Free D.C. Streetcar costs taxpayers $8 million to run

D.C. Streetcar in service, Wednesday, June 29, 2016. (ABC7 photo)

The Seven On Your Side I-Team has learned the D.C. Streetcar is costing District taxpayers $8 million a year to operate - as ridership remains free. And ridership has dropped.

It has now been more than three months since the long awaited D.C. Streetcar started carrying passengers. And some riders love it.

"It's convenient. It's not crowded," said Barren Thomas, a regular rider.

"It's a big space. It's better than the bus," added Benilda Hassell, who also rides often.

But other riders don't view it quite as favorably.

"The timing is never really good. You never know exactly when it's coming," added Andrea Cuba.

"Of course, not," said Devaughn Calhoun after being asked if he would continue riding the streetcar after it's no longer free.

After three months of service, new District Department of Transportation (DDOT) numbers show in its first two months, streetcar ridership was consistent, with around 68,000 riders. But last month, ridership fell by more than 5,000, or nearly 8 percent.

Streetcar ridership in the first three months according to DDOT:

May: 63,372

April: 68,420

March: 67,853

"No. It's really not a concern at all," said Derek Jones, the Associate Director of Streetcar.

Jones says the city projected around 50,000 monthly riders. So, even with the drop in May, 63,000 is good.

"This is still a fledgling system. If you like," added Jones. "We're still trying to figure out ridership."

The troubled streetcar project has spanned three Washington D.C. mayors and cost taxpayers about $200 million for 2.4 miles of track. Right now, it's costing taxpaying another $8 million a year to operate. A fair to offset some of that $8 million, is still in the works. But Jones says an amount or a start date has not been set.

"H Street and Benning Road is a really vibrant place. And you see more than we projected ridership up and down that corridor. I think that speaks for itself as a matter of success," concluded Jones.

Jones went on to say the proposed extensions of the streetcar line three miles west to Georgetown and two miles east to Benning Road Metro Station are moving along pretty quickly. But he stopped short of offering a timeframe.

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