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Crystal City Streetcar May Get Built Before Pike Streetcar

by ARLnow.com | March 15, 2012 at 9:50 am | 7,047 views | 158 Comments

There has been much discussion about the planned Columbia Pike streetcar, but there’s another streetcar project in Arlington that’s looking more likely to get built sooner than the Pike streetcar.

Arlington and Alexandria are jointly planning a five-mile streetcar line to run from the Pentagon City Metro station, across 12th Street to Crystal Drive, down Crystal Drive to Potomac Yard, and then down Route 1 to the Braddock Road Metro Station.

The Route 1 Corridor Streetcar Conversion Project, as it’s called, is currently in the environmental assessment, alternative analysis and conceptual engineering phase. That phase of the project should wrap up around mid-2013, we’re told. Roadwork on Crystal Drive set to begin this summer, meanwhile, will quietly begin to set the stage for what will eventually be a dedicated bus transitway along Crystal Drive, an interim step before the streetcar becomes operational.

Work on the Crystal City and Columbia Pike streetcar projects is running in parallel, meaning construction on each could theoretically take place at the same time. The projects are separate in an organizational sense, but connected physically. The streetcar lines will connect at the Pentagon City Metro station.

One big difference between the streetcar projects is financing. The $250 million Columbia Pike streetcar plan relies heavily on financing from the federal government, which is far from certain given the current budget crunch on Capitol Hill. Financing for the Crystal City streetcar, meanwhile, is more or less in place — it’s coming from the Crystal City tax increment financing area (TIF) that was approved by the County Board in 2010.

In a recent interview with ARLnow.com, Arlington County Board Chair Mary Hynes said the Crystal City streetcar could very well open before the more-publicized Columbia Pike line.

“I think it’s actually more likely that we’ll get the Crystal City segment built first, because we know how we’re paying for it.” Hynes said. “We were hoping 2016, 2017 to have that segment open.”

Arlington County Director of Transportation Dennis Leach says work on the Crystal City streetcar is moving forward, and that a project to construct certain facilities that will be used by the streetcar will be going out for bid this summer. Leach, however, refused to speculate on when the project may be completed.

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  • novasteve

    The people on the board need their heads examined. Why on earth do you need these street cars? Busses are so much cheaper, and we ALREADY have them. Add in the cost, then the inevitable accidents that will happen here as people are NOT used to driving amongst street cars.. I’d much rather have my car get run over by a bus than a much much heavier street car.

    • drax

      “Why streetcars are better than buses”

      http://beyonddc.com/log/?p=1733

      • CourthouseChris

        Some good points. I’d add that Streetcars, with multiple entry/exit points permit far faster loading and offloading times – reducing total trip time and increasing traffic flow of the road it travels on.

      • novasteve

        Nothing convincing in those. And we’ll have the WMATA types maintaining the streetcars so they will be “reliable” like metro is. Did you hear the stories about them pushing everything off to the next shift?

        • CourthouseChris

          I see you take the fingers-in-ears-loudly-humming style of debate.

          • Josh S

            Also – repeating the same list of complaints. No matter the subject of the item.

      • jackson

        “Streetcars are iconic.”

        So are horses, covered wagons, and those bicycles with the one huge front tire!

        • FunnyMunny

          Man that thing was HUGE! Good one, Tiny E!

        • WillJohnston

          Streetcars are for old people way back in my family tree. It’s how my dad got from 14th and Irving to Glen Echo when he was a kid. It’s more of that old time technology that techno-guilt is driving everyone back to. Like making digital photos look old, and refurbishing typewriters, and displaying old sewing machines in the window. Tweed dress-up day.

          • Josh S

            I like the mid-afternoon amusements….

        • Mr T.

          Hands down the best post I’ve ever had the privilege of reading.

      • Streetcar hype

        That blog largely makes an emotional appeal that’s not supported by evidence. According to the County, the facts we’ve got re: the Pike streetcar at present: 5x the cost (and much more disruptive) to install AND ~$3M/yr more expensive to operate than articulated buses for identical transit times and carrying capacity.

        Verdict: vanity project.

      • TrojanHorse

        “On whether streetcars carry more people than buses, there is no ambiguity,” claims PolitiFact. “Streetcars have a maximum capacity of 92 riders, according to Fetsch. That’s nearly double the 51 or so riders who can fit on a single bus.” That’s dead wrong because, in addition to the capacity of individual vehicles, you have to consider frequency. For safety reasons, streetcars must be separated at least two or three minutes apart. Buses can run on downtown streets every 22 seconds. That means, even if a single bus has only half the capacity of the streetcar, a bus line has three more times the capacity of a streetcar line.

        Simple math-buses are cheaper and can be green using natural gas….the street car is a novelty that will wear off and we’ll be stuck paying the price via bonds, increased rents, and higher taxes.

    • clang clang clang goes the trolley

      I’ve read public preference surveys that have shown that people just prefer rail to bus and say they would be more likely to ride a train than a bus. I count myself in that camp. I’ll ride a train anywhere but busses are icky.

      • jimbo

        Is the “icky” factor worth the billions? Or are you one of those who doesn’t think about costs?

