Sunday, October 26, 2008

Streetcars, Version 2.0

I know it's been a long time since I posted my last streetcar map, but school has kept me extremely busy lately. I've been working on incorporating your suggestions and I think I've developed a better map. I'll let you judge that for yourselves, however.

Like all of my plans, this is a conceptual best-case scenario based on what I think the region can support right now. This is not meant to reflect what I'd like the streetcar network to look like in 15 years, it's what I'd like it to look like tomorrow. Since that is clearly not possible, I'd be happy if any one of these proposals, in part or in whole, was constructed.

Mainly, this plan is to stimulate discussion. If we're lucky, this plan, or one of my readers, will spur the District Council into action. And even if we're not that lucky, this represents a vision for the region of what we could become. Plus it's fun for me. I hope you enjoy reading it as well.

From the Streetcar Plan 1.0:

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.

Streetcars would operate like Portland Streetcar, with traffic in shared lanes. Vehicles would be similar to those used on Portland Streetcar and the South Lake Union Streetcar in Seattle.

One final note: Station locations are conceptual. I picked certain intersections because they were evenly spaced or home to a major commercial node. There may be better stops that should be included, and I imagine that studies will be undertaken before any construction begins. Feel free, however, to make suggestions.

14th Street/Capitol Hill Line
This line, shown in dark blue on maps, starts in Northwest at the intersection of 16th Street and Gallatin Street. This stop, near the Rock Creek Tennis Center, would be a transfer point to theWestside Light Rail proposed in my Major Transit Plan. The line runs south along 14th through downtown, turning east on D Street SE to jog over to 7th Street at L'Enfant Plaza. Turning south on 7th, the line heads for the Waterfront. Passing through the Riverfront District
on M Street, the line heads for Barracks Row. A loop is located at the M/8th Street intersection to short-turn streetcars. The line continues north on 8th Street through the historic district. The line crosses Pennsylvania Avenue and turns right onto Independence Avenue, then north on 19th Street. Jogging over to Oklahoma Avenue on D Street, the line enters a loop at Oklahoma Avenue & Benning Road, site of the Oklahoma Avenue Station on my proposed Silver Line/H Street Subway.

Wisconsin Avenue/Anacostia Line
This line, colored purple on the map, runs across town, with a branch at either end. On the west end of the line, trains head from Georgetown to Friendship Heights or the Court House section of Arlington. At the east end of the line, trains cross the 11th Street Bridge over the Anacostia and follow MLK to Congress Heights or Good Hope Road to Naylor Road Metro.

The Friendship Heights Branch is unchanged from version 1.0. Turning at a loop at Wisconsin and Western, the line runs down Wisconsin to Georgetown where it meets the Arlington Branch.

The Arlington Branch is also unchanged from version 1.0. Trains operate from Georgetown to Court House Metro by way of the Key Bridge and Wilson Boulevard.

From Georgetown, trains from both branches operate down Pennsylvania Avenue to K Street, after going around Washington Circle. Passing through downtown on K Street, the line jogs around the south side of Mount Vernon Square, turning southeast onto Massachusetts Avenue. Past Union Station, the line continues (on a new alignment from version 1.0) down Massachusetts to 2nd Street. At Pennsylvania, the line turns southeast in the median running as far as 8th, where it turns south. Along 8th, the Wisconsin/Anacostia Line is multiplexed with the 14th Street Line as far as M Street. Turning east on M Street, the line climbs onto the proposed 11th Street Bridge over the river. On the south shore, trains split into the two branches.

The Good Hope Branch goes through the center of old Anacostia. Passing through Southeast DC, the line crosses Alabama Avenue and turns south onto Naylor Road. At the DC Line, the streetcar enters Maryland and goes around a loop at the Naylor Road Metro Station.

The MLK Branch travels past the Anacostia Metro Station on its way to Congress Heights. At South Capitol and Mississippi Avenue, the streetcar turns around at a loop. Transfers are available here to the Eastside Light Rail proposed in my Major Transit Plan.

