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DEVELOPING — Pike Streetcar Cost Soars

by ARLnow.com December 2, 2011 at 4:27 pm 12,861 198 Comments

Late this afternoon, Arlington County revealed that the estimated cost for the proposed Columbia Pike streetcar line has increased by as much as $100 million over a 2007 cost projection.

The five-mile Columbia Pike streetcar line will run from Pentagon City to the Skyline area of Fairfax, and cost between $242 million and $261 million, according to “a new, more detailed analysis.” In 2007, officials pegged the cost at about $161 million.

“Inflation, an increase in the scope of the proposed project, additional engineering requirements, and federal requirements for higher contingency funding and escalation accounted for the increase in projected costs,” the county said in a press release. “The $50 million per-mile cost now estimated for the proposed streetcar project is comparable to the costs of similar projects across the nation.”

Arlington and Fairfax counties are still pushing forward with the streetcar project, which will serve a transportation corridor that’s expected to add 2.2 million square feet of commercial development and 7,300 residents over the next 30 years. Officials are calling the streetcar an “innovative solution” to transportation challenges on Columbia Pike, which is currently only served by bus.

“Clearly, a streetcar-and-bus system is the best solution for people who live and work on the Pike and the people who travel along it between two major employment centers,” County Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman said in a statement. “A streetcar will enhance the Pike’s livability, help realize the vision that Arlington and Fairfax have for this vital corridor, and help ensure its long term economic and environmental sustainability.”

Construction on the streetcar line is currently projected to start in 2015, with streetcar service starting in 2017.

  • Train

    I don’t seen how this will help. The streetcar will take up a lane of traffic won’t it? It seems like it will cause more backups than anything. Plus the electrical wire hanging over the road will be an eyesore. I’m sure by the time this project is started the price will have increased another $100 million.

    • Arlingtonian

      My thoughts exactly. Traffic on the Pike is okay, but definitely can be slow and crappy during peak hours. Now imagine that with the streetcar taking up a lane. Now imagine that during crappy weather.

      • In Penrose

        The whole idea makes no sense to me.

      • KalashniKEV

        1) Now imagine that it doesn’t pull over at the stops- elderly and disabled passengers will choke the Pike to one lane for several minutes at a time, both on and off.
        2) Now think about when it breaks- a giant roadblock turning into a total cutoff when recovery assets arrive.
        3) They are rolling out the red carpet for Capital Bikeshare- so you know there will be more bikes on the Pike too. Imagine the same resources available with bikes, cars, buses, trucks, and now this thing all competing. Now imagine the effects of the above on throughput.
        4) Consider that no one is going to ride this thing- you will be paying to fill the gaps- and probably free passes for special people too.

        • John Fontain

          “Now think about when it breaks”

          The plan assumes the trains won’t ever break. I heard they based this assumption on the expert authority of the guy in charge of metro’s escalators.

          • Kevin Diffily

            What happens when a car breaks down?

          • Grognak

            Or a Sick Customer.

          • Allen Muchnick

            Delivery trucks park illegally in the curb lanes of Columbia Pike frequently. Many current businesses have no other practical access.

          • KalashniKEV

            I didn’t even think of that… Imagine when UPS stops by? Total shutdown!

        • Rick

          Imagine all the cyclists complaining about tracks in the road and all the bent wheels on capital bikeshare property

          • charlie

            bicyclists are already being told that certain sections of the PIKE they will NOT be allowed due to safety.

          • Rick

            Because we all know cyclists obey rules. Or acknowledge them.

          • charlie

            well it doesn’t matter. bikers are being removed because they’ll kill themselves when their tires get stuck. bad combo.

          • Thad

            Yeah because drivers obey rules too. The number of times I have been almost hit by a car while in a crosswalk (you are supposed to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks that don’t have signals). I cannot count.

            By the way streetcars are used in a similar setup in seattle and portland without problem, as long as you respond to illegal parking and broken down vehicles (busses break down all the time in the lanes and there are more of them) it shouldn’t be a problem.

          • cyclist

            It’s not safe for cycling now.

          • Allen Muchnick

            That’s untrue. Bicycling would remain perfectly lawful if more treacherous.

        • Arlingtonian

          It really is, they aren’t thinking this through at all.

      • marlington

        We have these things called “buses” you know and they currently ply Columbia Pike en masse. They frequently take up a lane too, stop in the middle of the road all the time, and they’re bad to get stuck behind in bad weather. Extra street car runs will have negligible impact on this present situation, especially if bus runs are reduced.

        • bringmetheyuppies

          The only sane comment I have read about the taking the lane issue. Ever single damn day I get stuck behind at least one bus on the pike. No difference. And with the elimination of some buses you free up more space although the trains will be longer. I hate the damn busses. Get rid of em all!

        • Thad

          The street cars will actually have less of a problem because they will be pay before boarding. Buses only have slow boarding times because everyone has to pay while boarding. So it will actually be faster.

    • Train

      Oops. I mean to write “I don’t see..”

    • DB

      You’ll still be able to use the lane that the streetcar uses. It will have rails in the road, like on H St. NE in DC, but you can still drive on the road. The streetcar will carry more people than the buses so we’ll have less buses to veer around.

      • ArlingtonChick

        Are buses so overcrowded on the Pike that they have to go two at a time? I’ve driven with streetcars in Boston. It’s definitely more of a pain than buses. It’s really just not worth the raising costs.

        • DB

          Yes, actually the buses on the Pike are very crowded. On my daily commute I usually pass 5-6 buses, which tend to be bunched together. A streetcar would be able to carry more passengers than those buses and not take up nearly as much road space.

          • ArlingtonChick

            So you are telling me that I should contribute to pay the hundreds of millions of dollars cost for your 20 mins of daily inconvenience for a pet project that won’t actually ease the issue of the congestion? No thanks.

          • KalashniKEV

            It’s not going to ease congestion- quite the opposite. During and forever after the construction of this Fiasco the Pike will be completely untrafficable, forcing people to use other routes.

            There will, however, be an increase in QUAINT CHARM I am told…

          • Arlingtonian

            That’s really all there is to it, if you ask me (which of course nobody did, but I don’t care). I feel like they just want to use taxpayer dollars to make stuff that looks good but serves few county residents and only amounts to a mess in the end.

