Sunday, July 12, 2009

H Street Transit Developments, Don't Stop Believin'

H Street, NE has been coming into its own over the past few years. With a dozen or so new bars and restaurants and the Atlas District, the area surprises those who remember the H Street of 10 years ago - but for one constant: the utter lack of metro accessibility. Residents can see signs of progress on the line, but continue to wonder about the reality of service. The DC government has made several promises to improve transportation there, including rail, and have already bought the trains. So trains will be running any day, right?

In January 2008, Mayor Adrian Fenty and Councilman Tommy Wells celebrated the groundbreaking on the Benning Road/H Street Great Streets Project, and plans were set in motion to develop an at-grade street car connection between H Street NE and Benning Road. The Great Streets title means the area will receive money for streetscape improvements in addition to transit lines.

But Shannon Yadsko, an urban planner at Parsons Brinckerhoff, opines that even if residents see rails going into the ground, "service is probably at least 5 years away." Yadsko says that though she is not connected to the project, she foresees a slew of obstacles including, "DC's ban on overhead wires (which streetcars need to run, generally)" as well as competition with other DC projects for increasingly limited financing. One such project is a similar street car line, in Anacostia, which Yadsko notes is "probably a higher profile project."

When DC committed to the project, they purchased the street cars for both the Anacostia and and H Street. You might say they got the whole "if you build it, they will come" thing backwards. According to a WTOP article from last April, the DC streetcars are still chilling out in the Czech Republic. Slightly different from the ambulance loan to the Carribean, but equally odd. Better just hail a cab.


skinny said...

Saying the area suffers from an "utter lack of metro accessibility" is an exaggeration. The western end of the corridor is well served by both Union Station and the New York Avenue stations.

There are plenty of buses and a free shuttle to get riders to the nightlife on the eastern end of the street. A lack of direct metro access has not slowed down Adams Morgan much.

In fact, plans to expand Union Station as a unified intermodal transportation hub (trains, metro, inter-city bus service, city bus service, streetcar, bike) will make the area one of the best served in the country (admittedly, years away).

No doubt the streetcar is also still years away, but don't underestimate the political pressure to add the service now that the tracks will be in place all along Benning Rd. and H-street. The plan is to extend them across the city in front of the convention center, down K street and on into Georgetown.

As anybody who lives/works in the city can tell you, such an easy east-west transportation line (now requiring multiple Metro transfers) would be absolutely packed. I will put my money on the K-street lobbyists who might be interested in riding the thing from their Georgetown/Foxhall homes or to Union Station to hop on a train to visit their financial masters in New York. :-)

@BCatDC on Jul 13, 2009, 12:20:00 PM said...

I'm not really sure I want easy access to H street. Is it a bit of pain getting out there compared to the other night spots in DC? YES.
Is it as over-run with yuppi-scum?
No. I think the lack of a Metro kinda helps the place. Makes me want to move back to the hill though.

WLS on Jul 13, 2009, 4:50:00 PM said...

Developers in the district received a blow recently as two council members (Brown and Cheh) sidelined plans for 5 land parcels (one being Donatelli’s recent RFP) until the fall. Accordingly, these deals add up to over $300 million and 1,000 jobs according to Fenty. It seems to me that the capital markets (expected to turn in September according to Moody’s) are manipulating the hands of the council.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with skinny. I'm not sure how having a free shuttle and several buses in that area counts as being inaccessible. The lightrail would run the same route but tear up the streets. Not seeing the benefit to that at all.

Anonymous said...

Until the city closes all the taxpayer-subsidized ghettos in the area, you had better be carrying an unlicensed handgun... because the locals you'll run into certainly will be.

real estate in philippines on Jul 22, 2009, 5:44:00 AM said...

I don't stop believing.. Great post with excellent features.

Deirdre Gonzales

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