Study: Streetcars to add jobs, cut rider costs

The city’s planned streetcar system may cut residents’ transportation costs and draw in thousands of new jobs over the next decade, a study released Jan. 26 by the D.C. Office of Planning found.

The review sought to “ensure that the city and its residents gain the greatest possible benefits from the new system, and that the overarching vision and goals for the District are furthered by the new system,” according to the study.

The $1.5 billion network that will span the city’s eight wards could funnel in up to 7,700 jobs, add up to $8 billion in real estate development and improve public health.

Early planning efforts for the streetcar project – designed to give residents more transportation options – began in 1997 with a District Department of Transportation public transit strategy study.

The 37-mile system’s first stretch, down H Street and Benning Road in Northeast D.C., is slated to open in the summer of 2013 – after originally being projected for this spring.

“In fact, the scale of the District’s proposed system and the history of many of the city’s main commercial corridors and neighborhoods, which grew up around an earlier streetcar network, may actually help the District realize greater benefits from a streetcar system than some of these counterpart cities,” the study reads.

D.C. was home to a 200-mile streetcar network until 1962, when the city ended the service in favor of buses.

Along with alleviating congestion in current public transportation options, the cars would improve access for more than 100,000 city residents who do not own vehicles.

“The streetcar will link certain segments of neighborhoods that don’t have access to the Metro,” DDOT spokeswoman Monica Hernandez said.

Rides will cost $1 – a cheaper trip compared to Metro fare, which begins at $1.95, or $1.60 with a SmarTrip. The closest streetcar stops to campus would be on K Street and in Georgetown.

While buses are cheaper to implement, the study notes, streetcars could generate less noise with “superior ride quality” than rail lines that accelerate and decelerate quickly.

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