          • I’m not sure how all those overhead power lines adds quaint charm.

          • marlington

            “During and forever after the construction of this Fiasco the Pike will be completely untrafficable….”

            That’s a bold claim, says who? You don’t count.

          • Kevin Diffily

            Yes. We all contribute to the transportation infrastructure. I don’t drive much so should I argue that I shouldn’t have to pay for the roads. For what it is worth a lanes worth of metro/streetcar has the carrying capacity of multiple lanes of road for cars. Do you really want Columbia pike or any of the other arterial roads to be widened to 4 or 6 lanes to handle the same capacity? Of course I could also go on about the proven track record of transit driving development; AKA Ballston-Rossyln corridor that pays the vast majority of the counties taxes…

          • Suburban Not Urban

            I’d like some backup for your assertion, Metro maybe which typically doesn’t consume a traffic lane, but a street car that runs down a lane and stops every couple of hundred feet vs a car lane I’d really like to see the data – the only real benefit might be less pollution and that against the added waste of time and effort of commuting .

          • Ivy

            Good point Kevin made about having to pay taxes for roads he doesn’t use

        • Cate

          Coming from Boston and dealing with the E line when it runs as a streetcar past Brigham Circle is exactly why I see a streetcar on the Pike being a complete fiasco. The road just is not wide enough, with how busy CP is there really would need to be a dedicated right-of-way. The traffic will be worse, and I see a lot of accidents – I know that back in Boston when I drove on Huntington past Brigham when it rained, the tracks for the E were incredibly slippery. I really can’t see this working here.

    • Baja

      The streetcar is a terrible idea. The best solution in terms of finances, transit, and mixed income housing is for the Board to improve existing bus service (super stops, better signage, maps, marketing and buses to improve the Pike Ride brand) and pay closer attention to the streets and sidewalks. From a transit perspective, it’s insane to spend $260M when Zimmerman already admits that streetcars which move people marginally more efficiently won’t be sufficient. We’ll still need buses, which we already own, and traffic won’t improve much, if at all! In addition to construction costs, we’ll have to pay operating & maintenance costs of buses and streetcars! The Pike is already gentrifying and property values are rising; this is a blatant taxpayer-funded giveaway to developers that reinforces the Board’s priority of accelerating expansion of the tax base at the expense of affordable housing.

      • Josh S

        I’m mostly staying on the sideline for this go-round, but I would just like to respond to the notion that “traffic won’t improve much.” I don’t think the street car is intended to improve traffic. Nor are buses. They are intended to be an efficient way to move people from point A to point B, especially those who don’t own cars.

        Traffic will never improve as long as the population continues to grow. Thinking that it will is just delusional.

      • OMG OMG OMG

        The promise of a streetcar is precisely the REASON that private commercial investments are occuring along Columbia Pike. Without investment in the streetcar, the private investments would dry up and go away.

        • KalashniKEV

          LOL… do you hear yourself?

          Life can not go on without a streetcar! Commerce will end and tumbleweeds will take over…

          • Neutrino

            Have you been to Columbia Pike? The only money that ever comes here is in the wallets of those driving through. This will be a huge selling point for developers of high-rise apartment complexes and upscale vendors to build along the corridor.

      • Brian

        I took the bus to work twice (from Ballston to Crystal City) and I’ll never do it again. It has to stop at nearly EVERY block! I’m sorry, can’t they spread out the bus stops a little more so the bus actually covers some distance/shorten the time? I love the idea of taking the bus to work, but when it literally will take me three times as long to get there (and another three times as long to get home), it’s a deal breaker.

        I like your idea of Super Stops, hopefully to put an end to a bus stop on every corner.

    • BoredHouseWife

      Too bad we couldn’t make it more like a ski lift/cable car

  • sweet baby cheeses

    Ah, the old Release Bad News Late On a Friday trick.

    • bemused bystander


    • Leo McGarry

      “Take Out the Trash Day”

    • Burger

      Honestly, in this day and age…why bother with this Friday release. People have the internet and can see the release.

      • Neutrino

        People tend to be more prone to outrage when they have to work.

  • Train

    Oops. I MEANT to write “I don’t see..” (wow, bad day of typing).

  • Andrew

    “The $50 million per-mile cost now estimated for the proposed streetcar project is comparable to the costs of similar projects across the nation.”

    Was this not the case in 2007 when the estimate was originally completed?

    Assuming this things actually happens and is completed, what is the over/under? $400m has a nice ring to it…

    • KalashniKEV

      They’re scam artists. They create the backup data to pursue their own personal boondoggles. Reference: ArtisFAIL.

  • Gubmint transportation

    Yeah, DB? How many less buses?

    I’d rather have natural gas buses than coal powered streetcars.

    And how much will we subsidize each ride year in and year out?

    • DB

      You clearly don’t sit behind all of those natural gas buses in traffic daily.

  • Stanley Kowalski

    Kill this pig now! At most, install a marked bus lane and and overhead catenary to keep things electric and green. It works perfectly in the Denver 16th Street corridor.

    Installing and maintainng trolley tracks is a ridiculously expensive overblown pet project…..and exactly what I’d expect the Board to back.

  • seadoggy

    Insightful planning on par with the Artisphere fiasco. Anyone seeing a pattern developing regarding the County’s ability to plan and manage projects? And why we should continue to believe them?

    • KalashniKEV

      Who the heck is voting for these people?????

      (not me!)

      • my thoughts exactly. People complain about the board but then run and vote with great pride for the same group of people. The same candidates win by landslides.

        I keep thinking the point of this streetcar is to make the Pike soooo unattractive to drivers that they will just stop driving on it (folks from Fairfax Co for example, who use CP to get to DC). But drivers will continue to use CP and cause massive backups.

        Let’s just hope we aren’t all taxed to death for this little project. . .

    • Josh S

      Well the problem with seeing a pattern develop is that the streetcar isn’t even built and operating so we have no way of knowing how successful it will be. At least the Artisphere is operating so we can make judgements about whether it is succeeding.

      Also, name me a capital project that hasn’t seen its projected costs increase as time goes on. Completely and totally predictable.

      • Burger

        Snicker…you are funny. How does that sand taste?

