Recent discussion on the Tenleytown Listserv has revisited the idea of a Wisconsin Avenue Streetcar. These exchanges prompted a post on Greater Greater Washington rehashing many of the same arguments, pro and con regarding the streetcar system and the implementation of the system specifically in upper Northwest DC.
Former ANC 3E Commissioner Carolyn Sherman suggests that instead of Wisconsin Avenue, Connecticut Avenue ought to be studied:
Let's revisit for a minute the option of putting the streetcar, if there is to be one, on Connecticut rather than Wisconsin. Remember that from Van Ness on up--and it's a long way to Chevy Chase Circle--residents have no access to Metro, and many fewer buses. That area includes much of Chevy Chase, Forest Hills, and many other neighborhoods. Residents there tend to drive, with the understandable excuse that there's no easy mass transit. Suppose there's a streetcar every few minutes that takes all those workers, etc., straight down Conn to the K St corridor and beyond. Isn't that route just as needed and likely to have heavy usage as the route taking people who live along Wisconsin over to Benning Road? AU and GU have their own bus systems, and DHS will have its own too. Wisconsin is already filled with mass transit options. And consider the fact that if, as one poster says, "a big reason for a Wisconsin Avenue streetcar is to create demand for high density in-fill development along the corridor,"isn't that another reason to go for Connecticut Ave? There's much more room for infill along upper Connecticut. Think of all the possibilities for infill from Chevy Chase Circle on down to Van Ness. There are blocks and blocks of low- and medium-rise buildings. Imagine that whole area mirroring the development along Wisconsin and Western. How vibrant that area could become, with all the revenue for the city coming in.
Why does it need to be a choice? Both streets had streetcar lines in previous eras (see map for post consolidation era layout). Connecticut Avenue was developed by the Chevy Chase Land Company, and the development patterns on that road were created specifically for the Streetcar. Ms. Sherman is correct that connecting downtown to Chevy Chase Circle and beyond by Streetcar is a good idea. However, this should not be done instead of Wisconsin Avenue, but in addition.
Connecting Rosslyn and Georgetown to Tenleytown, Friendship Heights, and extending up to NIH and Rockville was part of a system in the 20th Century. Similarly, connecting downtown to Chevy Chase and Chevy Chase Lake and beyond via Connecticut Avenue is a good idea. There is no reason why these shouldn’t be part of the long term plans for the region.