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Columbia Pike Street Car
  • hjoseph7 March 16, 2013 - 3:50 pm #68203 Reply

    It looks like the decision for a Trolley/Street car on Columbia Pike is a done deal. Here is a picture on how it should look if this project ever gets off the ground: http://www.columbiapikeva.us/streetcar-transit/

    Sure looks nice,  but to tell you the truth I don’t see any benefit of having a street car on Columbia Pike other than creating a horrendous traffic mess for years and years to come. Columbia Pike is already congested with traffic especially during rush hours, so I could imagine what would happen when construction begins and streets and storefronts would have to close down “temporarily ? “.

    Traffic including bus routes would have to be diverted unto quiet residential streets that are not accustomed to it. Even ambulance, police and fire fighter services could be affected. This is not a simple make over of an intersection. This is a major cement busting, noisy, dusty and looooong type of construction that could affect our neighborhood for years.

    I live right off Glebe Road, and the frustration of having construction workers virtually parked ‘permanently’ there and the traffic mess they cause is enough to make me a grown man cry. I think Arlingtonions have suffered enough with all of these so-called upgrades . The neighborhood is not what it use to be 10 years ago. There are more people moving in, meaning more cars more hustle and bustle. I don’t think we can cope with yet another make-over(at least I can’t),  but I could be wrong…  Why not spend that money revitalizing  some dumpy looking  neighborhoods that line Columbia Pike instead .  I don’t see any money coming in from this Street Car,  only money going out.  Any ideas ?

    Chris Slatt March 18, 2013 - 12:05 pm #68247 Reply

    After 10 years of public planning, multiple public meetings, 2 transportation commission public hearings and votes, 2 planning commission public hearings and votes, 2 county board public hearings and votes – yeah it’s a decision that has been made (twice) and is being implemented.  Until I see a Streetcar running on the Pike I’m going to keep fighting for it though – just in case.

    Like all street work, it will certainly disrupt life on the Pike – it’ll be far less invasive than putting Metro in was, though.  You’re putting down a think layer of cement in one lane with tracks on top and potentially relocating some utilities if they are in the way of that – Metro had to dig way way down, build an entire tunnel down there, cover it all back up again and then build the road back on top.

    I think the Streetcar will have a big positive impact on life on Columbia Pike – as more residents and jobs come to the area we need a transit system that can entice additional people to ride, especially those who have other options and that has the capacity to handle that ridership.  In addition Streetcar lines have been shown to help attract redevelopment which can bring new local businesses, additional residents to patronize them and grow the county’s commercial tax base.  The Columbia Pike Neighborhoods Plan also relies on redevelopment occurring (rather than just renovation) to create committed affordable housing on the Pike – so the Streetcar is vital to retaining the diversity we currently have as well.

    The local money that Arlington plans to use for the Streetcar is from the Transportation Capital Fund which can only be used for transportation projects. It cannot be used for school construction, parks, etc.

    For more information, see http://streetcarnow.org/

    redstang423 March 19, 2013 - 2:48 pm #68392 Reply

    I still haven’t seen any justification for the excessive costs. Portland’s streetcar system built in the early 2000′s was about 4 miles (very close in size to Columbia Pike’s proposed system), and cost $103 million… and didn’t need to convert $1M bus stops. A new 3.3 mile extension is being built for $150M. Note it was only being built because they were able to secure half the cost in federal grant money. The new line’s cost is closer to Arlington’s cost, but still at least $10M/mile less expensive than Arlington’s plan. Couldn’t Arlington secure any federal grant money as well?

    As far as building it – the subway doesn’t have to be more invasive than a streetcar. In fact, often times subway tunnels are built using a process called “deep boring” which ends up having an extremely minimal impact to anything on the surface since they tunnel underneath – they often don’t even follow the road grid, which is a requirement of the cut and cover method. The downside is it takes longer, is more expensive, and can be a challenge or impossible in some soil conditions. Either way, the metro was never on the table (legitimately, anyway), and implementing a bus system as some opponents proposed requires very minimal intrusion on the roads – just in the areas they need to put bus stops. They probably also wouldn’t have had to spend $1M to make them “super stops.”

    If the streetcar does in fact achieve the goal of redeveloping this highly developed area, property values will go up. Columbia Pike was one of the few “affordable” places left in the county. These places will no longer be affordable. If the plan relies on creating additional affordable housing, are these costs already included in the cost estimates for the streetcar?

    You are correct in that funding will come from the Transportation Capital Fund (and revenue bonds supported by those funds), but let’s not pretend the money that will be used is already there and couldn’t have been spent in any other way. We’re specifically increasing spending and taking on debt to support this project. The bonds that will be funding this would not otherwise be purchased.

    novasteve March 19, 2013 - 8:07 pm #68414 Reply

    No. The cost of “affordable housing” will be passed onto the people who pay full rent. They will pay more to subsidize it. Making it even more expensive. so you’ll have to be very wealthy, or poor to live in Arlington. The middle class will be gone. Forced to  move further out. No doubt that will save the environment with their longer commutes.

    Chris Slatt March 20, 2013 - 8:58 pm #68491 Reply


    Arlington has applied for a federal grant.  Assuming it comes through, Arlington’s local share of the Streetcar will be about $112 million.