      • KalashniKEV

        “the streetcar isn’t even built and operating so we have no way of knowing how successful it will be.”


        Geeeee… why don’t we just open up a cupcake stand on the moon and see how that goes?

        You’re making this too easy… 🙂

      • Rory

        Most large capital projects like this end up cositng betwen 20-40% more than advertised. the WaPo had an article with statistics about this awhile back.

        One reason is that the companies who win the contract have teams of engineers who see flaws in the government’s plans and know they will be able to change order (add more costs to the project) in the future.

    • Brian

      Why can’t they give DC United a stadium!??! Soccer is huge in this area and MLS teams are now commanding a lot of money for their franchise (~$100M). It would be a perfect fit and would actually bring in business, not like the Artisphere. It would be a small-ish stadium that could house a lot of other events, unlike what you get with baseball and football, which are too big for anything else.

  • John Fontain

    On Tuesday, we learned that financial projections for Artishpere were completely wrong and much worse than estimated. Today, we learn that the streetcar project’s cost are completely wrong and much worse than estimated.

    Estimates were $100 million off? Are you kidding me? This smells like gross incompetence. And why do I get the feeling that this won’t be the last “whoops” we are going to hear about this project?

    The more I hear about things like this, the more I think there was a bait and switch ala, “start out telling constiuents the costs won’t be much to get them to support the project and once we’ve got support we can slowly start letting the true costs creep up and out.”

    • KalashniKEV

      “This smells like gross incompetence.”

      You came around to it by the end of your post, but these people aren’t really that incompetent. This is willful misconduct, and misuse of public funds. (in the case of ArtisFAIL, perhaps criminal)

    • DCBuff

      No, this won’t be the last “whoops”, “oops” or “gotcha” we hear on this. What happens when the Feds and the Commonwealth pass on funding this? It all ends up on the Arlington Co. taxpayer. As for those that seem to think these streetcars will take up less space than buses, how does that work? Are the people smaller in streetcars? One vehicle/mode might be slightly narrower than the other, but would be then be longer. And, lest we forget, whatever the upfront costs might be, it will have to be subsidized into perpetuity.

      • Allen Muchnick

        A streetcar carries more people than a standard Metrobus because it has more standing space but only four more seats. If you enjoy standing on a Metrobus, you’ll love standing on the streetcar whose seats will often fill up at Pentagon City or a Skyline in Fairfax County.

    • I’d like to speak to you. Would you email me at [email protected]? Thanks.

      • OX4

        Uh oh. Watch out! WaPo may want to quote you as an “anonymous official close to the matter but who couldn’t be named because they weren’t authorized to speak about the matter.”

    • charlie

      Go look at the costs for Washington-Lee HS
      Long Bridge Park
      how much we paid in County manager salary in 2010.

  • Grandstander

    All aboard the White Elephant Express!

  • KalashniKEV

    On the other hand- releasing this information prior to entering the project may just be a clever way for Zimmerman to kill his terrible idea before it’s too late. With Cuccinelli as our next governor, I think there’s a very real possibility that Fisette might find himself in jail over misuse of public funds. It would certainly send a message to the rest of the county board about using county revenue to pursue their personal whims and interests.

    • Thes

      Fisette in jail? That’s a serious claim, KKV. You’re not merely saying you disagree with Fisette’s policies, or that he has made poor voting decisions. You believe Fisette has engaged in criminal conduct? I presume you have specific facts to back that up. Or is this one of those “not intended to be factual” statements?

      • Rick

        The County Board has taken to aggravating Richmond for sport. Cuccinelli has a nose for detail and won’t back down. If he wants to find something, he’ll find it

        • KalashniKEV

          I think that there’s a definite possibility and it should be investigated. If gross negligence or willful misconduct is discovered, the guilty should be punished.

        • Thanks for the laugh!

          Since Cucc has a strict aversion to facts, reason, and rational thinking, one presumes that anything he finds has little correlation to reality.

          If he wants to talk about wasting the taxpayer’s money, he needs to start with his scientist-harassing litigation.

          • KalashniKEV

            You’d better watch out. things are going to change around here once the new regime is installed.


      • Suburban Not Urban

        Yea like suing individual VDOT folks for the HOT lanes project.

        • Grognak

          OH SNAP!

      • Josh S

        Yeah, defamation has a pretty high standard of proof, especially for public figures, but Kevvie-poo is getting close.

        • KalashniKEV

          All I’m saying that an investigation by higher is in order.

          1) Is it possible that mismanagement of public funds occurred?
          Given the magnitude of the loss, I’d say that’s certainly a possibility.
          2) Is it possible that misconduct occurred?
          Given the fact that it’s not the government’s job to run Art Galleries, I’d say that’s a possibility.

          If Arlington bought a professional sports team and it lost a ton of our tax dollars I’d demand a similar investigation.

    • marlington

      Hey Patricia Sullivan, you still conducting research? We have another good comment here for your article! Let’s summarize the main points, which bear repeating. Zimmerman want to kill the streetcar. Cuccinelli will be the next governor. Fisette goes to jail for criminal misconduct.

  • ArlingtonDude

    I’m surprised by all the vitriol aimed at the streetcar. It seems the objections aren’t really rooted in the cost of the project so much as the belief that it “just won’t work.” If that’s the case, could someone explain (1) why it wouldn’t work and (2) what alternative exists to solving the growing traffic, congestion, and population of the Columbia Pike corridor? Thanks!

    • John Fontain

      Yes, let’s change the subject from the cost estimate being totally blown out of the water to something else like population growth!

      • Thes

        How about just changing the subject from how anything the gub’mint does must be bad to how we can work collectively to improve our economy and environment?

        • Josh S

          Well, slinging gripes and whines is much easier, intellectually. It’s Friday.

        • charlie

          I don’t know Thes, didn’t you just yesterday say that staff was essentially incompetent, I quote:
          December 1st, 2011 8:46 am

          That mall could use some improvement. It looks like it was planned by County staff.



          December 1st, 2011 10:59 am

          Indeed, Artisphere is a good example of what I’m talking about, where County staff, claiming to be “experts,” and working mostly in isolation, planned and programmed a facility.


          SO, is the county government good or bad?

    • ArlSnowGal

      Actually most of the initial comments on this post were about why the trolley will not work. Although, I’m not surprised to see a trolley supporter discounting reality staring them in the face.

