D.C. Streetcars Strike Back

Ever wondered what went down in the Car Barn before Georgetown professors and students began making use of it? Well, the next time you’re sitting in class, minutes away from dozing off, think about how less than 50 years ago, the Car Barn didn’t house any classrooms. Rather, it housed streetcars that were undergoing maintenance. Also, it was actually super close to becoming a Union Station.

So why the mention of the building that many students dread walking to? Streetcars, that’s why. The first streetcars in D.C. appeared in 1862 and were literally horse powered. After a little under 100 years of operation, streetcars were replaced by buses and the Metrorail system. Now, fifty years after that fateful decision, D.C. residents welcome the return of a streetcar system.

A few weeks ago, the D.C. Office of Planning released the D.C. Streetcar Land Use Study report and concluded that the construction of a 37-mile streetcar system (with an expected completion date in mid-2013) had both fiscal and pedestrian benefits for D.C. residents. With the completion of the streetcar system:

  •  72,000 additional households will be within 1/4 of a mile from a streetcar line
  • D.C. residents’ access to public transportation will increase (which will reduce their transportation costs)
  • Investment in real estate will increase
  • New jobs will be attracted to the areas near the streetcar line
  • The value of existing real estate will increase
  • The tax revenue for D.C.’s government budget will rise
  • The environment benefits from less cars on the road
  • More people will be walking (a.k.a. “exercising” while window-shopping and catching the public transportation)

However, the report does note that housing affordability and displacement of residents might become a concern. Housing values and rents have the potential to rise by 5-12 percent. And then you also have to take into consideration the $1.5 billion projected cost of the system. Nevertheless, the report does claim that the increase in tax revenues generated by the rise in property values will eventually even out the costs.

Looks like we no longer have to travel to New Orleans or San Francisco to hop on a streetcar. We’ll soon have our own D.C. streetcars again!

Photo: Wikipedia

Leave a Reply