Light Rail

Washington, D.C.'s Streetcar Is Delayed Again After an Engineering Report Raises Safety Concerns

Another chapter in the saga of this 2.4-mile rail boondoggle in the nation's capital.


A 2.4-mile streetcar that will run along H Street and Benning Road Northeast in Washington, D.C. has been delayed again, according to the district's top transportation official, and a blistering new report by the American Public Transportation Association has found multiple problems with the project.

As The Washington Post reports:

District officials set a year-end target for opening the line to passengers. The project is now on its fourth mayor, and the public has still not been able to ride.

The industry group, organized by the American Public Transportation Association, listed numerous problems the system has faced, including: poor coordination among, and oversight of, contractors; shortcomings with the system's design; and a variety of safety concerns. City officials have been working to address an initial list of findings for months, and the final report adds new details.

A key finding in the report, for example, is that no one in the District Department of Transportation had clear responsibility for the project.

For more on the D.C. streetcar—and some background on why rail projects almost always turn out this way—watch Reason TV's recent documentary, "The Secret Scam of Streetcars: How to Sell a 100-Year-Old Technology as the Future of Transportation:"

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  1. Shitholes gonna shithole.

  2. I am waiting for the system to connect to the Rosslyn-Georgetown Gondolas.

    1. The amusing aspect of this is that Washington DC had streetcars a long time ago and shut them down. When I was a kid you could still see the old rails in the cobblestones on M Street near Goergetown.

    1. i saw that movie. It was pretty terrible.

      1. Sunshine with Cillian Murphy was quite good

        1. You must live in an alternate universe. I thought it was awful.

    2. Sweet, if NYC summers become bearable again.

      1. I don’t know, if being under or right next to a glacier sounds bearable to you ,you are definitely in the wrong city.

        1. Meh, there haven’t been glaciers here for 14,000 years. I don’t think that’s what they’re predicting.

          1. Also, I wonder if the Eastern Seaboard was cooler when it was settled during the “little ice age” mentioned in the article. I know if I sailed over from England today I would settle in Maine or something over swampass Virginia.

          2. I think there’s still some debate about the timing there. It might have been much more recent than that.

    3. Just in time for the world to have shut down its last reliable power station! SUHWEET! I’ve always wanted to freeze to death in the dark like our ancestors did.

      1. The Nobel savage. Sorry Krugman, I mean noble savage.

        1. How ’bout Nobel peacemaker? Can I get you to go for that? Obo got someone to do so.

  3. It should only run from K street to capitol hill, and then maybe, the white house.. twice a day..

  4. OT: journal of record for large concentration of mammals whines about disgrace of mammal named chairman Pao. Comment mammals refuse to go along… Demonstrate considerable lack of ‘derp’…..ation.html

    1. My god that article is like Salon squared. Nice to see the common people aren’t falling for it.

      1. I dunno if the commenters are really regular NYT readers or reddit sympathizers drawn by the derp.

        1. Not sure, but this comment caught my eye:
          “Ellen Pao’s short tenure at Reddit once again shows that hiring a CEO who hates most of your customers may not be as successful a business strategy as it sounds.”
          As iowahawk tweeted yesterday:
          “Pao: ‘Our customers are revolting!’
          The board: ‘yes, they are!’

          1. in Pao’s defense the Reddit “community” is, in fact, stuffed with witless schmucks

            1. in Pao’s defense the Reddit “community” is, in fact, stuffed with witless schmucks

              And again, I’ve yet to hear why a message board with “user created content” requires a CEO, as opposed to a guy running it in his basement.

              Don’t even get me started on why a site whose entire purpose is to display LOLpics requires a CEO.

    2. New York Times’ Reddit Piece Shows Dangers of Internet Journalism

      …sites can cover up and completely rewrite stories without any informing, correcting major errors without comment or just flat out change the story they’re covering.