        • jackson

          I too have heard people say they would ride a trolley but would never ride a city bus, which I find incomprehensible. We’ll spend all this money, you’ll ride the trolley once and decide it’s not much better than the bus, except that it costs more to ride.

        • TrojanHorse

          Not that you’d ever use public transit but one day one of these streetcars will break down. A bus or car will be able to switch lanes but the next trolley will not be able to do as they will be on the same track.

          Have you ever tried to get onto 395 from Columbia Pike? Two lanes can hop on simultaneously. What happens to the dude in the right hand lane with a trolley next to him on the left , and to all the drivers behind him when he has to stop so the ##%$%% can get out of the way.

    • http://nationleprechaun.com/ jinushaun

      They could get the same benefits of a street car at lower cost by simply giving buses their own dedicated lanes. The whole street car trend makes no sense and just caters to pampered white middle-class people that don’t want to ride the bus with colored people.

      • Quoth the Raven

        I hope you’re joking. Otherwise, what an incredibly racist comment.

        • Keith

          There is a stigma to public bus systems that certain people refuse to overcome. It is actually an argument freely used by some streetcar proponents.

        • John K.

          I believe they have a song in Avenue Q about that. Nonetheless, a good number of people that I’ve argued with won’t take a 16 bus going the same way because… “have you taken a Metrobus? Ew!”. Ew, what?

          • Lou

            And therefore the reason this gets referred to as a “vanity” project. It is not needed, people just need to get over themselves. Stop using my tax money to pay for your fear of riding the bus.

          • drax

            People have many reasons for making decisions about transportation, and we spend alot of tax money to please them, and encourage them. This is no different.

          • B-Rad

            He’s right though, in that it is still not needed.

          • drax

            Well, if you say so, B-rad! Don’t let things like fundamental principles get in your way.

      • drax

        As if “colored people” don’t ride streetcars.

    • http://nationleprechaun.com/ jinushaun

      Here’s the bus system I’m talking about. It’s called Bus Rapid Transit (BRT).

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bus_rapid_transit
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TransMilenio
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TransJakarta

      Treat buses like subway trains, and bus stops like subway stops. Same benefit of a street car system at significantly less cost. With a dedicated lane, buses won’t get bogged down in traffic with regular cars. They can go faster and run more efficiently.

      • CourthouseChris

        Yeah, Boston has one of these so-called BRT systems – called the “silver line” it’s just a bizarre half-electric/half-gas bus that runs underground for part of its route – and is no faster than the #49 bus it replaced.

        • http://nationleprechaun.com/ jinushaun

          I’ve ridden the Silver line in Boston. Just because Boston did it wrong doesn’t make the whole idea rotten.

          • CourthouseChris

            Granted. Though I think part of the reason the streetcar is in the offing is because a dedicated line is both expensive, and given the current density, impractical. Putting it undergound like Boston would cost far more than surface tracks for a streetcar.

          • tourist

            Admittedly I don’t take it everyday, but when visiting Boston I took the Silver Line from my hotel (Marriott, on the Red I believe) and transferred smoothly and went straight to the airport. The concept was a little odd to me, but I liked that it was a seemless transfer and it all worked together. Though what helps with that is that they only charge the entrance fee and not entrance and exits which would complicate the transfer process I guess. But that’s part of why I try to avoid using train then bus. I try to use one method or the other. I’m not anti-buses at all, nor do I think I even know people that don’t ride them because of “colored people” as someone said above (wow), but I do often turn up my nose because in my head it just makes it feel like a MUCH longer commute to have to change transport varieties so many times during my ride to/from work. If something is closer to a bus stop I take the bus system from my apartment… if my end point is closer to the metro, I walk a bit further to metro stop nearest my apartment and I ride that. It might take just as long or longer depending, but it feels more “seemless” and that’s more comforting.

      • drax

        Maybe less upfront cost, but doesn’t mean its not more in operating cost than trolleys.

        • Keith

          Is it?

        • Streetcar hype

          According to the County O&M costs for the streetcar in 2016 would be $3M/yr greater than articulated buses.

      • John K.

        I don’t think Arlington will be the next Curitiba. Columbia Pike, in some spots, is just too narrow. However, this would have been great for the Silver Line and should be good for some of the wider thoroughfares in the area.

      • JustTheFacts

        Do a news.google.com search on TransMilenio and you will see recent news of what it’s riders think of it. It’s not pretty.

  • DarkHeart

    Arlandria = Portlandia

    • CourthouseChris

      If only that was true.

      • http://nationleprechaun.com/ jinushaun

        Oh… If only Arlington were more like Portland… Sounds like a dream for this PNW transplant. I’d much rather Arlington try to copy Seattle/Portland than San Francisco.

        • novasteve

          Well, we’ll be more likely to be like SF with the homeless shelter coming. I suppose if we get more street kid junkies, we’ll become more like Portland.

          • True

            +100. Drizzly panhandlers paradise.

  • Keith

    The streetcar there actually makes some sort of sense, because you have this kind of defacto north-south corridor that lacks cohesive transportation options other than the car. The funding is also the preferred model, since the businesses getting the benefit actually pay for it.

