Sunday, August 17, 2008

Along Came a Streetcar

There has been a lot of talk about streetcars lately. I’ve always intended to come up with a streetcar plan as a part of the set of transit plans I’ve been creating lately. And slowly, but surely, I’ve been able to work on it.

But I’m not the only one working on these plans. According to the New York Times, 40 cities in the United States are talking about streetcars for their central areas. 40! Amazing. Even little Boise, Idaho has got streetcars on its mind. Recently, Richard Layman had a few things to say about streetcars too. These reports about streetcars are, I assure you, pure coincidence. I’ve been working on the streetcar plan for over a week, but it’s been on my list for some time.

Some notes about the plan: This a version 1.0 plan. Based on comments, I’ve changed my other plans, and I’d love to hear from you. Please tell me what you think.

This plan, like my others, represents what I think the region can support right now—not what will be needed in 2030. In 2030, I would hope that this network exists as a small portion of something rivaling Pittsburgh before the 1970s.

I chose lines based on connection commercial nodes. I know that some of the lines are long. Not very many people will ride from Friendship Heights to the National Archives, but that’s not the point. I once heard Portland’s Streetcar referred to as a “pedestrian accelerator.” The point in to expand the range of people going on foot, encourage redevelopment, and offer alternatives.

Many of the corridors I picked were once streetcar lines in DC’s past. The 14th Street Line, for instance, caused the development of Columbia Heights and 14th Street Heights. The trolley barn is still in use today as a Metro bus garage. The trolley loop still has a structure dating back to the days of electric traction, it’s where WMATA’s 50s line buses short-turn at 14th and Colorado.

Streetcars would mostly operate in traffic, like the Portland Streetcar (pictured at top). Stops would be similar to bus stops, but would include more streetscaping.

So, without further adieu, the Plan:

14th Street/Capitol Hill Line:
This line starts in Northwest DC, near the Rock Creek Tennis Center. At the northern end of the line, transfers are available to the Eastside Light Rail (sky blue color) along 16th Street in my Metro/Light Rail plan. From 16th and Colorado, the line proceeds east along Gallatin Street then south along 14th. The line follows 14th south through the city, all the way to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, south of the Mall. Along the way, it passes through several old streetcar suburbs, including 14th Street Heights and Columbia Heights.

At C Street SW, the lone turns east off of 14th Street. Jogging sough along 12th to continue on C, the line passes near L’Enfant Plaza, where it turns south on 7th Street. After passing the waterfront, the line travels along M Street SW/SE, past Nationals Park, and then turns north on 8th Street SE/NE. Passing through Barracks Row and the Eastern Market sections of Capitol Hill, the streetcar turns right onto Independence Avenue. Near RFK Stadium, the line turns north on 19th Street, east on E Street, and north on Oklahoma Avenue to reach the new Oklahoma Avenue Metro Station. Here the 14th Street/Capitol Hill Streetcar shares its terminal with the H Street/State Department and Boundary Street Lines.

Wisconsin Avenue/Rosslyn Line:
The Wisconsin Avenue Streetcar starts at Columbus Circle and Union Station. Proceeding northwest along Massachusetts Avenue, the line shares tracks with the H Street/State Department Line. At Mount Vernon Square, the tracks proceed along the south side of the square, with transfers available to the Georgia Avenue and Connecticut Avenue/Crosstown Lines. The Wisconsin Line continues west along K Street. At Washington Circle, the H Street Line diverges and the Wisconsin Line turns northwest again, along Pennsylvania Avenue. At 29th Street, the line bends westward onto M Street and stops just before M and Wisconsin. Here, the line splits.

The Rosslyn Branch continues along M Street, turning south to cross the Potomac on the Key Bridge. On the southern shore, the line cuts diagonally though the park atop I-66 to reach North Moore Street. Here, passengers can transfer to the Blue, Orange, and Silver Lines at Rosslyn Station. The Rosslyn Branch continues by turning west on Wilson Boulevard, which it follows to the Courthouse area of Arlington. The streetcar terminates at a loop near the Court House Metro.

The Wisconsin Branch turns north from M Street onto Wisconsin Avenue. For several blocks, it shares tracks with the Boundary Street Line. North of Q Street, the Wisconsin Line is once again alone on its tracks. It travels all the way to Friendship Heights and the District Line before turning around using Western Avenue and Wisconsin Circle.

H Street/State Department Line:
This line starts at Oklahoma Avenue Metro. Proceeding west along Benning Road and H Street, the line passes through some of Washington’s ungenrified neighborhoods. The line turns south using two different streets to access Masachusetts Avenue: northbound cars use 6th Street, southbound cars use 4th Street. At D Street, the line turns west again, turning north onto Massachusetts Avenue almost immediately. From Columbus Circle to Washington Circle, the line is coterminous with the Wisconsin Avenue Line. At Washington Circle, the line turns south along 23rd Street, making several stops to the State Department Loop, located at 23rd and Constitution.