      The New York Times is most recently guilty of this as a NewsDiff’s comparison of their story on Ellen Pao’s resignation shows. The original story was written by Mike Isaac who titled it “Ellen Pao Is Stepping Down as Reddit’s Chief” and presented a relatively neutral and information driven piece on the situation as a business technologies writer. That story, though, is not what you’d find if you went to the New York Times now, because nearly all of it was rewritten by David Streitfeld with reporting by Vindu Goel in San Francisco and published on the front page. It is titled “It’s Silicon Valley 2, Ellen Pao 0: Fighter of Sexism Is Out at Reddit”…

      The differences are astounding, as anyone who viewed the original article would return and find it replaced with a wholly other story dealing primarily with sexism around Reddit and how Ellen Pao was a “hero to many.”

      Only 87 words carried over to the new version, and while allowing for a few more in just format changes, that is an incredibly small amount of the 477 words that were in the original article.

      1. They needed extra time to Timesify it – no story shall remain “relatively neutral and information driven”.

    3. She had a good thing going. She’ll never work in a serious position again. WHOOPS.

      1. She’s a poster child for the concept of “falling upwards.” Expect an even better job next time you hear from her.

        1. If you sue your employer, things change.

          1. True, but those are evil VCs. Everyone (who counts) haaaates them. And they are sexists.

            As I said on Friday, there’s a tech opening in Obama administration right now. I think she’d be a great fit.

            1. Pan Zagloba|7.11.15 @ 11:17PM|#
              “True, but those are evil VCs. Everyone (who counts) haaaates them. And they are sexists.”

              Uh, not if you’re looking for alpha-funding, you don’t.
              She’ll end up in some non-profit SJW outfit at a couple hundred K taxpayer money, but no business will get within suing distance again.
              At least in the comments, ‘susan’ pointed out how Ellen had poisoned the well; good going Ellen! Asshole.

  5. 90% of mega projects go over budget.
    90% of mega projects dont finish on schedule.
    90% of mega projects produce less revenue/ridership/etc than projected.

    The odds of a mega project hitting all 3 are tiny. 1 in 1000 if the 3 variables are independent, which they probably arent.

  6. After a long and thoughtful essay on structural racism, John McWhorter offers 4 simple common sense solutions to Black poverty none of which will every be embraced by any liberal or progressive.

    Summarizing his suggestions:

    1) Eliminate the War on Drugs
    2) Teach DI (direct instruction) phonics in public schools (see Project Follow Through for a complete discussion)
    3) Provide free long term birth control for poor women
    4) Encourage job training at community colleges instead of useless 4 year degrees

    This article could be entitled: In Which John McWhorter Whistles Into the Wind

    1. He is a minor hero of mine. Good article.

      1. 60% of the stuff he says is perfect. The rest… meh.

    2. End minimum wage. Get progs to stop telling them they are helpless. Treat them like sentient humans. Just off the top of my head.

      1. Treat blacks like humans?!


        1. Some day, though probably not in my lifetime, the Blacks are going to realize how badly they have been used by the Liberal establishment. When that happens, to borrow a phrase from the late Sir Terry Pratchett, Hell is going to go for a walk with the sleeves rolled up.

    3. “When we called for yet another ‘national discussion on racism’ this is not what we had in mind.”

      1. “Moreover, who ever heard of an *Irish* African-American?”

    4. It’s odd how before birth control was invented there were lower numbers of single mothers, and since its invention that number has skyrocketed. It’s almost as if facts shouldn’t interfere with intentions, or maybe it’s like incentives matter.

        1. It’s also an incorrect comment. The rate of single motherhood in the United States has been showing a steadily increasing trend since the 1940s. As you know, the Pill wasn’t given FDA approval until 1960. Statistics from the CDC show no major jump after the Pill’s introduction, and in fact there is a slight dip from 1970 to 1980. There wasn’t any “skyrocketing” of out of wedlock births until the mid-1990s.

          1. Yeah, I’m sort of aware of that.

            I can’t figure out what this dude is getting at, though, and I’m not sure I care.

            1. Easy access to birth control leads to more promiscuity and hence, accidental pregnancies. That’s the best I can come up with.