    Take the Pike plans and turn it to run from Shirlington to Ballston. Use Shirlington Road to Glebe, and then right up Glebe. Arlington needs better north-south local commuting options.

    East-West (like Columbia Pike) are already the main established bus corridors to get people into and out of DC for work. They just need enhanced bus service, not new modes of transportation layered over the bus routes.

    • yup

      i do agree with you that we need better north south transportation. Glebe is overwhelmed in many different bottle neck locations.

      You are right, that if the fed is paying for the crystal city street car, they would get the benefit since crystal city is mostly fed workers.

      Maybe it would help get people to and from the airport as well, or at least closer to the airport. Rather than going to rosslyn and then blue line south

    • http://nationleprechaun.com/ jinushaun

      The street car really needs to connect North Arlington to South Arlington. Glebe is the most logical option. Washington Blvd doesn’t make sense because then West Arlington won’t get properly served. George Mason is too residential and far from any Metro station.

    • John K.

      +100

    • Burger

      –cohesive transportation options–

      You are right. The Blue line doesn’t run right through that area…oh, wait it does.

    • Streetcar hype

      +1 on better transit options on Glebe from Shirlington to Ballston.

  • M

    Opening the Crystal City line first sounds like a good idea for several reasons. Funding is in place, and it’s coming from businesses, not from the voters (not directly anyway). They will begin with bus service as an interim step. This streetcar isn’t going to run down a major artery, and will use some sort of dedicated transitway, so it won’t run into opposition from the people who cherish their constitutional right to drive alone in their SUVs without interference from public transit vehicles. And if the Crystal City – Alexandria line is a success, there may be more support for a Columbia Pike line. On the other hand, if it fails, they can pull the plug on the Columbia Pike project.

  • clang clang clang goes the trolley

    Got to admit though, that streetcar looks really cool.

    • FunnyMunny

      I hear it goes 220mph, too!

  • South Awwwlington

    I don’t know that I agree. This area already has high capacity rail service, though perhaps not enough stations. The Pike will never realize it’s revenue potential with Bus-Only service.

  • CourthouseChris

    Wooohoo Portland Streetcar shot! I’ve taken the streetcar many times at that very spot!

    • True

      How many angry homeless people panhandled you when you were getting on? Portland, dude. It sucks. A lot.

      • CourthouseChris

        Whatever Novasteve-Alt; the panhandling homeless are far more aggressive in DC than anything I ever saw in Portland.

  • yup

    that street car does look pretty sweet.

    • CourthouseChris

      It makes a cool sound too :-)

  • bobco85

    I remember discussions taking place about a possible Blue line Potomac Yard rail station, but I can see that falling through should this streetcar system be built.

    • SoMuchForSubtlety

      Both the Potomac Yards in-fill Metro station and the streetcar are going forward. Completely different authorities in charge of each. More mass transit options = awesome!

      • bobco85

        I’m glad to hear the metro rail station is going to be built. Looking at the map (thanks for the heads-up, ARLnow.com), I think the Segment C alternate 2 route should be used as the streetcar route would be able to service directly from the proposed rail station.

    • http://www.arlnow.com ARLnow.com

      The map above shows the possible locations of the proposed Potomac Yard Metro station

      • Josh S

        I thought they had picked one already.

        • Tyler

          They haven’t approved the construction of a new Potomac Yard station yet and a location for the station hasn’t been chosen yet. An environmental review is underway with a decision expected in 2013.

  • drax

    Used to be a trolley running just to the west, through Del Ray.

  • Coldwell Banker

    is there really a demand for this project? (other than the “urban planners). i don’t know one person who would use street cars. we do have bus service from Potmac Yards for those who don’t have cars. as an arlington resident and tax payer, i hope this isn’t done.

    • drax

      Get out of your little bubble.

      • Captain Obvious

        Hah, it’s hilarious because he or she is a realtor.

    • Thes

      Exactly right. Just like there was very little demand for a subway in the DC area in 1973. No more than a few thousand people were likely to want to ride a subway that year. After all, there were plenty of buses and cars. What a waste of money that subway was!

      • Quoth the Raven

        Absolutely true. I know it’s an expensive (and controversial) project, but injecting another public transportation option into a very busy and crowded area is a great idea. People will ride it.

      • novasteve

        And now we have busses and the subway. Why would we need streetcards, especially when we (DC) GOT RID OF THEM in 1962?

        • CourthouseChris

          … because once an idea is done once in a general region, it should never be revisited. [rolls eyes]

          • Kate

            [ignores person who anthropomorphizes comments]

          • Josh S

            Do you think CourthouseChris is a robot?

        • drax

          By that logic, we wouldn’t have Metro because it’s a train, and trains are so 19th-century.

        • SoMuchForSubtlety

          The DC streetcars were eliminated because cars were in vogue and America tried the great car / suburb / sprawl experiment. However, as it had never been done in history the outcome was not as certain as people believed. We’ve now seen that we’ve reached the practical limits of that experiment and that some (not all) of the old ways of doing things actually make sense and work better. I.e., mixed live work retail development, walkable transit oreinted communities – this is not a new idea, but rather the oldest and most traditional way that people bult, and lived in, their communities for thousands of years.

