40°Partly Cloudy

by ARLnow.com — July 7, 2014 at 5:25 pm 2,351 0

Why Streetcar title screenThe county-run Arlington TV channel has released another series of videos explaining why the county is moving forward with its half-billion dollar streetcar system.

The videos are part of the county’s renewed effort to justify the massive streetcar investment to the public. The controversial project — which includes streetcar tracks in Crystal City and along Columbia Pike — is supported by County Board members Jay Fisette, Mary Hynes and Walter Tejada, but opposed by members Libby Garvey and John Vihstadt.

The four most recent videos include Tejada and housing advocate Holly Bray saying the streetcar will help preserve affordable housing on the Pike; planning commissioner Inta Malis saying the streetcar will reduce traffic congestion and benefit the environment; and real estate developer and former Arlington Chamber of Commerce Chair David DeCamp saying the streetcar will attract 6,600 new jobs and add $3-4 billion in new real estate value over 30 years.

Previous videos released by the county included the following titles: “Because more people will want to ride the streetcar;” “Because Metro was a success and streetcars will be, too;” “Because buses alone can’t carry enough people;” “Because streetcar improves connections;” and “Because it will broaden our tax base.”

The streetcar remains a source of controversy, with ardent advocates and detractors among local residents. The county plans to fund the streetcar system with federal, state and transportation-designated local funds, though Fisette recently asked county staff to come up with a way to pay for the streetcar without federal funding.

by ARLnow.com — June 25, 2014 at 2:35 pm 2,481 0

Streetcars in Toronto held up by a car accident (photo by Rick Eglinton/GetStock)

(Updated at 2:55 p.m.) Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette says the streetcar is a “strategic investment” that will drive economic development. But he acknowledges that it has an image problem.

Delivering his State of the County address to members of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, Fisette said “the workhorse modern streetcar” gets a bad rap from critics who say it would be waylaid frequently by vehicle accidents and other possible obstructions on the tracks.

Fisette pointed to an image that has popped up on blogs and in Powerpoint presentations given by critics. The image, above, shows the aftermath of a minor vehicle accident in Toronto that caused at least a half dozen streetcars to back up behind a damaged car on the tracks.

“It’s an image emblazoned in people’s minds that has distorted the debate a bit,” Fisette told the crowd.

In reality, Fisette said, such accidents will happen “very infrequently.” When it does, obstructions will be cleared from the tracks as expediently as possible. “There is a protocol in place for dealing with that quickly,” Fisette said.

Plus, Fisette argued, it’s not exactly uncommon for accidents to cause delays for vehicle traffic.

“Backups happen daily on the Beltway due to broken down cars and accidents,” he said.

(Those who oppose the streetcar also point out that streetcars themselves are sometimes involved in serious accidents with vehicles and pedestrians.)

Streetcar-like bus in Las Vegas (photo via Twitter)Critics, like Board members Libby Garvey and John Vihstadt, say an enhanced bus system would offer many of the benefits of streetcar without the high cost and inflexibility of fixed rail. They have at times pointed to a “streetcar-like bus” in use in Las Vegas (pictured, right) as an alternative.

Fisette said fixed rail is, at least partially, the point. People — himself included — are more likely to ride a train with a fixed route than get on a bus.

“I fundamentally disagree” that buses are better than streetcar, Fisette said. “Streetcar is much more comfortable, much more accessible… multiple doors, better for wheelchairs, much smoother ride. I myself know that when I go to another city, do I jump on buses? No. Really, would I get on a rail system that’s fixed and tells you where you’re going? Yes.”

Fisette’s most oft-repeated argument for the streetcar was its higher ridership capacity. He said that prior to the Board’s streetcar approval, during a long planning process that asked Columbia Pike residents what they wanted, the community signaled that it did not want Metro and the density that would come with it, but did want more amenities.

In order to continue to revitalize Columbia Pike — and thus build more housing and retail — Fisette said there needs to be more capacity for transit than buses can provide. Already, the Pike is Virginia’s busiest bus corridor, with 600 bus trips daily carrying more than 17,000 passengers. With the Pike and Crystal City expected to account for 65 percent of the county’s population growth and 44 percent of its job growth over the next 30 years, Fisette said the streetcar is the right system to get people to where they need to go.

