City Desk

Neighborhood Watch: A Streetcar-Aimed Desire for Wisconsin Avenue


The Issue: The District Department of Transportation's plan to install a 37-mile streetcar system glaringly leaves Ward 3 out in the cold, without concrete plans for a streetcar to run up Wisconsin Avenue from Georgetown. “One of the reasons they didn’t proceed was lack in community support,” says Glover Park resident Ben Thielen and creator of the Wisconsin Avenue Streetcar Coalition

Streetcars for Stella!: “It’s a no-brainer to bring the streetcar up Wisconsin Avenue. It’s one of the most densely packed corridors in the city,” says Glover Park Advisory Neighborhood Commission commissioner Brian Cohen. The area lacks a nearby metro stop and residents often complain about the unreliable buses, Cohen says. The surrounding neighborhood is also one of six areas expected to face the largest population increase in the District over the next 30 years, according to city figures. If concrete plans aren’t laid down now, 10 to 20 years down the line, “whoever’s living in the neighborhood then is going to look back and say, how did they screw this up 20 years ago,” he adds.

Not worth the money: The capital cost of implementing streetcars in the 2030 plan–including tracks, street reconstruction, power systems and streetcars themselves–is $25.8 million per mile, according to DDOT. Some community members question the need and expense of a streetcar line down Wisconsin Avenue, as well as the impact on vehicular traffic, says area resident and trolley champion Andrew Aurbach.

What’s Next: Aurbach drafted a resolution calling for streetcars in Ward 3 that was presented before the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 3b in January. Ideally, the streetcar would run along Wisconsin Avenue to either Friendship Heights or Tenleytown and connecting down to Georgetown, he says. ANC3c similarly plans to consider the resolution this evening.

Photo by Oran Viriyincy, Creative Commons Attribution License

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  • Torsten Adair

    When I lived in the District (`94-`97), it was difficult to get to Georgetown. The current streetcar plan will eventually reach the tourist heart of Georgetown.

    Wisconsin Avenue has four lanes of traffic. Streetcars once ran along Wisconsin from Georgetown to Tenleytown.

    Or perhaps this is just another ploy to keep out the riff-raff, just like the "Georgetown Metro"? The smart, young residents will find accommodation and entertainment elsewhere in the District, as will the tourists. Wisconsin Avenue and Ward Three can maintain their WASPish enclave while the rest of the city grows.