          • SouthPikeGuy

            Yeah, DC gave up streetcars because of what the suburbs were doing. You realize how little sense you are making?

        • bob

          Cities all over the US gave up street cars because General Motors bought and closed many street car companies in order to sell buses.

    • M

      Coldwell Banker probably also “doesn’t know one person” who uses the bus service from Potomac Yards.

  • Rick

    Why wouldn’t this run down Potomac Avenue into Alexandria? Using that part of Route 1 in rush hour is painful..

    • drax

      Yes! That’s what I thought they meant at first too. Plenty of room on the new Potomac Ave. Makes much more sense there.

  • tourist

    I guess I upset someone at one point… now my comments/replies are always “awaiting moderation” when I post. :-/ Meh.

  • Barry

    Columbia Pike bus corridor is the busiest one in Virginia. And most of the riders use it during rush hour geting to 9-to-5 professional jobs (i.e. non-poor people). Hard to see that there are more than a handful of residents along the Pike that would use a trolley who don’t already use the bus. The trolley is expensive (that beyond DC link isn’t on topic, Arlington County admitted when it “approved” the trolley that bendy buses are cheaper – look it up.) It has no dedicated lane, so it will be no faster than the bus. Columbia Pike is vibrant (look at many new businesses last few years). Trolley’s a folly.

    • JohnB

      Many new businesses and developments are a result of the planned streetcar line.

    • E2DAV

      Barry – you make rhymes…yay!

      Do you understand what investment means? The reason that there have been new businesses and a good mix of commercial/residential investment over the last few years is because there is expected returns in the future. The future to all of the recent development hand-down is because of the street car potential. Nobody invests in a bus stop. Yes – the Pike will have some growth if it remains as-is; but every single recent existing and potential investor on the Pike has the expectation of additional public transit coming. Without that, we have 1) less investment and 2) unrealized potential. Don’t pretend Pensrose/Sienna are organic – they built because of the promise of the streetcar.

      • Streetcar hype

        Barry is right on the money. E2DAV, you’re deluding yourself if you think Penrose/Sienna or any other developer builds on the promise of a streetcar that is still a twinkle in Zimmy’s eye and remains at least five years away best-case.

        The Pike is already gentrifying because real estate is comparatively cheap; its easy to get to DC, the R-B corridor and Shirlington; and decent transit options are already available.

        As such, a $40M investment in articulated buses, complimented by other planned improvements including super stops, improved lighting, streetscape improvements, and bike lanes on the streets that parallel the Pike should do very nicely, and constitute a more than sufficient investment of taxpayer dollars.

        • E2DAV

          I am not deluding myself actually. You can look back at ARLnow.com where both developers and (more recently) owners of William Jeffrey’s and the new speakeasy both mention the investment into this area because of the streetcar. Not solely, but it is a huge, huge variable. Improved lighting and large bus stops do not inspire redevelopment on this scale.

          • Streetcar hype

            Your continued harping on the requirement of a streetcar for development ‘on this scale’ is just not supported by the facts.
            Of course any developer that’s already built or decided to build is going to say that. They built because there was *already* a compelling business case for them to do so (see above), and a streetcar would only further incrase the value of their property at taxpayer expense.

            If developers want a streetcar then they should pay for it like in Crystal City. There’s insufficient development on the Pike to do so currently, which should be the first clue that such an approach is inappropriate.

            The County’s first responsibility is maximizing the value of taxpayer dollars; as such, articulated buses are the only sensible option as they provide identical carrying capacity and travel times as a streetcar at 1/5 the price, cheaper O&M costs, and far less disruption to residents and businesses during installation. The streetcar on the Pike isn’t ‘visionary’, it’s a deeply irresponsible waste of taxpayer dollars.

          • drax

            So now you’re reduced to denying what business owners actually say about the reasons for their investment.

    • Josh S

      Err, ever ride a bus on Columbia Pike? They are busy all day, every day. Not just rush hour. (The 16Y doesn’t count – it only runs during rush hour.)

      Also – yes ARlington admitted that bendy buses are cheaper. Not the end of the story in terms of deciding which, if any, to build.

      Street car never promoted / intended to be faster than the bus, so that’s neither here nor there. However, the lack of a dedicated lane hardly ensures that it won’t be faster than a bus. Easier boarding and getting off would make it faster, for example.

    • Car-Free Diet Arlington Whine

      I live on the pike. Refuse to take the bus, would ride the streetcar. Tired of people shelling out tax dollars for all sorts of ridiculous frills refuse to invest money in infrastructure that would support growth on the pike. Sounds like Arlington is full of backward Luddites.

      • bringmetheyuppies

        ditto. Will never take a bus. Will take the trolley.

  • Barry

    To be clear: Expanded bus capacity, yes. Trolley, no.

    • drax

      Wow, what a detailed, well-supported argument. You really convinced me.

      • B-Rad

        You should try reading the whole thread.

        • drax

          You’re still doing it.

  • Nova Man

    What is with the obession with “mixed live work retail development, walkable transit oreinted communities” ?

    • Quoth the Raven

      Isn’t fewer cars on the roads a good idea?

