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DC Streetcar hits a milestone

The system cost around $200 million to build and two years of testing before it could finally accept passengers along the 2-mile stretch of track. (WTOP/Sarah Beth Hensley)

WASHINGTON — Monday marks one year since the D.C. Streetcar began accepting passengers on its route through the H Street Corridor.

“It’s doing what we expect it to do, and we are really excited about it,” said Terry Owens, spokesman with the District Department of Transportation.

According to DDOT, service has been expanded on the line to seven days a week in the last year, up from six days at the start of 2016. Owens said ridership also continues to grow, with an average 2,700 people using the system daily.

The system cost around $200 million to build and two years of testing before it could finally accept passengers along the two-mile stretch of track. Right now, riding the streetcar is free, and DDOT doesn’t expect to begin charging riders for at least four years as the system is expanded.

It will be years before money from fares can go toward paying for the operation, but Owens said charging passengers now could lead to decreased ridership.

“We think the system is already paying for itself — it’s provided a new transit option for people in this part of town; it has also spurred economic development along the H Street Corridor,” Owens said.

Joseph Young of Northeast D.C. said he believes the streetcar is one of many projects, which are fueling the transformation of the area.

“People have a need to live near where transportation is accessible, and this even more so, because it is free,” Young said.

Young said his home value has gone up considerably and a lot of the increase has happened over the past few years.

Reaction from riders is mixed, as some have said even though they use the streetcar, it isn’t worth the cost.

“I think the biggest impact is going to be on my wallet in taxes later,” said Veronica Wilson of D.C.

Wilson, who lives along the line, believes more X2 Metro buses along Benning Road and H Street would have had a greater impact on the community.

Owens said more than 860,000 people have used the streetcars in the first year of system.

What’s next for the system? It will be expanded to the Benning Road Metro Station, in a project which will take four years to complete. After that, planners will shift their efforts toward extending the system into Georgetown.


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