Posted tagged ‘streetcars’

Photo of Lower Georgia Avenue in 1943

August 18, 2014

lower georgia streetcar 1943

I recently found this snapshot of lower Georgia Avenue dated December 12, 1943. According to the writing on the back of it, it shows Capital Tranist car #1334 at the Georgia Avenue plow pit. Back when Washington had a citywide streetcar system, the areas outside of the original city used overhead wires. When cars reached the point where they switched to overhead operation, they stopped over a plow  pit like the one shown on Georgia Avenue where the conduit plows were detached and the trolley poles raised. The reverse operation occurred on inbound runs.

The photo above shows a northbound streetcar, so it is in the early stages of switching to overhead operation (the pole has not been raised yet).

It’s also interesting to see the Wonder Bread factory in the background, which was originally Corby Bakery. The building today is known as Wonder Plaza.

Portrait of Brightwood in 1908

August 7, 2014

I’m continuing to re-post a series of articles that were originally published in the Washington Times that paint caricatures of various Washington suburbs as they were in 1908. I’ve previously posted the articles for Georgetown, Anacostia, Tenleytown, and Brookland. Today’s feature is Brightwood.

Brightwood bannerBrightwood cartoon

“Better Car Service” Is Constant Appeal of Its Inhabitants.


Weights 437 Pounds, But Isn’t at All Sensitive About Being a Prize Winner.


MORE Brightwood folks have “looped the loop” than those of any other suburb on the map.

About seven things are counted on as certain out in Brightwood each day – sun up, sun down, three meals and two “loops.”

Do not gather from this that Brighhtwood harbors a miniature Coney Island with its chutes, merry-go-roungs, mystic mazes, wild men and loop-the loops. Far be it from me to act as press agent for the village and spring a yarn like that. ‘Tis a sadder tale than this that duty bids me tell.

THE LOOP, to which I refer, and to which every Brightwoodite refers at least eighty-six time per day, is situated just to the west of the National’s ball park. Tenderly speaking, it is a place where all folks going to and from Brightwood are dumped out around a little station house and made to transfer – after waiting awhile for the next car.

Lost Without Transfer.

No man out that way feels at ease unless he has a transfer in his hand. So common are transfers in Brightwood that they are almost used for legal tender. Children cry for them and beg to loop-the-loop when they should be thinking only of leap frog and mumble-peg. Transfers are used as paper chest protectors, as lamp shades, for wall papering or to stop up the chink when the neighborhood bad boys break out the window pane.

From time immemorial, or at least from the time when the Brightwood Citizens’ Association was formed, we have been accustomed to see in the newspaper headlines:

“Brightwood Demands Through Cars to City.”

“Brightwood Demands Better Car Service.”

“Brightwood Citizens Kick on Being Dumped in Cold and Rain.”

Occasionally we would also see that Brightwood demanded better lights along its avenue, wider roads in Rock Creek Park, more sewers, and a few other things.

Whereat we have become accustomed to sympathizing with Brightwood because everybody knows that a lot of wide-awake people live out there and that the suburb itself is a delightful one – after you get there and when you get there. In inviting a friend out to dinner, however, the Brightwood citizen impresses upon you that his hospitality does not begin until after you have reached the confines of the village itself. He takes no responsibility for the street car service and the means of getting there.

Will Telephone Wife.

Mr. Bright Wood will telephone his wife as follows:

“Constance, I will bring my old college chum, Mr. Grouch, out to dinner tonight. Have something nice, will you?

Wherefore, the real head of the household will bestir herself for some hours and have a steaming repast ready at the appointed moment. After a wait of some two hours or more, perhaps she hears a familiar footstep and indignantly rushes to greet the tardy one. Two bedraggled, dispirited specimens meet her glaring gaze. There is a moment of tense silence and then she tenderly takes their dripping coats and sends the specimens themselves into the spare room to dry.

There are no words spoken. Words are not necessary for any wife would know that the car hadn’t shown up and that it rained and that hubby had “looped-the-loop” again.

No wonder therefore, that each meeting of the citizens’ association is so replete with fervid oratory that the windows have to be raised even on the coldest night, and no wonder that when you speak the name of President George H. Harries out in Brightwood you are welcomed as you would be in Ireland if you shook a red bandana handkerchief and shouted “Long live the King.” General Harries, as everybody, I presume, knows is president of the street railway company that furnishes, or fails to furnish, transportation to all the folks out Brightwood way.

Harries Often Mentioned.

