Friday, November 18, 2011

the dc streetcar should totally go to silver spring

People Inside The Streetcar (2)
These people are waiting for a streetcar to Silver Spring.

Evan Glass, friend of JUTP/president of the South Silver Spring Neighborhood Association, writes that two MoCo councilmembers want to bring the fabled D.C. streetcar to downtown Silver Spring. Right now, the District plans a line along Georgia Avenue, but only between downtown D.C. and Takoma. From the SSSNA blog:

Montgomery Councilmembers Nancy Floreen and Hans Riemer are urging County Executive Ike Leggett and DC Mayor Vincent Gray to consider extending DC’s Georgia Avenue streetcar all the way to the Silver Spring Metro station, rather than making the Takoma Metro station its final destination (as is currently planned).

The logic of the two at-large councilmembers is straightforward: the Silver Spring terminal connects more people to transit than the Takoma station. Redirecting the streetcars north on Georgia Avenue would also help revitalize the struggling corridor’s small businesses.

“While the terminus of each route is at a Metro Station, Silver Spring is also served by MARC Commuter Rail, as well as 46 bus routes and approximately 120 buses per hour in the peak hour—versus 15 bus routes and approximately 50 buses per hour at Takoma,” the duo wrote in a letter to Gray and Leggett.

This idea makes a tremendous amount of sense. Silver Spring was served by a streetcar line along Georgia Avenue fifty years ago, and a new line would help reconnect it to neighborhoods like Brightwood, Petworth and Columbia Heights that are fairly close but sometimes hard to reach. It would also provide access to South Silver Spring, which right now is kind of a hike from the Metro, and to a redeveloped Walter Reed Hospital, which is being used as justification to get a Georgia Avenue streetcar built sooner.

Georgia Avenue's already a well-traveled corridor: when combined, the 70 and 79 Metrobus routes, which runs along Georgia Avenue, have the highest ridership in the system, with 18,000 riders each weekday. (By comparison, the entire Portland Streetcar system gets about 12,000 riders each weekday.) I doubt that the people riding those buses to reach Silver Spring would willingly take a streetcar to Takoma and switch to something else.

At the same time, bringing the streetcar to Silver Spring would make the DC Streetcar project far more complicated to execute. The District can move quickly on their proposed 37-mile streetcar plan because it's entirely within their jurisdiction. (They're not moving particularly fast, but they could if they wanted to.) Adding Montgomery County and Maryland into the mix, even for the one mile between the county line and the Silver Spring Metro, means that District leaders will have to go through several additional layers of community boards, elected officials and government bureaucracy to get anything done.

All the more reason to get Montgomery County electeds on board. I'm glad Councilmembers Riemer and Floreen are reaching out to Mayor Gray, and I hope County Executive Ike Leggett is cooperative as well.

(I'm especially hopeful that a streetcar along Georgia Avenue would help reposition downtown Silver Spring as "the next hot neighborhood" in D.C. rather than a out-of-the-way suburb. Over the summer, I lived in a Petworth group house that was about halfway between downtown D.C. and downtown Silver Spring, but my roommates acted like Silver Spring was the end of the world.)


Gary said...

Pardon if there's an obvious answer to this ... How will the streetcar get from Georgia to Takoma Metro(in the original plan) and would you use the same route to get it from Takoma Metro back to Georgia (in the proposed extension).

I don't see an obvious good answer for that.

jag2923 said...

My understanding from the letter is that they're proposing the streetcar ends at Silver Spring Station and bypasses Takoma Station altogether. It makes a ton of sense and was my immediate thought when seeing the plans a few years back.

What doesn't make sense is why a couple council members are just now suggesting the idea. It had to have been considered and discussed years ago during the planning phase. Hopefully MoCo doesn't end up delaying the project just by kicking up dust again for no reason. The whole Ga. corridor would rightly hate us.

Isayaah Parker said...

I'm sorry, but Takoma's streets are way too TINY and CONGESTED to begin with, how will the streetcar fit?There is no need to complicate the situation with a streetcar. The streetcar's construction will at least be easier to deal with on a wide street like Georgia avenue. Makes more sense to end it at Silver Spring Station with the brand new Transit Center being built there.

Nick C. said...

I'm assuming the route to the Takoma metro would mean using Cedar St. and Piney Branch. Piney Branch is plenty wide to accommodate a streetcar. It would only be on Cedar for a couple blocks but I think they would have to eliminate on street parking between 4th and 6th but that wouldn't be too bad. I think they should build to both Takoma and Silver Spring but as Montgomery County to pay half the bill of it the extension from Piney Branch to Silver Spring.