Public Forum on Columbia Pike Streetcar Planned

by ARLnow.com October 22, 2010 at 12:53 pm 3,761 36 Comments

The Columbia Pike Transit Initiative is planning a series of public meetings do discuss the proposed Columbia Pike streetcar.

One of the meeting will be held at the Walter Reed Community Center at 2909 16th Street South, from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 18. The other meeting will be held in Falls Church on Monday, Nov. 15.

The schedule of the Arlington meeting is as follows:

  • Presentation and Question/Answer Session 7:00 – 7:45 p.m.
  • Break-Out Discussions on Alignment, Station Stops, Facilities 7:45 – 8:45 p.m.
  • Reconvene and Recap 8:45 – 9:00 p.m.

Here’s a letter that’s being sent to area Civic Associations:

Arlington County and Fairfax County are proposing a streetcar line in the Columbia Pike corridor. The two counties have engaged the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (also known as Metro) to prepare a combined Environmental Assessment/Alternatives Analysis and are in coordination with the Federal Transit Administration for Federal environmental procedures and capital funding.

The project, known as the Columbia Pike Transit Initiative, would extend along Columbia Pike (Route 244) from the Bailey’s Crossroads/Skyline area in Fairfax County to Pentagon City in Arlington County. Alignment and yard options extend to the Northern Virginia Community College within the City of Alexandria, which is participating in the project.

We want to inform you about the Initiative and receive your input. Please plan on attending one of these important meetings! For more information, visit www.piketransit.com. Spanish translation will be provided at the meetings. For special assistance for persons with disabilities, please call me at (202) 962-1027, at least 10 days prior to the meetings. Feel free to share this invitation (see enclosed bilingual flyer) with your family, friends, and neighbors. We sincerely appreciate your participation and look forward to seeing you soon!

John M. Dittmeier, Project Manager, Metro
[email protected]

  • Rover

    Yet another spoke to the non-existant wheel of public rail. Why not build the wheel folks?

  • charlie

    ugh how to get there and more importantly, back? bus on Glebe is four blocks away.

    • Frenchy B

      Well, I guess that all depends on where you’re coming from.

  • YTK

    WASTE OF MONEY! Improve the bus service!!!

  • G

    At first glance, a street car system seems like a waste of money compared to a bus system that is not much different. The primary reason a street car is better than a bus though has everything to do with perception: people think it’s better. Check out this interesting list of reasons why a street car line is better than a bus:


    • TGEoA

      I just breezed those those “reasons”. Here are 4 examples of why the author of that list is a douchebag.

      3.Streetcars don’t feel “low status” to transit riders. Buses often do.
      6.There is a compelling “coolness” and “newness” factor attached to streetcars.
      7.Streetcars feel safer from a crime point of view
      9.Streetcars don’t smell like diesel.
      12.Streetcars have an air of nostalgia.

      • G

        If you read the article (and my comment), you’d see that these reasons were simply thrown together from a comments section from the website and that pretty much all these reasons you listed relate to the public’s perception of streetcars. A lot of people don’t ride the bus because they think the people who ride them are poor and/or sketchy. I’m definitely not saying I agree with this, but these reasons reflect my comment about the “perception” that the streetcar is better. This is what leads to higher ridership and more investment. There are also some other really good points in that list that never crossed my mind. These include the fact that streetcars last more than 5x longer than buses, and are a relatively permanent fixture in a community (bus lines come and go): inviting investment. Sure a bus line can pretty much do the same thing as a street car line (for less money in the short term), but don’t underestimate the power of perception.

      • S Arlington

        TGEoA, whether you want to accept the douchebag author’s comments, there is some truth to them.

  • SoArlRes

    Bring on the trolley!

  • Wayne Kubicki

    A major source of Arlington’s share of the funding for the Pike trolley is the 12.5 cent commercial real estate tax surcharge – some of this revenue would be used to pay the debt service on the bonds for the trolley (no voter referendum, BTW). The constitutionality of this tax surcharge has been challenged – the VA Supreme Court is expected to rule on the case in early November. If the tax thrown out, there will be a gaping funding hole in Arlington’s current funding scheme for the trolley.

  • S Arlington

    It would be great if they could find a way to connect the street car to Shirlington Northern VA Community College and Mark Center. They could bring it down Walter Reed and Beauregard.

    I look forward to the street car. People are frustrated with buses, too many stops, poor schedules.

    • Show Me the Money!

      I have only heard compliments about the bus service – why waste money on a trolley for wanna-be snobs?

    • G

      I completely agree that there are too many stops. I run 2.5 miles to work everyday from the Shirlington area to Ballston and ALWAYS beat the bus, even if it gets a head start. I laugh at people waiting for it along the way and also save $60 a month. Not sure how they would work Shirlington into the route… though it would be nice. I’m still a 10 min walk from either of two of the proposed streetcar stops.

  • Carling Springs

    I go out of my way to avoid the bus system. My perception is that they don’t run on time, there’s no easy way to tell when buses have passed, and the waiting areas are terrible. And let’s be frank, buses have an image problem, which the trolley would avoid, and in the process hopefully invigorate the retail and office space along the Columbia Pike corridor. Also those super bus stops (fully enclosed, heated, etc.) sound amazing. If the trolley comes I’ll definitely consider riding public transit.

  • Jack

    we need a light rail up 395 from springfield, landmark, mark center, shirlington, and pentagon city. that would actually improve traffic.