          2. The diaphragm was around since the late 30s.

            Anyway, the mere availability of birth control doesn’t mean people are going to use it. We can interpret at least that much from the data.

          3. What graph are you looking at? That link shows single mothers at 5 percent give or take from 1940-1960 before jumping to be around 12% in 1970 and increasing to around 40% today. I’m not saying birth control leads to single mothers, but it most certainly doesn’t reduce it. It has certainly climbed higher post birth control than pre so it’s absurd to suggest it will reduce single mothers.

            My point is simple, the author wants to address poverty, he correctly identifies that much of the problem is that children of single parents are more likely to end up in poverty. Then against all data he prescribes the solution could be more birth control (for free!). I happen to think that welfare probably drove the rate, and confiscating more tax dollars to hand out more goodies that don’t solve the problem won’t work, when the actual cause of subsidizing single motherhood goes on unabated.

          4. I wonder how much of that upward trend can be traced to a higher level of reporting? I know that in the 1940’s many family’s reaction to a unwed pregnancy would have been an in-family informal adoption, and I doubt like hell they would have told any nosey-parkers from the government. The idea that it was any of the government’s damn business probably also grew steadily from the 1940’s onward.

            Not all of the rise is that, certainly. But it seems to me likely that some of it is.

    5. Teach DI (direct instruction) phonics in public schools


      Seriously, decent article. It would be delightful to see it brought up in the debates.

    6. I’ve expressed this sentiment here before, but McWhorter kinda pisses me off. The reason being that I’ll read the first half of any of his work and agree vehemently (End the Drug War? DISTAR? Fuck yeah!), and after that, he’ll drop some bullshit like “provide free long term birth control for poor women”. As if we could plant the Pill in the ground to grow the birth control trees that will provide that “free long term birth control”.

      This even applies to his scholarly work. As an expert in adult second language acquisition, I appreciate his insight into how the (relatively) simplistic features of creoles are reflective of the fact that adults encounter new languages with a less neurolinguistically sophisticated brain than young children do. Then, he’ll pull some shit like he did last year and publish a self-indulgent attack against a strawman version of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. (Not that I’m a committed neo-Whorfian, but work by Levinson in Cog Ling and Bialystock’s work with bilinguals suggest that in certain contexts differences in observed behavior can arise from differences in linguistic conceptualization between individuals with different native languages.)

      1. Re neo-Whorfianism: If tomorrow and yesterday were the same words in your language wouldn’t that affect your mind?

        If you call a dog’s tail a leg, how many legs does a dog have?

        1. Before I answer that…is the dog male?

          1. 😎 Maestro.

        2. THERE . . . ARE . . . FOUR . . . LIGHTSLEGS!

          1. I sometimes forget how much of a nerd I am. Then I read something like this and laugh out loud and I remember!

      2. “Then, he’ll pull some shit like he did last year and publish a self-indulgent attack against a strawman version of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. (Not that I’m a committed neo-Whorfian, but work by Levinson in Cog Ling and Bialystock’s work with bilinguals suggest that in certain contexts differences in observed behavior can arise from differences in linguistic conceptualization between individuals with different native languages.)”

        HM, that might mean something to linguists, but I’m sure I’m not along in saying:
        It’s all Greek to me!

      3. he’ll drop some bullshit like “provide free long term birth control for poor women”

        Yeah, that gave me pause too. And uncomfortably at that.

      4. I got drunk with Ramscar a few times. It caused me to Speak In Tongues. Does that count?

    7. 4 simple common sense solutions


      Children with shaky reading skills are incapable of engaging any other school subject meaningfully

      Are they? That doesn’t seem likely.

    8. “3) Provide free long term birth control for poor women”
      Which requires them to use the birth control methods. I’m not gonna gripe about the cost, just the effect.

