It's high time Congress allowed the District of Columbia to operate clean, green, efficient, electric surface mass transit on any of its streets.
Streetcars and light rail are making a strong comeback in cities all across the USA. Obviously, that form of mass transit is being recognized more and more as a worthwhile public investment to move lots of people. And there is a new transportation infrastructure recognition by the Obama Administration.
Until more reliable forms of power become available, the best system for more than 100 years to power streetcars is from a simple almost invisible overhead wire. This is how more than 400 other electric surface transit systems operate around the world and within other US cities. However, Congress banned overhead wires in parts of D.C. more than 100 years ago stifling electric surface transit progress and ultimately killing it almost 50 years ago.
It's time for Congress to take a leadership role and change that law to allow streetcars to use single simple, non-polluting almost invisible wire above their tracks and return to all of D.C. When the law was passed more than 100 years ago it was well intended to remove masses of utility wire from city streets. Utilities can bury their wires but transit cannot. The old underground conduit system used by the now abandoned D.C. streetcar network is too expensive and difficult to maintain or reinstall and not at all desirable.
I am not recommending a sky full of wires. A small single simple nearly invisible overhead wire supported by decorative lampposts or nearby buildings can be extremely architecturally effective and easy to maintain without destroying the visual landscape of D.C. There are thousands of examples worldwide in cities just as beautiful or more so than D.C. They are not harmed or defaced by them and their beauty is enhanced by modern healthful environmentally friendly electric surface transit.
Discussions abound about clean energy, CO2 reductions and global warming, but Congress has turned a blind eye in their own backyard by continuing to impose the antiquarian overhead wire ban for surface transit. Everyday Al Gore and other officials call for change and reform in terms of energy and environment but Congress does nothing to encourage D.C. to modernize its surface transport making it green and more inviting to use. The beauty of D.C. will not be marred by this minute change and will enable it to eliminate many noxious and polluting buses from its streets. It's time to CHANGE how D.C. does surface transit.
Congress has to get this message and take reasonable action by eliminating the overhead wire ban for surface transit within all of D.C and let D.C. decide where and how to institute its transit needs.
By comparison to other recent problems this may seem trivial. Basically it is, except that a change in the law requires an act of Congress. I doubt that many Congressmen and staffs today are even aware that giving D.C. this benefit lies within their jurisdiction. Many of them now have modern light rail in their own districts. It's one of those niche items buried in ancient D.C. history but is quite important to the District of Columbia and all who use or want to benefit from good surface transit therein. Allowing D.C. to resurrect electric streetcar service in all parts of D.C. by means of a simple almost invisible overhead wire will showcase an example to the nation and the world that Congress gets it. All that is required is a single simple nearly invisible overhead wire.
Best of all, no funds are required for this enabling act.
It is time for new outside the box thinking regarding green electric surface transit within all of D.C. and remove the ancient wire noose from around the District's neck. If an overhead wire is OK for the new Anacostia streetcar line than it should be OK in all parts of D.C. The residents will applaud such new vital action.
Conduit at Union Station
With Overhead Wires