Metro to study streetcar integration

By Luke Rosiak
Thursday, February 10, 2011; 7:24 PM

A $250,000 regional study will examine ways in which the handful of streetcar projects being considered by various jurisdictions can integrate with Metro in a way that is cost-efficient and makes for a fast, integrated metropolitan transportation system, Metro said Thursday.

"Metro is leading the regional coordination effort to ensure that riders can readily use the light rail and streetcar projects when they open, easily move from one system to another, or connect with existing Metrorail and regional bus service. The transit agency is working with project sponsors, including the District of Columbia, Arlington County, Fairfax County, Maryland and other jurisdictional partners," it said.

One difficulty planners have already encountered is how the H Street trolley will connect with Union Station under the Hopscotch Bridge.

But in addition to the already-under-construction District lines, several other light rail systems are under consideration, including one near Columbia Pike and Maryland's Purple Line. Rapidly-urbanizing Tysons Corner, too, has considered a system.

A preservation group recently warned that purchasing decisions should be made with adaptability, uniformity and interoperability in mind, largely out of fiscal prudence.

Transit systems become much more useful when they facilitate multi-modal travel. And with Metro slated to reach capacity in the coming years, and no longer in the business of building rail lines, other systems are necessary--both for getting around the urban core and for expanding transit into far-out suburbs. And to be convenient for users, they should all use a common fare, like SmarTrip.

"Goals include identifying ways to achieve capital cost savings for the region and efficiencies in maintenance and operations through shared design standards for vehicles, track and structures, and traction power, shared maintenance facilities and practices. The study also will encourage flexibility to support future regional network expansion and ensure customer convenience, including uniform signs, common fare collection methods and fare media," a press release on the study said.

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