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Streetcars Resurrected In D.C., Elsewhere

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By David Schultz

D.C. is showing off one of its brand new streetcars in a vacant parking lot downtown. People can climb aboard the huge red, yellow and gray vehicles, hop in the driver's seat and pretend.

"Take us to Benning Road!" one person says.

D.C. is the latest city to built a modern streetcar network. They're already up and running in Tampa, Seattle and Portland, Ore.

Earl Blumenauer, a Democratic Congressman from Portland, says there's a reason streetcars are now back in vogue - cities have discovered they're magnets for development.

"We've had over $3 billion along our initial streetcar line," Blumenauer says. "And, for a little city like Portland, that's big money."

Gabe Klein, the director of D.C.'s Department of Transportation, agrees.

"I would say it's absolutely as much about economic development as it is about transportation."

Klein says, while buses are just as, if not more, efficient than streetcars, streetcars are better at spurring economic growth.

"It's perceived very differently by developers and investors, and they look at that as permanent," he says. "Buses, psychologically, they just don't see it that way."

The first streetcar lines will be on H Street and Benning Road in Northeast, and along on Martin Luther King Avenue near the Anacostia River. They'll start running in early 2012.

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