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Public Feedback Requested on Pike Streetcar Plan

by Katie Pyzyk May 23, 2012 at 10:05 am 7,526 169 Comments

Arlington and Fairfax counties are teaming up to gather public comment on an analysis of alternatives to building a streetcar line on Columbia Pike.

An Alternative Analysis/Environmental Analysis (AA/EA) was performed as part of the Columbia Pike Transit Initiative, which addresses transit along the five mile corridor from the Pentagon City area to the Skyline area in Fairfax. It’s the plan that includes the controversial streetcar system, now believed to cost between $242 million and $261 million.

The AA/EA looked at four alternatives and analyzed how each would satisfy the community’s need for improved transit, and how each would affect the environment. One of the options was a “No Build Alternative,” which is designed to provide a baseline comparison to the other ideas. Two of the other plans involve beefing up bus operations, and the final is the streetcar option.

Arlington and Fairfax had to devise the AA/EA in order to qualify for federal funding, per the Federal Transit Administration. The documents are available for review on the Columbia Pike Transit Initiative website, and comments can be left there as well. Comments can also be sent to [email protected].

Public input will be accepted through Thursday, June 21. In addition to providing comments online, there will be an informational public meeting at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, June 6, at Patrick Henry Elementary School (701 S. Highland Street), where feedback will also be accepted.

  • flame on

    Wow. This should be good.

  • YTK

    Here’s My Feedback — NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO.
    Wanna hear it again???!!!!!

    • drax


  • CW

    ARLnow happy hour at 5 PM then we move over to the public meeting at 6:45.

    • South Awwlington

      I’m down. The entertainment will be priceless — and I would love nothing more than to meet some of my neighbors. 🙂

  • T`GEOA

    Step 1. Make your decision
    Step 2. Collect Community Input
    Step 3. Ignore Step 1.
    Step 4. Implement Step 1

    • T`GEOA

      Step 5. Proof read your steps. (Step 3 = Ingore Step 2)

      • drax

        Step 6. LOL

    • Onjulic

      You forgot:

      1a. Issue a press release praising yourself.
      2a. Issue a press release praising yourself.
      3a. Issue a press release praising yourself.

  • WeiQiang

    ArlNow wants the rest of the day off … well played.

    • Bandersnatch


  • enough already

    It’s ridiculously expensive. Board refuses to open it’s eyes and see families are struggling. Either pay for services to support illegal immigrants or the streetcar, not both.

    • drax
    • John

      I hope this is sarcasm… Why should the county and tax payers fit the bill to support illegal immigrants? They should be spending the money on booting them out and build the street car.

    • KalashniKEV

      Well if you put it that way, let’s BUILD the darn thing!

      Better yet, let’s build a STAGECOACH!

      • Becoming indifferent

        Or a monorail.

      • drax

        Sidewalks – now there is something out of date. Walking is so pre-historic! No more sidewalks!

        • WeiQiang

          Keep that sidewalk off my lawn!

          In all seriousness, the Missing Links Program is a dis-ahhh-ster.

          • Josh S

            If you put in a sidewalk, then your neighbor’s house might burn down. It’s pretty simple.

    • South Awwlington

      Easy. Streetcar.

    • Medicare fraud alone loses 65 Bilion (that is a B) in fraud EACH YEAR -why don’t you log off and go complain about how much money you’re losing in that one program alone.

      Anyone who complains about $250M being too much for transit system that will spur economic development, add taxes for our schools, police, roads, etc. for the long term is, well, just not looking at the big picture.

      These developers -including Audi- aren’t fighting to get in b/c a bus line or BRT is coming…

      So, please, wake up and buy some cheap real estate now before you NEVER can.

  • Ashton Heights

    I like it. People are always resistant to large infrastructure projects, but they pan out in the medium to long term. Can anyone imagine that so many people protested the orange and blue lines?

    This will raise property values and will make us even more affluent.

    • Ashton Heights Bailout

      This is a very revealing comment: Arlington taxpayers are being asked to pay up to give a windfall to a few landowners along Columbia Pike. Pike Transit says long buses would do about the same job. The Orange and Blue Line actually changed the way people commute; the comparison to a share-the-road-with-cars trolley is not apples-to-apples. No tax dollars for an unneeded rail line when cheaper, effective alternative available. It’s common sense.

      • South Awwlington

        Let’s reveal something about you shall we. Please state for the record how far your property is from the nearest METRO station. Also, please state when said property was built and when you purchased it.

        Put our money where your mouth is.

      • Chris Slatt

        The capital costs for the Streetcar will come out of a dedicated transportation fund made up entirely of money from a commercial real estate tax. The money doesn’t come from homeowners and can’t be used for anything other than transportation projects.

        • South Awwlington

          Thank you Chris. I can’t belabor how important it is to get facts like this out to the community. Perhaps a broad and sweeping education campaign (soup to nuts) will ease some of the opposition.

