Day One: Commuting on the D.C. streetcar

WASHINGTON — The Washington area’s newest option for commuters made an unobtrusive debut Monday morning.

The new D.C. Streetcar runs along H Street NE behind Union Station to Benning Road at Oklahoma Avenue, overlooking the Langston Golf Course and the parking lot of RFK Stadium. After its official opening Saturday, Monday was the streetcar’s first attempt to seamlessly blend in with cars.

For the time being, passengers ride for free.

In the past, Mikaela Palelis used to walk a mile from Union Station to her job in a veterinary office.

“It’s either walk 15-20 minutes, or wait for a bus and pay a dollar. The fact that it’s free — I’ll use it every day,” she said.

Most passengers weren’t able to commute solely on the streetcar, but will use it to substitute for a previous walk, bus or Metro leg.

While riders were impressed by the new equipment, not all of them felt the streetcar is the most cost-efficient method of improving transit options, since it focuses on neighborhoods already in the midst of gentrification.

“There’s been a lot of changes over the years on H Street, as well as throughout most of Washington,” said Patricia Stocks, a Capitol Hill resident.

Stocks and a neighbor, riding the streetcar for the first time, question whether enough Washingtonians will benefit from the service, or whether the benefits will only be felt by those wealthy enough to move into a gentrifying neighborhood.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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