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

2 Replies to “D.C. Streetcars Strike Back”

  1. The 37-mike system will be far, far from complete as of 2013. All that will be complete by then is the short segment on H St. The whole system will take at least a decade to be completed, probably longer.

  2. One thing that I cannot get off my mind when thinking about Car Barn: When are we going to see the actual Einstein Bagels? Whatever is in Car Barn now is not an Einstein. Perhaps it’s his smaller, less intelligent brother Neinstein (“nein” is German for “no,” in case you all didn’t see the humor), but I will not accept this poor excuse of a bagel eatery.

    Anyways, good article, Car Barn is a pretty cool building. It lacks sunlight, but not in a Lauinger Library kind of way. I don’t have thoughts of throwing myself in front of a pack of rhinos when I’m in CB…only Lauinger.

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