          • Josh S (Ellipses Man)

            This is a great example of the public comment process in general. People will cry and moan about the government not listening to them but 90% of those people will be misinformed. The document that is now open for comment is quite long and somewhat complex. The majority of people who show up for the public comment will not have read the whole thing yet will be sure that it’s all quite obvious as to why their opinion is right……

          • Patrick

            Except the only special tax district passed for this purpose was to fund the pentagon city to potomac yard streetcar not the columbia pike streetcar. There is your education campaign.

          • Westover


          • Chris Slatt

            That’s the TIF – the Tax Increment Financing District that dedicated a portion of increased property values to infrastructure within the district. The Crystal City Transitway and it’s upgrade to Streetcars will certainly be paid for with TIF money.

            The Columbia Pike Streetcar is currently slated to be paid for out of the Transportation Capital Fund, which receives money from commercial real estate across the County and can be used for only for Transportation, not for instance, utility infrastructure.

            Either way, not residential property tax money.

          • South Awwlington

            Again, this is all good to know and needs to be made public. Good public awareness will only increase support for this important project.

          • Vikram

            It’s just political double-speak. Siphon off commercial tax dollars for a special interest project, then you need to allocate more residential tax dollars to cover other general expenses.

            It’s no coincidence assessments AND the tax rate had to go up county-wide.

          • drax

            No, it pays for itself, Vikram, through property value increases.

        • WeiQiang

          I have to say that commercial real estate taxes figure in to the ability of small businesses to establish themselves and operate in the County. It may also affect the decisions of larger businesses to do business in the County.

          • John Snyder

            Small and large businesses need customers. Does anybody really believe more customers are going to come to the Pike by bus?

        • Bender

          And any money expended out of that fund is money that is not spent on other needed things — things which individual taxpayers must necessarily pay for with increased taxes.

          The days of playing accounting tricks in order to claim that taxpayers/customers/etc. are not paying for something are over.

          • Super Bender!

            He’s on the job!

          • drax

            Um, Bender, the trolley will also bring increases in property values. Do the math.

          • Andrew

            Right…so increased property values, increased taxes! Yay!

          • SoArl

            Um, I’m willing to have a higher tax bill if it means my property values go up…

          • drax

            Right, so you get richer.

          • jsd

            someone was a art history major…

          • South Awwlington

            lol the argument against higher property values to prevent higher taxes is so Bass Ackwards.

          • drax
      • “Ashton Heights Bailout” yep, another north arlington hater…

  • BreakPause02

    When to sell. Market is near/above 2007 levels, and there are articles all around about the ‘bubble’ in the area… Maybe I should sell before I become liable for all these ridiculous programs.

    The fact that the county has to fund operational expenses with bonds is already pretty sad (yes, they did have a bond issue for road maintenance.)

  • ConfusedTeaPartier

    Opposition agenda

    1. Support BRT (TSM2) against Streetcar “BRT is just as good, trolleys are for elitist hipsters”

    2. When that wins, support stripping the bells and whistles from BRT (go from TSM2 to TSM1) “We can do it cheaper”

    3. When that happens, oppose transit generally “Buses are crap, why do you want to force me out of my car, you lousy elitists?”

    Whats not to love?

    • Strawman

      When facts get it in the way, a strawman and a slippery slope are always handy to distort debate.

      • ConfusedTeaPartier

        I think its fair to charecterize debate.

        If the “buses are just as good as streetcars” crowd would spend as much time arguing for buses and BRT against the “transit is low class, useless,and a UN Agenda 21 conspiracy” as they do attacking rail proposals, I could take them more seriously.

        I do think BRT makes sense in a lot of places. But I also think there are unique advantages to rail, even street car in shared lanes. If the opponents want to discuss why BRT particularly makes sense in this corridor, great. If its just going to be standard rhetoric (which much of it is here) I think my dismissal of it is appropriate.

  • WeiQiang
  • ArlMom

    Safety has to be a serious concern here. Too many close calls on Metro with suspicious people have left me and my family really questioning this whole public transportation thing.

    Can the County guarantee my family’s safety on the trolley? If not, NO. NO. NO.

    • Chris Slatt

      Riding public transportation is still statistically safer than traveling by car; so is flying. That’s why public transportation and air travel fatalities headline the evening news while traffic fatalities barely rate a paragraph in the back of the paper. One is rare, the other routine.

      • Watkins

        This is not true. When you look at the death rates per mile travelled, public modes have a higher fatality rate then roads.

        • Chris Slatt

          But fatalities per vehicle miles isn’t the right measurement, fatalities per passenger mile is and by that yardstick public modes beat the pants off private automobiles.