Jay Fisette delivers his 2014 State of the County speech“No possible bus system can handle that ridership growth,” he said.

On the issue of how to pay for the streetcar – which carries a total price tag of more than half a billion dollars — Fisette said 93 percent of streetcar funding will come from “federal, state and regional money,” including a 12.5 cent commercial real estate tax designated for transit. He said he opposes using homeowner tax dollars for streetcar

At the same time, Fisette said he’s looking for a possible way to move forward without federal funds, since federal funding would come with strings attached, would increase costs and would slow the project down.

(more…)

by ARLnow.com — June 25, 2014 at 9:00 am 1,523 0

Sunset Paddle (Flickr pool photo by David Bender)

Board Members Spar Over Streetcar PR Funds — Of the $7-8 million contract with Parsons Transportation Group to serve as project manager of Arlington’s streetcar system, up to $650,000 will be spent on “public-education efforts during the first year of the contract.” That isn’t sitting well with Board member and streetcar critic Libby Garvey. “We should not be wasting $650,000 on PR,” she is quoted as saying. [InsideNova]

DJ Pleads Guilty to Assaulting Women — DJ Joey Flash, who counts A-Town Bar and Grill in Ballston among his former clients, has pleaded guilty to charges of rape and sexual battery. The nightlife fixture, whose real name is Joseph Rivera, admitted to bringing highly intoxicated women back from bars, having sex with them while they were unconscious, and filming the encounters. [Washington Post]

Capital Bikeshare Runs Out of Membership Keys — Anyone wanting to sign up for Capital Bikeshare will have to wait until the second week of July. CaBi says it has run out of membership keys “due to issues with our supplier, and heavier than anticipated member sign ups.” [DCist]

Animal Hospital Coming to Shirlington — Two veterinarians will be opening a new facility, Shirlington Animal Hospital, this fall at 2770 S. Arlington Mill Drive. [Shirlington Village Blog Spot]

Sinclair Hoping to Close on WJLA Sale Soon — Sinclair Broadcast Group, which is buying Rosslyn-based TV station WJLA (ABC 7), is hoping to close on the sale by July 27. The company is selling TV stations in Harrisburg, Pa. and Charleson, S.C. to facilitate FCC approval of the acquisition of WJLA and six other Allbritton Communications stations. [Arkansas Business]

Flickr pool photo by David Bender

by ARLnow.com — June 20, 2014 at 9:45 am 1,260 0

Yorktown High School graduation 2014 (Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann)

Board to Consider Sign for Rosslyn Skyscraper — The Arlington County Board next month will consider lifting a prohibition on rooftop signs on two new Rosslyn office towers. The action would potentially allow the JBG Cos. to begin work on its Central Place office tower, which is expected to be anchored by the Corporate Executive Board. [Washington Business Journal]

Fisette Asks for Alternative Streetcar Funding Plan — Federal funding is currently expected to pay for half of Arlington’s $287 million share of the Columbia Pike streetcar system’s costs. But federal funding is not guaranteed and, at last night’s Capital Improvement Plan work session, County Board Chair Jay Fisette asked Arlington Director of Transportation Dennis Leach to work on an alternate streetcar funding plan that does not use federal dollars or county funds from residential taxpayers. [Mobility Lab]

Green Party Endorses Vihstadt Again — The Arlington Green Party, which endorsed independent County Board candidate John Vihstadt in this spring’s special election, has announced that it will endorse him again in November’s general election. [InsideNova]

UberX Lowers Fares — Two weeks after Virginia started cracking down on ridesharing services, UberX — the service where regular people drive you around in their personal cars — has lowered its fares in the D.C. area by 25 percent. The new fares are significantly lower than comparable cab fares, the company says. [InTheCapital]

Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann

by ARLnow.com — June 18, 2014 at 10:45 am 2,696 0

County Board 2014 budget hearingThere will be no voter referendum on Arlington’s streetcar system, said a majority of Arlington County Board members in a coordinated PR blitz Tuesday afternoon.

County Board Chairman Jay Fisette, Mary Hynes and Walter Tejada all read statements at Tuesday’s County Board meeting, stating opposition to a referendum on the streetcar and giving reasons why they support the $585 million project.