General Harries’ name is conjured with at almost every meeting of the association and if it had been a punching bag would have been smashed to smithereens long ago.

While on the whole I found that the people seemed more contented out in Brightwood than I really thought they had a right to be, I located one gentleman who seemed especially delighted with everything. In reality, I believe he’s too fat to get mad. I refer to “Pop” George C. Mountcastle, proprietor of that famous hostelry “Old Brightwood Hotel” and also proprietor of 437 pounds of good, hard flesh.

“Pop” is a character in whose company one might spend many a joyous hour. He says he’s also nick-named “Beefy,” but I didn’t hear the boys call him anything but “Pop,” especially when they wanted to borrow a half-dollar or stand off the bar-keep for a round.

Well, anyway, “Pop” isn’t sensitive about his weight and about the first thing he asked me and before I could ask him anything, he inquired, gently: “How much do you think I weigh?”

Not wishing to offend and yet desiring my ability to size up the cubic feet in almost any mountain, I chirped. “Oh, about 325.” (more…)

Streetcar Meetings Scheduled for Next Week

June 2, 2014

The final round of meetings for the first phase of the North-South Corridor Planning Study are scheduled to begin next week (see flyer below for locations and times). As I understand it from other meetings I’ve attended, the from the previous meetings is definitely in favor of streetcar service. There is still some question about the alignment in our area. Currently both Sherman and Georgia Avenue are on the table. What will be interesting will be how the DC Council’s recent vote to reduce planned spending through 2021 from $1.4 billion to $730 million may impact the discussion.

Series 3 Streetcar meetings

DDOT’s North-South Streetcar Materials Now Online

February 25, 2014

At the end of last week, DDOT added the presentation materials from their February public North-South Streetcar meetings to their online library. As a follow up to my previous post, I wanted to make sure residents interested in this initiative were aware of these materials and had an opportunity to review the information prior to the third series of meetings, which are currently scheduled for June 2014. Below is the meeting’s presentation slide deck and more images from the presentation boards.

slide deck title screen(The slide deck from the presentation. Click for all 23 slides)

The boards showing potential street cross sections should be of particular interest to the community, as they suggest how the streetcars could be laid out on particular streets  — which also suggests how they could impact parking or bike lanes. There were several options shown at the public presentations so that DDOT could get community feedback. I suspect that the options will be narrowed down with fewer options by the third round of public meetings. Below are scenarios A & B.


… and below are scenarios C & D.


… and lastly, the video below of streetcar simulations and videos from various US projects were shown during the second series of public meetings for the North-South Corridor. In these meetings, DDOT examined potential conceptual alignments for the streetcar.

Brief Notes from DDOT’s North-South Corridor Study Public Meeting

February 20, 2014
This de

This map from the presentation indicates ridership volume and most heavily used stops.

After attending last night’s North-South Corridor Study at Banneker Recreation Center, I wanted to share a few notes and first impressions while they are still fresh in my mind. If you didn’t attend, but want to, there is a final meeting tonight at Emery Recreation Center – 5701 Georgia Ave NW – from 3:30pm-8:00pm. Presentations will be at 4:00pm and 7:00pm.

The current round of meetings are the second of three rounds, with the final series currently planned for around June. The first round was in November and was very general in its approach. It focused on streetcars and buses, along with a variety of corridors.

The stated purpose of the corridor study is to evaluate reliable and comprehensive improved transit service in the North-South corridor and support existing neighborhoods and future growth in and along the corridor. The corridor in question is the 9-mile corridor from Takoma/Silver Spring to Buzzard Point/Southwest.

Since the first meetings, and with the above in mind, a few decisions have been made (although there are still many more that need to be made). First off, it definitely looks like DDOT has settled on streetcars as the mode of transportation. Based on the data of ridership in the corridors now and the population projects in the coming years, the streetcar option provides the better scenario for capacity and reliability.

In short, to use DDOT’s words, they are choosing the streetcar option because they:

  1. Increase transit capacity,
  2. Provide complementary service to buses,
  3. Improve transit vehicle accessibility and reliability of service,
  4. Increase transit share of trips, and
  5. Provide a higher quality of service.

There were a couple of things I found interesting in looking at the various information boards. The first was a map showing ridership volume and busiest stops (see map above). In looking at 16th and 14th streets vs. Georgia Avenue, 16th and 14th streets have a ridership that suggests that they support more commuters and the Georgia Avenue data suggested more local traffic. This ridership pattern suggested that the future streetcar route should be on or near Georgia Avenue.

