The InTowner
To receive free monthly notices advising of the availability of each new PDF issue, simply send an email request to and include name, postal mailing address and phone number. This information will not be shared with any other lists or entities.
Marcus Moore Restorations

Advertisement

From the Publisher's Desk...

DC Transit Initiatives: The Good and the Bad

Last month in this space, among other expressions of dissatisfaction with Metrorail, we raised the issue of providing for riders who paid their fare not knowing of service problems that were to adversely affect their travel to be able to turn around, exit & get credit back on their smartcards.

We discussed this very complaint with the Metro board’s recently elected chairman, Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans, who assured us this was a matter that needed to be rectified. Then, just a couple of weeks following, the day the board’s finance committee approved the new budget, we were pleased an announcement stating that as of July 1st this new budget provides riders “the ability to exit the same station they entered without being charged.” Elaborating on this, the announcement further informs that the “new policy will permit
riders who enter a station, particularly during a service disruption, to exit the same station within 15 minutes without being charged the base rail fare.”

Now the bad news: The streetcar debacle was aptly summarized in a December 5, 2015 Washington Post article as a “dysfunctional transit project that has cost the city $200 million and is nine years late. Since 2014, operators have been shuttling the bright-red streetcars back and forth without passengers, each trip underscoring questions about the District’s ability to get big things done,” further noting that DC “is spending three or four times what other cities have to build a maintenance facility for its fledging streetcar system, a reflection of the flawed planning and execution that have dragged down the transit start-up for more than a decade.”

And these are the same bureaucrats who are to be in charge of the planned, highly complex 16th Street bus project – but more about that below.                               

We should state for the record that we are 100 percent in favor of streetcars –- but the priority should be on major streets that are heavily traveled and routes that will actually serve vast numbers of fare-paying riders thereby ensuring a revenue stream that will (hopefully) contribute substantially to operating costs. To have spent all these gazillion dollars for an eight-block strip that cannot, in one’s wildest imagination, draw the rider volume to justify its presence was sheer folly. When the city council did authorize that route –- though Ward 2 Councilmember Evans, who was then and continues to be, the council’s finance committee chairman, rightfully opposed the plan for H Street, NE — it clearly was pandering to the desire of the area’s then Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells. Instead, the council members should have insisted that the “pilot” route be 16th Street.

And, if the streetcars were by now actually operating along 16th Street there would have been no need for the transportation department (DDOT) to undertake what will be an enormously complicated and expensive effort to improve public transit along that major artery.

As reported in one of our lead stories this month (“16th Street Service Changes Proposed by WMATA to Speed Busses Get Mixed Reactions,” March 2016 issue pdf, page 1), the only thing that will be accomplished –- besides costing taxpayer gargantuan sums of money –- will be to shave off four to five minutes (!!) from a trip between the northern terminus in Silver Spring to Farragut Square. We do not believe the months (maybe years) disruption and costs will be worth it.

Furthermore, having read (while performing our pre-publication review) what our reporter revealed, that this so-called “enhancement” project “will now become the responsibility in DDOT of the planning group that developed the . . . H Street, NE streetcar design and implementation projects,” we shudder in horror that the gang who has proven it can’t shoot straight will be in charge of what looks to us to be a gargantuan boondoggle.