The Board members said they oppose using general obligation bonds to build the streetcar lines on Columbia Pike and in Crystal City. Rather, they expect to fund the streetcar with a mix of federal and state funds and with transportation-designated local business tax revenue.

“After careful consideration, I have come to the conclusion that I do not support a referendum on streetcar,” Fisette said in his statement. “Under Virginia law… a referendum question must be tied to a vote on General Obligation bonds — and it is my commitment that we will use zero homeowner-financed general obligation bonds to build the streetcar.”

Rendering of a streetcar along Columbia Pike“I will walk away from the project rather than violate that pledge,” Fisette continued.

(About $71 million of the expense will be shared with Fairfax County, since the Pike streetcar will extend to Skyline.)

Fisette also ruled out waiting for Virginia General Assembly authorization to hold an advisory referendum.

“The time has come to act, to move forward without delay to build a streetcar system,” Fisette said.

Hynes, meanwhile, refuted arguments that the streetcar will take money away from other community needs, like schools. She and Tejada cited a study that suggests the streetcar will generate $735 million in new take revenue, thanks to added development along the streetcar line, over a 30 year period.

Tejada said he only supported the Columbia Pike streetcar after the county put plans in place to retain 6,200 units of affordable housing along the Pike while adding 14,000 new residences.

“There are better ways than a referendum to address concerns people have about this project,” said Tejada.

The coordinated statements from Fisette, Hynes and Tejada were accompanied by pro-streetcar materials generated by county staff. Among them were a press release (below, after the jump) and a series of 30-second video commercials explaining reasons why the county is building the streetcar, including:

“The County needs to do a better job of communicating the clear benefits of the modern streetcar, and we will do better,” Fisette said in his statement. “I would ask Arlington residents to study and learn about the issue — to go beyond the sound bites and give the matter the full consideration that this community always gives important issues.”

Apparently no one communicated anything about the referendum statements to Board members Libby Garvey and John Vihstadt. Garvey and Vihstadt, who oppose the streetcar and advocate instead for enhanced bus service, both expressed surprise at the statements.

“Reasonable people… can differ about whether to hold a referendum, and whether the streetcar itself is worthwhile,” said Vihstadt, who then spoke of his reelection in the fall. “Fortunately there are other ways that the voters are able to express themselves on this issue, including elections in which candidates stand for office. There will be another such opportunity in November and the people look forward to it.”

(more…)

by ARLnow.com — June 2, 2014 at 1:35 pm 2,315 0

Columbia Pike streetcar renderingArlington and Fairfax counties announced Friday afternoon that Parsons Transportation Group has been jointly selected to manage the streetcar projects planned for Columbia Pike and Crystal City.

The contract with Parsons will be worth $7-8 million for an initial round of management work on the 7.4 mile streetcar system, according to Arlington County. That will come from a mix of state reimbursements and commercial real estate tax revenue that’s earmarked exclusively for transportation projects. The county will negotiate the cost of the contract for each subsequent year.

California-based Parsons has worked under contract for Arlington County before. The company helped to redesign the infamous million dollar bus stop, dropping the per-stop cost to around half a million dollars.

In a press release (below), Arlington officials called the selection of a program manager “a major step forward for the streetcar project.”

Arlington and Fairfax Counties announced today that they have selected Parsons Transportation Group to help manage Arlington’s streetcar program, which includes the Columbia Pike streetcar segment that the two counties are jointly building.

In the coming days, Arlington will sign a contract with Parsons to help manage both the Columbia Pike and Crystal City-Potomac Yard segments of Arlington’s planned 7.4-mile streetcar system. The program management team will provide critical, specialized expertise as the Counties enter the Preliminary Engineering phase of the project and moves toward selecting a design and engineering firm by the fall.

“This is a major step forward for the streetcar project,” said Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette. “Parsons has a wealth of experience in delivering transportation projects — including rail projects, around the world. In the coming months, one of their primary tasks for our program will be to provide an objective review of the project and assess options for cost reduction, including exploring potential public-private partnerships.”

