By C.N. Staff Writer
On Saturday, January 25 the DC Streetcar kicked off a two-day exhibit at the DC Transit Days events at the National Capital Trolley Museum.
The DC Transit Days event has been held annually for the past nine years and this year the DC Streetcar team held its exhibit. During the event museum visitors were able to look at the District’s streetcar project and walk away with branded items like key chains, highlighter pens, system maps and more. Many of the attendees had family members who had ridden the original streetcars in the District and were excited to learn more about the new system. Visitors were able to take rides on two historic trolleys hourly throughout the event.
One of the historic trolley cars had been built in 1951 and was formerly in operation in Toronto, Canada. The other trolley, marked “DC Transit,” was built in 1937 and a current DC Streetcar operator, Ms. Antoinette Williams was allowed to take it for a run. Ms. Williams said, “This is a great opportunity to reach back into history and see how the former cars operated.” She also noted that she wished former streetcar operators were present to see the streetcars of 2014. “History often repeats itself and this is a perfect example of an old transportation system coming back to life and providing residents with alternative modes to travel,” said Williams.
Event coordinator and museum curator, Eric Madison gave a presentation entitled, H Street: Retrospective and Prospective,” which highlighted the historic streetcar and the community it served from the 1930’s until the streetcar was taken out of commission in 1962. During his presentation, he spoke about how the streetcar positively affected development along the line. He showed the parallel between new businesses and residents moving into the area because of the streetcar and the decline of the corridor after the streetcar left. He also spoke about the difference between the current line and the old line that existed East of the Anacostia River. Currently on H Street the streetcar line begins on the curve lane and back in the 1930’s the streetcar had a dedicated track.
According to Madison, the decline of the streetcar began in the 1960s, once streets became more populated with cars. Streetcar went away in the 1960s because residents began buying more cars and the maintenance of the streetcar became costly to the city.
Participants who came to the exhibit shared their reasons for attending. Robert Nile attended the event and he and his family currently live in Virginia. However he says that he recently bought property along the H Street/Benning Road line because of the streetcar. “I am lucky to have gotten in before the streetcar comes and the property skyrockets!” said Nile. He says that he wants to be along the corridor because he believes that it will make transportation easier for him and his family.
Ron Garaffa is the Deputy Director for Construction and Engineering for the DC Streetcar team and gave a presentation on how the new streetcar will return to the H Street NE corridor. His presentation focused on the construction overview and how the current neighborhoods would be impacted. He also announced that the passenger service would begin once the State Safety Oversight Association certifies the system as safe and the District is cleared to provide passenger service on its streetcars. The streetcars will be able to accommodate 150 people and will not exceed a speed of 30mph.