DC Streetcar Finally Opens 

On a chilly morning on February 27th, I arrived at a volunteer check-in building to be a part of this historic event. After a brief bit of doing some advertising work related to a raffle at 9AM, it was time to go to the opening ceremony!

You might have seen the streetcars going by when you are riding the Gallaudet Shuttle buses to or from Union Station, but they have always been empty except for the drivers. Passengers were not allowed to ride in the streetcars – until today!

At 13th and H street, people crowded on a small corner in a way that reminded me of the H Street Festival last September, when 10 blocks along H Street were closed to vehicles and people flocked to the streets. This time, it was on a much smaller scale; there was no shutdown of the H Street but instead the shutdown of a small block. Hundreds of people crowded the street to see DC officials and the mayor Muriel Bowser speak about the exciting launch of the streetcars.

Streetcars in DC are not new! They used to be on the street before the metro opened in 1976 until they stopped service in 1962 due to the rising popularity of automobiles and pressure to switch to buses. About 10 years ago, the Department of Transportation finally announced a revival of the streetcar, but it hit a series of delays and issues. It was supposed to open two years ago, but fire safety issues came up and the project screeched to a halt. Mayor Muriel Bowser, after taking office, then announced that the streetcar would operate by the end of 2015. Then it hit another snag! Fire department and emergency officials halted the streetcar operations due to safety concerns (again). This time, after going through countless safety tests and making sure it was safe to operate, it finally got green lighted!

Around 10:30am the mayor cheered as she stepped into the streetcar for its first official ride on H Street. The streetcar was packed with officials, and the public waved to them as the streetcar moved towards Union Station. Then it was the public’s turn to ride on it. There were a lot of different age groups in the crowds; on top of young people, some others were around when the streetcars operated in the 1940’s and remembered riding with their grandparents. It was a historic moment.

The lines intimidated me at first. Remember, there were hundreds of people who showed up specifically for the event. The lines were long, and I thought that I would have to wait hours to get my ride, but I was wrong! It moved very quickly and in about a half-hour I was able to board the streetcar. The streetcars can hold up to 150 people, so that is plenty of room. The ride was an interesting one. It was a little faster than the X2 bus on H street and moved at a smooth pace. Then it ascended up to Union Station, where it stopped. I rode it one more time towards H Street and 8th. I enjoyed the ride- it was a nice view.

Best of all? The streetcar fare is free for the next 6 months! I highly recommend you grab a chance to relax on the streetcar.  Hop on and enjoy the ride!

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