Initial work includes $7 million to $8 million of services, and will be funded by state reimbursements and commercial real estate tax revenues that can only be spent for new transportation projects. There will be no homeowner-funded General Obligation bonds used to fund the contract. It is a deliverables-based contract subject to ongoing review. The contractor is paid only for actual time spent on approved work tasks. Fairfax and Arlington’s current cost-sharing agreement for the Columbia Pike portion of the program will be updated to reflect this new contract.

“Fairfax County supports the Columbia Pike Street Car project and appreciates this partnership with Arlington to enhance transit in the Baileys and Skyline area of Fairfax,” said Sharon Bulova, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. “This area was once meant to be served by the Metro system and the streetcar will deliver on this vision of transit-oriented development. The Columbia Pike Streetcar is an enormous revitalization and economic development opportunity for this area of the County.”

Parsons, selected through a competitive negotiation process, brings a broad range of program management, engineering and financial expertise to the streetcar program, the County’s most ambitious transportation project since Metro. Parsons and its sub-contractors have worked on streetcar and light rail projects in Houston, Texas; Charlotte, North Carolina; St. Louis, Missouri; Atlanta, Georgia; Dallas, Texas and Norfolk, Virginia.

“This high-capacity modern streetcar program for the Columbia Pike and Crystal City corridors, is critical for sustaining growth and building communities in both Arlington and Fairfax Counties. Parsons is honored to be selected, and our experienced project management team stands ready,” said Todd Wager, President of Parsons Transportation Group, Inc.

Arlington began its selection process for the Program Management consultant at the end of September 2013, when it issued a request for proposals. Multiple proposals were evaluated on the proposed approach to the project, level of experience, qualifications and other factors identified in the RFP. Fairfax participated in the selection panel and in negotiating the first year work program. The range of $7 million to $8 million for the initial work effort reflects that the contract includes a specific work plan with several optional tasks that will be authorized as needed. The County will negotiate a work plan each year to reflect the work that is needed during the upcoming year.

by ARLnow.com — May 19, 2014 at 10:25 am 2,304 0

Rendering of a streetcar along Columbia PikeIn an op-ed in the Washington Post this weekend, Greater Greater Washington editor David Alpert argues that Arlington residents should look at the county’s history with Metro when forming an opinion on the Columbia Pike streetcar line.

Residents should take a long-term view of the benefits of the Pike streetcar, instead of just looking at the price tag, Alpert says. Such long-term thinking helped Arlington come up with the plan for Metro that ultimately led to much of the county’s prosperity.

Alpert adds the streetcar line is relatively inexpensive when comparing projected ridership with that of the Silver Line.

“In comparison with other projects, a streetcar on Columbia Pike is a thrifty proposition,” Alpert writes. “But that hadn’t stopped it from being a political punching bag for some who simply attack the price tag without context. News coverage that reports only the cost without discussing benefits does not help, either.”

Alpert says the county should focus on long-term investment, not just on spending as little as possible. Do you agree that recent discussions of the streetcar have focused too much on cost?
 

by ARLnow.com — May 15, 2014 at 8:45 am 1,672 0

Children playing at Rocky Run Park

Shuttleworth Drops Out of Congressional Race — Arlington resident Bruce Shuttleworth has dropped out of the still-crowded race for Congress. There are now 7 candidates seeking the Democratic nomination to replace Rep. Jim Moran. Of those, 6 are from Alexandria and only Del. Patrick Hope is from Arlington. [Blue Virginia]

Garvey Phones It In, Literally — Arlington County Board member Libby Garvey, who was injured on Friday in a bicycle accident, voted and participated in Tuesday’s County Board meeting via phone. It’s the first time that has been done in Arlington — Virginia law only recently changed to allow board members to participate in meetings via phone in certain circumstances. [InsideNova]

Clarendon Church Turns 105 — The Church at Clarendon (1210 N. Highland Street) will celebrate its 105th anniversary on Sunday. The church will hold a special anniversary worship service at 11:00 a.m. Originally formed as Clarendon Baptist Church in 1909, the church has seen many changes in its 105 years. One recent change was the new sanctuary that was completed in 2012, as part of a controversial deal that added an 8-story affordable apartment complex above the church.

