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So cute! So pricey! (DC Streetcar facebook page)

Michael Neibauer reports that the District Department of Transportation has awarded the contract for two new streetcars to a Portland company, which offered a price of $8.7 million for the pair. That’s $3.7 million for each 144-passenger vehicle, plus another $1.3 million for design, delivery, and insurance.


By contrast, Metro’s new buses cost $570,000 each and can fit about 80 people total. The schmancy new 7000-series rail cars cost about $2 million each (including shipping, parts, etc.), have 64 seats, and roomier aisles for more people standing. We knew the streetcar wasn’t going to be cheap, but damn.

Unfortunately, that’s probably just the breaks of starting a whole new transit system at a time when not many cities around the country are doing so on a large scale. DDOT bought its last batch of three cars from a Czech company for $10 million (the bid from that same company this time around came in at $9.5 million for two). Those are really small orders. Metro bought 47 buses and 428 rail cars at once. The economies of scale there are pretty significant.

By the time the rest of D.C.’s streetcar system is built out, hopefully there will be a thriving streetcar manufacturing industry, designs will be standardized, and each additional car won’t bust the budget quite so much.