    • Suburban Not Urban

      Or that I’ve actually lived in a community near Philly with a street-car and how much it actually sucked.

      • KalashniKEV

        Me too… 4 years of poor mass transit and QUAINT CHARM.

    • Allen Muchnick

      Buses–especially those that are longer, nicer, and stop less often than standard Metrobuses–could generally move more people about as fast or faster than the proposed streetcar and with far less expense,

      • Grognak

        And buses with that stoplight priority thing installed too. Let the buses cruise faster down the Pike and not get stopped at intersections. Then we can spend all these hundreds of millions of dollars on really important things, like having enough school space for the booming student population.

    • Allen Muchnick

      Bear in mind that this revised construction cost estimate of ca. $250 million EXCLUDES the cost to first extensively rebuild the Columbia Pike roadway and sidewalks under the separate Columbia Pike Multimodal Street Improvements project [ http://tinyurl.com/6wmm6sc ].

      • KalashniKEV

        LOL… stop, please!!! This is giving me a migraine…

  • JohnB

    From the press release:
    A variety of factors contributed to the cost increase from the 2007 preliminary estimate:
    •Project refinements and enhancements, including a slightly longer alignment, increasing the vehicle fleet size from 11 streetcars to 13, a larger maintenance facility, power and systems requirements, more accurate right of way needs, modifying Four Mile Run Bridge, and re-grading Jefferson Street, (adds $20 million to base cost).
    •A larger contingency, up from 8 percent in 2007 to 18 percent, (adds $34 million to base cost).
    •Escalation of the contingent cost estimate at 3 percent annually to the mid-year of construction, FY 2015, (adds $29 million to base cost).

    • Thes

      So… the costs went up because of

      1) We’re now going to be building something that carries more people to more places more reliably
      2) We’re going to plan more responsibly for possible last minute construction snafus
      3) Inflation (blame the Federal Reserve)

      Sounds like responsible government planning.

      • Allen Muchnick

        Meaning that the previous low-ball estimate was irresponsible.

      • Arlwhenver

        Ya except construction cost haven’t inflated since 2007. Cost have actually come down. Witness the schools that are being built at 20 percent or more less than the pre-meltdown projections. The kindest words that can be used to describe the inflation claim are that’s it is disingenous and deceptive.

        • You are dead on. Construction costs are way down. It is clear the scope and reported costs of the project were not well thought out before they were reported to the public. Or, the politicians flat out lied. Imagine that? A politician not telling the truth….

        • John Snyder

          What is disingenuous and deceptive is the statement that they are measuring inflation from 2007 to 2011. The escalation is a projection of inflation between now and 2015, as the mid-point of construction was assumed to be 2011 and is now assumed to be 2015. Unless you can personally guarantee (with security) that there will be no inflation in construction costs in the next four years, an escalation factor is prudent. That is about one third of the estimate increase. The biggest part of the estimate increase is using the federally mandated 18% contingency instead of 8% used in the prior estimate. Contingencies cover the unexpected, making it more likely that the budget will be achieved.

          • Arlwhenver

            One third of the projected cost increased doesn’t even cover how much construction costs have decreased 2011 vs. 2007. Bad math and bad government go hand in hand. Stop the phoney cover.

          • KalashniKEV

            We already know they work backwards from the numbers. Remember the property tax thing being just-exactly-enough…

        • Homeowner


  • MC

    Does anyone believe that the creation of a tram will not create a rise in the property values along Columbia Pike and Skyline of $250 million? Just for comparison, the Purple Line tram in Maryland is expected to increase property values by $6 billion or so.

    • JohnB


      Including brand new commercial property that will reduce the share of the tax burden on homeowners.

      • Nope

        Just the opposite. The commercial development will raise property values of everthing in a half-mile radius (or more), meaning if you live nearby, guess what–a higher tax bill for you than if you lived farther from it.

        • South Arlington

          And more wealth and equity in our properties.

          • John Snyder

            And a nicer place to live and work.

          • charlie

            hey John, speaking of quality of life in the South, how are those medians on Walter Reed treating you and the neighbors?
            Seems to me that people are having more trouble coming out of the sidestreets because there is no waiting area in the middle of the road to keep your car after you’ve crossed one side and need to get into the other side.
            also speeds seem to be pretty much the same. fast.
            what is your feeling? and what about the community?

          • John Snyder

            Thanks for asking. My observation is that it is much safer now. Speeds on Walter Reed are down, and people are more careful entering the side streets. In particular, the turn onto Four Mile Run minor is much safer. It is also easier to pull out onto Walter Reed, as site lines are much improved. We still have more to do, particularly at the crossing to the community center, but we are definitely making progress.

    • South Arlington

      Obviously. Just like the Metro does for everyone along the Orange Line.

    • Except that the trolly is an electric bus, not an underground mass transit system. Bus lines don’t add property value. Your key word on the Purple Line tram is “expected”. Show us the value, don’t expect it.

      This is a waste of taxpayer money in the form of a political pet project.

      • Josh S

        Whether it is a waste of money in the form of a political pet project is your opinion. One can easily make the same argument about any number of government-provided services.

        The fact is that the standards for judging this a failure only make sense after the thing is built and operating. At that point, I guess if you could show that the trolley breaks down and impedes traffic at a higher rate than the existing buses, then you could call that a negative strike against it. If the trolleys were carrying fewer people than the existing bus service, that would be a strike against it. If the trolleys required an operating subsidy that was greater than the one currently provided to buses along Columbia Pike, that would be a strike against it. Some of the positive aspects of the trolley will be very difficult to measure, however. Those would include economic growth along the CP corridor. Growth appears to be coming regardless of whether there is a trolley. WIll the trolley spur more? It will be hard to tell, I think. Other positive externalities that may or may not be hard to measure would be marginal changes in the amount of ground level pollution. Since the bus fleet has largely moved to natural gas already, further improvements in emissions may be negligible.

        In any case, the point being that, as I pointed out above, it is not possible to pass judgement on the streetcar before it is actually built. Until then, you’re just relying on whatever preconcieved prejudices you have. I find that the people in favor of the streetcar at least attempt to point to data derived from other cities and their experience with streetcars. Those opposed to the streetcar seem to be relying on nothing more than emotional grudges.