          • Watkins

            So I guess it comes down to which stats you want to cherry-pick. 😉

          • Josh S (Bloviator mode)

            It comes down to whether you care about how frequently people get hurt (killed) or how frequently the vehicles they are travelling in get hurt (smashed up).

            If the fatality rate for a bus is 1 per 10,000 miles travelled, but the bus carries 100 people per ten mile route, then after 10,000 miles, 100,000 people rode on the bus but only one person died.

            If the fatality rate for a car is 1 per 10,000 miles travelled, but the car only carries 2 people per ten mile route, then after 10,000 miles, only 2,000 people rode in the car and one person died.

            I made the rates the same for comparison purposes, but as you can see, even if the rate goes much higher per mile travelled for the bus, it’s still a much better proposition for any one person choosing to travel by bus versus by car.

            Another way of capturing that would be to express the fatality rate in terms of deaths per passenger mile.

          • drax


            I’m a passenger, not a vehicle. If other people die in the same vehicle as me, I still don’t die.

            Deaths per passenger-mile is the only meaningful measure of risk.

    • awh hells bells

      Yawn…let a Transit Police officer know if you encounter a ‘suspicious person.’ You can always push the emergency stop button/contact the conductor. I highly doubt that the county will be able to 100% guarantee your safety, which is why they’ll probably have a nice insurance policy.

    • Josh S (Ellipses Man)

      Can the county guarantee your safety driving down the street in your car? If not, NO MORE ROADS!!!

      P.S. The county is not in the business of guaranteeing anyone’s safety anywhere, anytime……

      • Ivy

        Good point, Josh S!!!

  • JohnB

    I’ll be there with full throated support.

  • Taxpayer

    Great! When can we expect to see a shovel in the ground?

  • soarlslacker

    No, no no, no no, no no no no to the street car….a bus can haul people away from trouble and a street car just goes back and forth along its tracks. How many unemployed trained street car drivers live in the area? How many unemployed trained bus drivers live in the area? Where is the street car storage area? Where is the maintenance area? Why pick a transportation solution that is inflexible and 100 years out-of-date. If disaster strikes, how many people can be evacuated by street cars? New Orleans has a street car. How many people were saved from Katrina by the street cars?

    • drax

      “a bus can haul people away from trouble and a street car just goes back and forth along its tracks.”

      A legit point. But somehow streetcars have worked, and still do, all over the world.

      “How many unemployed trained street car drivers live in the area? How many unemployed trained bus drivers live in the area?”

      Really? You think we can’t build it because we don’t have enough streetcar drivers ready to roll?

      “Where is the street car storage area? Where is the maintenance area?”

      Go look at the plan. It would probably be in the same place that a bus storage and maintenance area would be.

      “Why pick a transportation solution that is inflexible and 100 years out-of-date.”

      So you opposed Metro?

      “If disaster strikes, how many people can be evacuated by street cars? New Orleans has a street car. How many people were saved from Katrina by the street cars?”

      Now you’ve gone from silly to loony.

      • South Awwlington

        I heart you, for once.

      • Becoming indifferent

        Metro–below ground (in most of Arlington), not taking up lanes on an already narrow road.

    • Teyo

      You’re right. If only New Orleans had more buses, Katrina would have never been a tragedy.

  • Jessie

    I don’t understand why this is beneficial. There are already several 16-line buses that go along Columbia Pike to the Pentagon and Pentagon City metros- would the streetcar make the commute faster? Would it be cheaper for commuters than what wmata charges? No? Then why do we need a streetcar?

    • JohnB

      Try reading the AA/EA.

    • Chris Slatt

      1. Capacity
      At peak times we’re pretty much at capacity on the current buses, but it’s tough to really add any additional capacity with more buses. We’re already down to theoretical 2-3 minute headways during peak periods, but due to reality intruding on the schedule what you actually get are bunches of 2 or three buses every 6 to 10 minutes. Streetcar vehicles hold way more people than a standard bus.
      2. Ridership
      In numerous examples across the country it’s been shown that streetcar service attracts more riders than equivalent bus service. Buses carry people who have to take the bus, streetcars carry those same people, plus people who choose to take the streetcar. More riders on the streetcar = fewer cars on the road.
      3. Economic Development
      The expectation of the Streetcar has jump started redevelopment on the Pike. For years there was no commercial investment on the Pike other than a single bank. Following through on the Streetcar will keep that ball rolling. Nobody ever built a shopping center in this country because it was near top notch bus service.

      • Onjulic

        “….streetcars carry those same people, plus people who won’t ride the bus.”

        Fixed that for ya. There ar e alot of people who lookd down on buses, think they are for poor people, etc. I’ve had a business owner along Columbia Pike tell me, “Buses are for poor people.” I’ve had people tell em they won’t ride the bus because they don’t speak Spanish or buses are dirty. (Streetcars are not going to stay clean.)

