County Board Approves Columbia Pike Streetcar Plan

by ARLnow.com July 24, 2012 at 8:15 am 14,472 225 Comments

(Updated at 8:55 a.m.) The Arlington County Board voted early this morning to approve the streetcar as the preferred transit option for Columbia Pike.

The Board followed county staff’s recommendation in endorsing the streetcar over enhanced or articulated bus service. Many speakers, including Pike residents plus Republican and Green Party members, urged the Board to consider enhanced or articulated bus service as a cheaper alternative to increasing transit capacity along the Pike.

“I do not believe in the trolley because I just don’t think we have the money,” said resident Paulette Gray. “When you lose your income you don’t keep the cable and you don’t build the big addition.”

Other streetcar opponents said bus service would be more reliable, since it doesn’t rely on rails that could be blocked by accidents or electricity that would get cut off during storms.

“Can’t we come up with something much more inventive for our transportation, other than a trolley?” asked resident Antonios Perros, who recounted how streetcars in D.C. in the 1950s would get stranded during big storms. “It just doesn’t seem feasible that we should have a trolley in the 21st century.”

Other speakers, including residents, real estate developers, business boosters, and county transportation committee members, stated their support for the streetcar, saying it would bring needed development and revitalization to the Columbia Pike corridor.

“We think it is critical to expand Arlington’s core transit options for the future,” said Mitch Bonanno, an executive with Vornado/Charles E. Smith.

“Small businesses [along Columbia Pike] feel that what they are lacking today is enough customer traffic,” said Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization Executive Director Takis Karantonis, who argued the streetcar would bring additional restaurant and retail customers to the Pike.

In addition to the development potential of fixed rail infrastructure, other arguments for the streetcar include increased travel capacity, ease of boarding, and the regional connectivity to Fairfax County. The Pike streetcar line is expected to extend five miles from the Skyline area of Fairfax County in the west to the Pentagon City Metro station in the east.

Some streetcar skeptics weren’t convinced of the economic development potential of streetcars versus buses. Others weren’t convinced that new development was necessarily a good thing.

“It is clear that the County Board’s goal here is not to put efficient transit on the Pike, your goal is to completely and massively redevelop the Pike,” said perennial county government critic Jim Hurysz.

“News flash folks, we could CUT commercial property taxes to invigorate the local economy rather than pay for a trolley,” said former Republican County Board candidate Mark Kelly, on Twitter.

By our count, there were 11 speakers in favor of the streetcar, and 12 against. The speeches went into the early morning hours, and the Board’s ultimate vote on the matter didn’t take place until around 1:30 a.m.

The Board voted 4-0 in favor of the streetcar. Libby Garvey, who’s been on the Board for about 4 months following a special election earlier this year, abstained. In announcing her abstention — saying she “didn’t have enough time” to fully consider the matter — Garvey stated she had significant reservations about the streetcar.

“I cannot see how a streetcar is anything more than a bus with tracks and overhead wires,” she said. “At the moment my common sense is telling me modern bus transit systems are actually better.”

In the end, other Board members disagreed, and voted essentially the same way they did in 2006, when the Board first approved a streetcar system for Columbia Pike.

“I see the… streetcar as the next generation of a regional rail system,” said Jay Fisette. “To me this is an investment.”

The streetcar project is expected to cost $250 million. Of those costs, Arlington County will be responsible for 80 percent, while Fairfax County will be on the hook for 20 percent. Of Arlington’s share, officials are hoping successful grant applications will result in 30 percent being paid for by the federal government, with another 14 percent being paid by the state. Arlington County commercial and industrial taxpayers are expected to pay 56 percent of the costs.

Annual operating costs are estimated at between $22 and $26 million.

County staff said the cost of the streetcar line could be recouped via additional tax revenues attributable to streetcar-fueled development along the Pike. A “conservative estimate” of the tax boost suggests the county could collect $291 million in additional revenue over 30 years.