      “4) Encourage job training at community colleges instead of useless 4 year degrees”
      As a marital unit, we work to help kids in ‘underserved’ (yeeech!) neighborhoods get jobs or higher education.
      A couple of years ago, we worked with a big-box store (who had every incentive to hire black and brown kids; governmental, PR, etc) and the leaders of a couple of churches in black and brown ‘hoods, who assured use they could identify the kids who would love to have jobs paying well above MW. We were felling pretty cheerful: See? This isn’t so hard!
      One (1) kid showed up at the specified time and he decided he didn’t want to fill out the (1-page) form.
      What is lacking here are incentives; they’re paid so well to do nothing.
      We now sift through many kids in the hopes of finding one who might be helped, but it’s not scalable or even workable; two, three or four well-off folks helping one kid? Yeah we’ve got two or three ‘successes’; yippy skippy!

  7. City planners these days talk about the cities of the 1890-1920s era as being some kind of utopia. They were “pedestrian friendly”, high population density was supposedly supportive of all sorts of social goods (thriving small businesses, dynamic social institutions, blah, blah blah), they had ornate architecture and so on.

    City planners are terrible at history. The cities of this era sucked. You were as likely to die of a horse trampling or get black-lung from pollution as you were to enjoy a walk down the street. Pedestrian-deadly is more like it. The few parts of big cities that survive from this era (the nice, rich, expensive parts) are treated as some type of shrine to “new” urbanism.

    Buses have an image problem because poor people ride them. Buses are like the K-mart of transportation. Streetcars seem nostalgic, so they appeal to the elites and city planners. I say take a page out of Target’s business plan and have Isaac Mizrahi design the bus interiors while trash talking your competitors (namely, sidewalks). Then buses will be cheap-chic again and streetcars will remain in museums.

    1. the K-mart of transportation

      That’s pretty good.

    2. I love stepping in horseshit.

      1. “Road apples”, please.

    3. I say take a page out of Target’s business plan and have Isaac Mizrahi design the bus interiors while trash talking your competitors (namely, sidewalks).

      Or one could do like they do in some other countries and provided different price-tiered buses. Don’t want to ride with the smelly hobo? Fork out 2 dollars more for the VIP Bus.

      1. “Hey, man — got 2 bucks so I can ride the VIP Bus?”

      2. That is brilliant.

        1. The way it worked in Bangkok, at least, was there was the common bus that cost, say 25 cents. Then there was an air-conditioned bus (the common buses only had ceiling fans…which didn’t work) that cost 50 cents. Even between those two there was a noticeable class division. Then there was the VIP bus that cost 75 cents which was air-conditioned, had comfortable seats, and the seating was assigned (so, no standing). Finally, there was this bus

          1. “Highly qualified Devil’s Den escorts trained in the art of mobile satisfaction.”


            1. Unfortunately, Sid, this is what that means.

              1. *Sidd*. Out, Gents.

                1. Well, that is a satisfying mobile.

      3. Price discrimination in PUBLIC transit? SJW Internet would have a meltdown.

        Which is just one of many reasons I’ve always wanted such a thing. I actually use ton of transit and yes, I’d rather pay private company to run the fucking thing without whining, cronyism and robbery than what we have right now. Even if it would cost more.

        1. Don’t you realize that the entire mass transit system is fucking racist!!!!


          It takes bus riders in poor neighborhoods way more time to ride to their jobs that “solo white drivers in cars” (yes that is a real term from the study).

      4. “Or one could do like they do in some other countries and provided different price-tiered buses. Don’t want to ride with the smelly hobo? Fork out 2 dollars more for the VIP Bus.”
        In that country known as the PR of SF, the bus line offering better service at a higher price has been run out of business (I think; at least that was the effort; why should anyone get better service than the rotten Muni provides? Think you’re something special?!).

        1. Muni is uniquely awful. The NYC subways and buses are a miracle of efficiency and comfort in comparison.

          1. I’ll take your word on that. Fortunately, I have not been a victim of the SF Muni system since, uh, ’68 or so, and have no desire to be such in the future.

          2. The people I work with griped when the Beijing MTR raised the base price to ?4. All I could do not to laugh at them for not knowing how good they have it.

            It’s actually pretty good. Crowded as all hell, but that can’t be helped.