Some streetcar routes still being considered.

Some streetcar routes still being considered.

Other routes were discounted because they were considered to have fatal flaws (constructability, grades, turns, & tunnels/bridges) . 14th Street, for example, already has a horrible traffic intersection at the intersection of Monroe and 13th Street has a grade by Cardozo High School that is too steep for a good streetcar line.

North of New Hampshire Avenue, Georgia Avenue is definitely the route with only the end in question (Takoma or Silver Spring). In our area (Zone 3) both Georgia Avenue and Sherman Avenue are on the table. Due to the new streetscape along Sherman, and the higher volume of traffic on Georgia, I favor Georgia over Sherman.

Roughly at Florida Avenue, four different possible routes come in to play. Of these, I think the 14th Street option is the best, followed by the 11th Street option. Either would bring much needed transit to an area not well served by Metrorail. I favor the 14th Street option more because it would serve more of U Street and I think that is important.

Lastly, parking and traffic configurations still need to be figured out. There were several boards that illustrated possible traffic patterns with a streetcar system in place. Some of these included parking, others did not. None were being presented as what DDOT will be doing, but rather as options to get attendees talking about what they liked or didn’t like. As for me, I think there is definitely room for both streetcars and parking south of Florida Avenue and north of New Hampshire Avenue. I’m still uncertain about the Florida to New Hampshire section of Georgia Avenue.  I know parking is an issue with some, but I also know that increased transit capacity is critical with a growing city and new residential developments continuing to come to Georgia.

I’ll post the slide deck from the meetings once it is publicly available.
street configurations north south study(Two of the many street configuration patterns posted at the meeting for attendees to evaluate)

2nd Phase of Public Meetings for the North-South Corridor Planning Begin Today

February 18, 2014

North South study second phaseDDOT’s second series of public meetings related to their North-South Corridor Planning Study begins today. The meeting for our area will be at Banneker Recreation Center tomorrow, with presentations at 4:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) is in the middle of a planning study to examine opportunities for public transportation improvements in the North-South corridor through DC. Over the next year, DDOT will be working in collaboration with the community, area businesses, government agencies, and other stakeholders to identify and evaluate above-ground, high quality transit service.

The study area is focused on a 9-mile, North-South corridor that connects the Takoma/Silver Spring area to the Buzzard Point/Southwest Waterfront area. The study area extends east to west from about 16th Street on the west to approximately one-quarter mile east of Georgia Avenue.

Meetings will be open house style with two opportunities for residents to hear an overview presentation. Each meeting will cover the same information, so feel free to attend any of the meetings that fit into your schedule.

The scheduled meeting locations and times are:

Tuesday, February 18, 2014; 3:30pm-8:00pm. Presentation at 4:00pm and 7:00pm
DCRA- 2nd Floor Community Room – 1100 4th St SW

Wednesday, February 19, 2014; 3:30pm-8:00pm. Presentation at 4:00pm and 7:00pm
Banneker Recreation Center – 2500 Georgia Ave NW

Thursday, February 20, 2014; 3:30pm-8:00pm. Presentation at 4:00pm and 7:00pm
Emery Recreation Center – 5701 Georgia Ave NW

Wednesday, February 19, 2014; 10:00am-12:00pm.
Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library- 901 G St NW

Click here for a recap of Public Meeting Series #1.

DDOT’s Second Round of North-South Corridor Planning Study Meetings Scheduled for February

January 22, 2014
DDOT's North-South Corridor map.

DDOT’s North-South Corridor map.

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) has scheduled their second round of public meetings to examine opportunities for public transportation improvements in the North-South corridor through DC for February  18th, 19th, & 20th. The meeting in our area will be held at Banneker Recreation Center (2500 Georgia Ave.) on February 19th. Presentation times are set for 4 pm and 7 pm. If you can not make this meeting, all the meetings should be similar so feel free to attend the meetings that fit into your schedule (flyer here).

DDOT held their first round of public North-South Corridor meetings in November 2013 (my review and opinions of those meetings here).

Details from DDOT’s announcement of the meetings:

The study area is focused on a 9-mile, North-South corridor that connects the Takoma/Silver Spring area to the Buzzard Point/Southwest Waterfront area. The study area extends east to west from about 16th Street on the west to approximately one-quarter mile east of Georgia Avenue.

Community involvement and feedback is essential to helping DDOT and other partnering entities plan, build and operate the best streetcar system possible.

