Streetcars fall behind Mayor Gray's predicted timetable

Photo: Sam Ford/WJLA

On NewsChannel 8 last year, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray predicted that streetcars would start carrying passengers on H Street NE by early February. But at this point, that seems unlikely. The transit system is still being inspected and DDOT is still hiring staff to operate it.

On Monday, a DDOT job fair at the Department Of Employment Services headquarters in Northeast D.C. attracted about 700 applicants – mostly District residents – competing for just 34 full-time positions with the new streetcar line.

Job applicants said they stood in line more than two hours just to get inside. Once there, they found hundreds more waiting as well.

Open positions include train operators and mechanics, with salaries ranging from $15 an hour (for entry level jobs) up to $28 an hour (for more skilled labor).

During his regular appearance on NewsTalk with Bruce DePuyt in November, Mayor Gray set an ambitious goal for the transit system's launch.

“The streetcars will start actually moving around in December,” he said. “And we'll have passenger service probably starting in January, not later than early February when we get an additional car.”

But now late January, DDOT officials acknowledge the Mayor's timetable is "probably not" going to happen. Because even if safety inspections were to theoretically wrap up today, DDOT still plans to set aside 30 days to get the service operational and ready for passengers.

DDOT Director of Communications Reggie Sanders said, “I don't have an exact date for you... after we go through that safety testing period, 30 days after that we'll be ready. So hopefully we'll do it – we're moving as fast we can. Obviously, we want to ensure that everybody's safe and the trains are operating properly.”