    4. The few parts of big cities that survive from this era (the nice, rich, expensive parts) are treated as some type of shrine to “new” urbanism.

      I choose to live in such an area (a non-trendy part of Brooklyn) – it is neither rich nor expensive, nor any sort of “shrine”. It’s certainly true that most Americans prefer the opposite of my neighborhood, but the fact that NYC is more populous than ever tells me there is still ample demand for all the benefits you belittle.

      1. There certainly is – but, at the same time, nobody is talking about *forcing* you into a driving-only suburb.

        While urban planers keep forcing the issue of ‘walkable’ urban living, to the point that transportation supervisors are buying into the idea of *deliberately not building/maintaining roads in order to increase congestion in order to make those types of developments more attractive to people.

        1. Lately on the radio I’ve been hearing “public service announcements” — you know, the kind from your friends at the “Ad Council”, which are usually something like “don’t smoke” or “help orphans” — doing big plugs for “urban, walkable living”. They say “wouldn’t it be wonderful to live somewhere where you could walk from your home to your job, shopping and entertainment? Where you wouldn’t need a car? Call your elected representatives and tell them YOU want walkable communities!”

          Yes, urban planners think everywhere can be like the best neighborhoods of Manhattan and Brooklyn. Yet I think most people still (at least eventually) want the ‘American Dream’ of a house and a backyard, which is a big no-no in high-density ‘walkable communities’. Yes, it’s great that a lot of people want to live in the city, mostly when you are young and it’s a great experience — but once you are married and have kids, for many of us it’s nice to have space, a driveway, and some privacy. Isn’t it great we can have choices? What’s perfect for you and me may be different, and that’s fine.

          But the urban planners have teamed up with developers, who can make a lot more scratch building 100 units on two acres instead of four houses, to try and convince us all that we want to live in only one way.

          Fine, they can do what they want, and we can all decide for ourselves. But why give them free government-mandated advertising??

        2. This can’t be said enough.

          It would be one thing if there were cities, and then there were suburbs and the choice where people lived was purely organic.

          But planners keep pushing “density, density, density” through restrictive policies, and the fact of the matter is, not everyone wants density.

          1. It would help if the schools didn’t suck. Living in the city is great when you’re younger, but once you’re looking at the local school districts, it’s time to check out of the city and move out to the suburbs.

    5. That’s the only way they could believe streetcars are any good now. They’d have to believe everybody was nuts to have ripped out those streetcar lines, which were everywhere. As if it weren’t obvious at a glance that streetcars are in all respects inferior to buses, they would have to believe there was some grand delusion that took hold everywhere. Or that they were all evil.

      1. good point

      2. Streetcars made sense in the urban living of old, when people essentially lived their entire lives within an area that stretched a few city blocks– especially where hills were present *san francisco*seattle*cough*.

        A line that went from one end of a major avenue, stopped, then headed back to the other end of the avenue throughout the day made sense. It was a quick, easy form of transportation when people had to do their grocery shopping and daily business when walking was difficult and a ‘handsome’ was relatively expensive.

        Light rail and subway systems can make sense in certain contexts– as you won’t hear much griping from me about Seattle’s light rail system. A system which is only about a 3rd of what it was supposed to be at a significantly higher cost than what it was sold to the public.

        I rode it today, it was fairly crowded and was quite useful. But unlike a stupid streetcar, it covers a much wider geographic range.

        1. Interurbans (longer distance streetcars) were all about enabling what now would be call sprawl by allowing people to live further out of a city’s core.

          1. Yes, as were trains and subways. People could finally live further away and effectively get to the city for work or other services.

  8. weev on Ellen Pao and Carol Bartz:

    Carol Bartz got fucked over by Yahoo’s board and made a scapegoat. In the history of female tech executives, she is the only one that could have played the sexism card and she didn’t, probably to avoid being in the company of women like Ellen Pao. Carol Bartz is all class, and a typical example of the great American ingenuity that is rapidly fading from the world.

