Housing Complex

North-South Streetcar Down to Four Potential Routes


And then there were four.

Back in November, when the District Department of Transportation presented the potential routes for the north-south streetcar line from Buzzard Point to Takoma or Silver Spring, just about everything was in contention. Fourteenth Street, 13th Street, 11th Street, 9th Street/Sherman Avenue, and 7th Street/Georgia Avenue were all mapped out as options for the line. 

Now, as it kicks off its third round of public meetings on the line, DDOT has narrowed the list of routes down to four finalists. And a few things have become clear.

First, the line will run along upper Georgia Avenue. North of the Georgia Ave-Petworth Metro station, all four options have the streetcar going on Georgia, at least until Butternut Street NW in Takoma.

Second, some of the longshot routes are out. It never made much sense to consider streetcars on, say, 13th Street, which is largely residential.

Other than that, the public now has several options to weigh in on. The line can run through the Southwest quadrant on 7th Street or 4th Street. It can extend from downtown to U Street  NW along 7th, 9th, 11th, or 14th street. It can run along U Street for a few blocks, or not. And it can connect from U to Georgia via Sherman Avenue or head straight to Georgia when Georgia begins at Florida Avenue.

Of course, all of this assumes that the north-south line gets built at all. After the D.C. Council voted to cut funding to the streetcar, the mayor's office warned that the change could delay or kill portions of the planned 22-mile streetcar network. Because it's the least far along in planning of the three priority streetcar lines, the north-south line could be the first on the chopping block—although members of the Council say such fears are unwarranted.

Click the map above to enlarge and explore the routes in greater detail. Following a presentation last night, DDOT will host two additional public meetings on the route options this week: one tonight and one on Thursday. Details here.

Map via DDOT

  • I. Rex

    Without a dedicated lane for the streetcar as they have proposed, I think option 1 and 2 should be taken out of contention. There would be serious delays going through 7th street in Chinatown. I like option 4.

  • Will

    Alternative 4 hits all my key criteria, the most important being to not duplicate existing service on a metro corridor, second, to serve new destinations with high capacity transit.

    Some overlap is inevitable, but Alt 4 is the best.

  • TakomaNick

    I like option 3 because it avoids the bottlenecks and goes to Takoma. Takoma needs better access to the rest of DC. We have learned that the red line is not enough. The bus service is actually pretty underwhelming. Most north - south lines stop at Colorado Ave or go to Silver Spring. Option 3 would fix that by providing a good way to get to Petworth and Columbia Heights. It would also help spur needed development in Takoma.

  • Andrew

    The higher cost would far outweigh the ridership gains from reaching Silver Spring instead of Takoma in my mind, so I hope it goes all the way up. If we want this to be a good investment, it has to go where people are going.

    I also wonder if they'll finally time all those lights on Georgia, because they honestly add a good 5 to 10 minutes on a trip. 16th is faster by a long shot transit, or driving.

  • tntdc

    I never thought the assumed route (#2) switching to 14th made much sense. The 14th St. Streetscape wasn't done with streetcars in mind.

  • jno

    I say avoid 14th St and U St. They're both too congested as is 7th. I thing #3 is best, I like the idea of 11th st. You can easily walk to anywhere and it's not a super busy thoroughfare, to my knowledge. Plus it would be great to have access to the 11th St. burgeoning restaurant scene. 4 isn't bad either.

  • Dub5

    I would choose option 4, but I would love a hybrid option of 2, 3, and 4.

    I would be supportive of the streetcar going to Silver Spring if it terminates at the station (or the transit center when it gets completed in 2073). I'm unsure that will be the case according the to article and map. If that is not going to be the case, I'd like the streetcar to terminate at Takoma, go down Georgia Ave to 9th street (or 11th, but it seems 11th is serviced by more bus routes than 9th), finally complete the loop shown in option 2.

  • Jay

    I think the big question is where it terminates. If it goes to Silver Spring then it will encourage people to move to Maryland and will improve property values there. If it goes to Takoma DC then it will encourage people to move to Takoma and developers to invest there. Takoma Park, MD is right next door but almost all of the developable land is in DC. I'm talking empty lots, surface parking lots and single story commercial strips. I think DC should put DC residents and the DC tax base ahead of Silver Spring.

  • Sandy

    Any route that goes down Pennsylvania is unacceptable, as that will require a total shutdown of the line whenever there's a big festival--which are exactly the times the streetcar's mobility improvements will be most necessary. Beyond that, the choice should come down to which option provides dedicated lanes for the longest part of the route.

  • Sarah

    Is Montgomery County going to kick in some money for this project? This looks to me like an initiative that primarily serves to create another transportation option for Silver Spring and Takoma Park residents on the District's dime.

  • Gw in the SW

    Let's not forget about the massive WARF development that's under construction now. Collecting those new folks and deliver them to/from Metro is a must!

  • Ben

    "I think the big question is where it terminates. If it goes to Silver Spring then it will encourage people to move to Maryland and will improve property values there."

    With all due respect to Jay, that doesn't make an ounce of sense. What does the location of the line's termination have to do with an encouragement of people to move to a particular area? For one, the idea behind the streetcar line--or any transit line, for that matter--is that it benefits the people and businesses that surround the entirety of it. Ergo, residents in Takoma will benefit every bit as much from the development of this line as would residents of Silver Spring, Brightwood, Petworth, Shepherd Park and other neighborhoods.

    Secondly, Silver Spring, as a vibrant commercial hub with good transit connectivity that exists just over the District line, is already a desirable location. The extension of a streetcar line to Silver Spring isn't going to siphon off residents to any greater degree than the line will encourage residents to move to the other neighborhoods serviced by the line that I mentioned above.