H Street/State Department Line
This line, which is light blue on the map) is relatively unchanged from version 1.0. The only difference is that I've extended it across the Anacostia River on the Benning Road Bridge to feed into a new station I am going to propose on my plans at River Terrace, a la Greater Greater Washington and Imagine DC.

The line runs from the State Department up 23rd Stret to Washington Circle, thence east on K Street (along with the Wisconsin/Anacostia Line) to Mount Vernon Square. From Mount Vernon Square, it turns southeast on Massachusetts Avenue past Union Station to D Street NE. The line uses a pair of one-way streets (SB on 4th NE, NB on 6th NE) to get up to H Street. The line sticks with H Street and Benning Road to a loop at River Terrace Metro.

Connecticut Avenue Line
This line (green on the map) starts at Chevy Chase Circle, and proceeds south through Northwest to Dupont Circle. Turning south on 20th Street then east on Eye Street, the line crosses downtown. A turn down 12th Street takes cars past Metro Center. Turning east on Constitution then north on 7th, the line reaches its end at a loop at 7th & Indiana.

Georgia Avenue/Mount Pleasant Line
Starting at the old streetcar loop in Mount Pleasant, this line, colored orange, travels south on Mount Pleasant Street to Columbia Road. Turning southwest on Columbia, the line is multiplexed with the Crosstown Line for several blocks. At 18th, the line turns south to travel through Adams Morgan's commercial corridor. Turning right on Q Street, the line crosses Connecticut Avenue and follows the Connecticut Avenue Line through downtown. From 7th & Indiana, the Georgia Avenue Line continues north on 7th Street, past Gallery Place Metro. The line follows 7th Street/Georgia Avenue to Silver Spring, where it terminates at the Silver Spring Transit Center, which is currently under construction.

Rhode Island Avenue Line
This line, also colored orange, is part of the Georgia Avenue Line. Sharing the downtown portions of its line, it runs from a loop at 20th and L NW to Mount Rainier. Splitting from the Georgia Avenue Line at 7th and Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Avenue Line travels northeast on Rhode Island all the way to Mount Rainier. At Mount Rainier, it turns back on a siding at Rhode Island Avenue and Perry Street.

Boundary Street Line
This line has undergone a few changes since version 1.0 based on your comments. In the east, it starts at River Terrace on the opposite bank of the Anacostia. This change was made because I'm including a stop there in the next version of my metro proposal. Traveling westward, the line follows Benning Road and Florida Avenue. Turning onto U Street, the line crosses through Washington's L'Enfant City. At U and New Hampshire, the line turns southwest, intersecting the Georgia Avenue Line at 18th Street. Turning west on Q, the line heads toward Georgetown. At Wisconsin, the line turns south and joins the Wisconsin Avenue Line. Turning right at M Street, passengers can change to the metro at the proposed Georgetown stop. Trains then enter a loop made up of one-way streets. Trains travel north on 33rd to P, where they turn west, turning south again at 37th. Here passengers can access Georgetown University. Continuing around the loop, trains turn left onto O Street, right onto 34th, and then left onto M Street.

Crosstown Line
This line has seen the most change since version 1. The Crosstown Line is colored red on the map. It runs from Woodely Park in the west to North Michigan Park in the east. From Woodely Park, it crosses the Calvert Street Bridge over the Rock Creek Gorge, turns northeast onto Columbia Road and then east on Irving after traveling north for a block on 16th. Following Irving, the streetcar passes through Columbia Heights and joins Michigan Avenue south of the Washington Hospital Center. Turning onto Monroe, the streetcar passes the Brookland Metro stop, and after a turn onto 12th, passes through the center of the Brookland neighborhood. Continuing north on 12th, the line once again follows Michigan, ending at a loop at Michigan and Eastern.

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).

I've also included a few other potential trolley barn locations, but these are just conceptual ideas. check out the google map to find their locations. Again, they could be sited in new development and would not be obtrusive.

