As of Feb. 27 streetcars were back carrying the public in the nation’s capital. The last generation of passengers paid 15 cents for their final ride on Jan. 28, 1962. For the next six months, riders won’t have to pay even that.
Here are answers to a few frequently asked questions.
Where does it go?
It starts behind Union Station, runs down H Street, veers right on Benning Road and ends at the Langston golf course, which was built for black players more than 75 years ago in an era of segregation. The final stop is just across from the outer edge of the RFK stadium parking lot. Someday if a new Redskins (or otherwise named team’s) stadium is built there, as some have long advocated, this whole thing might look prescient.
What do you mean “behind Union Station”?
The officials who control Union Station didn’t want the streetcar to pull in too close to the transit hub, given major redevelopment plans, so the westernmost streetcar stop ended up on the Hopscotch bridge. To get there from Union Station, walk up from the Metro or Amtrak waiting area and then north through the Union Station parking structure toward H Street.
Where are all the stops?
- Behind Union Station/Hopscotch Bridge
- Third and H
- Fifth and H
- Eight and H
- 13th and H
- Benning Road and 15th Street
- Benning Road and 19th Street
- Benning Road and Oklahoma Avenue
How often do they run?
Every 15 minutes, with a goal of getting that down to about 12 at some point.
Is it faster than a bus?
No. Although the District says “modern streetcars operate at average speeds of 25 to 35 mph in mixed traffic on city streets,” Washington’s streetcars aren’t making anywhere near that kind of time. Average speeds are 12 to 15 mph, according to the streetcar’s operations manager.
I plan to responsibly enjoy alcoholic beverages along H Street on Saturday night. How late does it go?
Until 2 a.m.
I’m out of town Saturday. Can I catch a ride Sunday?
No. Streetcars don’t run Sundays. After the city first bought three streetcars from the Czech Republic in 2004, officials left them outside, unprotected, getting battered by the elements. They were so damaged that one is not ready for service now. (Officials said repair parts have made it to customs.) The city later bought three more streetcars made in Portland, Ore. So the six-car fleet will have five cars available Saturday. And generally four cars will run simultaneously, with the fifth rotating in and out being serviced. Fewer cars means more time between each one.
What times do they run?
Monday through Thursday: 6 a.m. to midnight
Friday: 6 a.m. to 2 a.m.
Saturday: 8 a.m. to 2 a.m.
Sunday: No service
Holidays: 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
How much does it cost? Can I use my Smartrip card?
It’s free for at least six months. Smartrip cards likely won’t work, officials said. Payment will eventually be on an honor system, where people buy tickets at a kiosk and ticket-checking enforcers mill about.
Is it safe?
It has been declared so, twice, first by Mayor Vincent Gray’s administration, now by Mayor Muriel Bowser’s administration. After a city safety oversight body balked at letting the system open in 2014, officials spent a year testing it further, making fixes and preparing detailed safety certifications. City safety officials now say its ready to go.
Why do they look like Circulator buses?
Officials wanted the city’s transit network to have a common color scheme, and they went with red and gray.
What things can’t you do on board?
According to the signs, people should not:
- Ride With Dangerous or Flammable Items.
- Ride With Pets (except service animals).
- Eat or Drink.
- Litter or Spit.
Can I push a stroller onto the streetcar? What about a wheelchair?
Yes to both. The streetcars sport a complex hydraulic system meant to allow “level boarding,” meaning that people are supposed to be able to roll right on.