High Streetcar Ridership Projected — While critics bash the combined $585 million estimated cost of the Crystal City and Columbia Pike streetcar lines, streetcar proponents are calling attention to ridership projections. With 37,100 daily riders by 2035, the combined streetcar system is projected to serve more riders than MARC, VRE and the light rail systems in Baltimore, San Jose, New Orleans, Minneapolis, Charlotte, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Houston, Seattle and Norfolk. [Greater Greater Washington]

Truck Day at the Library on Saturday – Arlington Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street) is again inviting children “to get up-close and personal with a menagerie of trucks and buses” in the library parking lot. Truck Day will take place from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m. on Saturday. There will also be transportation-related crafts inside the library auditorium. The library is warning nearby residents to expect to hear some noise from the trucks and the kids during the event. [Arlington Public Library]

by ARLnow.com — May 13, 2014 at 5:00 pm 2,857 0

Streetcar CIP slides Streetcar CIP slides

(Updated at 5:55 p.m.) The combined cost of the Columbia Pike and Crystal City streetcar systems is now estimated at $585 million.

Presenting an overview of her proposed FY 2015-2024 Capital Improvement Plan to the Arlington County Board this afternoon, County Manager Barbara Donnellan and her staff said that the cost of the streetcar systems had risen $190 million from the 2013 CIP due to changes in the size of the streetcar vehicles, higher engineering and start-up costs, higher inflation and a larger project contingency.

The CIP projects that the Crystal City streetcar will begin operating in the spring of 2020 at a capital cost of $227 million. The Columbia Pike streetcar is projected to begin operating in the spring of 2021 at a capital cost of $358 million, $71 million of which would be pegged to the Fairfax County portion of the line.

“This is a large capital investment for Arlington, but we have not shied away from large capital investments ever,” Donnellan said. “These are generational projects. Every generation is asked to make decisions that will ultimately benefit generations that follow. Building high-capacity rail in South Arlington will be a transformational investment for our community.”

Nearly 75 percent of the financing for the Columbia Pike streetcar is projected to come from federal and state sources. Most of the funding for the Crystal City streetcar will come from dedicated county transportation funding or bonds, with a portion coming from the state but no funds coming from the federal government. The CIP does not anticipate issuing general obligation bonds for either streetcar system — without which the county would need state legislative approval in order to conduct a referendum on the streetcar systems.

The $585 million price tag is the latest projected cost increase for the controversial Columbia Pike project. Initially pegged as a $161 million project in 2007, that number jumped to around $250 million in 2011. Last spring, the Federal Transportation Administration rejected a county grant application for funding because it estimated the project’s cost between $255.9 million and $402.4 million. At the time, a contractor estimated said $310 million was “a most likely cost” for the streetcar.

Arlington County’s latest transit ridership projection suggests that ridership along the Columbia Pike and Pentagon City-Crystal City corridors will double, to nearly 60,000 daily transit trips, by 2035. Most of those trips will be on a streetcar, the county said. The Columbia Pike line alone is projected to increase real estate values by $3.2 to $4.4 billion and generate between $455 and $895 million in additional tax revenues for Arlington and Fairfax counties over a 30-year period.

The total CIP for the next 10 years calls for $2.7 billion in investment, more than half of which is dedicated to transportation projects, including the streetcar. Donnellan’s proposed CIP now will now be considered by the Board, which will conduct work sessions and hold a public hearing on June 10 before a planned adoption on July 19.

(more…)

by ARLnow.com — May 8, 2014 at 9:00 am 1,533 0

Four Mile Run (Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick)

Morroy, O’Leary Join Call for Streetcar Referendum — The two elected officials directly responsible for managing the county’s money, Commissioner of the Revenue Ingrid Morroy and Treasurer Frank O’Leary, have joined Del. Patrick Hope and County Board candidate Alan Howze in support of a referendum on the Columbia Pike streetcar project. (Hope’s fellow congressional candidate, Mark Levine, has also called for a referendum.) “This issue has become too divisive to fester any longer,” Morroy said in a press release. [Blue Virginia]

‘Film Processing Kiosk’ to Be Removed from Zoning – In a sign of the times, “film processing kiosk” is being removed from Arlington County’s zoning classifications. The designation was determined to be “archaic,” a victim of the rapid rise of digital photography. [InsideNova]

