Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Streetcars are Coming!

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) announced today that DC's streetcars have finally arrived in the District and will no longer be gliding through the streets of the Czech Republic. The three cars, which arrived in Baltimore via ship on Saturday, will be stored in Greenbelt and tested so workers are familiar with their function.

Today's announcement does little to clear up when the cars will be able to roam freely through DC, but does give residents (and taxpayers) a hopeful sign of things to come. DDOT Director, Gabe Klein, said “We’re also thrilled to have the streetcars here locally so we can familiarize ourselves with them, test them and prepare for the day when we will put them in service.”


Jamie on Dec 16, 2009, 4:51:00 PM said...

I wonder how many of them will become diners before they make it into service...

Seriously though, it seems kind of odd to order very expensive things, things that depreciate, long before you need them. Especially in difficult economic times. How many years will it likely be before the first streetcar line is operational?

reflexive said...


they were ordered early because money was available and needed to be spent.
we piggybacked on to the portland order so we could get a better quote.

depreciate? you sure? do you know what the depreciation rate is for unused modern streetcars?

Jamie on Dec 17, 2009, 8:36:00 AM said...

The first part answers the question. Maybe it made financial sense under the circumstances.

But everything depreciates. Even if it's not used, technology improves every year.

Would you pay sticker price for a 5 year old car? How about a 1000 series metro car?

the tao of poo said...

what i'd like to know is who gets the cars first? anacostia or h street.....

Anonymous said...

Likely the Anacostia line will be first, since it's actually allowed to have power run to it.

In other news: it's a SLOW, expensive bus that can't be rerouted for construction, accidents, special events or emergencies. Such a deal!

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful time to live in DC......

I can't wait to see how all this will play out..can't wait ..can't wait.

Jamie on Dec 17, 2009, 12:41:00 PM said...

Despite my cynicism about the street cars, I strongly in favor of efforts to improve public transit.

But the case for streetcars is far from convincing, and photo-op things like this just serve to further convince me that there's a lot more feel-goodery going on here than actual, substantial, useful infrastructure building.

I hope I am proven wrong. I really do. I hope lots and lots of people actually use them... people who didn't already ride a bus... and it won't cost as much as a taxi ride would have per passenger when all's said and done.

Anonymous said...


the line was already supposed to be operational. the cars were ordered in 2005 with an expected three year turnaround.

and its only three cars, and they can immediately be used for training and whatever other internal issues ddot needs them for. the issue wasn't with ordering the cars but with the delays and feet dragging of the lines.

Jamie on Dec 17, 2009, 12:57:00 PM said...

So in 2005, when the cars were ordered, we expected the lines to be operational in 2008, not 2012 like DDOT's web site now says?

Anyway, given what others have said here about the history, I will accept that this issue specifically isn't necessarily a problem but rather a byproduct.

But it does seem like the whole thing is sort of a debacle that would have benefited from a lot better planning, and up-front analsysis as to whether it even makes sense as it's being implemented now.

Anonymous said...

The H Street line is going first per the Mayor and DDOT.

Anonymous said...

"So in 2005, when the cars were ordered, we expected the lines to be operational in 2008, not 2012 like DDOT's web site now says?
that is correct. well, we expected one or two lines.that was the extent of the plan.
the recently released plan is much larger than the 2005 alternative transit analysis plan. at that time the h street line would have stopped at union station. and the anacostia line was to be completed first.

the overhead line issue was a huge stumbling block.
the reason h street was ripped up was not because of the streetcar line, but they decided to install the tracks since the road was already ripped up.
once the mayors office got more deeply involved in the project, it became a different game.

and yes jaime, it would have gone smoother if things were better planned and if the mayors office and ddot and wmata were on the same track the whole time. but they weren't.

its very easy to bitch about decisions made 4 or 5 years ago if you're only opening the book now. it does seem blunderheaded, but it took all of this and people making possibly rash decisions to get things moving.

personally, i applaud them.

and remember only 3 cars were ordered. these are really just to train and test the system, so even if they are old, they are useful.

i'm certain now that an american company is making streetcars there will be a huge jump in technology.
but again even that may not have happened if american cities didnt make financial commitments.

you seem to be only commenting on details rather than seeing the larger picture.

Anonymous said...

Street Car no one desires! sounds like a joke to me. I am what a plan now we can train people for 2 years so they can get really good!? sure glad we got a great deal on these...sigh'

For those who are not accountants here is the classic Straight Line Depreciation Method:
Depreciation = (Cost - Residual value) / Useful life

Anonymous said...

I wonder how long it will be before one of these ends up crashed on top of the other one.

Anonymous said...

As far as depreciation, streetcars last a LOT longer than buses. Trains are typically in service three, four decades or more, buses ten years.

Other benefits include:
-Streetcars carry a whole lot more people than a bus (i.e. more efficient past a certain threshold ridership, and contrary to belief, you can't just keep throwing more busses on capacity lines, they just pile-up).
-Streetcars are a lot more comfortable to ride.
-Drivers tend to give right of way to streetcars more than they do to busses.
-More people will ride streetcars on a given line than buses because of better image and comfort.
-Streetcars are a LOT quieter than buses
-Streetcars leave no fumes and are more environmentally sound
-Streetcar lines spur very serious development, likely multiples in investment returns to the city that builds them
-Streetcar lines are really quite inexpensive (the whole system of 8 lines will be cheaper than one line of Metro expansion)
-The streetcar grid will complement and increase the benefit of existing Metro infrastructure/investment.
-Restating the above, streetcars vastly expand reach of Metro system, likely brining in ex proportionally more riders into the system (and keeping more commuters out of cars).
-Potentially fewer car trips in the city will help preserve existing road infrastructure (savings there).

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