A proposed version of the car barn, branded.

There’s a lot to like in the H Street/Benning Road Streetcar line, newly captured in virtual reality. The District Department of Transportation explained its plans last night for a car barn next to Spingarn High School that would train people how to maintain the vehicles, as well as three power substations that you’ll hardly even notice. Once the line’s up and running, they’re going to have to call it something.

But the “One City Line,” as they’re now calling the route that will eventually extend from Benning Road to Washington Circle? * Give me a break.

There are three main problems with that moniker.

One: It says nothing about where the line starts and ends. Sure, neither do Metro’s colors, but the move in recent years has been towards more useful naming systems, like the Circulator’s different routes. D.C. residents may know what the H Street/Benning Road/K Street line is after years of watching it get built, but a tourist who’s looking for things to do from Union Station will have no idea where the “One City” line will take them.

Two: There’s no way to build a system of names out from that beginning. What’s the logical name for the one up Georgia Avenue, or out on Rhode Island Avenue? Will they also be named after nebulous concepts?

Three: The most distasteful thing about the “One City” tagline is that, as much as Mayor Vince Gray would like to say otherwise, the phrase is still a political slogan. It’s what he campaigned on, and it’s how he’d like people to think about his legacy. But Gray can’t even claim credit for making the streetcar happen. Although he’s been a stalwart supporter since he came into office, his predecessors were really the ones who kicked it off—-let’s not forget, Gray would have cut funding for construction entirely had last-minute political pressure not forced him to restore it. Pinning the first operational streetcar line to a mayor’s political ascent—-especially when that rise could be cut short by an all-too-serious investigation—-is unfair and shortsighted.

So please, please, please think of something else.


CLARIFICATION, 11:13 a.m. – “One City” is a working title that would apply to the entire line from Benning Road to Washington Circle, not just the Benning Road/H Street segment, as the post initially stated.