Connecticut Avenue Line:
Starting at Mount Vernon Square, the Connecticut Avenue Line proceeds south along 7th Street to Constitution Avenue. Turning west on Constitution and north on 12th Street, the line travels through the Federal Triangle area. At I Street, the line once again turns west, heading toward downtown. After passing Farragut Square, the line turns north on 20th Street. At 20th and Q, the line has a stop for patrons changing to the Red Line and the Boundary Street Line. This is also the end of the Georgia Avenue Line, which travels along with the Connecticut Line between Mount Vernon Square and 20th & Q. Georgia Avenue streetcars turn back on a siding just north of Q Street.

Connecticut Avenue cars split here. Southbound streetcars turn from Connecticut onto 20th Directly, northbound cars turn right on to Q Street, crossing over Connecticut, then turn north onto the Connecticut Avenue access ramp. After the intersection with Florida Avenue, the line diverges. Connecticut Avenue streetcars continue north on Connecticut Avenue, while Crosstown trains travel north on Columbia Road. Crossing the Rock Creek Gorge on the Connecticut Avenue Bridge, the line passes through the neighborhoods of Woodley Park and Cleveland Park. Eventually, the line reaches the District Line and the Chevy Chase, DC neighborhood. Streetcars turn around by going around Chevy Chase Circle.

Mid-City/Crosstown Line:
The Mid-City/Crosstown Line follows the Connecticut Avenue Line downtown, diverging to follow Columbia Road just north of the Dupont Circle neighborhood. Passing through Adams-Morgan, the lone turns north on 16th Street for one block. At Irving, the line turns east, crossing the 14th Street Line at the Columbia Heights Metro stop. Continuing east, the line crosses the Georgia Avenue Streetcar, and turns south along Warder and Michigan to pass south of the Washington Hospital Center and north of the McMillan Reservoir. Near Catholic University, the line turns east on Monroe Street. The line follows Monroe Street through Brookland before turning south at South Dakota Avenue. The South Dakota Loop turns Crosstown trains around by traveling (one-way) southbound on South Dakota, southwest on Rhode Island--where trains stop and transfer is available to Rhode Island Avenue Streetcars—west on Kearny Street, and north on 22nd Street.

Boundary Street Line:
Parallel to the Crosstown Line, the Boundary Street Line follows historic Boundary Street, now [Florida Avenue]. Starting at Oklahoma Avenue Metro, the line travels northwest along Florida Avenue past Trinidad and Galluadet University. After crossing Georgia Avenue, the line swings west onto U Street. At 16th, it swings southwest onto New Hampshire Avenue, which it follows to Q Street. Transfers are available to the Connecticut, Crosstown, Georgia Avenue, and Rhode Island Streetcars and the Red Line at 20th Street. Continuing west on Q Street, the line crosses Rock Creek and enters Georgetown. Turning south on Wisconsin, the line is multiplexed with the Wisconsin Avenue Line for several blocks. At M Street, the boundary Street Line continues south to a terminal on the Georgetown Waterfront.

Georgia Avenue Line:
This line starts at Q and 20th NW, near Dupont Circle. Traveling south along 20th Street, the line shares its track with the Connecticut Avenue Line. North of Mount Vernon Square, the line continues along 7th Street. At Rhode Island Avenue, the Rhode Island Line diverges, while the Georgia Avenue Streetcar continues north on 7th Street/Georgia Avenue. The line follows Georgia Avenue all the way to Silver Spring, Maryland and is roughly parallel to the 14th Street Line. At Silver Spring, the line turns south onto Colesville Road and enters the Silver Spring Transit Center.

Rhode Island Avenue Line:
This branch of the Georgia Avenue Line also runs into Maryland. It follows Rhode Island Avenue from Georgia Avenue to Perry Street in Mount Rainier. Transfers can be made to the Crosstown Line at South Dakota Avenue.

Here’s a Google map of my proposal:

View Larger Map

The streetcars need a place to be stored overnight and also a venue where maintenance can be performed. If other cities examples can be followed, new development along the corridor could be made to accommodate a trolley barn as a condition of zoning approval.

At least two locations do seem to have immediate potential, however. At Oklahoma Avenue Metro, the parking lots at RFK will be redeveloped. However, it seems possible that room for Trolleys could be left somewhere on site. Additionally, if non-revenue tracks led south from Rhode Island Avenue along Eastern Avenue near Mount Rainier, a Trolley storage/maintenance facility could be constructed on the industrial sites south of the CSX Capital Subdivision (MARC Camden Line).

Additionally, it might be possible to return WMATA’s Northern Bus Garage in 14th Street Heights to trolley service.

What other corridors do you think would support a streetcar?


uthanda said...

I haven't spent a whole lot of time thinking about your proposal, but at first glance it looks good. The only immediate comment I can make is there is still a bit of a dead zone on the north side of Capitol Hill (between Independence Ave and H St, east of say 8th St.) I live in that area and being 10+ blocks away from all metro stops isn't terribly nice.

Perhaps something as simple as rerouting the 14th St / Cap Hill line to run along North Carolina Ave to Constitution instead of running along Independence Avenue might work to fill in that blank.

Matt' said...

UPDATE: 8/17/2008, 11:45PM:

I have added a larger map, but due to technical issues couldn't add it to this post. It has been included on a new post. To view, go to: