Committee of 100: Misleading and Just Plain Wrong Part II: Streetcar Wires and the Urban Tree CanopySaturday, January 30th, 2010
The Committee of 100 on the Federal City has issued a petition against streetcars in the District of Columbia and is asking neighborhood and citizen organizations to sign on. Before doing so, all organizations should be aware that the petition and its supporting document are full of falsehoods and misleading insinuations. In a previous post, I countered the biggest falsehood — the claim that cities around the world are installing streetcar systems that do not use overhead wires. To date, only two cities have done so: Bordeaux, and that system proved so problematic that the vast majority of that city’s system, including all future extensions, uses overhead wire and Nice, where batteries power streetcars for less than one kilometer through a central square, with the rest of the system using overhead wires.
Today we address the issue of the overhead wire and urban street trees. The Committee of 100 petition calls for the District Department of Transportation to study the impact of overhead wires on street trees along streetcar routes. By calling for a study, the Committee of 100 petition falsely insinuates that streetcars with overhead wires cause harm to urban street trees. I do not oppose such a study, even though the Committee of 100′s call for it is surely a red herring. Indeed, I welcome it because in some of the world’s most attractive, most livable, most vibrant, most visited and most beloved cities, streetcar networks with overhead wires coexist with healthy and lush tree canopies. Many of the cities I am thinking of have much healthier and denser street tree canopies than the District. (Indeed, those expressing such deep concern about the impact of a single overhead streetcar wire on DC’s street trees appear incredibly unconcerned about the impact of diesel bus exhaust on DC’s street trees and even less concerned about the impact of the exhaust and leaking oil and other fluids from their personal cars on DC’s street trees.)
So, study away. In the meantime, though, here are the results of my own, admittedly unscientific, survey, which consists of pictures of streets with streetcars and beautiful street tree canopies.
Here are two photographs I took of Schweizerstrasse in Frankfurt. Schweizerstrasse is the main street of one of Frankfurt’s most attractive and pleasant neighborhoods. (Note the campaign poster in the second photograph.)
Here are two street scene photograhs I took in Brussels near Place Montgomery — one of the most attractive and desirable neighborhoods in Brussels.
Finally, here are two photographs of the Avenue Louise, the most exclusive street in Brussels — note that if anything is ugly in the first scene, it is not the streetcar, its tracks or its wires, but the cars and trucks on the right!