New Washington streetcar system will allow some 'free' transit

Washington D.C.'s light rail system will feel more like a 'people mover' than a bus or streetcar.
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

The last rails of the Washington, D.C. streetcar system were torn up in 1962, but almost 50 years later, it looks like they're coming back. The city is on track to soon commence operations of a new light rail system, and the system is purposely designed to allow for some riders to even hop on and off without buying a ticket.

While most of the system will require paid tickets, it will also allow for free transit as a way to encourage more people to use the system, a D.C. Department of Transportation spokesperson told WTOP, the local media outlet. "It is certainly possible that in certain areas of the city it would be free," DDOT Director Gabe Klein tells WTOP. "And we like that, because the point of this is to stimulate growth and move people between neighborhoods. So we are going to look at a structure where people feel comfortable hopping on and off, maybe many times in an hour."

Such a "freemium" approach also is in place in Portland, which built a light rail system a couple of decades ago, and also enables free transit between points within the downtown region. The fare system is still being formulated, he said.

"In the downtown area, they make it free," says Klein. "People literally hop on and hop off, sometimes at every stop. It's great because it feels more like a people mover, than it does a bus or a streetcar."

The Washington light rail system will extend a total of 37 miles, via eight lines, across all parts and neighborhoods of the District of Columbia. The system will complement and connect to the area's well-designed Metro subway system. Surface streetcars will begin operating in two years.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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