D.C. streetcar operator training begins this week

(Photo: DDOT)

WASHINGTON (WJLA/AP) –The D.C. Department of Transportation began training streetcar operators in traffic for the first time Monday, along H Street and Benning Road in Northeast Washington.

Transportation officials say each operator will train with supervisors under various traffic scenarios—part of the process in order to be certified to carry passengers.

“It allows the operators to become very familiar with the alignment, understanding where the stops are, where the calls are,” said DDOT Deputy Associate Director Ralph Burns. “It also gives them a sense of understanding of how to be more safe.”

Passenger service is expected to start later this year, something many locals are looking forward to. The project is already running a year behind schedule.

“I think the streetcars could be a benefit to us,” one commuter said. “That is a long hill we have to walk, so I think it’s great.”

Others are skeptical about the streetcars’ benefits.

“I’m not quite sure how big an impact it’s gonna make on the neighborhood,” said D.C. resident Fred Wolf. “It might just be a traffic hindrance, but hopefully it’ll help the development.”

Officials say drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists should use caution along the H Street corridor as the streetcars will now begin operating. They say pedestrians should never step in front of a moving streetcar. The District is also ticketing cars that park in the streetcar's path.

The D.C. Streetcar will be operated by a team of 37 employees, including 28 operators.

The 2.2-mile stretch between Union Station and the Anacostia River is the first part of a 37-mile streetcar network that will eventually run throughout the District.