News & Politics

I Survived a Ride on the DC Streetcar

While District transportation chief Leif Dormsjo pedals back on his prediction that the way-overdue streetcar line along Benning Road and H Street, Northeast, is “on track to be wrapped up here by the end of the year,” his comments on Monday only extend DC’s long-running drama with the planned trolley.

With every previous incident of a DC official saying when the streetcar will be ready for passenger service proving false, nobody can be quite sure when civilians will get to ride it.

But in March 2014, I did.

While doing some reporting for a streetcar story that hinged on its entering passenger service in mid-2014—so, the article never ran—I went to the District of Department of Transportation’s testing and commissioning site in Anacostia to take a look at the streetcars as they were prepared to run on the H Street tracks. During the visit, I asked if I could take a ride on the car on the test track.

Aside from DDOT employees and other officials with purview over the streetcar, nobody is supposed to be on these things. But considering WRC’s Adam Tuss got to take a ride in June 2013, I figured I could get one, too. While the test track is free of the car traffic that the streetcar will—if it ever opens—travel in, it is long enough for operators to accelerate to its top speed of 30 miles per hour.

I shot some video of the ride on my phone, but at the request of DDOT’s leadership under Mayor Vince Gray‘s administration—and on the assumption the video would be relevant when the since-spiked streetcar story ran—the clips were held. But now that the former DDOT brain trust is long gone and nobody really knows when civilians will get to ride the thing, Washingtonian is sharing the footage of what it’s like to ride the streetcar.

Maybe one day you’ll get to ride as well.

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.