        • Taxpayer Tommie

          You are advocating spending all of that taxpayer money before you formulate an opinion on whether it is worthwhile???? ARE YOU HIGH? There is a reason folks here, and elsewhere, are critical of this project. That reason isn’t “preconcieved prejudices”. It is taxpayer money being spent by a bunch of less-than-adequate politicians!!!!!

        • Lou

          It’s impossible to pass judgement on how much better the county board would be if they switched from all at-large to precinct based elections. So why not try it and see? The only people opposed to the precinct option seem to be only relying on emotional grudges.

          See how that works?

        • “Build it and let’s see.” That’s essentially what you said. Are you kidding me? Questioning where tax money is spent is part of the political process. In fact, we SHOULD be allowed to vote on this pet project boondoggle. Let the citizens decide!

          • Josh S

            A. I didn’t say it should be built.
            B. Obee’s comments about the political process and we should be allowed to vote on it are nonsequitors to the issue of what sort of evidence the naysayers have to predict doom and gloom. It’s a different issue. I tend to agree, though – I would like more direct democracy.
            C. TT misses my point. I am definitely NOT advocating spending the money without analysis ahead of time. I was just pointing out that those opposed to the trolley here on this thread have yet to really point to any analysis that supports their opinion that the trolley will fail. I am also saying that regardless of the analysis you or anyone else points to, there is uncertainty. So all the moaning and groaning from those calling this a boondoggle, etc just has to be taken with a huge grain of salt, at a minimum.
            D. What does “less than adequate politicians!!!!” even mean?
            E. I don’t even know how to respond to Lou. Your point went over my head.

          • Latin Noodge

            non sequitur, not non sequitor

  • novasteve


  • G Clifford Prout

    Waa waaa waaaaa. I want my trolley.

  • CourthouseChris

    I lived in Portland along the streetcar line there. It’s a nice system. I think I’d like to live along Columbia pike if it had a streetcar line.

    • ArlSnowGal

      My house will be available then. Let me know if you’re coming over before it’s constructed or after so I’ll know when to expect you –sooner or much, much later.

      • Bluemonter

        Okay give me the address… and your selling price. I would love to buy your home on or near the pike before the tram/trolley is installed.

  • E2DAV

    I love the people complaining about traffic. Sorry, that if this happens to be on schedule (which it won’t), your 2018 commute might take a little longer.

    This is a long term plan focused on revitalizing the extremely underutilized Columbia Pike corridor. There is extreme potential for rising density, a higher tax base and trying to rival the Ballston-Rosslyn corridor. Some people may not want that, but we live 3 miles from the capital of the free world, get over it – we need something that will have some long term viability because density will come, no matter what happens. The question will be if that density is like Tysons Corner or something more pedestrian friendly with less congestion. The extreme alternative, is that density goes to Alexandria, North Arlington and there will be a slumming of South Arlington.

    I am not saying that a streetcar is a do or die situation because if it is cost prohibitive, then it won’t make sense. But, further density will come as this area is severely underutilized; so lets try to control the outcome and makeup of the area by exploring alternative transportation options and not dismissing things that might affect commute in seven years.

    If you are a current resident and don’t like it – take your money from your house appreciation and move somewhere else.

    • arlgirl

      How about we just vote out the idiots who are wasting our tax dollars instead?

      • KalashniKEV

        Some of us are trying… though remember how Favola flaunted her ignorance and nastiness in the face of every voter and still came out way ahead of the vastly more qualified Merrick? I certainly don’t wish it, but Arlington is going to have to feel the pain that the rest of the country feels in order to come back to reality, I’m afraid…

    • alebt

      I understand they could use a little density and re-utilization in Ward 8. I happily give them this proposed plan. I carry my emotional baggage in my wallet. Right now…I’m crying. When will the County Board listen to its taxpayers???

  • MB

    You know what might provide useful context for this? Example cost overruns on road expansions in similar corridors.

    • Allen Muchnick

      How about Dulles Rail and MD’s Purple Line?

      • Burger

        the 2nd dulles expansion is running at about twice the estimated costs.

    • Allen Muchnick

      Bear in mind that this revised construction cost estimate of ca. $250 million EXCLUDES the cost to first extensively rebuild the Columbia Pike roadway and sidewalks under the separate Columbia Pike Multimodal Street Improvements project [ http://tinyurl.com/6wmm6sc ].

      All told, this will be a half billion dollar boondoggle that would only replace roughly half (ten) of the existing Pike Metrobuses (at least 2 or 3 of the trolley cars would be spares) with the same number of equally slow streetcars.

  • 1. The trolley won’t go to Pentagon, where lots of current Pike bus users have to transfer. 2. Adding the trolley to traffic will end or diminish the direct-to-DC 16F and 16Y services. 3. Zimmerman, as well as the recently re-elected Hynes and Tejada, have never officially explained why they favor a trolley over bendy-buses or a DC Circulator-type service, either as candidates or on the County webpage. 4. In the end, unless you ride the 16G every day, this is millions of dollars (and more and more) for worse service, rather than upgrading an already very popular service 5. Money is much better spent on expanding ART, bike lanes, late night bus service, fixing sidewalks/crosswalks on the corridor, etc.

  • Teyo

    I get on the 16 buses for work every morning near the eastern end of Columbia Pike and unless I’m running very late, I generally can’t make it past the front wheel well area of the bus because it’s so crowded (and on several occasions the bus didn’t stop as it was too full). I also recently got a car and started driving on the Pike for some errands. As annoying as it is to be stuck behind a bus, I’m more annoyed at all the potholes that these buses enlarge and create through repeated stops. As for the overhead wires, many great European cities have them and it hasn’t detracted people from admiring their architecture. I’m sure the Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse will remain visible from the road and sidewalk as will the many aesthetically pleasing 7-11 signs along the Pike.

    Every time I’m on a crowded bus as it goes over a pothole, I think of how great it would be to have more capacity gliding over smooth rails instead of the claustrophobic bus rattling over potholes.

    Every time I run over a pothole in my car, I think how great it would be if fewer buses ran on the Pike and I wouldn’t feel like my car is going to be torn apart by the potholes if I go faster than 20 MPH.