        All that aside, as long as ALL streetcar supporters agree to make two round-trips on the streetcar, Monday through Friday, the streecar will not be a failure. Of course, this might be a hardship for all the supporters who don’t live within a mile of Columbia Pike, but that’s their problem.

        • Chris Slatt

          Also: Streetcars don’t hit potholes 🙂

    • Taxpayer

      The buses just aren’t serving the corridor well.

      It’s not an unnatural occurrence to see three or four, all headed to the same destination, back-to-back-to-back. This means that the first bus is jammed to the gills and buses 2 and 3 are half empty. Traffic realities and operator error prevent them from running anything close to a normal schedule that would allow for a more predictable flow of transit and passengers. Second, when you make 15+ stops in a 2 mile stretch, you’re not creating any efficiency in your mass transit.

      The bus system could work, but not with the way it’s currently operated. In addition, the buses damage the road way and are not quite scalable. I would be inclined to think that the street car could feature additional length down Columbia Pike or a Ballston-Mark Center route along Geore Mason.

      Give it a chance. Adding to the existing bus service is not quite the easy answer it’s assumed to be.

      • JohnB

        +1 to Chris and Taxpayer. Hope you show up at the meeting.

      • Andrew

        How do streetcars avoid traffic and maintain a “normal” schedule?

  • UYD Fan

    I took a look at the CPTI website and found the report in question. It is long and seems to contain a lot of technical language. People have been given a month to read, absorb, and comment on a massive document. On the face of it, this reeks of bad faith.

    Is there a reason why the comment period is so short, relative to the importance of the issue?

    • Onjulic

      Because as far as Arlington County is concerned, the decision has already been made and they don’t plan to listen to the comments.

  • Keith

    I think Table 2.1-3 in that linked document pretty much sums it up. Streetcar build does not exceed service provided by enhanced bus options in any category. It just costs multiples more. Hello? There’s your answer.

    • drax

      Keith, that doesn’t measure the economic impact of each option to the area though.

      • Keith

        Nor is that the purpose of this study. Gold Star for you.

        • JohnB

          Actually it is.

          • Keith

            Where does it say that?

          • JohnB

            Under the economic development section.

          • Keith

            I can see where that might cause you some confusion.

            The Columbia Pike organization has created the economic impact documents to help the stakeholders choose the locally preferred alternate. That is not a factor in the FTA’s final analysis. That is an extra-process effort to help Arlington and Fairfax choose which of the four alternates they will put in the final AA/EA that goes to the feds for review.

          • JohnB


            Actually the FTA recently (2010 I think) changed it’s evaluation criteria to include economic development and economic sustainability so those sections are integral to the AA/EA. Otherwise they wouldn’t be there.

          • Keith

            If you are referring to the changes under SAFETEA-LU I have to say I have never seen an FTA evaluation rate the applicant’s economic impacts analysis. Besides, the House transportation committee is going to be looking at new legislation to replace SAFETEA-LU.

            It’s considered an optional set of data for a reason.

          • Josh S

            Although, Keith, you and I both know that holding one’s breath waiting for the House to actually vote on a replacement to SAFETEA would be an extremely unwise course of action.

        • South Arlington

          Wouldn’t it be beneficial to measure the economic impact of each option? Or should we just look at only price tags like Keith’s simplistic “analysis”?

          • JohnB

            It would be, and they did.

        • drax

          Um, yes, that’s my point, Keith. So you can’t say the study “sums it up.”

  • Orville Redenbacher


    • *howls & buys a bag of fresh, hot popcorn from u*

      • ArlingtonNow

        The dog thing. It’s played out. Sorry, Cap.

  • John Fontain

    It will be interesting to see if the County does it’s fiduciary duty and listens to the will of the people.

    • Keith

      That’s not really the issue here, and I am sure many people in this thread are going to lose sight of that.

      This analysis is what the federal government will use when scoring this project against many other transportation projects across the country that are competing for a relatively limited pool of funds.

      The public comment is analogous to a bunch of Arlingtonians getting together to debate changes to the tax codes with a bunch of CPA’s.

    • Josh S (Ellipses Man)

      And what, pray tell, could that possibly mean…..?

  • Arlingtoon

    Talk about a “red meat” headline — this is great.

    Coming tomorrow morning from ARLnow.com:

    “County to receive public comment on the Artisphere.”

  • Guy LeDouche

    Scrap the streetcar and go with a monorail. I heard it is what put Brockway, Ogdenville, and North Haverbrook on the map. Someone get monorail salesman Lyle Langley on the horn.

    I swear it’s Arlington’s only choice! Throw up your hands and raise your voice!….MONORAIL!!!

    • Arlingtoon

      Having lived just off the Pike for 10 years, and ridden the 16 bus to the Pentagon and back, I’ve often thought that a monorail would be just the ticket. The ones in Disney World were actually developed to be a prototype mass transit innovation that could be adapted to other areas.

