In the 1960s, Washington, D.C., dismantled its extensive streetcar system, abandoning Georgetown neighborhood residents to find accessible transportation to downtown D.C. With the distance from Metro stations, long wait times for buses and high prices for ride-shares, Georgetown residents must decide between a fast commute and reasonable budget.

Three years ago, the D.C. Council re-implemented the streetcar, starting with a two-mile trial segment that runs along H Street; but despite high ridership rates and economic stimulation for businesses along the route, the project has been criticized for its exorbitant costs.

To provide residents with a more accessible, affordable and environmentally friendly method to commute in the District, the D.C. Council should continue to expand the streetcar in spite of the costs.

Expanding the streetcar is central to the interests of Georgetown University students; currently, students lack a convenient Metro station or consistent access to buses. By extending the streetcar’s coverage, however, Georgetown students would finally have better proximity to critical internships and career opportunities in the downtown area.

If the D.C. Council continues to expand the streetcar, one of the planned routes would connect Wisconsin Avenue to Union Station, stopping at stations such as The George Washington University and the White House.

Implementing a streetcar with this route could significantly cut the current travel time of public transportation. Unlike buses, the streetcar would have its own dedicated track and a right of way that would allow it to escape heavy traffic in the city.

Moreover, the streetcar would make traveling in D.C. more affordable for D.C. residents. Currently, Metro and Metrobus fares start at $2 per trip. The streetcar is currently free, but even if fares are implemented after the streetcar is expanded, each trip would only cost $1, according to the District Department of Transportation’s plan.

If the streetcar is fully implemented, commuters would no longer need to choose between the speed of ride-share services and the lower price of public transportation. For students who must commute regularly for unpaid internships, the streetcar could cut down their travel time significantly without imposing a financial burden.

Though the low price of the streetcar would benefit commuters, critics of the project argue that the price tag is excessive. For the current two-mile trial segment on H Street, the District has already spent $200 million. Moreover, low fares of the streetcar mean that taxpayers would be burdened with $8 million of annual operations costs.

Though the costs are expensive, a streetcar is still a worthy investment for the District. By bearing the bill of the streetcar, taxpayers would be investing in a transportation system that benefits all residents of the city. The added mobility would give residents and students an easier  commute to work and allow them more freedom to experience the full range of opportunities D.C. has to offer.

Moreover, the eco-friendly nature of the streetcar makes the investment especially worthy. The streetcar runs on a fully electric system that is adaptable to renewable energy sources as they become more available. Without consuming fossil fuels and emitting exhaust, the streetcar proves to be a far greener alternative than traditional buses. And, as technology for renewable energy develops, the streetcar will become even more eco-friendly.

The streetcar trial has been successful, and the D.C. Council should follow through with its plans to expand the network to Georgetown and throughout the District. The added connection to Georgetown would allow much more ease in travelling from the neighborhood to downtown and expand opportunities for Georgetown students.

The D.C. Council has an opportunity to finish the promising streetcar project it has started. Residents and students deserve the accessible and affordable transportation system the streetcar offers.

The Hoya’s editorial board is composed of six students and chaired by the opinion editor. Editorials reflect only the beliefs of a majority of the board and are not representative of The Hoya or any individual member of the board.

One Comment

  1. guwinster says:

    This article contains a number of misconceptions about streetcars

    Most importantly, the H Street streetcar does not have its own dedicated right of way for the majority of its route. DC’s streetcars mostly operate on shared lanes along with regular vehicles, busses and trucks. For the majority of its route, the H Street streetcar keeps with the flow of the surrounding traffic, stopping at the same stop lights as normal cars and buses. This is the case in most other cities around the world and would also be the case if DC’s streetcar system were expanded to Wisconsin Ave or M Street.

    Thus, broadly speaking, streetcars are not any faster than busses. Does anyone really believe that a large, 66′ long streetcar driving through M Street’s gridlock will represent a service improvement on the current bus system?

    There are currently 4 separate bus lines that use Wisconsin Ave in the vicinity of Georgetown University, 2 bus lines on M Street, 3 on Q Street and the G2 bus leaves directly from Georgetown’s main gates. Taken together, there is a bus leaving Georgetown every 2-3 minutes during rush-hour and no less than every 10 minutes outside of rush-hour. That is without even considering the Circulator or the GUTS bus. During the worst of rush hour traffic, it takes at most 10 minutes to ride a bus from Wisconsin Ave to Dupont Circle or Foggy Bottom.

    The bus system as currently constructed is perfectly adequate for Georgetown’s transportation needs. The problem is most students don’t use it. I was one of only 3 undergraduate students I knew during my time at Georgetown who regularly used WMATA busses, yet I could name at least a dozen kids who didn’t ride a city bus once their entire 4 years at the school.

    If the editors truly believe that the bus system is inadequate, then they would be better served demanding an increase in service frequency from the G2 and D6 busses, which respectively leave directly from Georgetown’s O Street and Reservoir Rd entrances. Alternatively they could advocate for an additional WMATA service leaving directly from Georgetown’s main gate and heading towards Foggy Bottom, the White House and the Capitol. Streetcars may look cool, but they’re hardly necessary.

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