    • drax

      Yeah! And clean air, and health, and enjoyable lifestyles, and less noise, and less stress, and less expense and all that crap! Who needs that?

    • WeiQiang

      I don’t think it’s an obsession. It’s an urban planning philosophy/approach that acknowledges that sprawl and the transportation nightmares that it engenders are neither economically nor environmentally sustainable. Take Crystal City (and Pentagon Row and Clarendon [sort of] for that matter): It used to be a few apartment buildings and many office buildings with little retail/restaurant to keep people around during the evening [to live, eat, spend money]. Adding residential (a whole office building was redeveloped into apartments) and related retail makes the place workable AND liveable AND taxable. Further, it reduces congestion from more outlying locations from where people might otherwise drive cars.

      • Arlwhenver

        Ya, except more than 90 percent of the growth in Northern VA last decade occured outside of the Arlington/Alexandria inside the Beltway bubble. What is not sustainable for most people is paying the outrageous taxes and housing prices inside the bubble. The Arlington utopia is not affordable for the average person. All this hogwash about not living the Arlington Way is absurd. Most people do just fine, thank you, living otherwise and are happy not to have to put up with the Arlington know-it-alls.

        • Chris Slatt

          Mixed use neighborhoods are expensive because there is a high demand for it and low supply. The only way to fix that is to build more of it.

          It doesn’t help that we didn’t build much of it over the last 40 years so what does exist is mostly new construction (and therefore more expensive)

  • Nova Man

    why should less cars be a goal? the post world war 2 American boom was built on the automobile. if you don’t like cars, I suggest moving to N. Korea or some other 3 world country we people get around on either bikes or animals.

    • drax

      You’re not using your brain, Nova Man. Must be all those fumes.

      Go drive your car in the fantastically horrible traffic congestion of DC and think about why we might want to reduce the number of cars on our roads. Think hard.

    • Quoth the Raven

      I’m guessing you’re joking. There is a middle ground between “All cars, all the time”, and “North Korea”.

    • Tabs

      fewer, not less.

      hth

      “if you don’t like cars, I suggest moving to N. Korea or some other 3 world country we people get around on either bikes or animals”

      Oh, I think I’d prefer the Netherlands. Or much of Europe where many people never learn to drive because a. licensing is expensive and b. they have excellent public transportation.

      • novasteve

        Yes, lets make it really expensive so not that many people can get a license. Of course that’s not racist there, but if we require photo ID to vote, then that only result from racism :rolleyes:

        If you’ve ever been to the Netherlands or looked at map, they are much more able to have “better” public transportation becaues the country is TINY.

        • Josh S

          Do you mean kinda like Arlington County, about which this blog is written?

          • dk

            +1

        • WeiQiang

          Wow. Even though a given country may be large or small, the commuting/working habits and the transport systems that @Tabs advocates are precisely correct. A commuting pattern around a given metropolitan area is not connected to the size of the country because, for example, people do not commute from Missoula, MT to Metarie, LA on a daily basis. The scale argument you use is invalid. The scale of commuting in this area is roughly from Frederickburg, VA to Frederick, MD and from the mountains to the Bay. If someone simply wants to advocate for cars because they’ve always done it that way or because the American “boom was built on the automobile”, so be it. One of America’s booms was built on the auto, but the last one and the next one demonstrably won’t be.

          • WeiQiang

            … last one WASN’T ..

        • drax

          First part of your post: WTF are you yapping about now?

          Second part of your post: The DC area is smaller than the Netherlands. Nobody is suggested a trolley from NY to LA. Please think.

          • Josh S

            This made me laugh out loud.

        • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N8PuUU6IWps&feature=youtube_gdata_player awh hells bells

          The Dutch are also a much more forward thinking, progressive, rational, and intelligent people compared to many Americans. If you’ve been there you’d notice high bicycle ridership and dedicated lanes, streetcar and rail ridership, a national drug policy whose objective is mindful of human behavior and isn’t solely focused towards prosecuting end users, and an education system which produces many multi-lingual citizens. They are not without their own national problems, but we could learn a great deal from the Dutch.

        • drax

          Nobody is proposing a trolley from NY to LA, Steve. Arlington is tinier than the Netherlands.

  • Nova Man

    There is no reason every next development needs to turn into some “walkable/liveable community.” What is wrong with single family home that is not right on top of a Metro or by streetcar? Not enough new development of housing were kinds can run around and not worry about who is coming off the Metro or some bus running them over.

    I suggest all of the europhiles move to Europe.

    I am not against opitons, rather, I am against all of these projects at the taxpayers expense.

    • JohnB

      No one here is against single family home neighborhoods.

    • E2DAV

      We’re not all moving to Europe because we actually learn from what’s been done in the past. And, we did it wrong in the 60s – 80s. Too high cost for commuting, too much dependably on the price swings of gas, etc.

      Actually, there is PLENTY of development where kids can run around. First, you can find it in your own yard…nobody is saying that high-rises are for everyone. Most people have a decent yard for kids to play in. Second, you can find it in Las Vegas, Loudoun County, San Bernadino – or any other location that was built on your model and has proven to be unsuccessful. Those prices are dirt cheap for a reason.

