Transportation Policy

Washington, D.C.'s New Streetcar is Finally—Allegedly—Set to Open

A project that "was ill-planned, ill-thought-out, ill-engineered, ill-everything."


D.C. Streetcar |||

Washington, D.C.'s new streetcar will finally—allegedly—open for service on February 27. After years of cost overruns, missed deadlines, and project mismanagement, the 2.2 mile-line is finally set to begin carrying passengers up and down H Street. But to save on operating costs, it'll have fairly limited service, running just six days a week and once every 15 minutes.

The building of the D.C. streetcar has been a long drawn out saga, and an embarrassment for the District Department of Transportation. The project missed its initial opening date by more than three years, and its total cost has soared, surpassing the $200 million mark. Recently deceased former Mayor Marion Barry put it best in 2014: The streetcar "was ill-planned, ill-thought-out, ill-engineered, ill-everything."

If D.C. officials knew more about the long history of streetcars in the city, perhaps they never would have attempted such a project. When the last streetcar stopped running in D.C. in 1962, an editorial in The Washington Post summed up the general mood: "There's not a single redeeming thing that can be said about streetcars…"

Local historian John DeFerrari has a new book out recounting that history, which is titled Capital Streetcars: Early Mass Transit in Washington, D.C. I sat down with him recently to discuss:

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  1. They’re running a train on taxpayers.

    1. Just wait. Once they start running high speed trains on te taxpayers, my going long on lube is gonna pay off like you wouldn’t believe.

      1. Going long on lube!

        1. *steps up to the plate, sees one hanging right over the center*

          You know who else?…

          1. John D. Rockefeller?

  2. At $91M USD per mile, I’d call it a streetcar named largesse.

      1. $1,500 per inch! (Anthony Weiner is jealous, jealous, jealous.)

  3. At a cost of over $200 million they could have just made every citizen in the US an almost millionaire.

    1. So they could have given every person in the district over $300. Every federal taxpayer (assuming 60% of adults) could have gotten a little over $1000 each.

      Or they could have pissed it away on this boondoggle.

      1. This is how every public expenditure should be explained to the voters. “Instead of building you X project, we could have given every responsible taxpayer $X.”

        1. I have a great way to sell small government to the taker class: take every boondoggle and say “we can either build x or give every responsible taxpayer the money back in inverse proportion to the taxes they pay.

          See, that way nobody can say they’re giving it all to the rich. Nobody can say it’s taking advantage of the middle class or working poor. And it gives people an incentive to actually file taxes. As an added bonus, you can replace the existing welfare system with it.

          The government would be less than half its current size in two years.

          1. So, your solution is blatant wealth redistribution?

            1. Yep. In the short run. After five years they’ll bring in so little in taxes they all but stop proposing projects of any cost at all.

              It’s not perfect, but it would dramatically curtail spending.

              1. I’ve been drinking.

                1. Who hasnt?

                  1. I just started. Some of us work on Saturday. Stop othering me

                  2. I said it as a joke but think about it. We aren’t ever going to stop the beast with earnest debate. The only way it ends is for the system to bankrupt itself, which brings so much inflation and class warfare that it causes serious conflict and probably bloodshed. Or we can let the takers do our work for us and vote themselves freebies in the short run and make it so pols don’t bother proposing spending on projects that will never met them any more gravitas with their local voters and perpetuate wasteful projects.

                    Also, it would only apply to real taxpayers. And welfare would disappear, which are nothing but wealth distribution coupled with huge government departments overseeing them anyway.

                2. I’ve been drinking.

                  So, you’re sloppyinTEXAS?

                  … Hobbit

          2. Federal, state, and local governments spend $6-8T a year. Call it $7T, call the population 350M, and that’s a nice round $20K per person every single year, $60K per family.

      2. Uh, 200 million divided by 100 million taxpayers is 2$ per person.

        1. This was a city project.

  4. I thought the purpose and appeal of the street car was to look like a street car?

  5. That thing needs a theme song.

    1. Dinosaur Train?

  6. “the 2.2 mile-line….once every 15 minutes”

    This has got to be a joke. I’ll just get some sleep, and surely the world will be just a little bit more sane in the morning. Surely….

    1. The world will still be fucked up tomorrow.

      And stop calling me Shirley.

      1. When do we just fucking give up? When do we let them suffer what they’ve wrought? I’m close, man. Real close to giving up completely.

