Beleaguered D.C Streetcar System to Accept First Riders Feb. 27

by: Lenore T. Adkins Special to the AFRO
/ (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) /
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Passengers will finally get to jump aboard the long-delayed first leg of the D.C. streetcar system on Feb. 27, after more than a decade of planning woes, safety issues, and false starts.

A pair of new streetcars, made in Clackamas, Ore., and the Czech Republic at the cost of $4 million each, sit parked at the bottom of Hopscotch Bridge near Union Station, Sunday, April 27, 2014 in Washington. The 2.4-mile streetcar route runs up and down H street and Benning Road NW, and runs over the bridge to connect to Union Station. Since December, the Washington District of Transportation (DDOT) has been testing the electrified vehicles along the route in anticipation of opening for service later this year. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
The D.C. Streetcar will begin service Saturday, Feb. 27. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

The inaugural H Street/Benning Road line will commence after a brief grand opening scheduled for 10 a.m. Rides will be free for six months while officials decide the fee for riders and how to collect fares. The system’s eventual fare structure may mirror the D.C Circulator bus system, D.C. Department of Transportation spokesman Terry Owens said. Regular fares on those bus lines are $1. Seniors and the disabled pay 50 cents.

“The public will have a chance to weigh in on what the final fare will be,” Owens said.

The Washington Post reported that the project had been doomed almost from the start. The city bought its first streetcars in 2004 with hopes a line in Anacostia would start rolling in 2006, but the city could not secure the required easements. Construction issues followed, which forced the District to put that line on hold, according to the Post.

After Mayor Muriel E. Bowser took office, infrastructure issues ringing the entire corridor, a fire and other problems caused significant setbacks.

“Mayor Bowser charged my team with taking a failed streetcar program and making it work for District residents,” District Department of Transportation Director Leif Dormsjo said in a statement. “After years of overspending, mismanagement and lack of direction, we made it happen.”

The H Street/Benning Road Line marks the first segment of the system. It will run between Union Station and Oklahoma Avenue/Benning Road, and the city plans to extend the line east and west from beyond Anacostia to the Georgetown waterfront. The city has spent $200 million on the system to date, Owens said.

The line represents one part of the city’s plans to build a larger streetcar system that spans all eight wards. Planning for its first 22 miles is already underway, according to the city Department of Transportation’s website.  

The streetcars will not run on Sundays. They’ll accept passengers Monday through Thursday from 6 a.m. to 12 a.m., Fridays from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m., Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. and on holidays from 8 a.m. from 10 p.m.

The grand opening will be held at H and 13th streets NE. To attend, RSVP at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/dc-streetcar-opening-tickets-21785191093

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