    The buses are near capacity, the streetcar is a good way to increase transit capacity and it’s a lot cheaper and less disruptive than putting in a new underground Metro line.

    • Chris M.

      Talk about first-world problems! So taxpayers should spend 261 million instead of a few thousand for extra bus service and extra pot hole fixes.

      But what the hell right, it’s other people’s money and your comfort is priceless. It’s not like people on the Metro have to cram themselves in.

      • Josh S

        If you hadn’t noticed, Chris, potholes reappear every year.

        And I’ll take your “few thousand” as a joke meant to underline your point.

        It’s our money. Not mine. Not yours.

        • Chris Myers

          “If you hadn’t noticed, Chris, potholes reappear every year.”

          That’s obvious; I don’t really get your point. In addition, I would bet the cost of long-term track/road maintenance associated with a trolley might exceed that of regular road maintenance.

          “And I’ll take your “few thousand” as a joke meant to underline your point.”

          It’s a bit of an understatement, but not really. The relative cost of addressing Teyo’s concerns are tiny in comparison this ridiculously needless and vain idea.

          “It’s our money. Not mine. Not yours.”

          That is my exact point. Since his contribution to this project is tiny, he seems not be thinking (or more likely caring) about the real tradeoffs here. That is a ton of money, and the county could do a lot of useful things with it.

          I live on the CP too, and I regularly take the 16Y. I even have to stand up next to somebody every now and then, god forbid.

          • Teyo

            I live past Courthouse, so I take the 16 B, G, or whatever else comes along so I can get to the Metro. And I don’t mind standing next to people, I do plenty of that on the Metro as well. My point was that potholes do reappear every year and buses (and heavy trucks) contribute significantly to their reappearance. By contrast, a streetcar runs on rail and, if you’ve been on H St NE recently, you’ll notice that the lane the streetcar runs on is also reinforced. So, no, putting the streetcar in wouldn’t require more maintenance, but rather less. The reinforced material, incidentally, is the same that’s used at some high volume bus stops in DC to similarly prevent wear and tear on the roadway. It doesn’t make sense to me to pay for buses that tear up the road and then pay for crews to fix the road. Over and over and over again.

            As for the cost of the system, a streetcar can hold a lot more people than a bus (and still only requires one operator) and those buses don’t cost a few thousand but close to a million each. That’s not even factoring in the maintenance from having to fix it after it runs over potholes hundreds of times a day or having to buy fuel, etc.

            Bottom line: A streetcar is a long term investment with high upfront costs but plenty of benefits down the road. Already developments such as the re-built Giant and the surrounding area are being put in place because of the streetcar. And yes, this is the first world, and that’s why I’d prefer that Columbia Pike looks more like a street on the American capital’s periphery and less like a street outside Mogadishu.

        • Burger


          -It’s our money. Not mine. Not yours.–

          This comment is plain out disgusting.

          The money that will go into this boondoogle is MY MONEY along with every other person that pays taxes.

          you comment screams most liberal’s view that a person’s money is really just on loan from the government.

          • Josh S

            Chill out, ham.

            I was referring to the tax revenues used to fund government projects. It’s our money. Not yours. Not mine.

            You repeated it yourself – “MY MONEY along with every other person that pays taxes” – another way of saying that is, simply, “ours.” I don’t know what makes such a comment “disgusting” – it’s just true. Just like the library (for example) built with our tax dollars isn’t your library or my library, it’s our library.

            I wonder where you get your information about what are “most liberal’s” (sic) viewpoints.

    • Arlwhenver

      You can buy 400 or 500 buses for what it costs to build the streetcar. And you don’t add one iota of transportation capacity by putting streetcars in lanes that are already used to their maximum capacity. The streetcar is a developer’s toy, not a mass transit solution.

      • Teyo

        Let’s split your estimate and say we could buy 450 buses with the high estimate of $261 million. Currently, buses run about every other minute during rush hour and by the time they get to me, they’re sometimes bunched up in groups of 2 or 3. Regardless, the buses are nearly full. Would you suggest adding those 450 buses into service on top of the ones we already have? You’d essentially have a convoy of buses running down the right lane of the Pike non-stop. If you think traffic would be bad with the streetcars, imagine what having only one usable lane in each direction at all times would be like.

        Sure, each bus would be less full, but there would be many more of them, traffic would be horrendous, and the Pike would need to be repaved semiannually from all the wear and tear. Imagine if the same number of buses ran on the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor as run on the Pike today. It would be a nightmare. Already the Pike is among the most heavily bused routes but when each bus can only carry about 70 people and each streetcar can carry about twice as many, it should be clear how you add more than one iota of transportation capacity. Fewer public transportation vehicles carrying more passengers with less impact on the road sounds to me like an investment worth making.

  • Rick

    Does anyone have data on how much the county has spent to remove all overhead wires from Columbia, and how much it will cost to hang new ones up for the streetcar?

    • Ridiculous, isn’t it?

      • Rick

        Seriously. Step one: Tear up road, take down utility poles, redo sidewalks, halfass repave (not to mention ask property owners to pay up to $2000 each to have lines removed and redone in front of their property). Step two: tear up road, hang up overhead lines, redo sidewalks, halfass repave.

        It’s like pretty woman… pay a woman to take her clothes off and then keep paying her to put them on.

    • FrenchyB

      I’m sure the cost estimate for the overhead electrical lines are included in the current estimate, since they are the dedicated power source for the streetcar alone.

    • charlie

      actually they make the developers do it — so it is free. Not.

  • 22a rider

    Does anyone know if the County has looked at lower cost alternatives to improving transit on the Pike other than the streetcar?

    How about routinely fixing those terrible potholes, increasing bus frequency, and maybe even installing overhead lines for electric buses (like in Vancouver or the Silver Line in Boston)? Or how about double-decker buses?

    The trolley car is going to be subject to the same traffic as buses/cars because of the stop lights (I agree with ArlingtonChick on this one)…anyone ride the street-level Green Line in Boston?

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  • info81

    I can’t believe these comments. A streetcar is far more comfortable than a bus. I don’t think most of the posters here have lived near a street car route. It is a far more enjoyable ride and gives people a feeling they are “connected” like being near a metro rail station.