The Board’s vote — to accept an Alternatives Analysis and Environmental Assessment and adopt the streetcar as the preferred alternative — will pave the way for the County Manager to apply for federal New Starts/Small Starts transit funding. The application process is expected to begin in September.

Before considering the streetcar, the Board approved the sweeping Columbia Pike Neighborhoods Area Plan, which is expected to bring more development and affordable housing to the Columbia Pike corridor.

  • UA


    • Bender

      Absolutely no consensus. Substantial and insistent opposition.

      And it gets rammed through unanimously.

      Yes. The Arlington Way.

      Who needs consensus? So what if a large proportion, if not a majority of people, are opposed?

      The Board will do whatever it wants. The Arlington Way.

      • South Awwlington

        What is the head count on the opposition again?

        And who supplied the number?

        • Bender

          Do you deny that there is significant and substantial opposition? Do you deny that there is not a consensus, that there is not widespread agreement on this?

          You may laugh and snark because you got your way, and ES and TFB responses in being able to ram something through like this might be the Arlington Way, but it does not make our community better.

          • South Awwlington

            I am not snarking in any way. On the contrary. I really would like to know the metrics used to measure this.

            The reason I ask is:

            The same three people show up at County Board meetings and dress down the Board NO matter the issue. Nothing will ever make them happy. Only one of them has the nerve to actually put her money where her mouth is and run.

            I am also on every Yahoo Group and listserve for South Arlington. Again, three people, albeit a different three all complaining 24/7. Sending emails at 4:00 am about the Trolley Folly both on it’s dedicated group and the larger 22204 group and several CA’s groups.

            My point is – I can name six opponents by name. 6 people out of 216,004 (http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/51/51013.html). Aside from commentators on here and Arlington Yuppette, it’s hard to quantify. Perhaps if we all had to log in to comment, it would be easier to count but that’s still far from scientific.

            I live on Columbia Pike S Arlington Mill Drive. I have yet to meet on neighbor in my 210 unit Condo Association who is against this project. Statistically that doesn’t support the rampant opposition theory.

          • Bender

            Yes, you have met Park Glen opponents.

            By the way, how do you like those SIX STORY residential buildings they have planned across the street, as set out in the Urban Form Vision Map?

          • South Awwlington

            Hi Bender,

            I very well might have met neighbors who were not in favor of the Streetcar. If so, I don’t recall anyone being vocal in their opposition. I do recall encouraging all of my neighbors to participate, regardless of their opinions.

            As for the added density on my block – yes, I will be relying heavily on the Streetcar for transportation given that we have doubled the density within the block and are now forcing all traffic for our condominium, the new affordable housing and community center through a road that is at the engineering grade of an alley.

        • nom de guerre
          • South Awwlington

            Again, not scientific. How many of those belong to Antonelli under his nom de plume?

          • ACDC says bring it

            or Wavro?

  • novasteve

    Boot these morons from office

    • Bob

      Or, self-boot thyself from Arlington!

      • ACDC Hack

        Yup, the “Arlington Way” —like it or leave….who needs any of that “stinkin’ democracy” !!

        (it is only for suckers who thought the vote was going to be any different).

        • Ivy

          Yup. It’s kind of like living in this country…..don’t like the US? Leave. You are free to move anywhere you want.

    • Throw the bums out

      This needlessly expensive vanity project has guaranteed that none of the current County Board members will get my vote again. I’m betting we won’t get federal or state funds, so if this is built it will be a decade from now at an even more astronomical pricetag for Arlington taxpayers. The disruptions during construction will be unreal. I hope it never happens.

      In contrast, we could have obtained the same transit capacity and time savings at 1/5 the cost, and probably 1/5 the time to implement.This is a giveaway to developers and to salve the egos of the Portland-wanna-be Board members at the expense of taxpayers and non-subsidized, market-rate affordable housing.

  • Enough already

    I’m so tired of hearing about this streetcar. I wish this county board would “board’ the streetcar of life and ride off into the sunset so we’d never have to hear their names again

    • Swag

      Do you have any idea how much it would cost to build streetcar rails that went all the way to the sunset?!?