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

Non-Revenue Tracks
I've included on the google map version some potential non-revenue connections. These are tracks that would link lines together for easy movement of rolling stock, but would not be used for passengers. They are shown in black.

View Larger Map

What other corridors do you think would support a streetcar?


Anonymous said...

Nice map. I would love to see DC reinstate a comprehsnsive streetcar network. I think my only real dofference of opinion is having the streetcars run in mixed traffic, especially on the longer lines. Dedicated ROW is the way to go. Case in point, look at the TTC's streetcars that operate in mixzed traffic. They routinely have low on-time performance and are subject to horrible bunching, especially during rush hour. The result is constantly having to turn back cars to try to keep the schedule and service somewhat reliable. The best TTC example os this problem is the Queen St line. I know that giving up space for cars in DC is like asking someone to give up their firstborn, but it needs to happen if the streetcar network can ever be truly successful and reliable. Even giving them an exclsive lane on the curb would be an option, but still less than ideal. However, I also realize that some of the streets in DC would not allow for an exclusive ROW, but I would advocate that wherever possible, build an exclusive ROW.

Great blog BTW. I thought I was the only transit geek around.

Anonymous said...

I'd suggest extending the crosstown line past Woodley Park to American University and then up to the Tenleytown Metro station. Basically take Woodley Rd to Garfield St to Massachusetts Ave to Nebraska Ave to the Tenleytown Metro station.

Anonymous said...

Nice map, and those are some good thoughts. I second the anonymous comment above about dedicated lanes as a priority.

While I like the corridors you identify for streetcars, I do think several of the lines are simply too long. You say that these are intended as "pedestrian accelerators," but I think having such a long line will make it more difficult for pedestrians to identify where they are and where they want to go. I also wonder if streetcars would be on time more often if they work shorter routes.

The way I see it, streetcars fill the gaps between heavy rail stations (and in the Metro system, our heavy rail fills a dual-role as both intra-city transit and commuter transit, so there are a lot of gaps to fill). The focus for streetcars should be short projects that branch out from and connect a few local stations. The current plans for the Anacostia streetcar seem to be in this mold.

A typical user traveling a short distance can simply take a streetcar. A user traveling a longer distance should be able to take heavy rail to a metro station, and transfer from there to streetcar to reach his final destination. Breaking the system up into smaller, more manageable chunks (centered around metro station or major districts) will help everyone understand and navigate the whole system.

FourthandEye said...

I agree on the point of shorter lines. For a street car that runs in mixed traffic I'm doubting they can stay on time with lines that span all the way from Friendship Heights to Naylor road in Anacostia.

Also, I've expressed this point in the past, but I'd love to see your take on prioritization of street car lines. It's fun to draw out what seems like 50+ miles of track as if it can all happen instantaneously. But the most useful conversations surround those first 5-10 miles of track.

Davemurphy said...

I love the map, and I think it is most appropriate if policies are enacted to more strongly discourage automobile dependency in the District. I'm wondering, however, if there might be some merit to changing your non-revenue track to revenue tracks. But then again, I live way out in Laurel and I'm all about connectivity between outer locations.

FourthandEye said...

Matt, 3 different comments mentioned that the lines seem too long to maintain reliable service in mixed traffic. Do you have a response?

Matt' said...

fourthandeye, thanks for keeping me honest. I left for Railvolution out in San Francisco immediately after posting this, and response to comments has fallen by the wayside.

Sorry about that.

Anyway, about the length of the lines causing bunching and delays, I agree. General consensus after my last plan was that I hadn't included enough streetcar, so I added more.

Many of these streetcar lines (such as the Georgia Avenue Line to Silver Spring) were real streetcar lines in DC's historic past. While that makes the lines long, it also allows people to reverse commute. But that's not the main point. The idea is for me to make a short hop. I live near 14th and Shepherd NW and work in Silver Spring. I would probably not take the streetcar from Shepherd/Georgia to Silver Spring. I'd still take the metro. But I might ride the trolley up to 14th Street Heights or down to Columbia Heights for dinner or coffee.