  • Stas

    First of all, the busses are great. There are plenty of routes along Columbia Pike and waiting time during peak hours is minimal. I’ve never heard of the ‘image problem’ with the buses before, sounds absurd to me. The obvious issue with the street car is that there are four automotive travel lanes on Columbia Pike, taking away two of them, will clearly jam up the road during rush hour. Also, do these street cars take power from overhead power lines? If that is the case, then asthetically, this will be a disaster. Look at European cities like St. Petersburg, Moscow, Prague, Brussels, etc.

    • John Snyder

      The streetcars will NOT take a travel lane. They will operate in the same lane with cars and other vehicles. The difference with buses is that streetcars can load more quickly and carry more people, as well as being a more pleasant ride. Because they carry more people, they can increase transit capacity as the demand increases over the coming years. What would jam up the Pike is adding thousands more cars instead of getting people out of cars onto streetcars. The power source is not yet decided, but if overhead is used, it is a single, narrow wire.

    • PikeHoo

      I take the Columbia Pike buses every day to and from work and I welcome the street car as another option. They are faster, quieter, better for the environment, and transport more people. That’s a fact. It would be a wonderful addition to South Arlington and it would add to our uniqueness.

      I question whether you have ever been to Prague or Brussels, if you think their aesthetics are marred by their excellent above ground public transportation.

      • Not Stas

        I have been to European cities with streetcars and find the electric lines ugly.

        • PikeHoo

          Yeah, those commuter buses are simply gorgeous. Quiet as a mouse too.

  • Bender

    Why not just rebuild the W&OD Railroad while we are at it? Or perhaps we can put in a monorail, just like Springfield and North Haverbrook?

    There is a reason that the many rail lines in this area went out of business. There is reason that this 19th century idea is obsolete. It is inconvenient, it limits freedom of travel, it is overly expensive.

    The many over-sized buses that now run down Columbia Pike often look to be 80 percent empty. Although they do obstruct the free flow of traffic, at least they do not run on ugly power lines overhead.

    A streetcar operates only in a few limited ways — either by overhead power line, by ground-level electrified third rails (like the Metro), which is EXTREMELY dangerous to pedestrians, or by carrying its own power source, like a bus does (many running on natural gas, not diesel).

    There is absolutely ZERO economic sense to running a streetcar. If there were, there would be plenty of private companies eager to build them, but there aren’t.

    So, we will spend a few hundred million dollars that we don’t have, jacking up our taxes in the process, to permanently install rails in the Columbia Pike roadbed, eliminating any possibility of transit flexibility, foolishly trying to dictate to the market where growth will be, so that a handful of people can experience the “convenience” of walking some distance to the streetcar stop, waiting, then enduring stop-and-go travel for a short distance before having to transfer to some other form of travel, and then walking again to one’s final destination, all so that you can take an hour getting where you want to go instead of ten minutes if you had driven. And we will spend all this money to do this before we finally realize how foolish the whole concept is and then ripping up the rail lines out of the street, like they did a hundred years ago.

    • Skeptical

      I think you summed it up as well as anyone has.

    • PikeHoo

      You think there isn’t a single private companu eager to take an order from Arlington County for a street car or two? Rubbish.

  • TAllen

    Yes, but if we don’t build a streetcar, Chris Zimmerman won’t get to wear a conductor’s uniform at the dedication.

    • NorthAdams

      zimmie goes commando!!!

    • Tess

      If that’s the best you’ve got, then you need to stop before you totally embarrass yourself – although I think it’s too late for that.

  • Mary

    Bender has hit the nail on the head…if streetcars are so wonderful why aren’t they being built everywhere to solve “bus” problems and why are they still around…-it’s regressing not progressing – like bringing back bell bottoms because you don’t have any other good “new” ideas. You just replace the “bus” issue with another type of problem.

    Just think what is wrong with the concept of 5 people sitting the the court house complex deciding the fate of the columbia pike corridor and the majority don’t even live in south Arlington. We don’t want to be Clarendon, Pentagon City or Shirlington – we don’t need cookie cutter neighborhoods – we were fine the way we were. “They” are just interested in more revenue -which is always the bottom line. Yet none of the new revenue goes to improving the current infrastructure. They just keep building more high rise apartments and increasing the traffic congestion and eventually the road rage as people lose patience waiting in traffic jams – which is already happening. The Columbia Pike bus line is the one of the best in the metro area – not my perception -I rode it for 25 years. If you don’t like car/bus pollution -move to Montana.

    No – “they” want to urbanize us– but taking away turn lanes and making the sidewalks bigger…do they really think that is going to make us walk instead of drive. Give me a break – I’m going to start snapping pictures of all the people walking the dogs, pushing the baby carriages and running on the street where there are already sidewalks available. Ask the people in the neighborhoods if you want to know what’s happening.

    Those brilliant 5 people have already allowed our neighborhood to be aesthetically corrupted by allowing 3 story McMansions to be built on lots too small for that footprint – and increasing water flow issues for taxpaying property owners in the area – all in the name of more revenue.

    Wake up – those of you who think it’s such a great idea -better watch what you wish for….

    • Jimmy Gramm

      Hi Mary,

      Please stop obstructing progress.


      • Arlingtonian2

        Hey Jimmy Gramm – Do we really need to become Tokyo? I agree with Mary!

      • NorthAdams

        yo jimmy, mary is on to something.

  • Bender

    It really is frustrating that the Arlington board’s idea of “green” is concrete gray, and its idea of reducing carbon emissions is to implement a policy of traffic obstruction in order to increase annoying traffic gridlock, thereby increasing carbon emissions.

  • Mickey

    I am old enough to remember the era of streetcars in DC. I am also old enough to remember why they stopped the streetcars and repaved the roads. Someone needs to go back and read the history of streetcars and the problems associated with the dumb idea or history will repeat itself.


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