      • Rick

        The sun has long set on Baileys Crossroads…

  • Southeast Ben

    Does this mean Alexandria a new tax shelter?

  • Runaway Train

    Future generations will appreciate this investment. Thank you County Board, you made the right call! I hope they splurged for the hipster trolly bell.

    • Jack Tors

      Hipsters…how original. They should go live in SE DC.

  • VaGurl

    *face palm* really? *sigh*

  • Grumpy

    Garvey lost any chance of getting my vote – probably ever. I’d vote for someone that had a different view on a major issue than me (and hers was the wrong judgement in my opinion), but her feckless abstaining is the worst. if you think it would be bad then vote against it. Someone who supposedly is engaged in the community should know enough to express their opinion in a vote.

    • daniel


      • +100

        Absolutely ridiculous to abstain. Should be embarassed.

    • that’s what she said


    • KalashniKEV


      What a sad, sick, coward…

      • DCBuff

        Kal–coward is the only the first of many words that come to mind. Then there is unfit for office, pathetic, feet of clay…

    • FrenchyB

      Yep, it’s inexcusable.

    • SD

      My thoughts exactly. If she can’t dedicate her time to thoroughly analyze a $250 million dollar investment and form an educated opinion, right or wrong, she doesn’t deserve to hold this seat.

    • JohnB

      Agreed. Didn’t have enough time? More like, “Scared of not winning re-election.” I’ve got news for you Ms. Garvey. You just lost the pro and anti street car vote. I’m not sure what’s left.

      • dll

        Yeah, I thought there was no way she could screw this up, I never even thought of her abstaining. Unfortunately for the Republicans, this will be a huge turn-out year, and there are way more Democrats in Arlington, so I don’t see her losing the seat. Plus she has a higher profile than Matt Wavro, from her time on the school board. I could see Republicans taking the seat if our candidate were stronger.

    • JamesE

      I abstain from replying

  • Buckwheat

    I like the logic of Libby Garvey.

    I wish she had the cojones to vote against instead of sitting through hours of discussion and abstaining.

  • puravida63

    Great news and a step forward for the county. I appreciate the continued commitment to looking at transportation issues in the long-term – this will benefit Arlington County residents and businesses for years to come, especially along Columbia Pike.

    • Id

      Think about it. You are adding electric streetcars onto a road that cannot be expanded that usually carries high volume of traffic and expected to share the limited road with this volume, not to consider the cost. This is an example of what one way of thinking on the Arlington Board accomplishes. They do what they want to do. Who is ultimately going to pay for it? Me and you. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

      • Frank

        When you say “They do what they want to do” you imply that they acted in opposition to public opinion. Apparently, you oppose the streetcar, which is certainly your right, but there are many Arlington residents, along the Pike and elsewhere, who strongly support the streetcar. Just because the board made a decision with which you disagree doesn’t mean that they are ignoring public opinion.

    • Id

      And can you give examples of other traffic reducing efforts which have been successful in handling our transportation issues? What do you think happens to any of those successful endeavors when you keep converting an area into high density urban living without the supporting infrastructure to handle such development? You think an electric streetcar running on rails requiring electricity and its supporting components is going to make Columbia Pike a free flowing avenue?

      • Bemused bystander

        “examples of other traffic-reducing efforts”? um … Metro?

        • DCBuff

          Bemused–have you ridden the Orange Line at all in recent years?

        • Id

          How is Rush +1 working for you? I can drive in the same amount of time it takes you to use Metro and I do not have to smell other people’s farts.

  • redstang423

    What a waste of taxpayer money.

  • Bob

    AWESOME AWESOME AWESOME!!! So thrilled that the county leadership had the guts to be visionaries and understand how this system will spur development and serve countless commuters far into the future.

  • CLANG CLANG! All full steam ahead for buying distressed short sales on the pike!