Ball-Sellers House Tours — The Arlington Historical Society is giving tours of the historic Ball-Sellers house every Saturday through October. The log cabin was built in 1750 and is Arlington County’s oldest house. [Washington Post]

Murphy Named ‘Superintendent of the Year’ — Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy has been named Superintendent of the Year by the Virginia Association of School Superintendents. The group lauded Murphy’s “efforts to address school-crowding issues, improve graduation rates and address disparity in student achievement.” [InsideNova]

Follow-up: RaceDots Now Shipping – It’s been a long five months for Jason Berry and his company, RaceDots, since the company was profiled in our “Startup Monday” feature in December. Berry has spent long hours since then arranging for his product’s manufacture and shipment from China to the U.S. As of this week, the RaceDots — strong magnets used to hold race bibs in place instead of safety pins — finally arrived in his Harrisonburg warehouse. “The story behind getting the product here was an absolute struggle but we overcame the hurdles and are officially in business selling product from stock,” Berry told ARLnow.com. Berry tells the story on the company’s blog. [RaceDots]

Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick

by ARLnow.com — May 6, 2014 at 9:05 am 1,884 0

Friday evening in Ballston (Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick)

Sweet Leaf Cafe Coming to Ballston – Sweet Leaf Cafe will be opening a second Arlington location. In addition to the existing Courthouse location, the local salad and sandwich chain will be opening a new cafe at 650 N. Quincy Street in Ballston, on the ground floor of the Residence Inn hotel. [Washington Business Journal]

Businesses Optimistic About County Ombudsman – Local businesses and developers hope that the appointment of assistant county manager Shannon Flanagan-Watson as Arlington County’s “business ombudsman” is another sign that that the county is serious about cutting red tape and being friendlier to business interests. [InsideNoVa]

GGW Blasts Streetcar Referendum Idea – Greater Greater Washington writer Canaan Merchant says that the Columbia Pike streetcar referendum proposal floated last week by Congressional candidate Del. Patrick Hope and County Board candidate Alan Howze is “pointless and possibly destructive.” [Greater Greater Washington]

TSA Opens Pre-Check Office in DCA – The Transportation Security Administration has opened a Pre-Check enrollment center at Reagan National Airport. The Pre-Check program allows “known travelers” who sign up to go through expedited screening lines at the airport. [Washington Post]

County to Provide Super Stop Update – County officials this afternoon will be holding a media briefing to provide an update into the comprehensive review into the $1 million “Super Stop” bus stop. Construction of the other 23 planned Super Stops is on hold while the county reviews cost and functionality concerns associated with the first Super Stop.

Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick

by ARLnow.com — May 2, 2014 at 10:15 am 2,028 0

Columbia Pike streetcar rendering(Updated at 10:20 a.m.) Del. Patrick Hope, Democratic candidate for Congress, and Alan Howze, Democratic nominee for Arlington County Board, joined forces yesterday to call for a voter referendum on the Columbia Pike streetcar.

Hope and Howze are both streetcar supporters, but they said the controversial issue should be put to a referendum so that “we can put the streetcar debate to rest.”

Arlington County in the past has said that a referendum could not be legally held since it’s not planning on funding the streetcar via bonds. Hope and Howze, however, point out that an advisory or binding referendum could be held if approved by the Virginia General Assembly.

The candidates released the following statement on their referendum push yesterday afternoon.

Delegate Patrick Hope (D-47 and candidate for VA-08) and Alan Howze (Democratic Nominee for Arlington County Board) joined together to call for the Arlington Streetcar project to be put to a public referendum. Both Hope and Howze have been on the record supporting the streetcar- and continue to do so- but believe the citizens of Arlington need to have a referendum to make the final decision.

“This issue has clearly divided the Arlington community”, Patrick Hope said. “It’s time to move forward and have a public referendum to settle this issue. I represent parts of Columbia Pike in the General Assembly and I support major transportation investments in that corridor that will ease congestion and stimulate job creation and economic development. We need to move forward quickly with those improvements and I believe a referendum on the streetcar is the only way to settle this issue once and for all. The time has come for a full public debate on this issue and we need to respect whatever the public decides.”