        1. Now you’re getting it.

    2. You could just about walk 2.2 miles in 15 minutes.

  7. It comes pre-wrapped in police tape. Very convenient!

  8. Cha-ching ching ching goes the folly!

  9. Jesus $200 million for 2.2 miles? That level of graft is truly awe inspiring.
    Street cars are the stupidest way to spend public transportation dollars.
    Also, what’s with the new ads, Reason? I don’t see enough fat butts in real life, you gotta have ’em all over my screen, too?

    1. I’m pretty sure the ads are based on your browser history on whatever device you’re using.

      1. Hmm…. So I should stop googling “phat asses”?

        1. I wouldn’t go that far.

        2. No seriously, one time I searched Amazon for one of those bracelets that keeps track of your miles, heart rate, etc. That was like 6 months ago. And all the ads are pictures of large behinds with captions like “Denver moms learn this one weird trick to lose 20 lbs”

          1. Damn that was stupid. I just searched “phat asses” to assert what would show up. Guess I shoulda opened an “in private” tab… Wonder how my ads will change…

          2. I still get banner ads for a company I interviewed at 2 months ago. It does have the effect of making me happy I didn’t get the job

      2. About four years ago, I took a five minute look at a kayak site. I have zero interest in kayaks and was looking at it through the eyes of part-time web developer.

        Four years later, I’m still getting kayak ads wherever I go.

        I wonder if there’s a reliable way to figure out overbought rare keywords like this.

        1. I mean, if you’re gonna be stuck with something, kayaking doesn’t seem so bad.

    1. That’s all I can take! The 22nd Amendment has got to go!

      1. It won’t be long now…

        1. Wait till Hillary is indicted to worry.

          1. So don’t ever worry?

            1. The State Dept is starting to directly attack the FBI and other agencies on this. You don’t think it’s likely they’re tiring of the “they wouldn’t dare indict her” bullshit?

              You’re dreaming. It’s coming. I know because Biden has been in the news making a lot of statements lately. Like more than he’s made in the previous six and a half years put together.

    2. The fucking comments on that article gave me cancer, fibromyalgia, and schizophrenia.

      1. Funny, according to the White House Press Office, they cured AIDS and stopped global warming for a moment.

    3. That’s a great song. The music video should definitely be updated with a few clips of Obama on the campaign trail.

      1. It’s actually aged quite well.

        I suppose it doesn’t hurt that it’s more appropriate with every passing year.

  10. Yay, white people don’t have to take the bus!

    1. Ok, Irish.

      1. He’s sneaky that one.

  11. So,how many dollars per feet is that? I ask because I’m drinking and don’t want to do math.

    1. $41,666 per foot approximately. Damn. On existing rights of way too.


      1. Look man. it’s only to 2 3/4 million per furlong.

  12. If D.C. officials knew more about the long history of streetcars in the city, perhaps they never would have attempted such a project.

    You mean if I had potential hang-glider a rhinoceros tennis shoe, my lefthand papercut fracture might blue whisker saddlehorn? What the hell do you mean? They just got the taxpayers to cough up $200 million for a giant turd that doubtlessly provided tons of opportunity for graft and corruption and kickbacks and payoffs plus a nice bonus for the unions and the connected contractors – and you think the long history of multi-million dollar boondoggles is somehow supposed to get them to stop supporting multi-million dollar boondoggles? Do you also think you could stop them from doing this sort of shit if you threatened to give them free hookers and blow and trips to Las Vegas?

    1. Now who can argue with that? I think we’re all indebted to Jerryskids for clearly stating what needed to be said. I’m particulary glad that these lovely children were here today to hear that speech. Not only was it authentic frontier gibberish, it expressed a courage little seen in this day and age.

    2. Do you also think you could stop them from doing this sort of shit if you threatened to give them free hookers and blow and trips to Las Vegas?

      I’d like to sign up for this program, please. I promise, in exchange for hosts, blow, and trips to Vegas, I will not build any streetcars. Not a single one, I swear.

  13. Kansas City just put in a 2.2 mile at $120 must have used a groupon.

  14. Whoops I meant 102 million

  15. I wonder how many years of free Uber rides can be given for $200 million?

    I remember doing a calculation of the number of years of free LA-SF flights for the cost of the high-speed rail. If I remember correctly, it was like 3 million passengers per year do the LA-SF route. A rough calculation gives $68 billion / [(3 million passengers / year) * ($100 per round trip ticket)] = 227 years.

    1. Hey, those people in the Central Valley need to be considered too.

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