    • G Clifford Prout (now moderated for extra purity)

      This makes little sense.

    • Frank

      I actually purchased my home along the Pike with the hope that the streetcar would be appoved, knowing that this transportation improvement will cause the value of the property to increase.

      • SoArl

        Me too!

        • G Clifford Prout (now moderated for extra purity)

          I bought in 1991. CLANG CLANG cah-ching!

          • South Awwlington

            I was a freshman in HS in 1991…BADA BING!

      • Id

        Restaurants have already moved into the area. I think the area is under a change already. You will be fine with or without the streetcar.

  • Hank

    Streetcars in Arlington?! That’s it, I’m moving to Toronto!

    • FrenchyB

      Well played, sir, well played.

      • SPT

        I beleive that Toronto has streetcars and electric busses. I was in Philadelphia on Sunday and they have electric busses running along Torresdale Ave. Totally quiet.

  • As one speaker said, this will prevent Columbia Pike from developing into places like Rockville Pike and Leesburg Pike. It is probably impossible to bring any more metro lines into Arlington so, to apply smart growth to the Columbia Pike, Street car is the way.

    Don’t know Garvey and kind of feel she didn’t add much to any of the discussions all night regarding either plan presented.

    Tejada was very vocal on both plans. I think he was right to point out that a street car system might not necessarily add to more affordable housing units. I think it may price newcomers out but it will give current residents connectivity and local businesses an opportunity to tap into the pool of people that travel along the pike. Obviously, developers will feel much more confident about investing along Columbia Pike. Property value will definitely go up greatly (I think they project marginal increase, I don;t believe it).

    Overall, if the projected result of taking 3000 cars off Columbia Pike ev

  • novasteve

    ITT we predict how many fatalities occur due to the street car. Remember incompetent drivers plus very heavy “light” rail means you die horribly.

    • Id

      This is what happened in Scotsdale because no one was familiar to drive with the streetcars. The way people drive around here, be prepared for the Arlington Horror Show. EMTs and Police are going to be busy.

      • Chimichanga

        I don’t get it. What’s the difference if its a steet car, a bus or 18-wheeler chugging along in a straight line?

        They all hit hard. they all can stop. i’m more concerened of the ones that can do a sudden lane change, not the street cars.

        • Id

          You have more options with a bus. You have driven on highways with trucks, right? There is no overhead wiring. Do you think a streetcar can swerve to avoid an accident?

    • curious george

      As a pedestrian I am glad there will be something out there that can take out drivers.

  • Overall, if the projected result of taking 3000 cars off Columbia Pike every week day, then this is really going to help ease congestion.

    • Id

      And you will replace those cars with the high density buildings being added. Let’s say out of 10 high density areas now or proposed to be built (and come into existence, i.e. Bluemont Safeway complex) and two-thirds of the people don’t drive, and only a third use their car. That one third will exceed the 3000 taken off the road. Every new construction project seems to be based on the high density model.

      • confused

        but the arlington GOP said the street car would NOT increas density, that will happen anyway.

        If it DOES increase density, than that will add to congestion. But also to tax revenue. And will likely reduce congestion on roads into arlington, from jurisdicitions further out.

    • Southeast Ben

      It would not remove cars off the road. It will only lighten the current/future bus load. Car commuters will always drive. Public trans commuters will take the quickest/cheapest form to get from A to B (to include walking).

      • this is exactly what I’ve assumed all along – drivers will continue to drive regardless of the trolley. So CP will be busier than ever.

        Plus, the side (residential) streets will become congested too. I hope I’m wrong, I can’t see drivers let go of their cars, particularly if they are driving through Arlington from Fairfax to DC. The trolley will not help them if they live in Annandale, Springfield, 7 corners.

  • KalashniKEV

    Sopresa! Sopresa!