    Ellen Pao is a degenerate, plain and simple. She is a typical example of why my former country is becoming an endless sewer. She is a fraud just like her husband, who stole a nine figure amount from the pensions of firefighters. They both belong in cages, like the zoo animals they are.

    1. Interesting post.

      She, hilariously, once linked to a message in her private inbox in a public subreddit. Imagine someone so dumb that they post a link to their Gmail inbox on their Facebook wall. Pao was that person.

      That is amazingly stupid.

  9. If you could get around safely and quickly in a small, comfortable, private conveyance, not having to stop for transfers, or to pick up and drop off other passengers, and if you could go directly from A to B without getting stuck in traffic, having to wait for traffic signals or trains to cross, etc., you’d probably pick that mode of transport, hands down over anything else. The personal automobile most closely fits that ideal, except that it would be nice to have a chauffeur, and cars DO get stuck in traffic, wait for signals, trains, etc. They also have accidents, on their own or involving other cars. You have to pay to own and maintain a car, and you have to spend time and, often, money to park it. Cars have a downside, but their cost-benefit ratio tends to be more favorable than buses, trains, light-rail and street-cars, gondolas, etc. What we need is a mode of transportation that combines the most desirable aspects of automobiles while minimizing or eliminating the downside. There is such a mode. It is called Personal Rapid Transit, and modern examples of it are currently delighting riders at Heathrow Airport in London UK, in Masdar City, near Abu Dhabi, and in Suncheon Bay, South Korea. More systems (using slightly different approaches from different vendors) are under consideration in other places around the world. We would do ourselves a favor to take a close, careful look at this alternative.

    1. Does it allow me to work at home on the computer making $8,434 a month?

      1. Are you really a Nigerian prince?

    2. Link, please?

      1. I think he’s talking about some local boys here in Minnesoda who were claiming to have the answer.

        However, they could never scam enough politicians to build a real installation and the company is having problems.…..r-moribund

    3. Gondolas, yes! Dig canals where the streets are now! Dig some where there are bldgs. now, too!! Locks! Inclined planes! Elevated aqueducts! After all, the Morris Canal, expensive though it was, was a technologic marvel, so that technology woud be boffo now!!!

    4. I just googled it and it looks utterly stupid. It takes the inefficiencies of automobiles and combines it with the inefficiencies of streetcars/subways. The worst of both worlds.

    1. “To summarize, given that Greece has chosen to use a non-market economic model, its done amazingly well.”
      There are many Greeks who would not agree to the claim.
      Yes, the Greeks have succeeded in sucking wealth from the remainder of the EU, but that’s sort of special pleading.The USSR ‘did well’ for years until the butcher’s bill was due.

  10. How to Sell a 100-Year-Old Technology as the Future of Transportation

    Who exactly is trying to claim that streetcars are the “future of transportation?” Not the tiny number of municipalities actually working on these oddball projects. They’re a small-scale, niche response to a localized transportation problem, not a nationwide trend. I won’t lose any sleep over DC’s headaches.

  11. All sorts of dummies here in Milwaukee. It is imperative that we keep up with Shelbyville.

    Slightly off-topic: Did Reason hire The Riddler to host that video segment? If so, that’s pretty cool.

    1. I was thinking this guy.

  12. Okay, what exactly was wrong with adding a busline along that 2.4 mile stretch instead? Could have been implemented relatively quickly, no infrastructure requirements (other than maybe benches and signs), and it could be rerouted when the route is no longer popular.

    SF is doing something similar: adding a metro subway line of 1.7 miles that’s costing $250M, that won’t open until at least 2019. The only benefits it seems to have is cutting the commute time between the SF BART and Caltrain stations by a few minutes (which is only useful if for some reason you don’t want to go to the shared BART/Caltrain stations further south) and giving Chinatown a subway stop (an area already pretty well-served by existing public transportation).

    1. Oops, the SF project is actually $1.7B…

  13. Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link, go? to tech tab for work detail,,,,,,,

    1. Has anyone actually ever gone to the link?

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