    Also, this type of thinking--this imagining of some inpenetrable wall along Eastern, Western and Southern avenues--is unnecessarily divisive and ignores the reailty that there is continuous development across most of the District's boundaries that often makes the demarcation of political jurisdictions difficult to identify. Put another way, in most regions a place like Silver Spring would have been absorbed into the city proper, with no meaningful difference between the two. The two jurisdictions are inherently connected--to many residents of that part of DC, Silver Spring is the closest commercial center--and much the same as Metro, it makes sense to link them via a streetcar line.

    I don't have a problem with Montgomery County being asked to pick up a commensurate cost of the line's construction and operational cost if a portion of the line extends into it. But making the termination of the line in Silver Spring into some DC v MD competition is simply nonsensical.

  • CJ

    Something b/t 2 and 3 captures the Wharf (by running along Maine Ave in SW) and avoids totally sitting on top of the Green Line.

  • https://www.facebook.com/northeastrailmap North East Rail Map

    Alternative #2 is by far the strongest alignment, because of the immediate and direct intermodal transfers between streetcar to Metro (subway) for commuters, despite the longer total route. This would make the streetcar primarily a last mile feeder service, connecting subway riders to new neighborhoods for Metro rail, making it the strongest lasting economic multiplier.

    As a commuter feeder service, the streetcar line, if done correctly, has the ability to connect directly to the Metro Red line twice near each end of this streetcar line, and Yellow/Green lines 3 or 4 times in the middle, and Blue/Orange line twice both downtown at Metro Center, and one stop away, McPherson Square. It has the ability to connect DC Streetcar H/K Street (east - west) line.

    As a single seat commute and emergency evacuation route of downtown, especially if the DC Metro Red line were closed or over capacity during a crisis, the north end of this DC streetcar proposal must be anchored to a Metro Red line stop as well.

    Takoma Park's Red line Metro subway should be the planned initial northern terminus, to bring streetcar commuters directly to the Metro station there, and help this entire streetcar line be an emergency back up for subway disruption during mass evacuation of downtown, like 9/11 2001 terrorism attack on the Pentagon. Takoma is closer to downtown, than Silver Spring, and far fewer intersections for connecting to the Metro, and in DC, simplifying politics and funding.

    Connecting this DC Streetcar line to Silver Spring as well, with its Red line Metro Subway stop, MARC Commuter Rail stop, potentially an emergency Amtrak stop for the DC-Chicago trains, and future MD Purple Line Streetcar stops, is eventually mandatory, but time/distance of connection, and Maryland funding is complex.

    If an express streetcar route direct north from Gallery Place Chinatown (Red and Yellow/Green Metro stop, and future DC Streetcar K Street lines,) were later added to Alternative #2 route, it could be done by adding the straight north-south track, like Alternative #1, bypassing Metro Center, and U Street, Metro subway stops and U Street DC Streetcar proposals, stopping near enough to let people walk to a connection, but for this express route, the primary goal would be minimizing commute time from lower density residential to urban commercial offices near Gallery Place/Chinatown.

    By creating so many interconnections with Metro and other rail, also protects the investment from any disruption of the Streetcar line for any reason. If the streetcar line were disconnected by a temporary accident, or Presidential motorcade, the segments on both sides of the disruption would still be able to connect most people to Metro (subway).

  • https://www.facebook.com/northeastrailmap North East Rail Map

    As much as support alignment #2 for unifying the city, (see my comment above,) the largest flaw with all these proposals and the current pattern of DC waterfront development is that DC is rejecting the possibility of a small industrial sea port in downtown at Buzzards Point, between South Capitol Ave and Ft. McNair, used to build and maintain all future city infrastructure with a minimum of truck and rail traffic in the region, keeping maintenance costs to an absolute minimum.

    There is so much other water front available to develop that biggest ships can't reach, up both rivers, where the water is too shallow for biggest ships. Why commercially develop the area most likely to serve biggest ships forever? It is monstrous. The DC streetcar should NEVER be put into the space between Ft. McNair and South Capitol Ave. That space should be for handling bulk commodities and large structure moves.

    Buzzards Point is the most logical place to most inexpensively deliver forever cement, steel, sand, aggregate, concrete, pipe, asphalt, rail road infrastructure parts such as rail and gravel and ties, telephone polls, wire spools, fiber optic spools, curb stones, all other building materials, road sand and salt for snow removal.

    Buzzards Point is also required for removing the cities recycling and construction waste from the city forever at the lowest cost per tonne, and creating the least traffic in the region.

    Buzzards Point is also the most important place to move largest prefab structures, ordinarily major water towers, and radio towers, and similar, needed forever in maintaining the city. Smithsonian Air and Space for example will likely need to move entire airplanes by biggest ships, requiring a port. Sea level rise and development may lead to removing a large number of existing buildings such as stone churches to higher ground using barges to reach bigger sea ports where they structures can be moved more easily intact, inland and upland.

    Climate Change Sea Level Rise will likely require bringing massive amounts of material into the city to prevent flooding, building dikes, and that will need a substantial port.

    In an 9/11 style terrorism emergency in downtown, having the deepest water port we can possibly have at Buzzards Point DC will best handle the largest US Navy Hospital Ships, without need for bridges or tunnels, nor shipping people relevantly far distances to suburban hospitals, especially if DC is quarantined.

    Putting DC streetcar into this port with deepest water and fewest bridges in downtown DC is seriously unwise if we want to be able to inexpensively build and maintain our city, DC, forever.