Dedicated lanes would certainly reduce the tendency to bunch and be tardy, but would also increase the cost and reduce the feasibility of the system.

In all likelyhood, only segments (if any) of this proposal would be built, negating some of the problems.

As for lines like the Naylor Road-Friendship Heights (purple) line, I never really intended to have streetcars run from one end to the other. Maps can only be so complex before they break down. Someone has already accused the existing map of being too complex.

In reality, trains from Anacostia would probably turn back at Washington Circle, while trains from Friendship Heights could turn around at Columbus Circle. The occasional train could make the full route, but that's not particularly necessary because it would be faster to take the Metro in most cases.

Again these exercises are much about re-envisioning our city and transit network, and that necessitates pushing the envelope.

If it makes it easier to imagine, insert streetcar turnback loops where you think they'd be appropriate. For instance, the 50s line buses run from L'Enfant Plaza to Takoma Park. But only about 30% of the buses make it all the way to Takoma. The rest turnback at the old streetcar terminal at 14th/Colorado. Streetcars in my plan would do that too, but I decided that showing a bunch of loops would've been confusing.

Another observation about the 50s line buses (which follow my dark blue 14th Street Streetcar) is that most of the passengers are making short hops and most *don't* transfer to the Metro at Columbia Heights. A southbound bus in the morning from my stop at 14th/Shepherd stops at almost every corner to discharge passengers.

Therefore I think it's safe to say that on many of these intra-city routes, streetcars would serve a market other than transfer-to-metro riders.


Richard Layman said...

in my writings I've suggested that the crosstown line, renamed the University line, could have a Y at the west end going to Georgetown on one end, and AU on the other, and instead of terminating at Michigan Eastern as you do, I extend this up Queens Chapel Road and Adelphi Road to UMD and back.

Similarly, in 2005 in talking with Peter Shapiro (then a County Councilmember), he suggested a RI line could go all the way to Laurel.

Note that MTA did a streetcar study for RI Ave. in the mid 1990s. I have a CD of it somewhere (post move who knows where) but you can probably get a copy from Henry Kay or someone similar at MTA.

Anonymous said...

this site is so awesome. What do we have to do to make this a reality?

Anonymous said...

Nice map. Is there a metro at 16 and Colorado? Also, I think more east-west travel would be useful. I think DC considered a Military Road line in their modern concept of streetcars. Although, it could be difficult. Miltary road is narrow at some points. I enjoy checking your maps, if only to dream.

Matt' said...

This has come up before, and I neglected to mention it in the text of the post. For the intents and purposes of the future envisioned in the Streetcar Plan (v. 2.0), it is assumed that all of my other transit plans are constructed.

In that regard, Metro station is currently located at 16th and Colorado, but I include one in my Metro/Light Rail plan.

If you haven't seen my other plans, you'd probably be interested in those. They are available at:

As always, thanks for reading.

Alan Page said...

richard layman led me here after i saw him mention your blog in his blog, urban places and spaces

i like the ambition of your map and like that you have thought about how streetcars can travel down part of the line, then loop back, at various points

i wonder what you think of the dedicated lane versus mixed traffic debate. pros and cons of each? as near as i can tell, dedicated lane may create more automotive gridlock if a lane of traffic is dedicated or less parking if curbside is dedicated. mixed traffic, as stated, has the problem of streetcars getting caught in traffic (and increases the unimaginable possibility of a streetcar/vehicle accident? historically, how often did such a tragedy occur?)

your thoughts on mixed versus dedicated?

- alan

Anonymous said...

I would like to see more of Arlington and Fairfax County covered. Can you make an updated map showing that?

Aguirre said...

Nice plan, but I think it would be better to run the Rossyln-Courthouse line down Lee Highway.