      What I really wish is that they had completed the tunnel leaving the Pentagon station that was originally destined for a Columbia Pike line. We wouldn’t be having this conversation if it had been built.

      • South Awwlington

        Amen on the Pentagon comment…but, it’s never toooooo late.

      • JohnB

        There is something to be said for a range of development patterns. Heavy rail like Metro results in a much higher level of density than a streetcar. Ros-Bal and Crystal/Pentagon City are examples of very dense areas that are getting denser. The streetcar will densify Columbia Pike but not to the same level. Having areas with differing density levels from 15,222.50 people per square mile in 22209 down to 4,488.08 people per square mile in 22207 gives people a lot of choice in housing options and neighborhood character.

  • Judy Garland

    Clang, clang, clang” went the trolley
    “Ding, ding, ding” went the bell
    “Zing, zing, zing” went my heartstrings
    For the moment I saw him I fell

  • esmith69

    Why hasn’t there been any investigation into having an underground metro line, an elevated railway/monorail, or some similar system that does not use the existing roadway?

    Building a fixed-raild streetcar on a 2-lane street as busy as Columbia Pike is just a very bad idea and I worry will lead to MORE traffic issues. Either tear down existing buildings to allow the road to be widened, or build somewhere else where there are no space constraints (i.e. underground).

    • JohnB

      Because as the county enganged the neighborhood from 1998-2003 it became clear that the neighborhood didn’t want the density that a high capacity heavy rail system would bring. The form based code thus caps building heights at 6 stories in the most dense areas. Within that development pattern, a heavy rail system would be a waste.

  • South Walter Reed

    As someone who takes a 16 bus twice a day, five days a week, we need to build this streetcar.

    • Four Mile Run Baby

      As someone who takes a 16 bus twice a day, five days a week, and even occasionally on a sixth day… no we don’t.

    • Parkington

      I take a 16 twice a day as well, it’s not bad at all. What do you need from the streetcar, to get to the pentagon 5 minutes faster? I mean, it would be nice, but does that really “need” to happen.

      The only bad part is the backup in the evening rush going West though the Glebe Road intersection, but I’m not sure what would fix that short of a bridge and ramps.

  • Greg Focker

    What do you mean I can’t say Streetcar on ARLNow.com?

    Streetcar, Streetcar, Streetcar, Streetcar, Streetcar, Streetcar!

    • Josh S (Ellipses Man)

      Maybe it’s your username?

      • JohnB

        Dude, go watch “Meet the Parents.”

        • Josh S

          Dude, why? I don’t make a habit of watching bad movies twice….

          • “…….”


  • novasteve

    I wish Lyle Lanley would show up at this meeting and everyone breaks out singing the Monorail song.

    • novasteve

      And maybe we can get Remy to compose a Streetcar song.

  • Mary-Austin

    The streetcar is going to have such a negative impact on quality of life for your average person.
    People are not going to give up their cars for this thing and it is going to make the already bad traffic worse. One lane of the pike will move at 5 mph behind the thing. If you live on 8th or 9th street south guess you just better suck it up and get used to being a through street.
    Does the county really think people are going to walk 10 mins to a streetcar that is extremely slow just to go a little ways down Columbia Pike or maybe Pentagon City?
    The comments comparing this thing to metro are so off base. It is almost entirely underground in Arlington and actually alleviates traffic because you can actually get to places in the wider region.

    • Josh S

      Nostrademus has got nothing on you, Mary-Austin.

      • Mary-Austin

        Yea too bad our County Board does not have my powers.
        The projected cost has already gone up $100 million before construction has even begun. Not to mention the possibility our lovely House of Delegates may not want to pay for 15 percent of a streetcar in Arlington and backs out. How could anyone possibly see that coming?
        The public input thing is a waste of everyone’s time given the CB has already decided they’re doing this.

        • Chris Slatt

          Most of that “increase” is because of wildly different accounting rules (the FTA requires a massive amount of contingency funds to be budgeted), inflation, and genuine enlargement of the project (slightly longer route, more streetcars vehicles being purchased) not mis-estimation.

          • Mary-Austin

            The point is that it is going to cost way more than was originally advertised. The County Board knew more people would get on board if they floated some low ball number. Once they get started there’s not really any going back and Arlington County will be responsible for paying the vast majority of any increase. Of course money is no object to the CB when it comes to this project as they know they have as much as they want to play with.

      • Suburban Not Urban

        Or you could actually live in places with street cars and experience their impact on life and overall transp. networks and use that as a basis for comment. Streets cars are expensive both in capital and oper cost. and negatively impact all other modes in adjacent real estate.

        • drax

          So this means you’ve lived in a place with streetcars and experienced this?


          • Suburban Not Urban

            media, pa

          • drax

            So now I’ll say to YOU:

            Or you could actually live in places with street cars and experience their impact on life and overall transp. networks and use that as a basis for comment.