“As we have done with Metro, Schools, the Water Pollution Control Plant, and other important community investments, we should give voters the final decision through a public referendum vote”, Alan Howze noted. “I continue to support the streetcar project because of the broad transportation, economic and environmental benefits it will provide for our community. I heard the concerns expressed by voters in the recent special election, and we can put the streetcar debate to rest and ensure public confidence by allowing a referendum vote.”

There are multiple options for the Arlington County Board to consider regarding a referendum and both Hope and Howze are open to whichever one the Board decides would be the best way for voters to weigh in on the streetcar. These include voting on the streetcar in the 2014 general election through the County’s transportation bond or an advisory referendum that may need General Assembly approval.

Democrat Mark Levine, who is also running to replace Rep. Jim Moran in Congress, said last week that he supports a voter referendum on the Columbia Pike streetcar.

Howze’s opponent in the November Arlington County Board election, meanwhile, released a statement that lauded the referendum idea but took a shot at Howze’s streetcar support.

Independent County Board member John Vihstadt, whose election was considered by some to itself be a referendum on the streetcar, is pushing for the county to halt all spending on the streetcar. He says that any referendum on the issue should be clearly worded.

I am pleased to see that Alan Howze now agrees that Arlington taxpayers should have a voice regarding the County Board’s misguided proposal to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to install streetcars in Arlington. I regret that Mr. Howze still believes that streetcars are a good investment for Arlington. Many people have already stated that my election on April 8 with 57 percent of the vote was referendum enough on the wisdom of Arlington streetcars. Yet, if a further specific streetcar voter referendum is to be truly meaningful and anything beyond a gimmick or a political tactic, it is imperative that the County Board direct the County Manager immediately to cease all County expenditures relating to streetcars, as I attempted to do at our April 16 County Board work session. Not a penny more of taxpayer dollars should be spent on promoting, planning for, or in any way implementing Arlington streetcars until such a referendum is held and Arlington voters have had their say once again.

Accordingly, I call on Delegate Hope and Candidate Howze, as well as my Board colleagues, to support my and colleague Libby Garvey’s efforts to ensure that (a) no funds shall be expended in the FY 2014 or FY 2015 operating budgets for the purpose of furthering a streetcar on Columbia Pike or anywhere else in Arlington, except to the extent that such expenditures are required to meet contractual or other legal obligations entered into by the County prior to the date of this motion; (b) no funds be included in the FY 2015-2024 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) for similar purposes and that (c) any referendum question on streetcars to be included on the general election ballot in Arlington in 2014:

  • be clearly worded to specify in detail the estimated total costs for all proposed Arlington streetcars,
  • detail the proposed financing plan for all of them, and
  • not combine streetcar financing with any other project so that it is clear to voters precisely on what subject they are voting.

County Board Chair Jay Fisette told the Washington Post that he wasn’t sure a streetcar referendum was such a good idea.

“I lived in California for a while when we had 100-plus referenda on the ballot,” Fisette told the paper. “I became very disillusioned about the use of selective referenda on public policy issues.”

by ARLnow.com — April 29, 2014 at 8:45 am 1,482 0

Rain clouds coming (Flickr pool photo by Brian Allen)

New County Website Now Live — The newly-redesigned Arlington County website is now live. The site is designed to be “more resident-focused, as opposed to county hierarchy-focused.” [Arlington County]

Congressional Candidates Weigh in on Streetcar — Several Democratic candidates for Congress are weighing in with their thoughts on the Columbia Pike streetcar project. Among those weighing in, candidate Don Beyer supports the project while Bruce Shuttleworth supports it “with reservations” and Mark Levine supports a voter referendum on the issue. [Blue Virginia]

Pot Advocates Endorse Ebbin — NORML PAC, a political action committee that supports the legalization of marijuana, has endorsed Democratic state Sen. Adam Ebbin in the race for Congress. “NORML PAC believes strongly that Senator Ebbin has the tenacity, coalition building skills, and political acumen required to help end our country’s destructive war on marijuana consumers,” the group said in a statement. [NORML]

Juicy Couture Closing in Pentagon City — The Juicy Couture store in Pentagon City mall is reportedly closing by late June as part of a larger corporate consolidation. [Patch]

Flickr pool photo by Brian Allen

by Ethan Rothstein — April 23, 2014 at 11:00 am 1,716 0

Libby Garvey at the 4/22/14 recessed County Board meetingArlington County Board member Libby Garvey, an outspoken opponent of the planned Columbia Pike streetcar system, called for a truce yesterday on the language surrounding the bus alternative.

