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DC Surface Transit to Hold Streetcar Propulsion Technology Seminar on May 6

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

DC Surface Transit (DCST) announced yesterday that it will hold a seminar on streetcar propulsion technology on Thursday, May 6 from 5:00-7:00 pm at the Renaissance Hotel, 999 9th Street, NW. It will address the current legal and environmental framework for modern streetcar systems. The seminar is free and open to the public.

Rich Bradley, President of DCST and Executive Director of the Downtown Business Improvement District, will moderate a panel of transit and urban design experts. Martin Schroeder, Chief Engineer for the American Public Transit Association, will review existing and developing streetcar technologies. Greg Baldwin, a Principal with Zimmer Gunsel Frasca, will present strategies for integrating streetcar infrastructure into urban streetscapes. A question and answer period will follow.


  1. Dudley said:

    It seems impossible to find anywhere on the Internet a map showing the area within which overhead wires are prohibited. Could DC Surface Transit please publish on the net the map? This would greatly help discussion, especially if the proposed streetcar routes are shown on the map.

    I understand H Street is outside the prohibited area, except close to Union Station – perhaps two blocks worth. Such a short distance would be easily traversible using battery power. Longer distances, however, such as from one side of the prohibited area to the other, would be doubtful using batteries. Better to use small diesel locomotives to tow streetcars across the gap! They could be tried on the Union Station end of the H Street line – if successful they could be used to cover the gap on all lines, if not, a trial would cost little and they could be used elsewhere or disposed of second hand.


  2. Jason Broehm said:

    The prohibited area is more or less the part of the District that is south of Florida Avenue and north of the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers. This includes H Street NE although I think the boundary may end at about 14th Street NE where Benning Road comes in.

    DDOT is not considering using diesel locomotives. They’re looking at using a hybrid system using overhead wires and batteries as a secondary power source. This will require D.C. to change the law to permit overhead wires in some areas.

  3. SechlerR said:

    Two thoughts. In the sections where overhead wires are not advisable, such as the Mall, consider the APS (“alimentation par sol” in French, “ground power” in English) system used in Bordeaux. Superficially it looks like the conduit system previously used in D.C., Actually it is a third rail, but only segments beneath the tram are energized. Switches actuated by the car’s presence over the feeding segments turn the power on, and turn it off before the car leaves them. The system appears to be safe, and all “bugs” have been worked out, if the trade press is true. The only question is, does Bordeaux have the same cold, icy winters found in D.C.? Use of salt to de-ice the street surface would result in extensive current leakage. The power rail might have to be heated and constantly swept in winter.

    Changeover from APS to overhead is very quick, and does not require standing over “plow pits” as with the former conduit system.

    Also, in the wired sections, consider a narrow profile overhead wire layout. There were at least two examples of this in the United Kingdom. London’s trams used conduit in the central areas, but overhead wire farther out, as in D.C. years ago. The wires were not aligned with the vertical center lines of the trams, but with their sides. Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital, did the same on Princes Street, suspending narrow profile overhead wires from ornmental “T” pylons between the tracks. London’s trams carried two trolley poles, mounted on opposing sides of the car roofs. Edinburgh’s trams had single centrally mounted poles fitted with slipper pick-ups that rotated to align with the wire in Princes Street. The effect in both cities was to make the overhead wires much less obtrusive.

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