    • Chimichanga


  • G::TheNativeArlingtonian

    Did we expect any other outcome? No. The Arlington (county board) way is to propose a discussion and then pretend to listen to people, then do whatever the board wants anyway. This isn’t visionary, this is a throw back squeezing something into a space that will be forced to accommodate it. Its part of the Board’s anti-car campaign (and this from a bike a commuter), and it is going to do more to compartmentalize that section of the county than bring others in b/c Columbia Pike will become a traffic nightmare. A dedicated bus line was a much smarter choice and one that would have fit the infrastructure that is already there. And look nicer than a mass of overhead wires too. Bah.

    • John K.


    • Zelora

      You got dat right…

    • Bob

      It will be FAR from a “mass” of overhead wires. Research the specifications of the system before you comment.

    • VaGurl


    • Id

      Less bike lanes for you sadly.

  • Narlington

    It appears I will be voting for the Republican for county board. I think Libby should be ashamed for not voting. You were placed on the board to make a decision.

    • novasteve

      Matt Wavro is the candidate who is a republican. I’m going to be voting for him too.

  • southie

    Libby Garvey . . . a true profile in courage

  • Bluemontsince1961

    Let the fireworks begin.

  • geri

    Thank God I live in Arlington. The country is buying into a philosophy that is incomprehensible. We cannot invest in America! We have to destroy the POST OFFICE! No infrastructure for us! Damn Eisenhower and his highways. Damn anything that makes us a civilized society! How do you debate crazy?

    • South Awwlington

      You don’t debate crazy. You send it to Alaska with Palin and Norquist and hope to never hear from them again.

  • Benjamin W.

    Found a video of last night’s meeting: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AEZjzsnPhnw

    • Id

      That is awesome, but so sadly true. Next, we will have snake oil venders.

      • darsasx

        We already have one of those, but Mitt will displace him soon – just not soon enough

  • The Jimmy

    Surprise , Surprise, Surprise!

  • G Clifford Prout (now moderated for extra purity)

    Could someone tell me how the streetcar will work with our other transportation options? Will this be an ART Trolley or run my Metro like the Circulator bus downtown? Free transfers between bus and trolley? Will riders be on the honor system to pay the fare like in Amsterdam and San Fran? So many questions.

    • Rick

      Yes well the options are:

      -WMATA – who can’t keep cars on the tracks and employees awake
      -Forsythe, operator of ART buses – Who’s strike disrupted many ART routes
      -The County Creates a new department

      That’s like Russian Roulette except you know there’s a bullet in the chamber, just gotta decide if you wanna shoot yourself in the head, the foot, or the crotch

  • Chris L.

    I’ve lived in Arlington for over 20 years. The “streetcar” is the most absurd waste of taxpayers’ money that I’ve seen yet. Running some additional ART buses (powered by natural gas) would seem to be much more economically efficient. Of course the fix has been in for quite some time with regards to the Columbia Pike streetcars. Makes one wonder how many sweetheart deals have been cut under the table with contractors, developers, et.al. Better wake up folks; this kind of nonsense will only increase until the voters of this county wake up and force a change on the County Board and break up the political monopoly that has existed too long.

    • Id

      Agree, You cannot have One-Party Rule. What are we Soviets?

      • people WANT the one party rule. They vote for it every single time. (I have yet to vote for anyone on the board) 🙂 But I can guarantee, they will all get re-elected in the future.

        • Huh ??

          I don’t that it is the “people” who are so strongly in favor of “one party rule”…..I would guess that it is more the ACDC who funded the anti-petition drive.

          • ACDC says bring it

            Wait, you really want to bring up that petition drive where the (now fired) head of the firefighters union hired felons to collect petitions, some of whom served jail time for it?

          • ACDC Hack

            Yes ferret breath…..the way it was implemented had nothing to do with the legitimacy of its goal.

            Or are you anti-democracy ??

            My guess is yes.

          • ACDC says bring it

            NO way to answer that nonsense. Best just mow you down with my ferret breath.

          • ACDC Hack

            So you concur that you are anti-democracy….well we can agree on the state of your breath and your politics…..maybe we can build from there…

    • Swag

      The $50 million swimming pool is pretty stupid too, but technically that hasn’t happened yet.

