D.C.’s more neglected neighborhoods, sucking development inward[,]” and it goes on to note that ”[a] more compact, livable city also means less environmentally harmful outward sprawl.”

The article apparently went to press prior to Gabe Klein’s December 2010 resignation as Director of the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) and his departure several weeks later.  Klein had some nice words for new Mayor Vincent Gray, calling him ”a thoughtful, strategic guy” and expressing “hope and faith” that D.C. will ”carry forward” with streetcars whether Gray asked Klein to remain as DDOT director or not.

As Mayor Gray searches for a new permanent DDOT director, let’s hope that he selects someone who will pick up where Klein left off.

DDOT to Hold Public Meeting on Anacostia Streetcar Extension on Wednesday

Sunday, January 9th, 2011

According to a press release late last week, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT), along with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), will hold a public meeting for the Anacostia Streetcar Phase 2 Environmental Assessment and Historic Preservation Study on Wednesday, January 12 at Savoy Elementary School (2400 Shannon Place, SE) beginning at 6:30 pm.  This location is only a one block walk from the Anacostia Metrorail station on the Green Line (see walking map.)

DDOT invites members of the public to attend the meeting to learn about DDOT’s Anacostia Streetcar Phase 2 Environmental Assessment, which according to the press release, is “intended to identify the best alternatives that address the project’s purpose and need, maximize environmental benefits, and minimize the potential for adverse impacts” and Historic Preservation Study, which will “evaluate potential effects to cultural resources in accordance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.”

According to DDOT’s DC Streetcar System Plan, which was released in October  2010 and approved by the D.C. Council in December 2010, the Anacostia Initial Line Segment will be a 0.75 mile streetcar line that will run from 2750 South Capitol Street to the Anacostia Metrorail station, connecting the Naval Annex to Barry Farm and the Metrorail station.  The plan indicates that the Anacostia streetcar line’s Phase 2 project would extend the Initial Line Segment from the Anacostia Metrorail station to downtown Anacostia and the 11th Street Bridge, which “will ultimately allow (in future extensions) the streetcar to cross the Anacostia River to
the developing Navy Yard/ Near Southeast activity center and Capitol Hill.”  See pages 27-30 of the plan for more information.

2010 Ends With a Bang for Streetcars

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

Several recent developments warrant belated mention as they relate to the future of D.C.’s streetcars so here is a summary of what has happened in the last two weeks.

Notably, on December 22, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) announced in a press release  that the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) had awarded DDOT a $1 million grant “to study alternatives for extending a DC Streetcar line into the K Street Corridor[,]” allowing “DDOT to evaluate possible alignments as well as streetcar propulsion alternatives.”  The press release hailed it as a “critical first step in securing federal funding for the streetcar system.”

The same day, it was announced that then-Chairman-elect (now Chairman) Kwame Brown was tapping Councilmember Tommy Wells, the leading Council advocate for streetcars, to chair the Committee on Public Works and Transportation and represent D.C. on the Metro Board of Directors, replacing Councilmember Jim Graham in both capacities.  In a release, Wells stated the importance of a transit system that “links our neighborhoods and gives every resident the ability to get around beyond relying on a car.”

The Washington Post’s Mike DeBonis reported in his blog that Scott Kubly, who has been managing DDOT’s streetcar planning and implementation efforts for the last two years, is considering running in the April special election to fill the at-large Council seat vacated by Kwame Brown when he became Council Chairman earlier this week.  The post also notes that Mayor Vincent Gray has asked Kubly to remain at DDOT on an “interim basis.”

Now former DDOT Director Gabe Klein, who has provided important leadership in getting D.C.’s streetcar planning and implementation off the ground, rode off into the sunset with a holiday bike ride with DDOT and WABA staff followed by a happy hour hosted by Greater Greater Washington on the winter solstice.

Mayor Gray has not yet announced who will succeed Klein as DDOT director, but TBD on Foot reported yesterday that Terry Bellamy, DDOT’s deputy director of operations, has been named interim director of DDOT until Gray makes a permanent selection.

D.C. Council Finalizes Overhead Wires Bill

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

Yesterday, at its final legislative meeting of the year, the D.C. Council unanimously approved the Transportation Infrastructure Amendment Act of 2010 on the second of two required votes.  The legislation authorizes the use of overhead wires to power streetcars on the H Street-Benning Road streetcar line, which is under construction and scheduled to begin operating by April 2012.  It also establishes a process for the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) to seek D.C. Council approval for the authority to use overhead wires to power future streetcar lines in other parts of the city.  The legislation establishes two overhead wire-free zones along the National Mall and Pennsylvania Avenue between the Capitol and the White House.