Garvey made a presentation during yesterday’s County Board meeting, challenging the return on investment (ROI) study a consultant performed on contract with the county and presented last month.

Garvey said the study makes faulty comparisons, disputed the $3.1 billion ROI claim, said that calling the streetcar a “seamless ride” is nonsensical since a bus would do the same, and claimed it ignored contrary analysis, among other assertions.

After Garvey’s presentation, County Board Chair Jay Fisette challenged streetcar opponents’ claims that bus rapid transit (BRT) would be a preferable solution since dedicated bus lines, widely considered a requirement of a BRT system, are not possible on Columbia Pike. In response, Garvey offered an olive branch of sorts on the language the two sides of the streetcar debate uses.

“On BRT, I’ll make a deal with you,” Garvey said. “We don’t ever talk about BRT here again, we just say ‘streetcar-like bus.’ That’s all we need to say. A streetcar-like bus will do much better on Columbia Pike than a streetcar. Let’s just forget about it. It’s just a canard, it’s silly to talk the way we have on what’s BRT and what’s not. That just gets away [from the point], and I share your frustration.”

Fisette quickly agreed to Garvey’s terms, replying “all right, let’s call a truce on that one.”

The bus system that is feasible on the Pike was referred to by the ROI consultants as “enhanced bus service,” which wouldn’t use a dedicated lane but would have many features of a streetcar, like greater ridership capacity, a sleeker appearance and off-board fare collection.

Garvey’s challenge to the consultant has been echoed by other streetcar critics, who say the study was biased from the start, and its methodology — comparing two streetcar systems and two enhanced bus systems in cities around the country — was lacking. Fisette said the consultants, HR&A Advisors, will be making presentations to several county commissions, and backed them on their claims.

“I’m not saying [the study's detractors] don’t have some good points or couldn’t use clarifications to better understand how the consultants went about their work,” he said, “but I take issue with discrediting the work of these consultants overall.”

by ARLnow.com — April 10, 2014 at 9:00 am 1,849 0

Cherry Blossoms (Flickr pool photo by Nathan Jones)

New Restaurants Coming to Rosslyn – At least three new restaurant concepts are reportedly coming to Rosslyn. The restaurants will be opening on the ground floor of the Sedona/Slate apartment building and office buildings at 1100 and 1501 Wilson Blvd, according to speakers at a Bisnow conference in Rosslyn yesterday morning. Little is known about the restaurants — so far, property owners aren’t naming names — but one rumor relayed to ARLnow.com is that one of the restaurants will feature a Top Chef contestant as its head chef. [Bisnow]

Vihstadt Swearing-In Set for Friday — The swearing-in of new Arlington County Board member John Vihstadt will take place at 3:30 p.m. on Friday. The ceremony will be aired live on Arlington TV (Comcast 25 / Verizon 40). [Arlington County]

Other Localities Are Also Having Transit Debates — Arlington County isn’t the only community having a debate over a large transit project, like the planned Columbia Pike streetcar line. Streetcar critics are also active in Cincinnati, where a 3.6 mile, $133 million streetcar line is under construction. In Nashville, meanwhile, opposition to a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line has spilled over to the state Senate. [Greater Greater Washington]

Yorktown Boys Soccer Moves Up in Rankings — The boys soccer team at Yorktown High School is now ranked No. 6 in the region after opening the season with a 5-1 record. [Washington Post]

Rosslyn McDonald’s Demolition Scheduled — The demolition of the now-closed McDonald’s restaurant near the Rosslyn Metro station is scheduled to begin on Monday, April 21. Demolition work is expected to take 7-10 days. [Rosslyn BID]

Flickr pool photo by Nathan Jones

×

Subscribe to our mailing list