The Works

Two U.S. Streetcar Lines Celebrate Milestones

The last track weld at 2nd and Main streets for Cincinnati’s new streetcar line (Credit: City of Cincinnati)

Our weekly “New Starts” roundup of new and newsworthy transportation projects worldwide.

Streetcar Projects Inch Closer to the Finish Line in Cincinnati, Kansas City
In we’ve-been-waiting-for-this news, officials in both Cincinnati and Kansas City are marking milestones in the progress of their modern streetcar starter lines.

In Cincinnati, the last segment of rail for the line from downtown to the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood was welded into place Friday, marking the completion of construction on time and within budget, according to a story in the Cincinnati Business Courier. Believe in Cincinnati, the citizens’ group that organized to keep the streetcar from being canceled in 2014, held a news conference to mark the occasion, but city officials said they would wait until the first streetcars arrived next month before celebrating.

Meanwhile, in Kansas City, KCUR reports that the Kansas City Streetcar Authority’s storage and maintenance facility, E. Crichton “Kite” Singleton Yard, is 95 percent complete and that power to the streetcar line’s overhead wires will be turned on this week. Hiring of the yard’s 20 maintenance workers will begin in November as the power supply is tested to make sure it is ready when the city’s first cars arrive later this month.

Both cities ordered streetcars from Spanish car builder CAF. The cars were to have been delivered to both cities by now, but production issues have delayed shipment; Kansas City has fined CAF USA for the delays in shipping its cars.

Both lines are, or were to have been, initial phases of longer streetcar lines. Voters in Kansas City rejected a measure that would have expanded the streetcar taxing district over the summer. In Cincinnati, streetcar advocates are urging the city to move forward with “Phase 1b” of the starter line, which would extend the line farther uptown to the University of Cincinnati, but Mayor John Cranley prefers a wait-and-see approach that would hold off on planning the extension until the initial segment has met or surpassed expectations for ridership and development.

(Photo by Elgaard)

Casablanca Starts Work on Second Tram Line
The first modern tramway line in Morocco’s largest city has proven popular, with ridership rising 30 percent since its 2012 opening. A planned expansion of the tramway is finally underway, the Railly News reports.

According to the report, work has begun on two projects: a 2-km (1.2-mile) extension of the existing Line 1 from its current eastern end at Sidi Moumen to the Laymoun, Florida and Lissasfa districts, and a brand-new Line 2, which when complete will run from Ain Diab Beach, the current western end of Line 1’s northern branch, to Ain Sebaa railroad station in the eastern part of the city. Of this 22-km (13.6-mile) route, 15 km (9.3 miles) will be new construction; the rest of Line 2 will follow the Line 1 northern branch. Line 2 will run through districts to the south of the city center. The line is scheduled to enter service in 2018.

Together, the two projects have a price tag of 3.7 billion dirhams ($370 million U.S.)

Global Rail News reports that operator Casa Transport has turned to the usual suspect for its second batch of streetcars, ordering 50 more Citadis trams from French manufacturer Alstom to provide service on the new extensions at a cost of €100 million ($113.2 million U.S.) The trams will be similar in appearance to those now working Line 1.

D.C. Streetcar Will Definitely Be Running by Year’s End (Maybe)
Here’s what we know about the troubled H Street modern streetcar line in Washington, thanks to a recent story in the Washington Post: It will be free to ride for an initial period; how long that period will last is up in the air right now. After the free period ends, the fare will probably be the same as the successful DC Circulator buses the District of Columbia Department of Transportation runs: $1. Fares will be collected on a “proof of payment” basis, where roving inspectors check passengers to see that they have valid tickets. Cars will run every 15 minutes, a figure DDOT hopes to get down to every 12 minutes eventually. And it will definitely be picking up riders by the end of the year.

That is, assuming all the safety testing I’s have been dotted and T’s crossed.

DDOT Director Leif A. Dormsjo told the Post, “I think we are on track to be wrapped up here by the end of the year. There’s been a lot of improvement. . . . But at the end of the day, the only thing that counts is getting the system open safely and responsibly, and that’s really our guiding mission right now.”

The streetcars are currently in test runs to meet the requirements set by the State Safety Oversight Office, an agency created by the Federal Transit Administration. Once the safety office signs off on the cars’ operation after three weeks of “pre-revenue service,” in which the cars simulate regular operation but without passengers, then the line can open for service along H Street and Benning Road NE.

Exactly when that will take place has yet to be determined, and Dormsjo wasn’t willing to set a hard and fast date. But he did make it clear that the end of the year is his goal. “I can’t really account for all the false starts from before. I’m just concentrating on getting the job done here,” he said.

Know of a project that should be featured in this column? Send a Tweet with links to @MarketStEl using the hastag #newstarts.

The Works is made possible with the support of the Surdna Foundation.

Next City contributor Sandy Smith is the home and real estate editor at Philadelphia magazine. Over the years, his work has appeared in Hidden City Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Inquirer and other local and regional publications. His interest in cities stretches back to his youth in Kansas City, and his career in journalism and media relations extends back that far as well.

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Tags: streetcars