      • ACDC Hack

        “but technically that hasn’t happened yet”

        It is only a technicality….and we know that mere technicality cannot withstand the might and majesty of Arlington County Dems !!

      • Id

        as long as it comes with a free ghost I’m ok with it.

    • novasteve

      Someone should lie and tell the board they have solar busses, and they just need to wait 2 years to get them, and they’ll chuck this stupid street car idea because they’ll get a bigger feel good moment out of solar busses than from street cars. It’s greener.

  • South Awwlington


    • FrenchyB


    • Id

      That’s what she said.

      • Swag

        Not to you.

    • Mike

      ^^ “I’ll have what she’s having.”

  • North Arlington Man

    why does every square inch of Arlington now have to be “high denisty urban living”?

    • confused

      A . 6 story buildings are not really high density

      B. large areas of Arlington will remain sfh’s and auto oriented shopping centers

      C. More of Arlington becoming somewhat denser is a successful formula for improving county revenues, and funding county schools and services, while also providing a form of living much in demand. that it reduces our countrys oil dependence, and reduces green house gas emissions, is a good bonus

      • Id

        A. High denisty is not how many stories, but how many people live in those stories. How many units. How many people per unit, and with people you have cars.

        • confused

          the total number of units in those 6 story buildings is still not all that high

        • Clarendon

          Right. Paris, Amsterdam, etc are not very high (building-height-wise) but are very dense. Denser than just about anywhere in USA.

      • North Arlington Man

        b. there is nothing wrong with sfh and “auto orientated shooping” area. last time i checked, it is not ilegal to drive a car. areas of single family housing and so called “auto orientated shoping” is quickly disappearing.

        There is not enough auto orientated shopping. Try taking a week full of grocies on the metro. .
        c.the are other ways to improve school. let’s start with Michelle Rhee style reforms. It is time to cut County services, especially for all the illegal ailens the County gets on its hand and knees to pander to.
        enough with the green propaganda

        • confused

          I did not say there was something wrong with them. I am saying there will still be lots of them in Arlington. not to mention huge areas of them in the suburbs further out. They are not disappeearing. thats a myth. instead an alternative is being provided for those who want it.

          As for groceries – its possible A. to take them by car from these urban grocery stores – Penrose Giant has parking – but because its a short trip, fewer vehicle miles B. People can walk their groceries, using a shopping cart.

          Do you think DC schools are better than Arlington schools?

          Green house gas and human caused global warming are real.

        • Josh S

          You do realize that the “auto orientated shooping” model is but one that human beings have used to organize their societies over time and space? You seem to act as if it is the natural order of things. Far from it.

          It is quite possible as humans to get along without “auto orientated shooping.” Witness – pretty much anywhere other than the United States post WWII.

          It is certainly a pleasant and comfortable way to live, but it comes with enormous negative externalities. Right now, our system of laws and taxation do a relatively poor job of communicating those negative externalities to those who choose that lifestyle. I’d be all for you continuing to live that way if you please, as long as we institute a substantial carbon tax, for starters. Feebates that would either charge you a fee or give you a rebate depending on the efficiency of the car you drive would also be a good policy. I find it absurd that we don’t charge by the pound for trash (or some other way of discouaging waste).

          Etc. Etc.

          • Clarendon

            Right. Plus to say there isn’t enough of it. Where does that guy live ? You don’t need auto-oriented shopping within walking distance !

    • watch this http://www.arlingtonva.us/departments/AVN/programs/page69227.aspx

      The intent of the smart growth initiatives that started 30 years ago along the metro were done to SAVE single family home communities. If you look at Arlington as a whole, very little of it is actually high density (11% along metro).

      The metro stops that Arlington lobbied for 30 years ago allowed for mixed use communities and Arlington’s larger than usual business tax base today. Without those tax dollars from businesses Arlingtonians would not be enjoying all the services that the county is able to provide.