    • Chris Slatt

      What makes you think the Streetcar will be so slow? The top speed of (for instance) United Streetcar’s current model is 44mph – more than the speed limit on Columbia Pike. Modern Streetcars load through multiple doors simultaneously and you don’t have to stop on your way in to pay since fare collection happens at the “stop” rather than on the bus. Also they don’t get stuck trying to pull back into traffic after a stop because they don’t pull off the road in the first place. All signs that point to the Streetcar being faster than the current bus service, not slower.

      Ref: http://unitedstreetcar.com/products/united-streetcar-100

  • thelevyisdry

    Table 5.4-1 is a joke; it totally misrepresents how close TSM2 and the streetcar proposals are. All the preceding tables with actual numbers in them show that the TSM2 option gives nearly the same increases in transport capacity and traffic improvements as the streetcar. At the end of the evaluation section it is obvious that objective (or nearly so) data was discounted in favor of qualitative judgement about how the streetcar better meets the project goals. I came away with the streetcar and TSM2 in virtually a dead heat, that is until the project price is considered at which point it becomes obvious that TSM2 should win out. That’s how I see it as an area resident, and if the gatekeepers of federal funds are responsible stewards I can’t see them coming to any other conclusion.

    • Keith

      Careful, that might be too big a dose of reality for some folks around here.

    • drax

      You’re not considering economic development. Again.

      • Korey

        How much “economic development” would occur without the streetcar? Or is Arlington stealing all the future development thunder and claiming ONLY the streetcar option would bring it?

        What if they simply loosened up the zoning around Columbia Pike and let the developers do their thing?

        • Taxpayer

          Now don’t be so hasty to throw around ideas of loosening up zoning restrictions.

          Besides, those are likely only to get tougher so as to extract additional affordable housing from developers.

        • JohnB

          They did loosen up the zoning. It’s called the From Based Code and it is quite developer friendly. That happened in 2003. From about 1980-2005 there was very little development along the pike. Then, after a significant amount of work with the neighborhood from 2003-2005 the County announced they planned on putting in fixed rail infrasturcutre. After that you’ve had the Halsted, Sienna Park, Penrose Square, and the 5500 built and there are a few more projects in the pipeline. The owners of William Jeffery’s Tavern were quoted in an article on ARLNow.com stating that the coming streetcar had a major impact on their selection of Columbia Pike for their location. If you were an entrapanure, would you rather open your business next to a bus stop, or a rail stop? If you were a commercial real estate developer, would you rather build a building where there is good bus service, or a rail line? I would pick the rail line in both cases because it is a fixed infrastructure investment and I would have a higher degree of confidence that it would still be there 20 years from now. Not all of the new development would be new in that it might have happened elsewhere in Arlington, but given the development history of Crystal/Pentagon City, Ros-Bal, and the Pike over the last 30 years I would wager that most of it would be new for Columbia Pike, some of it would be new for Arlington, some of it would be new for the Washington Metropolitan region and some of it would be new because it wouldn’t have happened anywhere. If your goal is to move the most pepole cost effectively into DC to their job in the morning and back out of DC to their home in the evening, then TSM 2 is the best alternative. If you goal is to move people in and out of DC while simultaneously creating a corridor where people can live, work, shop, and recreate all in their neighborhood and maintain (public or private) trasportation access to the region at large then the Streetcar is the best alternative. I’m in favor of the second of those options.

          • Korey

            And the $250 million dollar question is in the FTA’s stewardship role over taxpayer monies, how many competing projects will be a better investment than Arlington?

            Took a lot of hot air to get there though.

          • JohnB

            I will conceed that without the Federal grant, the street car is out or at least delayed significantly.

        • bro

          Good questions, Korey! Glad we’re talking about development.

    • Leonardo

      I agree completely with your analysis. There is virtually no difference in the results between TSM2 and the streetcar, while the cost is about 1/4. This is an abslolute no-brainer. They also fail to consider that the TSM2 option could be done with little or no disruption during the upgrade, and would take 1/4 the time to complete.

      • John Snyder

        No difference? Bigger buses won’t help businesses thrive or survive, won’t help residents who want to patronize those businesses, won’t accelerate development (and resulting new tax revenue), won’t attract new riders (and thus won’t remove cars from the road), won’t provide capacity necessary for preservation of affordable housing on the Pike, and won’t be built, because the whole prospect is dependent on WMATA building a vehicle maintenance facility and adopting an off-bus fare collection system that it would not otherwise need. So, other than failing in its purpose, and in execution, it would be a huge success to put bigger buses on the Pike.

  • CA

    What exactly is the need to build streetcars again?

    • Mary-Austin

      they’re kinda cute.

      • Joss S.