      You might be against these project, while I am against large infrastructure project to the ‘burbs that have proven unsuccessful and I am against subsidizing large, unnecessary housing which has been done at the taxpayers expense since the 1930.

    • drax

      Your posts are full of the same old straw men, Nova Man.

      Nobody is saying that every single development must be walkable. Just enough of them to relieve traffic congestion for the rest of them, which is cheaper than building gigantic new highways (along with its many other benefits).

      You seem to live in a huge suburban bubble. You should get out more.

      And I suggest you move if you don’t like change, because I’m staying right here.

      • B-Rad

        Pretty sure sidewalks are all you need to make your little walkable communities.

        Streetcars are unnecessary.

        • CourthouseChris

          Counterpoint: Tyson’s Corner has sidewalks.

          • B-Rad

            And people use them.

          • CourthouseChris

            Are you really arguing that Tyson’s is a walkable community?

          • B-Rad

            Depends on your definition I guess. Feel free to put the goal posts wherever they are most convenient for your argument.

            You people are way too hung up on terminology. Brainwashed.

          • Josh S

            Do you remember that time when you were 16 years old and got obnoxiously irritated at the dinner table when your older relatives just didn’t get it? They all looked at each other with sort of a wryly amused expression, you stalked off and then when you thought about it ten years later, felt incredibly embarrassed at how immature you had been?

            Yeah, it’s sorta like that.

          • B-Rad

            I’m sorry you feel embarrassed that you can not bring anything to this conversation.

          • CourthouseChris

            This B-Rad character has the rhetorical prowess of Novasteve… makes me wonder if he’s using alts.

          • Josh S

            Yeah, and “nova man?” Come on steve-o, you can try a little harder than that, can’t you?

        • drax

          Well, no, actually.

          Sidewalks are not all you need. A good walkable community gives you something to walk to, and that means the right development, which is encouraged when you have all the elements in place, including transit to walk to. “Walkable” isn’t just “you can walk around.” You can walk on a treadmill if that’s all you think it is.

          • Quoth the Raven

            Good Lord – call me naive, but who could possibly be against a walkable neighborhood? No one is taking away single family homes at all. No one is suggesting that. (And, of course, none of this has anything to do with a streetcar going through an already established neighborhood.) So if someone is going to make a new development someplace, why would it be so wrong to make it “walkable”? And if they use a European model, why is that such an evil decision? Being able to walk out your door and get something to eat, or walk to work!!! That’s just awful, and it’s obviously Communist as well.

    • dk

      But wait a minute. Those single family home communities, separated from one another by large yards, did not spring fully formed from the earth like Athena from Zeus’s head. They were built because taxpayer-financed roads and other public works made it feasible to live in them. It was no different from what is happening now.

      We have developed plenty of housing where kids can run around. The problem is that as the population has grown, more and more people have to move 20 miles away from the job centers in order to find them/afford them. That has had enormous costs in terms of pollution, time lost to traffic, and–yes–tax dollars that have continued to be spent on roads.

      Walkable/liveable communities are desired by a substantial portion of the community. And building them has benefits even for people in their single-family homes with large yards: fewer cars on the road is a plus for all of us.

      Last I checked, European children find ways to run around (certainly they are slimmer than American children) and aren’t too frequently run over by buses or streetcars. In fact, many more American children are killed riding in cars.

  • Nova Man

    well some of the “urban planners” that the Board relies on certainly believes that they should be discouraged. They are more concerned with forcing a lifestyle they deem fit. Nothing wrong with Clarendon/Ballston/etc…But it would be nice to have a place to go in Arlington once you passed the condo/apartment phase.

    • CourthouseChris

      Do you mean perhaps the single family homes in Cherrydale, Maywood, Woodmont, Riverwood, Donaldson Run, Bellevue Forest, Gulf Branch, Old Gelbe, Rivercrest, Arlingwood, Chain Bridge Forest, Stafford-Albermarle-Glebe, Rock Spring, Williamsburg, East Falls Church, Yorktown, Old Dominion, Bluemont, Dominion Hills, Madison Manor, Arlington Forest, Glencarlyn, Barcroft, Arlington Heights, Nauck, or Aurora Highlands?

    • drax

      As if building only highway-dependent sprawl isn’t also forcing a lifestyle on people.

    • WeiQiang

      I think you make an important point, although I think that the goals are noble and execution stinks in Arlington. For the record, I own and live in a house in Arlington Ridge [the moat part, not the castle part] and I’m fortunate to also work in Crystal City. I think that higher densities near transport routes that offer reasonable public transport is desirable (for those who wish to avail themselves of it) for the economic, ecological, and social reasons I’ve pointed out elsewhere here. I agree that there should be choices between single family and higher-density options, but more higher-density is just getting balance between the two since lower density has ruled [with its concomitant and unsustainable reliance on cars].

      To your point about the Board, I wholeheartedly agree that they are out of control on development, but not from a planning objective standpoint. I think they are SUPER POOR negotiators in getting these business in to Arlington. They offer WAY too many incentives. I’m not sure whether they’re just outgunned by the developers (like Vornado) and the tenants (like Boeing) or are in colusion with them.