For more information about this study please visit North-South Corridor Planning Study ( or contact Jamie Henson at 202-671-1324 or (mailto:Jamie.Henson (at) . To join the project distribution list visit

North South Study part 2 page 2

DDOT Schedules Community Meetings for North-Sounth Corridor Planning Study

October 14, 2013
DDOT's North-South Corridor map.

DDOT’s North-South Corridor map.

At the November ANC 1A meeting, representatives of DDOT attended to inform the community that the first series of public meetings were set to begin the discussions on the future of transportation on the North-South Corridor. While it is my understanding that this will include other north-south corridors — such as 14th streets — a lot of focus has been and will continue to be on the 7th Street/Georgia Avenue corridor.

The Commission was also informed that the study would look at all modes of transportation such as bus rapid transit, bike lanes, and street cars. However, I suspect that the main focus will be street cars since all literature is hosted on DDOT’s site.

In reviewing the meeting schedule (image below), I was immediately dismayed that none of the four meetings have been schedule along lower Georgia Avenue. The north meeting will be held at Emery Recreation (5701 Georgia) and the south meeting is scheduled at St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church (600 M Street, NW). Both are on or near the 7th St/Georgia Ave route. However, the other two meetings — serving the business community and central section of the study, are scheduled for the Reeves Center at 14th and U streets.

Upon seeing this, I immediately informed the presenters that this was unacceptable and that either the location of the meeting for the central section needs to be changed, or, an additional meeting needs to be added. In my opinion, It is inexcusable that residents of Park View, Pleasant Plains, and Howard University — areas that will be directly impacted by any decisions that come out of the study — are required to travel a significant distance to attend one of the meetings when residents who live in the south or north sections are accommodated with a meeting right in their community. I’ve been pressing for a new central location and will inform the community should a new location be identified.

Regardless of meeting locations, if one of the dates and locations fit in your schedule, and if you are interested in how the future of transportation will impact Georgia Avenue, you are strongly encouraged to attend one of the public meetings.

Front and Back of the flyer announcing meeting dates and locations for the North South Corridor Study,

Front and Back of the flyer announcing meeting dates and locations for the North South Corridor Study,

The DCstreetcar Website provides the following overview of the what the study is and what the study’s goals are:

As part of the DC Streetcar Program, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) is initiating a Planning Study to examine opportunities for public transportation improvements in a proposed north-south corridor through the District. Over the next year, DDOT will work with the community, businesses, government agencies, and other stakeholders to develop and evaluate transit alternatives to improve mobility in the corridor and enhance livability in the study area.  At the end of the study, DDOT will present a Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA), whether streetcar or enhanced bus service.

The study area is focused on a 9-mile, north-south corridor that starts in the Buzzard Point/Southwest Waterfront area.  DDOT will examine ending the line in Takoma or Silver Spring. The study area extends east-west for about two blocks on either side of potential identified alignments.

For evaluation purposes, the study area will be divided into three different areas:

  1. A northern study area, from Takoma/Silver Spring generally to Georgia Avenue/Petworth Metro station area;
  2. A central study area, from the Georgia Avenue/Petworth Metro Station area to the Convention Center; and
  3. A southern study area, from the Convention Center to the SW Waterfront/Buzzard Point area.

The North-South Corridor will support the goals of the DC Streetcar Program to enhance existing transit service and provide more transportation choices within the District.

Trolley Turnaround Park Opens (11th & Monroe) — Ribbon Cutting to Come

February 20, 2012

Visitors on the first full day after the park was opened included Commissioner Aquiline (1A05) with her family

The long awaited reopening of the park at 11th and Monroe Streets, NW, finally happened on Friday, February 17, 2012, at 2:00 p.m. An official ribbon cutting is tentatively scheduled for March 3rd. Additional details on that  are still coming. The groundbreaking for the park’s renovation occurred on August 15, putting the duration of the work at six months from start to finish.

Planning for the current iteration of the park, commonly referred to as Trolley Turnaround Park (though the original trolley design is actually a trolley loop) was in the works well before it was presented to ANC 1A in April 2010. The surrounding community has been particularly vigilant in seeing this project through. Much of this attention has to do with how long the project has taken to complete and the past renovations, upkeep, and oversight of the property.

Basic layout of the renovated park, as presented in early 2010

An indication of just how important this park is to the community occurred on January 28, 2012, when the park appeared to be complete but a contractor neglected to lock the gates. The park was full of parents and their children. Upon notification, DPR immediately locked the park gates. Indeed, the work was complete, but the site had not yet been inspected by DPR’s safety officer to ensure that play equipment and areas were installed properly and safely. That early taste of the new park lead to frustrated emails on the Columbia Heights listserv over the following weeks.