    However, this is not about reducing traffic. Many European cites have great streetcar/subway systems but traffic is still bad. Anywhere that has density is going to have bad traffic.

    The streetcars will allow the pike to become a destination corridor like the Orange line. This will give South Arlington the cachet it has always deserved, it is too close to DC to be a short cut into the city. This is the future get used to it.

    • marlington

      What about the many comments arguing traffic disruptions created by street cars will be worse than traffic disruptions created by buses? Except for the building phase, WRONG. Common sense people, use it.

      A lick of sense isn’t even required though, haven’t any of these commentators been stuck behind the many, many buses on Columbia Pike? The addition of a few streetcar runs will make negligible difference, especially is the bus runs are reduced.

      • Burger

        Sigh…if, as many pro-trolley commentors, have stated the support for the trolley is that it can carry more people because it is bigger – but more people, mean longer stops as more people get on/off the trolley than said bus. That means 1 lane of traffic will be stopped for longer periods of time. This slows traffic overall on along Columbia pike

        • FrenchyB

          Streetcar on & offloading will be faster than on buses – riders will enter and exit using all sets of doors, and each set of doors will have a SmarTrip card reader for fares. Riders without a SmarTrip card will buy a paper ticket from a machine at the stations, not on the streetcar itself.

      • LVGuy

        Your car is disrupting my bus.

        • Josh S

          This is about the best one sentence summation of how ridiculous many complaints against the trolley are in that it points out quite deftly how ridiculous and selfish it is to assume that a person travelling solo in an automobile is the self-evident high point on the transportation food chain and that this person deserves the most considerations, has the most rights, is the most valuable to society.

    • 5555624

      I see the bus or the streetcar as a way to get from point A to point B. At most. we’re talking about five miles. I’m sorry, but “comfort” is not high on my list. If I am on the streetcar long enough to be concerned about comfort, it’s probably quicker for me to get off and walk.

      I have not seen any data that says people are going to be riding it for fun, where comfort might be a concern.

      Just remember folks, if all the streetcar supports, including Zimmeran, pledge to make two round trips per week, it might be a success. Oops, that’s right, many of the streetcar supporters do not live along the Columbia Pike corridor and will rarely ride it.

    • Burger

      Great. If you want comfort – you buck up the extra amount. I will likely never ride it so why should i spend thousands of dollars for because you feel entitled to a more comfortable trolley ride over a bus. Good grief.

      –However, this is not about reducing traffic–

      If it is not about reducing traffic than it is a waste of money.

      — gives people a feeling they are “connected” like being near a metro rail station.–

      You serious, Clark. We should pay 250 (more like 600 when all is said and done) to make people feel connected. how about just pulling your earplugs connected to your Ipod out of your ears and strike up a conversation. That would be infinitely cheaper than this idiocy.

    • KalashniKEV

      Did you not read any of the above? Most of the opposition is from people who have actually lived many years on street car lines (like me).

      And I don’t understand your argument that streetcars have failed in the second world so it would be a good idea to have one?

      “This is the future get used to it.”

      I think the people have spoken… this thing is DOA. Sorry!

      • Supporter

        Count me as a Pike streetcar supporter who lived for ten years in a city with a large streetcar network that worked great. Looking forward to our new one. As for DOA — it’s a done deal. Too late.

        • Burger

          Where is the county board going to get this money. They need at least a general bond referendum. There is no way they can just use general revenue to build this.

          further, Arlington county is bumping up along its bond cap so this is way from notDOA.

          • KalashniKEV

            The only way to pull off a scam like this is to operate in secret until the big check is already handed over to the cronies (ArtisFAIL). I’d say the secret’s out on this one… DOA.

          • Supporter

            We’ll see. Aside from the regular complainers on here, I see mostly support throughout the county for the Columbia Pike streetcar. But by all means, try to defeat a bond referendum. Pro tip: don’t hire the same firm the firefighter and police unions did to try and change the form of government.

          • Burger

            1) You need to raise the debt ceiling on the county – not sure how that is going to go
            2) This isn’t for a school in need of being rebuilt like many in the county but extraneous. See “want” v. “need”
            3) I’d say the bond referendum would be highly contested given what the money would be used for.

            Lastly, if you surround yourself with the same type of thinking people or only interact in CP then your view will inherently be clouded.

          • Taxpayer Tommie

            I’m not a regular complainer. I don’t want Arlington spending my money on this. Few I have spoken with want them to plop this kind of money down on this white elephant.

      • LVGuy

        If you’ve lived in cities with streetcars then you haven’t lived in Arlington Kev. Leave it to the transplants to ruin a great county.

        • Rick

          Yeah i’m sure the county is composed of 209,999 natives and Kevin.

          • KalashniKEV

            I didn’t even understand his comment until you replied.

          • LVGuy

            Probably not. But oh well, it seems a majority of Arlingtonians support the County Board and this project.

          • Rick

            A majority of the Arlingtonians YOU know support the project maybe, but up On the other side of Route 50, where I can’t get Williamsburg Blvd repaved or working pedestrian signals at intersections, I can find plenty of projects that need $277 million more than a moving roadblock that runs on coal wrapped in tax dollars.

  • tom smart

    I’ve lived here for 30 years. And although it is a very nice place to live, the county government spends its time trying to figure out how to create more projects, ergo spend more money and charge higher taxes to pay for all of it. It’s just insane, particularly in light of the national economy. It makes me sick to my stomach that the county board is so insensitive to reality. I’ve seen this over and over again; they just simply don’t care. You know why, because they feel they have a mandate due to their being re-elected year after year. A trollie car? What next? A monorail? Or how about elevated pedestrian walkways in Rosslyn? How about engineering a bridge in Rosslyn to take traffic around Rosslyn that wasn’t engineered correctly because their own design fault. And then turning it into an Artisphere because that was really their original intent? PLEASE, stop the madness.

    • Skeptical

      Best summary I’ve seen so far.

  • LuLu

    Gosh. What a shock. And it was such a GREAT idea. Not. Neither. Way to go, Arlington County Board. You guys are all loser clowns.

    • KalashniKEV

      LOL… you know you screwed up when LuLuLemon hates you!

  • Alex

    Good buses are here and better are easy to buy. Get rid of all those wasteful and unsightly streetcar ruses. This is not 1910.

