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Videos

How to Ride the D.C. Streetcar

A friendly PSA from the District of Columbia’s Department of Transportation.

The District of Columbia’s Department of Transportation has released a fun video on how to ride the D.C. Streetcar in advance of its announced launch date a decade ago later this month. Close your eyes and listen to the upbeat score and you might actually forgive the years and years and years of delay, the poorly conceived design that mixes trolleys with automobile traffic, and the millions of taxpayer dollars spent on economic development for an H Street NE corridor that was thriving on its own.

The video’s hero is a young man eager to learn the ropes before a date with a streetcar obsessive. He’s trained by a lovely trolley instructor whose patience, energy, and general transit wisdom makes you wonder how he doesn’t realize she’s the one I really loved all along. Then again, this is a young man who can’t figure out how to ride a streetcar on his own. So—let’s trolley!

1. Put on exercise clothing

Our hero’s lessons begin with him gearing up in exercise clothes and sweatbands and workout music. It’s a good idea to get in shape ahead of time, because whenever the streetcar slows to a crawl in traffic, or collides with a vehicle, or gets stalled by a driver trying to park at the curb, he’ll realize it may well be quicker to walk to his destination.

2. Pick a destination along a straight two-mile line

The D.C. Streetcar is supposed to run for about two miles, from Union Station down H Street NE before turning slightly onto Benning Road. Make sure to pick a destination somewhere along this basically straight line or else it might make more sense to take a bike, cab, or bus. Unless, of course, you’ve already started walking.

3. Stand away from the curb

The D.C. Streetcar will be so quiet that you’ll forget how not to wander mindlessly into the middle of the street (which, again, is still carrying loud moving traffic). Excellent tip from DDOT: remember not to forget that.

4. Take your bike on board with you

In the highly unlikely event the streetcar isn't packed with passengers, you’ll have plenty of room to stow your bike on board. That might be an easier option for many cyclists than detouring over to the bike lanes on G or I streets—the suggestion offered by DDOT, now that riding a bicycle on H Street is less safe.

5. Park inside the white lines to avoid blocking the streetcar

It’s unclear how this is an instruction for riding the streetcar, but in case you choose to get out mid-ride and drive to your destination, DDOT would like to remind you to park within the lines near the curb, lest you block the streetcar (as well as all the other traffic that shares a lane with the streetcar). For an example of how to be a success both in streetcar-adjacent parking and in life, take a cue from the above Mercedes SUV.

6. Ride for free—at first

Riding the streetcar will be free during an introductory period. That's a kind gesture by the city. Just don't tell your streetcar-obsessed date you didn't pay her fare!

7. Don’t bother leaving a question or comment on the video’s YouTube page

DDOT disabled them. Now that’s good planning.

All video stills via DDOT

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