A Streetcar Desire

Maybe someday, somewhere, somebody will write a song or two about the District: you know, “Clang, Clang Goes the D.C. Trolley” or “I Left my Heart in the District of Columbia.”

You couldn’t help thinking about stuff like that after the District’s Department of Transportation launched a four-day D.C. Streetcar Showcase at CityCenterDC.

Showcase number one was one of the city’s first new modern streetcars, which visitors could inspect up close and personal.

At the launch, Mayor Adrian Fenty promised that “in just two years — by this time in the spring of 2012 — streetcars will once again operate in the District of Columbia.” He called the streetcars, which will operate in a 37-mile, eight-line system “one of the pillars of a modern, multi-modal transportation network that will move the District forward, not backwards. We will be a leader in providing great transit choices four our residents.”

The FY 2011 budget, already extremely tight, includes $63 million to complete work on the H Street/Benning Road line and to buy additional vehicles. Work on two lines has already begun in Anacostia and in Northeast D.C. DDOT, in the meantime, has applied for $25 million in federal funding, through an urban circulator grant, to extend the line across the Anacostia River to the Benning Road Metro station.

Fenty also announced other future transportation initiatives, including issuing a Request for Information (RFI) from industry experts and manufacturers on the best design for future trolley cars, which might be able to operate without an overhead power supply.

In 2011, the District plans to host a national “Rail-Volution” conference, bringing to town national leaders, advocates and elected officials planning to build livable communities around new and enlarged transit systems.

There’s also an effort underway to map out the future of the highly successful D.C. Circulator bus system, which has seen huge growth since being introduced in 2005. There is also an announcement on a significant expansion of the District bike sharing program.

“We feel that our family of transit services, with the additions of the streetcar and alongside, the extensive regional bus and rail services provided by Metro, will make us a national leader in providing choices for people to easily get from place to place in economical and environmentally friendly ways,” Gabriel Klein, DDOT director, said.

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