Tuesday, August 28, 2007

"Purple Line" Compromise: Retro Cool

Maybe those opposed to the operation of a train line along the Capital Crescent trail route might be more open to an option that provided the area with a certain ambiance in addition to an alternative mode of transportation.

Instead of using modern streetcars like the ones for the proposed new D.C. streetcar system or ugly light rail cars, perhaps they could acquire a fleet of restored Art Deco streamlined PCC streetcars, which would give the route a bit of character. This might assuage some of the the reluctance of neighbors who oppose the usage of the CCT for mass transit. Maybe the uniqueness of the "retro" streetcars might even help increase the desirability of property in this area. There are certainly plenty of orphaned PCC cars out there awaiting restoration and a new home.

There are a number of municipalities in the U.S. that still utilize old PCC cars, most notably San Francisco’s F Market Line, but also segments of the Philadelphia, Dallas, and Kenosha, Wisconsin transit systems. (The San Francisco line even operates a car painted in the old D.C. Transit color scheme.)

The Silver Spring - Bethesda line could utilize an underground conduit system rather than overhead lines, like part of the D.C. system was required to do years ago. This would eliminate the need for new poles and lines that might damage the aesthetics of the trail.

You can see (and ride) restored PCC cars at the National Capital Trolley Museum, which is technically located in Silver Spring. There's also a PCC sitting out in front of the entrance to Glen Echo Park.

However, in no way do I condone the painting of any streetcars in D.C. Transit's awful hues. Perhaps a tasteful color scheme could be created using the colors of Montgomery county's flag.

I, of course, see no flaws in this plan, but I'm sure that I will be made aware of plenty of them in due time. I mean, come on, what proper MoCo lefty wouldn't want their neighborhood to be more like San Francisco??


As a commenter pointed out, PCC cars did not originally come equipped with air conditioning, making them impractical for the type of usage I proposed. However, it is possible to add this feature, as shown in these photos of Philadelphia PCCs that have been retrofitted with AC units.


Anonymous said...

I love the idea - talk about going "green", recycling of old cars is a great idea. Something tells me they'd have a better track record than Metro does these days with all those fires they keep having!

Dan Reed said...

What kind of cars the Purple Line will use is an important discussion - though it's also necessary to consider what happens east of Silver Spring as well. How fast are these trolleys? The MTA already says it'll take an hour to go from Bethesda to New Carrollton.

And - ahem - the National Capital Trolley Museum is located in Colesville, but I say that's as much Silver Spring as Downtown. Talk about where the "real Silver Spring" is makes those of us Up The Pike feel left out =(

Sligo said...

I don't know about New Carrollton. but as far as I'm concerned, just skip that part. Bethesda to Silver Spring and connecting the two sides of the Red Line is what interests me. The (potential) right-of-way is already there, so it's a lot easier to envision.

And the Trolley Museum is more "Up the (Georgia) Avenue" than "Up the Pike".

Sligo said...

Here are the stats for the PCC streetcar.

Type: Single-end Double-truck Closed
Length: 46'
Width: 8'6"
Propulsion: Electric
Capacity: 44 seats
Heating: Electric
Minimum Radius: 36'
Gradeability: 10%
Top Speed: 45 mph
Accessibility: Front and Center
Body Style: Art Deco
Cost Range: $200-400,000

Not Anonymous said...

Oh yeah... well you can't prove that a purple line will cut down traffic & you can't prove that people won't get run over by trains and blah, blah, blah... and I'm a loser who can't come up with usernames... and blah, blah, blah... and we're not NIMBYs blah, blah, blah...

WashingtonGardener said...

>>And the Trolley Museum is more "Up the (Georgia) Avenue" than "Up the Pike".<<
Wasn't George Ave originally named the Brookville Pike, Seventh Street Pike, and the Union Turnpike at various periods in time? I feel it is smarter to be inclusive than to alienate our alleys and neighbors.
Although, like many, I feel the "Silver Spring" name should be used for the inside the beltway area only and the rest of the current vast "Silver Spring" re-apportioned under local USPS service area (i.e. Wheaton) or neighborhood (i.e. Four Corners) names. Just to cut down on confusion and aid in communication of just where exactly we are all talking about.

BTW I too like this recycled trolleys, but realistically I'd like to see something more energy efficient, faster, and quieter.

Currently on the metro bus it takes 1 hour to go from Silver Spring to New Carrolton - IF it runs on time and according to schedule (yeah, right). Add in the trip to Bethesda and that is another 20-30 minutes minimum. To do so by metro train would be 50 minutes with one change in trains, if everything goes smoothly.

Sligo said...

I would imagine that they use newer, more energy efficient motors in the streetcars when they restore them.

rtsind said...

What if some enterprising individual with money-county and private- were to provide a private bus service.

Not one of the current cramped, hot buses, but perhaps a comfortable RV type with coffee and maybe some kind of light snacks- and what if they charged a premium price, and they included wireless computer service and a few amenities.

You can make adjustments in the seating so that each one held 15 people, purchase== 10 of them- a natural gas or diesel engine- and you could get 150 cars off the road-- passengers can sit back- relax-- work- have a snack- eventually the flet can expand, and have special stops to pick up and drop off passengers.

There are some wrinkles to be ironed out- but it might be more feasible than a Purple Line that is years down the road and over prived and environmentally dangerouse.

Anonymous said...

Fun idea - if you're going to go retro, I like the real thing much better than the faux trolleys in Bethesda. Just remember that PCCs don't have air conditioning.

But please, please don't repeat the Karl Rove propaganda line that anybody who's arrogant and elitist must be a "proper lefty". While a few of the leaders of the NIMBY crowd present themselves as such, the reality is that most of the opposition comes from right wingers. The Columbia Country Club crowd is a mixture of right-wing Republicans with nominally Democratic corporate lobbyists. The Purple Line moved forward under two Democratic governors and was stalled by a Republican one.

Their talk about the environment is pure propaganda. The "Committee to Save the Trail" cares only about trees in Chevy Chase; it supported the Intercounty Connector which would destroy 700 acres of forest.

Sligo said...

I believe at least one was - the Silver Sightseer, which was operated by D.C. Transit.

Anyway, the AC units could be added to the roof. You can see where this has been done on the Philadelphia system. Yes, it might take away somewhat from the look of the car, but I wouldn't want to ride it in August without the AC.

Dan Reed said...


The Post's "Local Explorer" puts Silver Spring's population at 265,031. The boundaries aren't fixed, but I like the idea of thinking we've got more people than, say, Albany. I wouldn't want to split that up, even in the name of neighborhood identity. After all, you know Adams Morgan as a specific place even within the boundaries of D.C. The same goes for Four Corners.


As for forgetting New Carrollton - the Purple Line doesn't really work without the stuff east of Silver Spring. It's harder to envision, yes, but just as important as the Bethesda-to-Silver Spring segment. It just hasn't gotten as much press.

Sligo said...

Personally, I think the borders of Silver Spring need to be "clarified", but that's a post for another day.

Jeff said...

Which area _do_ I live in?
Silver Spring,
Kemp Mill.

I could easily add more on the top, and one on the bottom.

However, the trolley style 'light' rail is a great idea. Especially with the planned right of way. And I expect that a newer/refurb car will be able to handle a higher safe speed.

Sligo said...

According to Google Maps, you live in "Uninc Montgomery County, MD".

FalconLense said...

Ok. Put air conditioning and faster motors in the retro trolleys. Now stop talking and get this done.