ANC6A Has Harsh Words for City Council’s Cut in Streetcar Funding on Eve of Budget Vote

DDOT’s Project Manager for Streetcar Planning Jamie Hensen (left) briefs ANC6A on plans to extend the H Street Streetcar lines east and west.

The DC City Council is scheduled vote on the proposed FY 18 budget on tomorrow.

ANC6A Has Harsh Words for City Council’s Cut in Streetcar Funding on Eve of Budget Vote

by Larry Janezich

Last Thursday night, DDOT’s Project Manager for Street Car Planning Jamie Hensen, gave ANC6A an update on the extension of the Streetcar Project.

Hensen recounted the previously widely reported bad news for the project regarding the reduction in FY 18 funding for the proposed extensions of the H Street line east to the Benning Road Metro Station and west to Georgetown.  Last month, the City Council released a proposed budget which reduced the Mayor’s request for $160 million over six years for the extension eastward, to $100 million and put off additional funding until FY 2023.  The $100 million allocated by the Council will allow planning to continue but under the best scenario, construction could not begin until 2023, instead of 2020.  The Council increased the Mayor’s request for funding the Georgetown extension from $165 to $196, but delayed spending the funds until 2020-2022.  ANC6B reacted in a proposed letter letter to the Mayor and City Council, saying that the funding was “unceremoniously stripped from the budget the council was presented to enact late the night before the Council vote.”  On May 30, the Council took the first of two required votes on the FY 18 budget. Tomorrow, Tuesday, June 13, the Council will take the second required budget vote.

ANC6A voted unanimously to send the letter to the Mayor and the City Council protesting the cut in funding and lack of transparency by which it was done, and urging the Council to restore the funds.  The letter states, in part, ANC6A “is extremely concerned about recent reports that funding was stripped from the budget at the last moment with no public notice…undermining the [city’s] longstanding commitment to ensuring the viability of this streetcar line …” Also, “Such lack of process and transparency undermines confidence in the Council’s budget process and the well-reasoned committee-led consideration that the Council provides to matters of public importance…”

Jensen also briefed the Commission on the recently completed ridership and travel time analysis, saying that the H Street Streetcar currently attracts 3000 riders a day, seven days a week.  DDOT estimates riderships on an extension from Union Station to Georgetown will attract 5700 riders per mile, making it, one of the higher ridership streetcar lines in the US.

The Environmental Assessment (EA)  for both extensions is currently underway, city agency and public meetings on the assessment will occur in the Fall of 2017, followed by a public meeting on, and publication of, the Environment Assessment in the winter of 2017/2018.  Final approval of the National Environmental Policy Assessment is expected in 2018.

3 Comments

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3 responses to “ANC6A Has Harsh Words for City Council’s Cut in Streetcar Funding on Eve of Budget Vote

  1. Golem18

    I’m curious as to what DOT’s projections were for ridership of the existing streetcar line compared to actual ridership today. My cursory observation is that ridership is sparse and hardly lives up to the hype generated on behalf of the streetcar system. I’ve counted few riders on any given train.

    The system makes little sense. Unless they have a dedicated right-of-way which is virtually impracticable if not impossible today, streetcars have largely been abandoned. Are District residents willing to put up with the cost of anything similar to Chicago’s elevated system? Where exactly would a dedicated ground level right-of-way be situated between the eastern terminus and Georgetown?

    Moreover, in the event of a breakdown, one streetcar along the route results in substantial delays for the entire line – those streetcars behind cannot get around a broken down car. Even a breakdown of a METRO train, in spite of the ability to move around a delayed train – which streetcars cannot, results in significant METRO delays. Buses, however, are able to skirt around traffic, construction, and accident delays with little delay and one bus breakdown does not delay those behind it. Indeed, a fresh bus can come to the aid of passengers on the broken-down bus.

    Given the extraordinary cost of building a streetcar line, the District could buy many more buses, increase bus availability on each line and create new lines throughout the city for the same cost if not less.

    It’s time to recognize the error and give it up. When you’re in trouble at the bottom of a hole, the first and best thing is to put down the shovel.

  2. Pingback: The Hill is Home | Hill Buzz | The Hill is Home

  3. I 100% agree with Golem18, and I too notice empty cars, the 3000 riders per day mentioned in the article must occur at night because I see nothing of the sort. I can’t imagine the reasoning behind starting the streetcar project much less continue it at such a cost to the citizens for such little return on investments, these aren’t even cute or novel looking streetcars. I can only attribute this to the DC mayor, councilmen, representatives continuing to be the weak leaders of a city with Great potential. There MUST be continued OVERSIGHT for all the representatives. These people simply can’t learn to govern themselves, and the citizens don’t know any better but to continue to vote them in, until this culture changes we must have oversight.

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