We interviewed candidates for DC mayor and competitive council races for the April 1 primary, and recorded the conversations on video. We will be posting the videos for each subject area and each race over a few weeks. Here are the discussions about housing with candidates for Ward 6 on the DC Council. See all of the segments here.
DC’s Ward 6 has a lot of transportation options, from Metro to buses to Capital Bikeshare to walking and much more, and soon will get another: a streetcar on H Street. What do the candidates for DC Council think about the streetcar and other ways to improve transit?
Both Darrel Thompson and Charles Allen said the streetcar project has been delayed too many times. “It’s moving; it’s not moving fast enough, some could certainly argue,” said Thompson. “I remember in 2007 when the streetcar was promised to be running in 2010,” said Allen. “Then it was 2011, then 2012, then promised in 2013, and now here we are in 2014.” But Allen was bullish on the streetcar’s promise, especially if and when it connects beyond H Street and Benning Road.
It’s going to be up and running. It will be. And I think it’s going to be great for H Street. What I want to do is work to make sure that H Street line isn’t just a novelty, isn’t just a track that runs up and down the block and is a fun ride but doesn’t create the transit connection that you need. ...
I’ve got to keep an eye on how do we expand that line down Benning Road and into Ward 7. The streetcar works when it connects neighborhoods. So we’ve got to have that line that connects east and into Ward 7. We’ve also got to get it over the bridge and into downtown.
This is the first line and it’s going to be the one that everyone is watching. But to the extent it’s a novelty ride, I think we do a detriment to all the good work and the hard work that’s gone into protecting and supporting our streetcar system.
Allen also spoke about the importance of a north-south connection from Southwest to downtown and Shaw and north through the rest of the city.
Darrel Thompson, meanwhile, spoke positively about the streetcar but also with some trepidation. “It’s a good idea,” he said, but, “We want to make sure it doesn’t impede traffic flow. We’ve got to work out some of the kinks. We’ve got to make sure that some of the parking challenges that folks have are met. ... So I think it’s a great idea, and we’ll work out some of the kinks and make sure it works smoothly, and then we can expand to other parts of the city.”
What about a dedicated lane? “It’d be great if we could open up 4 more lanes for more streetcars,” Thompson said, jokingly. “We’ve got limited resources… and the challenge is making sure we accommodate as many people as possible as best we possibly can.”
Earlier, when we talked about dedicated bus lanes and cycletracks, Thompson said he thinks DC should “look at every option out there and build it where it’s feasible,” but that we “also have to remember that some people still need to be able to drive and park.” He does favor “maximizing the existing infrastructure we have, and if that means isolating a lane for bus traffic, that’s a good thing.”
Allen, meanwhile, does want to see both streetcar and bus dedicated lanes. “I don’t view streetcar or bus rapid transit as mutually exclusive,” he said. “On H Street, the concern that we’ve got is that we’re running the streetcar right though traffic. ... As we plan for the streetcar moving forward, I think we would like to to look for how you have a dedicated lane, a dedicated space, for so that it is a quick & reliable mode of transportation.”
In addition to lanes, Allen cited limited-stop services like the X9 on H and Benning which help people move much more quickly along a corridor.
Watch the full transportation exchanges below to get the fullest understanding of the candidates’ thoughts, including on bicycling and how councilmembers should and should not respond to resident opposition to projects (such as the once-controversial Lincoln Park Capital Bikeshare station).