        They have them in California. I think Arlington’s gov’t wants to be like California. I know that brahs in Ballston want to be like California. Maybe we should build a streetcar in Ballston from Delloitte to Goody’s.

      • Trolley Folly

        once again you’re comment is frighteningly accurate. Walt T and his cronies took a trip to Portland, saw their trolley/streetcar (thought it was cute) and determined Arlington had to have one to retain its hipster community image.

        • Trolley Folly

          oops… you’re = your

        • jsd

          If you don’t like it, you can just GIT OUT.

        • drax

          Once again, a complainer has sunk so low as to put words and thoughts into their opponents mouth/brain.

  • chris

    What wrong with a streetcar line? Or is it just No because I don’t understand it. Like the Georgetown Metro Stop…..

  • lyle

    Investment in infrastructure in Arlington is a great idea for the commercial real estate tax money. Are there any other proposals in the works for a way to increase infrastructure that also have a positive impact on property value?
    That’s why opponents are and will be ignored. Follow the money: the decision will be made by the real estate entities generating a large portion of the funding, because they will see a huge return on investment for their (existing) property between Skyline and Crystal city.

  • Mary-Austin

    There is already a ton of development happening on Columbia Pike happening and it is almost all residential. Commercial developers are not likely to choose to locate along a streetcar line that is not easily accessible to the greater Northern Virginia/DC region.
    Crystal City already has 2 metro lines that actually make it attractive to commercial developers. Do you have any evidence that a streetcar would bring commercial development along Columbia Pike?

    • WillJohnston

      There are plenty of numbers that support the assertion that commercial developers will flock to Columbia Pike when the streetcar arrives. All made up by the rail lovers.

      Forecasts, estimates, statistics, and you know the rest.

  • Mary-Austin

    Hey maybe the streetcar will relieve the traffic and parking problem from the Arlington Hall military expansion in my neighborhood.
    I’m sure the streetcar advocates are right that the Army guys will walk 10 minutes down to Columbia Pike to sit and wait 10 minutes, ride it for 20 minutes down to the blue line, wait for 10 minutes, and then ride that for 20 minutes for their commute!
    Yea of course they will do that instead of just driving to the nearby neighborhood and parking their own car. The streetcar is just gonna be too much fun!

    • Josh S

      The problem with your line of argument here Mary-Austin, is that you reveal yourself to be a true disbeliever. The streetcar could be built, carry thousands of satisfied customers to their destinations day and and day out, not measureably impact Col Pike traffic, be accompanied by additional commercial / residential development on the Pike, etc and you would still rail against it. You would support your position with anecdotal evidence of that one time that you got stuck behind one and missed your light that one time. Or that other time when you saw one go by that was mostly empty.

      The true disbeliever, like the true believer, cannot be persuaded to see another point of view or to admit of any doubts. I guess you need some on either side to rally the troops, but other than that….I think you have to be extremely wary of them.

      • Mary-Austin

        And you seem to be a true believer Josh. You seem to be willing to overlook any legitimate concerns about the impact it will have because you have made up in your mind it should happen. I haven’t been convinced it will not have an adverse impact on the already bad traffic and driving on Columbia Pike.
        Having lived here my whole life I am not convinced it will change the behavior of many of my neighbors to actually make it a part of their daily lives. It is pretty clear that it will be extremely annoying for a number of years while under construction and the possibility it will be in the long term as well. All for what?
        I guess we’ll agree to disagree Josh 🙂

        • Josh S

          Actually, nowhere in this thread have I expressed an opinion that the streetcar will be without negative impacts.

          I actually do think there is a possibility that the streetcar could get built and then be a failure. Or rather, I think that it is not 100% clear that a streetcar would be better than the other alternatives.

      • Becoming indifferent

        How can you seriously say the streetcar will “not measurably impact Col Pike traffic”?

        • South Arlington

          I have a difficult time seeing it impact Columbia Pike Traffic more than buses. They are supposed to load faster and have a predictable route, and won’t have to pull back into traffic like buses. Buses are the bane of Columbia Pike. The drivers are erratic and slow, and anything to cut the buses down on the Pike is a positive.

        • Josh S

          Err, I think you should read it more carefully. I am not asserting that the streetcar will not measurably impact Pike traffic. The statement was a hypothetical, used to make another point, not directly related to whether or not the streetcar impacted Pike traffic.

  • Becoming indifferent

    Why do we need streetcars/trolleys when Chris Zimmerman is going to France to see how Arlington can be more “bike friendly”? Drax?

  • For folks who think that trolley ain’t coming, get a clue.

    These developers WOULD NOT be building out the Pike the way they are and have recently just for buses or BRT.

    So, learn to live with it.

    It’s funny b/c MOST (not all) opposition has been from North Arlington commercial real estate owners who don’t want commercial revenue flowing south of 50 and from “red” land owners who don’t wanna see any of their tax dollars going toward putting south Arlington residential real estate on par with SOME of the bland wasteland above Lee Hwy.

