The District is spending three or four times what other cities have to build a maintenance facility for its fledging streetcar system, a reflection of the flawed planning and execution that have dragged down the transit start-up for more than a decade.But look at all the opportunities for policy nerds to worship process. Or the earth. The carbarn story is beyond parody.
The “Car Barn” project was originally designed as a simple garage and rail yard for light repairs and storage, with some offices for staff. But it has ballooned in ambition and nearly tripled in cost — to $48.8 million. It will now include a number of pricey and unusual features, including grass tracks for parking the fleet of six streetcars and a cistern for washing them with rainwater.Apparently a concrete apron with streetcar tracks in it, which is the configuration of a carbarn as John I. Beggs or William D. Middleton would understand it, is insufficiently aesthetically pleasing. Thus, the outdoor layup tracks will be cobbled with special bricks that allow grass to grow through them.
Look closely, the layup tracks already look abandoned! Who knew construction of a public facility with a view toward its future value as a ruin was so difficult?
But all this pandering to local interests, some of whom didn't want a car barn in their neighborhood, and some of whom wished a car barn didn't resembling a car barn have taken time. Meanwhile, the streetcars the transit authority acquired as a bargain, eleven years ago, are no bargain.
And because the city hadn’t built a storage and maintenance facility, its three Czech streetcars were parked in a Metro rail yard in Greenbelt, Md., becoming damaged by the elements.But streetcar systems have to be government enterprises, because it's inimical to the public interest to have an Electric Railway and Light Company, and because the various legal constraints preclude contracting out a trolley line to the local railway museum, which might know how to get the rolling stock under roof first.
“When they were just sitting there, water found its way into the cars and dripped through,” said Carl Jackson, a former streetcar official. Crucial electrical components became corroded, rubber door pieces dry-rotted and cushions had to be replaced. “They didn’t look good,” Jackson said.