    I only pointed out the Metro thing because it is the last transit construction that a lot of people remember and it was extremely disruptive because they did cut-and-cover construction in the shallower areas (like Clarendon).  A lot of folks are picturing that level of disruption when they imagine what Streetcar construction will be like and it’s not comparable.

    The Pike Neighborhoods Plan allows developers to build higher than they otherwise would be able to in exchange for adding committed affordable housing units.   Because they are allowed to build more units than they otherwise would be able to, the building can be more profitable while still providing the community with committed affordable housing. With the thousands of additional units allowed under the plan (in order to meet those affordable housing goals) we really need a high-capacity, high quality transit on the Pike that will get people out of their cars.

    It’s true that the revenue bonds would otherwise not be purchased, but is worth noting that the tax rate isn’t going up for the Transportation Capital Fund.  We could certainly spend that money that will be coming in on more Metro elevator entrances, but plenty of commercial property outside of the Metro corridors have been paying this tax for several years, at some point it is only fair to invest in other areas of the County and we’ve got a great opportunity here to retain affordable housing and transform the Pike back to the vibrant, walkable Main Street that it once was rather an auto-dependent pedestrian-hostile strip.


    novasteve March 21, 2013 - 8:28 am #68506 Reply

    Chris, how many extra fatalities do you predict as a result of the streetcar being much heavier than a bus, and no ability to swerve? How many lives is an acceptable cost? If you hadn’t noticed, we already have lots of pedestrian fatalities, as well as car fatalities, because our drivers are quite terrible in this area. So what happens when a street car  hits a car?

    Anonymous March 21, 2013 - 10:58 am #68532 Reply

    Been wearing that tennis helmet again?

    hjoseph7 March 23, 2013 - 5:57 am #68712 Reply

    Columbia Pike is very narrow and not what it looks like in the “Street carNow” pictures. There are cars parked on the side of the street which makes it even more narrow .  I could understand something like this being done on a wider street such as Fairfax Blvd, but I don’t see any benefit at all of having a Street car on Columbia Pike. This seems like a project that is being jammed down peoples throats to serve certain interest.

    Dezlboy March 24, 2013 - 11:58 am #68722 Reply

    @novasteve: I predict no extra fatalities due adding streetcars vice more buses. Streetcars are limited to straight ahead, and travel slower than buses, therefore easier for pedestrians to judge.  Have you really seen a bus swerve?  They aren’t sports cars.  How many accidents are there with buses (cars and pedestrians) a year in ArlCo? Let’s start with a baseline, instead of just throwing out straw men arguments.  Heck, let’s go back to horses, because you can make the same argument versus horses and cars.

    Dezlboy March 24, 2013 - 12:00 pm #68723 Reply

    @hjoseph7: I always wear my tennis helmet to protect against the streetcars on Columbia Pike.  What, you say there aren’t any yet?  Well, I see streetcars…..

    neerveer May 28, 2013 - 11:38 pm #74881 Reply

    When my family migrated to Columbia Pike the trolley ran up and down the 4 lane pike,its come and gone replaced by the Metro bus service, and cars. So many cars that big bulky traffic lane-marker lights were strung up that would alternate during rush hour times… allowing 3 lanes to run east towards the Pentagon and city(4am-10am) and 3 lanes running west in the evening rush hour (4pm-7pm) The trolley has come and gone for obvious reasons. The #16 (A,B,C,D,E,F and J) bus runs frequently up and down the pike 24-7.The Metro bus can take you from any nearby Metro Station to South Arlington Columbia Pike in minutes. A cab ride cost on average $10, and from the neighboring Metro Stations its a good 20 minute stroll. There is no need as well as any room for a streetcar. The sidewalk street traffic is tight as is. Then consider the weather, like snow, nasty scene there. And when there is a car accident even now its quite hectic due to the narrowness of the street. The streetcar is a bad idea. I, like many others, prefer the Metro(above ground or underground) or continue on with the just fine (-minus the 1M bus stop) bus system all ready in place.

    Dezlboy May 29, 2013 - 10:01 am #74909 Reply

    neerveer, many of your points are addressed on the Arl Co website that has various transportation studies.  likely won’t change your opinion, but it’s easy reading.

    MissKittenCat May 29, 2013 - 3:50 pm #74972 Reply

    this columbia pike project feels its being forced down peoples heads to like.  first the “luxury apartments”  along the pike that bring in a certain demographic. Then a million dollar bus stop that fails in design, cost and practicality. Now talks of a streetcar to serve certain group of people who don’t like buses. Metro buses up and down columbia pike serve everyone. ART buses haven’t expanded introducing new routes.  There are other options that people don’t care to see just because a streetcar sounds cool.

    Dezlboy May 29, 2013 - 4:29 pm #74976 Reply

    @MissKitten,  i suggest checking the ArlCo Goverment website for documentation dealing the Columbia Pike Development Plan of which the streetcar is only a part. Also the site has documents specific to the streetcar. Many of your objections are discussed and countered.  The plan calls for no decrease of affordable housing along the Pike.  The plan discusses why streetcars are better alternatives.

    MissKittenCat May 30, 2013 - 1:21 pm #75045 Reply

    still doesn’t explain the million dollar bus stop….

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