  • Nova Man

    “…A new type of living quarters will be developed along the lines of uniting establishments for public use with residential units. This is the trend in many architectural projects represented at the USSR Exhibition of Urban Construction in the spring of 1960…”

    Excerpts from The Soviet Review, A Journal of Translations, Volume 2, Number 4, April, 1961. (The Soviet Review’s editors selected the most representative articles published in the Soviet Union in major areas.)

    How about a NEW development in Arlington?

    How is that mode unsuccesful? If people want to spend money on gas rather than being packed in a Metro car, why shouldn’t they have a choice? Loudon County is quite succesfull, just not everyone wants to move that far out.

    • E2DAV

      They can use all their money on gas and people do have a choice. Nobody is dictating anything…it’s a discussion about where to best use tax dollars. The reality is that infrastructure is a public good and our already-urban county that is densely populated and next to the capital of the free world has to make the best attempt to blend styles of living and make sure they capitalize on underutilized areas. Gas is going to wildly swing on price for the foreseeable future. Nothing for or against green energy, but people will commute by car and cars will be supplied by gas for at least 20 years. When there is price volatility, it has an impact on people and tax revenues. So, for an urban environment, dense/mixed use is a sensible goal for investment.

    • drax

      The Soviets also planted nice pretty flowers.

      Does that mean nice pretty flowers are evil too?

      You’re full of the usual logical fallacies.

      As for choice, exactly! This area is teeming with single-family homes to choose if that’s what you want. But no, you can’t expect one really close to the city core. Sorry, but that’s life. Cities are dense, and if you want more land, you have to move further out. It’s basic physics. Get used to it.

      • drax

        Should have added this:

        If everyone had single-family homes, you’d still have to live in Loudoun, because they take up so much space. Arlington has no more space for new ones anyway. Duh.

        • B-Rad

          You don’t think lots are being subdivided up for multiple houses?

          • Josh S

            You know what’s really mindblowing? When you look back at the pictures / drawings / descriptions of DC back in the 19th and 18th centuries. Talk about large lots! Heck, the land around the White House was nothing but open fields when it first opened. Georgetown was considered a suburb.

            But then a funny thing happened. Human beings continued to have babies, as they always have. And more and more of those humans wanted to move to DC because it had a lot going for it. And so those empty lots got filled in. Eventually, to accommodate the growing hoardes, apartment buildings had to be built. Etc. Etc.

            Growth in Arlington is fairly inevitible because it has a lot going for it. We have already seen single family homes torn down for condos / townhomes. This will continue.

            Complaining about it is essentially pointless.

          • B-Rad

            What is really mindblowing is that you think I was complaining.

            I know it’s tough keeping up with so many different names. Just try harder, mkay?

          • drax

            Yes, there are probably going to be about 100 new single-family homes in Arlington when all the lots are subdivided. Wow.

          • B-Rad

            100? Really? Is that your best estimate?

          • drax

            Yes, it is. You got a better one?

        • John Andre

          The problem with single-family homes in this area is that they are so darned expensive, even in our post-2008 mortgage-meltdown environment. Being more expensive also means that the annual real-estate tax bill is that much higher [to which the County Board won't object!].

          There are a few single-family homes still being constructed in the County. In nearly every case, however, an existing affordable-size house on the site is torn down, then replaced by a developer with one of those huge, lot-consuming, ridiculously expensive “McMansions”! Apparently the construction of affordable starter homes for young couples or young families is either a lost art or is considered unprofitable by today’s super-greedy, Wall Street-financed developers…the same folks [e.g Donald Trump] who are trying to force Mitt Romney down our throats [not to mention the ordinary conservative Republicans who may prefer Santorum or Gingrich--not to say that those two candidates would be any better than Romney!].

  • Stitch_Jones

    I am starting to believe that there will never be a streetcar – that this is all a ploy to increase comment totals on slow days.

    But just in case…no streetcars, thank you.

    • WeiQiang

      How about those ‘max-taxi’ or colorful private buses or jitneys (jitnies ?) I’ve seen in photos from around the world? Could get it up and running tomorrow.

  • jim

    Arl county boards are nitwits. Col Pike street car will never be built. It will go right next to the Three Sisters Bridge in the ash bin of local history.

    • B-Rad

      Local ancient history. We got rid of these things once already. We have graduated to Metro and bus service. Focus money on building enough class rooms for Arlington kids.

  • Alex

    Unless it is a combination of streetcar, limited stops, and right of way at stop lights (lights turn green whenever a streetcar approaches), it is money down the drain to build a streetcar line. It is pointless to spend so much money on something that won’t travel any faster or more reliably than a bus. Though you could have limited stops and right-of-way systems at stoplights for buses, I do think the added “glamour” of a streetcar line WOULD get more people to take public transportation IF it were fast. This even more so here, where the line would basically be a retread of the much faster metro blue line.

    • Chris Slatt

      The Columbia Pike Streetcar plans include both those items: fewer stops and signal priority. They also include off-vehicle fare collection (no more stopping on your way in to pay for your trip), ingress/egress through multiple doors to speed boarding (no more bottleneck at a single door) and level boarding (streetcar floor is level with the streetcar stop so no waiting for bus to “kneel” or waiting for a lift to operate in order for a wheelchair to board).