    • KalashniKEV

      “This is not 1910.”


      Peasant-on-a-Bicycle was enough for me…

  • Charles

    Imagine how perfect and well-thought development would be if Arlington County planners were held personally responsible for cost differences in case of under-estimates and ineligible for kickbacks from over-estimates.

    Numbers this big don’t come as a oopsie, this was deliberate.

    • charlie

      hmmmm, like VDOT.
      problem is that staff are not immune to political whims of the board and have to provide what they are told to provide.

  • Dorothy

    Mr. Zimmerman has pushed this thing all along because HIS property values will increase. Too bad it won’t take folks to the Artisphere………this trolley has been a ridiculous idea all along and will not solve transportation issues in any meaningful way. Cost does not equal benefit. Unless you live along the Pike, as Mr. Z does. Complain with your votes, Arlington. As long as we keep putting the same folks on the CB, this is what you will get.

  • Village Genius

    Did you see Zimmy’s comment in the Washington Post article Saturday morning: ‘it’s not a significant increase’ in the estimate!

    That would be correct if a 60% plus increase over the previous estimate were considered insignificant.

    No wonder the County’s budget has exploded over the last 15 years when there are political hacks who fail basic math.

    As for the merits of the project, without significant improvement and addition of dedicated mass transit lanes on Columbia Pike, a street car would be a waste of money. Is there any study comparing options such as better bus service with dedicated lanes?

  • cliff s.

    Yea buses are all we need, everyone knows that. When people are looking to buy a house or condo, a line in the ad that says, “walking distance to bus stop” is such a huge selling point. It adds at least 75K to the price.

    I’m really not sure why they built the Orange line. The R-B corridor would look exactly the same today without the metro and with a fleet of smelly buses instead plying the road and lurching from traffic light to traffic light.

    Nothing beats sitting in one of those bus stops and waiting for a bus that might never come for god knows what reason. Give me a bus over a dedicated line any time – much more reliable and comfortable.

    And the development value in the area is exactly the same. I mean, it’s not like you have to worry about cutbacks to the bus schedule or anything like that. You can pay a higher price for a condo, and not worry about a schedule cutback. They are locked in stone and it’s really not an issue.

    People love buses and I bet people are moving all the time into new areas, building new restaurants, adding shops just because bus service is good enough – everyone knows that and just loves buses. That’s why most people would much prefer to take a bus over a metro or rail line. I know i actually try to take buses instead of dedicated rail line. They are just better.

    • Rory


    • Tabby


      And they keep getting worse. Three or four Pentagon City-bound buses in a row? Really?

  • Just a thought

    has anyone thought about attending a board meeting or meeting with your county members to address their concerns? Or is writing on a web site with a fake web name the only way to go these days… ???

  • Bluemontsince1961

    “Late this afternoon, Arlington County revealed that the estimated cost for the proposed Columbia Pike streetcar line has increased by as much as $100 million over a 2007 cost projection.”

    In other breaking news, water is wet, the Sahara is sandy, bears make in the woods, and the sun rises in the east.

  • xtr657

    The original estimate sounded terribly low. Utility relocations alone could run into the tens of millions of dollars.

  • Truthi

    Tiem for Zimmerman and his hand pick hand maiden Melissa “I have a real spotty work history” Bondi to admit the trolley is a folly.

    A trolley in traffic, a recepie for disaster.

  • Lou

    I hope nobody is surprised by this “news”. I’ve been predicting this for over a year.

  • soarlslacker

    I would be much more comfortable with Arl Cty’s many follies, if taxpayers/residents got to vote on them. Getting “projects” shoved down our throats by the board leaves a very bad taste in one’s mouth. It appears that the board spend money as if it were all free from an invisible source, instead of coming from property taxes on residents and businesses. I encourage everyone to take the opportunity to voice your opinions in front of the Arl Cty board. Budget meetings will be coming up in the spring. Look to see who the winners and losers are in the projected budget and sign up to speak. It may not change the situation, but you will not know for sure until you try.

  • Joe

    This monstrosity will NOT come to fruition. It is a classic case of arrogant politicians trying to foist on the public something that they don’t want. Won’t happen.

    • Taxpayer Tommie

      Let’s hope not. There are better things to spend taxpayer money on in this county.

  • demonfafa

    2015? We’ll have reached fake Irish Bar saturation by that point. After P. Brennans, Eamonn’s, Fatty O’Toole’s and Mickey McMickerson’s Good Time Cabbage and Lamb-balls Emporium, I think we’ll have Yuppies clamoring for a Metro station on the Pike by 2025.

    • Tabby

      I have a better idea…jet packs for all 22204 residents!

      • demonfafa

        Jetpacks will only cause burnt asses. In other news, the smell of Starbucks’ coffee fills the air.

  • Keith Fred

    Mr. Zimmerman and the council continue to claim that all the costs to build and maintain the Columbia Pike streetcar system is worthwhile because traffic congestion will be reduced. However, the County’s own sponsored study, (http://www.arlingtonva.us/Departments/CPHD/forums/columbia/pdf/simulation_tech_report.pdf), shows that average travel times along the Pike would actually increase over 50%, with streetcar travel times an additional 20% on top of that. Travel times would most likely be even worse since the study did not take into account the recent narrowing of the Columbia Pike travel lanes and the elimination of right turn lanes that Arlington County has implemented. An efficient public transit is crucial along the Columbia Pike corridor but poor planning and management decisions by Arlington County have made this impossible. It is interesting to note that Mr. Zimmerman stated he has no problem with the increase in the streetcar cost projections to over $261 million since the County spent over $150 million for a high school. Two wrongs do not make a right.

    • Grateful

      If the high school Mr. Zimmerman is referring to is Washington-Lee, they already are using trailers as classrooms due to overcrowding-or is it due to poor planning?

    • Joe

      One thing ZImmerman never has is any reitcence about is spending taxpayer $$$$

  • Mike R







    • Rick

      The first brick should be made of this guys caps lock key

  • ShirlingtonBF

    Streetcars are a 19th Century solution to a 21st Century problem. Stop the madness now.

    The Pike needs a center left turn lane, and that is it – problem solved. Glebe needs a center lane too. Why is this town’s artery network stuck in the 1980’s???


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