We now know DDOT’s plans for the Anacostia Streetcar. It will travel from the maintenance facility on South Capitol Street, past Barry Farm to the Anacostia Metro, then continue through downtown Anacostia to Martin Luther King Avenue and Good Hope Road.

Click on a segment or symbol for key. View larger map.

DDOT has deleted the segment south of the maintenance facility to Bolling Air Force Base. As we discussed before, that portion made no sense, running on a forlorn street with a freeway on one side and military installations on the other. Streetcars are best in areas with high ridership and development opportunities; the route to Bolling has neither. The existing bus has few riders; we’re not building on top of the freeway, and the feds have no plans to turn over Bolling to civilian use. There are few streets in DC less suited to a streetcar than South Capitol. Jim Graham said, “I am absolutely convinced that this route is folly.”

Fortunately, under pressure from the Council, DDOT has seen the light. On Friday, DDOT’s Chief Engineer, Kathleen Penney, and Freddie Fuller, the head of the Mass Transit division, testified before Graham about DDOT’s plans. According to Penney, they will very soon send the Council a contract with Fort Meyer Construction Company to spend the currently-budgeted $25 million. That contract, “Contract 1a”, will build the maintenance facility and the segment past Anacostia Metro as far as W Street SE (the blue and green lines on the above map).

Next, DDOT wants to use an additional $10 million (the amount of the reprogramming request) for “Contract 1b” to extend it to Good Hope Road. DDOT is withdrawing their current reprogramming request, and will re-submit once they actually have more specifics of the cost. They are working on the design right now.

Graham spent the rest of the hearing berating Penney and Fuller on the lack of analysis to choose this route. “What directed us to this particular route? We don’t have a ridership analysis, we don’t have a consumer demand analysis that suggests this is the right place to go, we don’t have a retail analysis. None of that is done… so why was this route selected by the Department of Transportation?”

Penney cited economic development in Anacostia as the reasons. She also cited some analysis by OP of the potential of a streetcar here, and promised to send that analysis along. That didn’t entirely mollify Graham, who still wanted answers about why Anacostia, why Bolling in the first place, and why DDOT has gone so long without clear ridership projections.

The other reason, which DDOT officials didn’t voice publicly, was political pressure. At July’s hearing, David Catania took credit for pushing for the first segment to go in Anacostia. While ridership and economic development projections would be great, we also should start building the streetcar. And Graham agrees; at the hearing, he emphasized that he’s “willing to support” the current alignment.

Right or wrong, the Council pushed for a streetcar in Anacostia. DDOT planned one. Now, DDOT has fixed a clear problem with their original alignment. Whether or not it’s the perfect first place for a streetcar, the new alignment is a fine place. Let’s move forward and get it built.

David Alpert is Founder and President of Greater Greater Washington and Executive Director of DC Sustainable Transportation (DCST). He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. Unless otherwise noted, opinions in his GGWash posts are his and not the official views of GGWash or DCST.