      Also higher capacity, quieter operation, smoother acceleration and the peace of mind that comes from knowing you can buy a house or setup a business next to it without fear that WMATA’s gonna reroute it in six months like they do with the buses all the time.

  • Justin

    END THE VANITY PROJECTS!

  • Arlingtonian

    San Francisco has street cars. Lots of people ride them for free. They go in the back door. Nobody stops them. City officials are concerned, because of the loss of revenue.

    People don’t do this on San Francisco’s buses.

    Wait to you see how much money Arlington loses when the streetcars finally arrive.

  • 5555624

    For $250 million — the current projected cost for Columbia Pike’s streetcar — you can add more than enough buses to the existing routes for both of these streetcar routes.

    The bottom line is that as long as all the streetcar supporters pledge to make two-round trips M-F, the streetcar will be a success. Alas, that could be a problem for all the supporters who do not live anywhere near Crystal City or Columbia Pike.

    • Chris R

      Just to let people know some facts
      you cannot physically add any more buses to Columbia Pike without actually making them all go slower.
      Articulated buses only carry 30% more people than a regular bus
      So streetcars carry more people and therefore have less operators = winning
      Build it ASAP before the Pike gets completely choked – the people are coming regardless.

  • PEldridge

    I disagree that Bus Rapid Transit as panacea for area transit woes. Unfortunately, the ubiquitous diesel bus operated by ART/DASH/Metro fails to deliver the route building capacity needed to facilitate this process. Taken as a whole these vehicles continue to suffer from a combination of poor public perception, questionable environmental impact coupled with concerns about their reliability. On the other hand streetcars/ light rail with its capacity to operate in a multiple unit fashion can carry more people than buses and is much better at attracting new ridership – many whom are first time riders who choose it for its superior speed, comfort and convenience. These riders represent decreases in driving and an increase in overall transit usage. As we have with Norfolk’s new light rail system, The Tide, ridership has nearly doubled from a projected 2,900 to an estimated 5,600 daily users in the first month of operation. As Len Brandrup, Transportation Director, Kenosha, Wisconsin’s notes, “Streetcars have sex appeal. It resonates with folks. … Developers don’t write checks for buses.” Even the heritage streetcar operation in Tampa Florida had projected an initial annual ridership of 350,000 and as transit agency spokes person Ed Crawford pointed out, “actual ridership has never been that low.”
    Transit friendly development should also have been the focus of Ms. Leone and the Chamber as they prepared their recommendations. Again, developers are willing to invest in new properties along light rail routes since convenient transit benefits the community as a whole. Portland Oregon’s Pearl District was a rundown collection of warehouses, seedy hotels and abandon buildings. Now a decade later with a functioning light rail extension it represents over $57 million in mix use development with 7,000 housing units and 4.6 million square feet of retail/office space. Such development does not always translate into high price neighborhoods pushing out the elderly or lower income residences. The addition of a single parking space to an urban residential
    development adds $25,000 to these costs. With close proximity to fast, efficient transit, residents don’t need as much access to parking, and per-unit development costs reflect these savings. John Schneider, a Cincinnati-based Transportation Consultant states, “Building a streetcar system is partly about transportation but it’s mostly about economic development.”
    Finally light rail/streetcars tend to have a lower operational costs based on their ability to handle larger capacities and the availability of electric power. Taken as a whole electric utility prices tend to be more stable than those of oil and with the volatility in the petroleum market these can only be reflected in higher prices at the fare box. Also, the average life of a bus is 10 to 15 years versus the 30 to 40 year life cycle of the comparable rail car making replacement of buses more frequent and in the end more costly.
    As Canadian writer Ryan McGreal notes, “cities that have embraced light rail are enjoying growing ridership, cleaner air, and copious new investments. Cities that continue to eschew it will fall farther and farther behind.” It appears there are some at this forum are taking such a rear guard action.

    • Truther

      This post is a plea for streetcars, not a plea for a *Pike* streetcar.

      “ubiquitous diesel bus”
      -Quite a few PikeRide buses are CNG. Have you ever been on a 16 bus?

      “streetcars/ light rail … is much better at attracting new ridership”

      -It’s already the busiest bus corridor in Virginia, and the trolley will *not* replace most buses on the Pike.

      “Developers don’t write checks for buses”

      -The Penrose Square, Siena Park, and Halstead developers all wrote checks with no streetcar.

      “Building a streetcar system is…mostly about economic development”

      This isn’t H St NE – is $250+ million the best use of a County with an overburdened school system, infrequent off-peak bus service and a shrinking police force?

  • Fygar

    Crystal City is so small, why not just have a couple Rickshaws?

  • Charles

    A streetcar will do NOTHING to alleviate real congestion. Who are they kidding?

    It will however give thoughtless politicians a thing to say they “did something” however ineffective and show-off it is, to get re-elected.

    Better to spend the tax dollars on improving teacher salaries (so they don’t have to, ya know, buy their own school supplies, hello.

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