The hardscape areas at the park now include bands of dark brick, which indicate where the original streetcar tracks once were

Some on the community concern over the park’s renovations has more to do with the park’s history than with the current project. Efforts to improve the property can be found as far back as 1990, when the neighbors organized to clean the property and the ANC considered names for the park. As the property deteriorated, the park was again reclaimed around 1998 with play equipment and a maintenance agreement signed by DPR. Again, the property deteriorated and complaints of broken glass, dog and human feces, and broken bottles increased until the park was again renovated in 2002 after neighbors enlisted Councilmember Graham’s support.

Medallions modeled after Capitol Transit tokens are incorporated into the new design

And now, ten years later, the park has again been renovated to improve its ability to serve the community, update the play area, and address concerns with its access. While time will tell if this is a more permanent solution than past efforts, it is clear that this renovation is far more interesting than what has gone before. The design incorporates many references to the park’s original use by streetcars and uses those elements to provide an education component.

Some of the historical details included in the design are different colored bricks showing where the original streetcar rails were located, the inclusion of medallions on the surrounding fence inspired by Capitol Transit Company tokens, and a historical photograph of the Silver Sightseer located at the Monroe Street entrance. In addition to this, there is an outright educational panel located just inside the 11th Street entrance. A copy of that panel is below.


Streetcar Study Suggests System Could Generate $8 Billion in Development Over Next Decade

January 30, 2012

Last week the D.C. Department of Planning released the District of Columbia Streetcar Land Use Study, intended to “provide an initial foundation of analysis that the Office of Planning, DDOT and other involved agencies will use to make recommendations regarding the District’s streetcar system.” As the Washington Post points out in their coverage of the study, it suggests that the “37-mile citywide streetcar system could attract up to 7,700 new jobs, raise property values by up to $7 billion and bring in as much as $8 billion in new development over the next decade.”

The study breaks the proposed system down by corridors and gives an overview of each, listing both benefits and challenges. With regards to Georgia Avenue, it lists the following notable indicators:

  • Median household income rises along Georgia Avenue from about $35,000 at the corridor’s southern end to about $70,000 at the north, placing it in the upper-middle range of streetcar corridors
  • At the southern end of the corridor, with many public housing residents and university students, more than 50% of households earn less than $35,000, and nearly 60% lack a car.
  • The corridor is expected to add a large number of households by 2030.

Following are the benefits and challenges related to Georgia Avenue as outlined in the study:

Benefits: The streetcar can transform auto-oriented portions of Georgia Avenue NW into more transit-oriented areas with higher-value development and improved access options. Streetcar service would expand the walkable area now concentrated at the Georgia Avenue-Petworth Metro station. Similarly, it would make the northern part of the Howard campus, an important employer, more accessible to the Shaw-Howard University Metro station. The streetcar would also amplify Georgia Avenue’s appeal as an office location for creative-economy industries. As households and jobs increase along the corridor in response to the streetcar, thousands of square feet of new neighborhood-oriented retail could be created. These changes would make Georgia Avenue’s neighborhoods more self-sufficient in terms of jobs and services.

Many commercial parcels hold strong potential for infill redevelopment, like the former Curtis Chevrolet
dealership at Peabody Street NW. Such sites could reinforce neighborhood commercial nodes and
attract employers to locations along Georgia Avenue in Brightwood, Manor Park, 16th Street Heights, and
Petworth. The corridor’s marquee opportunity, however, is the Walter Reed campus, where planning has begun to introduce major redevelopment that combines commercial, government, and housing uses over a decade.

Extending the streetcar line north on Georgia Avenue to Silver Spring, instead of ending it at Takoma as now
planned, would open opportunities in this part of the District. The District’s northern neighborhoods would
gain much better transit access to regional job centers and housing. This could, in turn, significantly raise land value and neighborhood connections along Georgia Avenue. Shifting the route would not markedly affect Takoma, because it already has Metro service. Section 4b contains a more detailed explanation of this alternative routing.

Challenges: The biggest design challenge involves integrating the streetcar into the right of way along
Georgia Avenue, a thoroughfare that currently experiences high volumes of bus, motor vehicle, and
pedestrian traffic. Areas now dominated by auto-oriented development will need pedestrian and streetscape improvements.


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