With Cate Blanchett in town for the Kennedy Center’s production of “A Streetcar Named Desire” and the launch by the DDOT of a series of town hall meetings to explain their plans for the return of tramways to D.C., streetcars are a hot topic in the district!
Streetcars used to be THE way to get around town, first drawn by horses, then electrified. Then automobiles and buses came around and the streetcar system was dismantled in the early 1960s, with the last streetcar running on January 28, 1962. There isn’t much left of these streetcars. One can be seen in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and some tracks are still visible on the cobblestone streets of Georgetown. A few stations and terminals have also survived. The Colorado Avenue Terminal on 14th Street NW, for example, is still in use as a Metrobus stop.
Well, it seems the streetcar is poised to make a come-back in D.C., and not just for two weeks at the Kennedy Center. Streetcars have made successful comebacks in cities such as San Francisco… or my hometown of Paris. In the city of lights, the tramway offered an ecologically friendly answer to rising energy costs and car-traffic crisis but focused more on connecting suburbs which had previously no direct connection to one another.
In D.C., the proposed streetcar lines also aim to connect previously under-connected neighbourhood but is focusing on DC proper. The first segment of network, the 1.5-mile Anacostia streetcar line, had a ceremonial groundbreaking while Anthony A. Williams was still mayor but actual construction just began and the line should be in service by late 2012. At the same time, plans are moving ahead for the Benning Road and H Street line and crews are currently laying down the tracks at the same time as they working on the Great Streets Initiative.