Someday, this streetcar might actually run on D.C. streets. (Flickr photo by jsmjr under Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Creative Commons license)

Hey, have you heard that D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray is a supporter of streetcars? If you’ve been following the mayoral race since the spring, you know the reintroduction of streetcars to D.C. streets has become a pesky issue for Gray, who was nailed by transit advocates for cutting streetcar funding before restoring the funding during intense budget negotiations in May.

Gray’s position on streetcars has been probed time and time again during the course of the campaign. “I happen to be a supporter of streetcars,” he reiterated during a visit to Washington City Paper earlier today. “We’ve had a bit of discussion around that as you all well know.”

So, we wanted to expand the transit discussion. Some large cities—we’re looking at you, Detroit!—have had difficulties running a public transit system under the umbrella of the municipal transportation department. With the District set to face some ugly budget cycles down the road, does Gray ever see a day when the District Department of Transportation is not running the D.C. Circulator and the streetcar system, ceding control to either Metro or another independent authority?

Says Gray:

My concern would be is if we have a streetcar system that is wholly dedicated to the District of Columbia, does that fit neatly under the Metro governance model?—which I think also needs to be discussed. There are a lot of people who are concerned at this stage.

So, what I think has to happen is that we got to sit down at the table, we got to first of all figure out what it is we see being the transit options in the District of Columbia and then discuss with Metro and others what is the right governance approach.

But I’m not convinced at this stage—I’m not saying I won’t be—I’m not convinced at this stage that putting something that is wholly dedicated to the District of Columbia under Metro is absolutely the right way to go. Circulator is uniquely the District of Columbia, streetcars [are] uniquely the District of Columbia. The Metrobus system and the subway are obviously regional systems to which I am very committed.

So, I don’t think there is a clear answer to this at this stage but the pathway to an answer is to sit down, make sure we know where we’re going with our own transit system in this city and then talk about a governance model that works best for us.

We should point out that the D.C. Circulator now has a route that goes across the river to Rosslyn in Arlington County, which is also developing its own streetcar line in the Columbia Pike corridor.

In case you are wondering, Gray is also a supporter of bicycles and says, “I think we need to get people out of automobiles.”