Loose Lips

Gray: Keep Metro Out of Circulator. Maybe.

Someday, this streetcar might actually run on D.C. streets. (Flickr photo by jsmjr under Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Creative Commons license)

Someday, this streetcar might actually run on D.C. streets. (Flickr photo by jsmjr under Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Creative Commons license)

Hey, have you heard that D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray is a supporter of streetcars? If you've been following the mayoral race since the spring, you know the reintroduction of streetcars to D.C. streets has become a pesky issue for Gray, who was nailed by transit advocates for cutting streetcar funding before restoring the funding during intense budget negotiations in May.

Gray's position on streetcars has been probed time and time again during the course of the campaign. "I happen to be a supporter of streetcars," he reiterated during a visit to Washington City Paper earlier today. "We’ve had a bit of discussion around that as you all well know."

So, we wanted to expand the transit discussion. Some large cities—we're looking at you, Detroit!—have had difficulties running a public transit system under the umbrella of the municipal transportation department. With the District set to face some ugly budget cycles down the road, does Gray ever see a day when the District Department of Transportation is not running the D.C. Circulator and the streetcar system, ceding control to either Metro or another independent authority?

Says Gray:

My concern would be is if we have a streetcar system that is wholly dedicated to the District of Columbia, does that fit neatly under the Metro governance model?—which I think also needs to be discussed. There are a lot of people who are concerned at this stage.

So, what I think has to happen is that we got to sit down at the table, we got to first of all figure out what it is we see being the transit options in the District of Columbia and then discuss with Metro and others what is the right governance approach.

But I’m not convinced at this stage—I’m not saying I won’t be—I’m not convinced at this stage that putting something that is wholly dedicated to the District of Columbia under Metro is absolutely the right way to go. Circulator is uniquely the District of Columbia, streetcars [are] uniquely the District of Columbia. The Metrobus system and the subway are obviously regional systems to which I am very committed.

So, I don’t think there is a clear answer to this at this stage but the pathway to an answer is to sit down, make sure we know where we’re going with our own transit system in this city and then talk about a governance model that works best for us.

We should point out that the D.C. Circulator now has a route that goes across the river to Rosslyn in Arlington County, which is also developing its own streetcar line in the Columbia Pike corridor.

In case you are wondering, Gray is also a supporter of bicycles and says, "I think we need to get people out of automobiles."

  • Skipper

    Well, that clears things up nicely.

  • Indeed

    Yes, we should definitely continue to have grand schemes to change transportation that are poorly planned. We should definitely not think about the reality of a new transportation system. Instead, because we all want less cars on the road, we should plow forward. Thoughtfulness be damned!

  • noodlez



  • downtown rez

    Either he is A) for streetcars, or he is B) not.
    Or C) he doesn't have a vision or care much either way.

    Oh, yeah, or E) any of the above depending on which way the political winds blow.

    Speaking of blowing, his answer sucks.

  • Indeed


    Did we get federal funding for streetcars? Uh, no. Why? Oh yeah, the plan sucked.

    Did you read this article at all? He says, "I support streetcars."

  • DaveS

    As far as I know, Gray believes that gravity probably exists though he will examine the issue thoroughly before making an official statement and his mind is open to the possibility that it doesn't - but if he perceives a consensus he'll definitely support gravity and other laws of physics as needed.

    So yes, he supports bicycles as long as we don't ask him to envision new bicycle programs or extend support for the programs we already have.

  • Indeed


    I know, it is strange after three years to potentially have someone as mayor who actually thinks about the issues and considers how they will impact the people of the city, as well as how programs will be implemented. It's crazy!

  • What Next

    Usual Gray position, he's against it is it costs money then when he finds out other people want it, Sierra Club, Gray changes his mind and is for it. Don't worry about impact or if this is a good decision for the city. All he wants to do is get elected so other people can tell him what to do. What a choice?

  • RobShaw

    Well, obviously the answer is to sit down and chat about it.

    But what do you actually think about it on your own? Do you support the District maintaining sole control over streetcars? Or don't you?

    When you sit down and represent us - what do you support? What are you fighting for?

  • Eric

    The general plan is to expand the streetcar system into MD and potentially (though less likely) into VA, as well. This would make the streetcar system not wholly DC-dedicated and would necessitate an alternate form of administration. Perhaps a streetcar-specific version of WMATA such as the "Washington Area Streetcar System (WASS)" or something similar.

  • The District Sleeps Alone

    As long as the streetcars are all in DC, why the hell would we want to risk their continued operation on the whims of Richmond or Annapolis? Run the streetcars to the river or the District line and let Bobby Haircut or Bobby Taliban handle them.

  • Been Around Too Long

    The comments for this article make more sense than Gray's positions or lack of positions. I suspect that in three plus years we will wonder about Gray's style as well as his lack of achievement.