FAQ

About Streetcars
Not a streetcar expert? Reference the DC Streetcar Glossary to get up to speed on the streetcar lingo.

enter section for wheelchair accessibility.
Streetcars are passenger vehicles that operate on fixed rails on public streets. The vehicles can operate in mixed traffic and/or a separate right of way. The DC Streetcar is a “modern streetcar” – air conditioned with a low-floor cThe low floors also allow for faster and easier boarding.

Streetcars

Streetcars are about the same length as an articulated bus, but hold more people. See the comparison chart below:

(Vehicle dimensions are based on industry averages and specific vehicles used in DC, when known.)

(Vehicle dimensions are based on industry averages and specific vehicles used in DC, when known.)Comparison-Streetcar-to-other-transit-modes

Each streetcar vehicle can accommodate a range of 144-160 seated and standing.
Yes. Vibrations from a streetcar are about the same as a DC Circulator bus.
Streetcars are no louder than a typical bus. Powered by quiet electric motors, streetcars use a pole and the pantograph, to collect power from an electrified wire that is suspended approximately 20 feet over the lane in which the streetcar runs. Noise from a streetcar is generated from the wheel to track movement, rather than from the engine, like a bus.
Modern streetcars operate at average speeds of 25 to 35 mph in mixed traffic on city streets, stopping at designated station platforms. Streetcar operating speeds are similar to a local bus, not exceeding the posted speed limit and keeping up with the flow of traffic.
Although streetcars and light rail vehicles use similar technologies they do differ. Streetcars are typically smaller, lighter, less expensive, and usually operate in mixed traffic, rather than in their own exclusive right of way. Streetcar systems can be built more rapidly, are more cost-effective, and cause less disruption to businesses and communities during construction in comparison to light rail. They can stop more frequently and offer a more flexible service appropriate for city neighborhoods. Light rail is generally used for regional transit with relatively fast-moving, large cars designed to transport high numbers of people rapidly between suburban and urban areas. Heavy rail (similar to MetroRail here in the DC metro area) can also be used for regional and long distance transit.

About Streetcar Service & Operations

DC Streetcar will be free for an introductory period. DDOT will announce the permanent fare policy at the end of the free service period.
Each streetcar stop will have ticket machines, where passengers can purchase a pass with cash, credit or debit card.

Additional payment options will become available as DC Streetcar joins other local and regional transit operators like WMATA in implementing a new and advanced fare collection system. Because the transition is expected within a few years of the streetcar’s launch, SmarTrip is not payment method for streetcar fare.

DC Streetcar’s hours of operation are:

Monday-Thursday: 6:00 a.m. – midnight
Friday: 6:00 a.m. – 2:00 a.m.
Saturday: 8:00 a.m. – 2:00 a.m
Sunday: Closed. (Sunday service may be phased in at a later date.)
Holidays: 8:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.

Yes. The modern streetcar’s interior layout is designed to allow strollers to be brought on board using wide passenger doors that are level with the station platforms. In addition, the vehicles also accommodate bikes and wheelchairs.
Yes. The modern streetcar’s interior layout is designed to allow bicycles to be brought on board using wide passenger doors that are level with the station platforms. In addition, the vehicles accommodate strollers and wheelchairs.
DC Streetcar has 10-15 minute headways, meaning that a streetcar arrives at a stop no more than every fifteen minutes. Weather and traffic conditions can affect streetcar arrivals.
Streetcars can operate effectively in snow conditions, but similar to all vehicles (including buses) they are subject to service limitations in severe weather and snowstorms. Service interruptions during severe weather will be communicated via media, social media and streetcar tracking tools.
In the case of a streetcar accident or breakdown, the streetcar will be towed back to the maintenance area with a specialized vehicle. In the case of a car accident, emergency response teams will move the car away from the streetcar as soon as possible.

About Safety and Accessibility

Yes. The modern streetcar’s interior layout is designed to accommodate wheelchairs using wide passenger doors that are level with the station platforms. The streetcars have level floor areas with substantial standing areas that can be used by wheelchairs. In addition, vehicles also accommodate bikes and strollers.level-boarding-diagram
There are several resources to help residents, motorists, and visitors learn how to be safe around streetcars. Visit our safety section to get more details.
Yes. The rails do not contain an electric current. As with any transit system, there are tips for bicyclists and pedestrians to ensure a safe experience when traveling near or crossing streetcar tracks.
Local police visit the stations as part of their regular patrols, and streetcars have security personnel on board.

Streetcar Signalization

Both! At the top of the Hopscotch Bridge the streetcar begins in the median, then moves curbside at the base of the bridge until the Starburst Plaza, when it becomes center-running again down Benning Road.
For most of the corridor, the streetcars follow existing traffic signals. In locations where the streetcar must cross active lanes of vehicular traffic, additional streetcar-only signals were installed. These new signals are located at the Western Turnaround (3rd Street NE), the Starburst intersection (15th Street NE), the entrance to the Car Barn Training Center (24th Street NE) and the Eastern Turnaround (Oklahoma Avenue NE). The controls tell the streetcar operators when it is safe to proceed through an intersection or across shared lanes.
Although the streetcar signals are housed in similar boxes to vehicular traffic signals, there’s no mistaking them for your standard green, yellow, or red lights. Rather than using solid colors to direct the streetcars, lighted red or white lines are used instead. The signal heads are illuminated with a horizontal, diagonal or vertical line, depending on where the streetcar is going. The default position of any train control signal is the stop position, indicated by a horizontal red line. When the streetcars are able to proceed through an intersection, the streetcar signal illuminates with a white line, pointed in one of three directions: left, right or horizontal.
Several unseen actions must take place before the signal lines are visible to the public. Loop detectors embedded in the streetcar tracks detect the presence of a streetcar and activate only when a streetcar approaches. The operator pushes a button inside the streetcar vehicle that communicates the streetcar’s direction to the automated control system. A series of automatic checks takes place and the streetcar signal only changes when it is safe to do so.
It is important to pay close attention to all signals. Normal vehicular operations and pedestrian crossings can continue once the streetcar moves across the intersection and the vehicular traffic signals turn green. In most cases, a red vehicular signal means the streetcar signal is green.
Yes! As always, pedestrians and motorists should use caution when crossing intersections. Remember to “Look, Listen, Be Safe!”