Housing Complex

The Next Phase of Streetcars: Now With More Process

Streetcar brainstorm. (Lydia DePillis)

For all the griping about overhead wires and interminable construction, one of the biggest knocks on D.C.'s streetcar project–emanating largely from the Committee of 100–has been a lack of deliberate planning.

That ends with the next set of tracks, into Anacostia. This time, because the city needs to be eligible for federal funding, they're following the federal process, which proscribes community meetings, environmental impact statements, and the exploration of alternatives before anything goes in the ground. The public part began last night with a well-attended community meeting at Savoy Elementary, where residents were assured that though certain corridors had been proposed, the outcome depended on their input.

"We're starting from a blank slate," said District Department of Transportation streetcar maven Scott Kubly (who, by the way, has ruled out an at-large Council run).

In a typical step for such first gatherings, questions stayed broad: Residents were asked to describe changes coming to their community, what they knew about streetcars, and what they'd like to gain from them. It quickly became apparent why the extremely high ratio of DDOT staff and consultants to community members was an advantage: Many people needed convincing that streetcars actually made sense in the first place. Older folks, many of whom saw the original streetcars in action, pointed out that buses were faster and cheaper, worried about the cars vibrating their houses, and questioned how DDOT would replace lost parking.

"They want to be shown it can work, and how it can work," noted Charles Wilson, newly-elected ANC 1A commissioner and president of the Historic Anacostia Block Association. "They're looking at H Street and wondering, are we going to go through all that heartache?"

Wilson has proposed a "heritage trail" through historic Anacostia, which could have cars mocked up to look like the older generation, serving as an additional attraction to celebrate the area's history and draw more riders across the river.

Meg Maguire, the Committee of 100's point person on streetcars, will soon release a fat report analyzing the entire 37-mile system, of which the Anacostia segment had been an area of particular concern. But she was cheerful about DDOT's willingness to move away from wires–the department will issue a request for proposals for one wireless streetcar in the spring–as well as by the renewed planning effort afoot.

"This is really where the wisdom is," she said, looking on.

  • W Jordan

    The bottomline is Dan Tangherlini screwed up streetcars in Anacostia, not the Committee of 100 or the community. In response to that screwup the project was dumped on H Street. Instead of holding advocates of streetcars as a priority accountable for getting things together some would rather point fingers at those asking that it be done correctly. But then again, given that supporter don't have to make the sacrifice, why do the accountability work.

  • DC John

    Just curious....This Committee of 100...how many live in Georgetown and how many regularly visit Anacostia?

  • W Jordan

    Committee of 100 ain't no friend of mine. An paux on both houses.

  • Maggie

    Wish I'd known you were at the meeting last night - would have loved to chat!

  • deeceefooodeee

    can we get more info on who EXACTLY the committe of 100 is? yes, I see the lists online but what do they do, where do they live, WHO are they? they seem to be doing a lot of influencing of our city development but I certainly did not elect them

  • Eric

    W Jordan, I think you're forgetting the fact that the Anacostia line is a pilot line.

  • Eric

    The Committee of 100 is really a committee of about half that number. They are an ultra-conservative group (from the standpoint of urban development) who oppose many progressive forms of transit and development which could alter in any way, shape, or form, the current vistas, streetscapes, and buildings. They do not recognize that these very vistas they are protecting have been changing organically since the very day the District of Columbia was founded, and that to hold progress back is to hold the city back, not only from an urban point of view, but from an economic investment standpoint (see: streetcar opposition and its effects on a potential loss of economic investment in the city).

  • W Jordan

    Yes pa ilot Tangherlini screwed up and dumped on H Street. I am not going to defend the Federal City Council nor the committee of 100. But streetcars ain't all that; however, integrating light rail into Metro is important and deserves to handled seriously not a development gimmick or pet project as it is at this point.

  • Contrarian

    Greater Greater Washington published a list of all the members of the Committee of 100 on the Federal City.

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