    The Board is doing what they should and that’s getting the most out of their best asset -land close to DC.

    Before you ALL go off, focus on the words ‘SOME’ and ‘MOST’ above.

    • Becoming indifferent

      I think you underestimate the amount of opposition coming from people, from both North and South Arlington, and from people who are not “commercial real estate owners”, who simply oppose the streetcar/trolley because it’s expensive, will disrupt traffic immensely during construction, will probably cost more to ride than most people expect, and will do little, if anything, to alleviate a bad traffic situation.

      But my opinion probably doesn’t mean anything–I am a longtime Arlington resident, but I rent, i.e. Second Class Citizen.

  • lebele

    The county Transportation Commission, one of those volunteer organizations with a staff rep that reports to the Board, studied the street car/light rail system in depth about 6 years ago. They looked at traffic impact, impact on the neighborhood, costs, technical issues. It looked like a certain great idea then, but the study is a bit dated.

    The one commission member who disagreed with the majority findings ran for County Board 5 years ago solely on that issue. He received few votes.

    I wonder how many of those commenting have bothered to read the study; and if the County Board/staff might place copies of the study in public libraries in the affected area of South Arlington.

    30 years ago, large numbers of folks came to public hearings on MetroRail projects to complain bitterly. It cost too much; the construction noise would ruin the neighborhood; construction would destroy nearby small business and block traffic for 2 years; it would jack up the value of real estate, so taxes would increase; it would bring muggers and burglars into the neighborhood with easy get-away; it would be unnatural to realign Cameron Run; and on and on and on. What would the Washington metro area be like today if those nay-sayers had the last word? How much poorer would Northern Virginia and Arlington be?

    I don’t know if this is a great idea, or too expensive. But I do know that lots of folks just resist change of any sort, especially if it entails public works construction.

    • Becoming indifferent

      I think that’s a great idea about making the plan available in the library, if it isn’t already.

      I’m not sure if Metro is a fair comparison. Granted, I was in elementary school when it was being discussed, so I don’t remember it. The streetcar project just seems gimmicky to me.

      • Westover

        Agree, Metro is not a valid comparison. That is a regional transportation system that brings in commuters from Maryland and DC, which the trolley will not.

      • JohnB

        The old study is also available on piketransit.com

      • lebele

        The point was not specifically MetroRail, but the more general controversy over ANY significant public works project — transportation, water, utilities. Some reasons to oppose MetroRail were accurate (e.g, increase in real property costs and taxes; construction disruption and cost). There must be a political decision on the balance of negative and positive impacts. We seem to see only anti-everything negativity on ARLNow. Good balance in comments today, but often not.

        That does not mean all such projects are good decisions. There have been some notorious failed toll road projects. Some partially completed rail mass transit projects have been losers. But most have been positive. Charlotte’s light rail system has been so successful the decision was just made to extend it several miles.

  • piker

    Remember that trolley will not service Pentagon and so buses will continue to clog the roadway. Also, new developments on Pike are due to rezoning, regional growth patterns-do not confuse correlation and causation. @John, this Piker who rides the bus is opposed.

  • Traffic

    It’s a great idea. Public infrastructure is always opposed at first, but later we’re all so thankful for it. Thank goodness for the orange and blue lines. I know Georgetown is ruing their decision to not have metro. Yeah, buses are OK, but a trolley is better. Your real estate prices will improve. Isn’t that what you all want? Think big. Consider the future.

    • Becoming indifferent

      You need to read Zachary Schrag’s excellent book on the history of Metro, The Great Society Subway. It’s a myth that Georgetown refused Metro–Georgetown was never really considered for a stop by Metro planners.

  • Skippy Mayer

    The criticism resonating with me is that in many portions of Columbia Pike, the road is not wide enough for the project. Remember that with any faults on a train, that track is out of service and remains right where it stopped until some tolling vehicle arrives from the “barn”. Meanwhile, the other track cannot work either! Buses are thus much preferred. When one is faulty, the others can pull around it.

    • arrrghlington

      Its a good thing when buses break down they dont block traffic and dont need a towing vehicle.

      • Becoming indifferent

        You obviously didn’t read Skippy Mayer’s comment closely. Of course buses break down. But they don’t run on tracks; therefore, if it breaks down, it might block a lane, but other buses can go around the disabled vehicle. Other streetcars won’ be able go around a disabled streetcar.

    • Josh S

      Why do you say the other track can’t work? Makes no sense.

  • novasteve

    I think we’re going to need to do other things other than to speak in opposition to this collosal waste of money. We’re going to have to do protests, and prevent work on this from commencing, because otherwise, these liberal fascists simply don’t care. THey have to have their feel good moment collossal waste of money, and nothing will stop them from getting their feel good moment. We need to stop them.


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