      If they hadn’t done this 30 yrs ago, Arlington today may still be a drive-through community between D.C. and Fairfax. 30 years ago, folks knew that growth was coming and made the decision to harness that growth for the benefits of the residents. By developing only 11% of the county along Metro to high density, traffic congestion in the county decreased.

      Well, is the region likely to stop growing any time soon? I don’t see it. Columbia Pike area was slow to develop mostly due to connectivity issues. So, here’s a chance for the area to have walkable neighborhoods and connectivity. Why not give Columbia Pike folks a chance to enjoy the benefits of being connected to the amenities they people like to have.

      High density housing will bring more housing units to the market and probably more rental units too. This also means a lot of the current “market-rate affordable” apartments (older, cheaper apartments) will be knocked down to make way for those shiny new buildings. I think Co. should require developers to allocate affordable units in the new buildings to replace 100% of the units lost.

    • Huh ??

      High density = more pockets to put your hand into if you are the county.

      Pretty simple.

    • Id

      with all of this high density, I can only imagine the raw sewage volume at the water treatment plant.

  • interesting map of the trolley’s route. I live near Col Pike and have been unable to get to work by mass transportation because all buses go into Arlington and not towards Fairfax (ok there are some but it would take about 1 hr to travel the short distance I drive in 10 minutes). But if the trolley travels the proposed route, I’ll be able to chuck the car for good.

    We shall see. The idea of the trolley has made me unhappy because of the cost and traffic congestion, but personally this sounds like it will work for me (unless I retire before it’s completed).

  • George Will

    Urban planners are the US version of Soviet era central planners. Live/shop/work where we tell you.

    • confused

      yes, how dare those planners to allow the market to decide how much density to build on Col Pike – we need zoning to stop that density.

      Zoning = freedom

      Markets = taking away our freedom

    • Josh S

      It’s so exaggerated and absurd, I actually believe that George Will logged onto ARLNow to add that comment….

  • JohnB

    Looking forward to the ARLNow story when we get the federal grant funding!

    • nom de guerre

      Looking forward to the ARLNow story when the county fails to get both federal and state funding!

  • Smellmer

    “It just doesn’t seem feasible that we should have a trolley in the 21st century.”

    Can someone explain to me how buses are more 21st century than streetcars?

    • Mick Way

      Because electric streetcars date to the 19th century? 1881 according tho the infallible Wikithingy.

      But not streetcars as cool as these. I like ’em.

      • confused

        autos also date to the 19th century

        • Smellmer


  • novasteve

    Reflexively vote with the name with the (D) after it and you get collosal wastes of money like this. Millions and millions of dollars for a feel good moment. Great. Just great.

  • novasteve

    Garvey’s abstention was almost like Obama voting “present” in all of those votes.

  • arglebargle

    Is this going to end up connecting to the metro or not? One article I read said it was going to stop at the air force memorial.

  • JnA

    Another charade meeting. There was no consideration whatsoever of state-of-the-art hybrid buses of various types that are entering service across the USA, which are designed to appeal to riders, are environmentally friendly, and are operationally flexible.

    • Id

      Natural gas is so cheap these days. Natural gas bueses are everywhere. What the hell?!

  • novasteve

    So when all is done, to be able to afford to live in Arlington, you’ll need to be either a 1%er or on section 8, right?

    • novastephanie

      Or work at CVS.

    • soarlslacker

      You had to have bought your single family home 20 years ago to have a nice home now that you could never afford at today’s prices.

  • Jim Webster

    Three more cheers for our county board. Its courage and foresight are the reasons for my enthusiastic support.

    • Id

      Then you can pay the difference in my tax bill when they go up to pay for the maintenance of the system.

  • JohnB2

    I don’t see how it will be significantly and practically better than busses. OK, maybe 10 more people will ride it per day because they’re too cool to ride a bus, but without dedicated lanes it will be a cluster. Then there’s the whole power outage and inclement weather issues.

    Looks nifty, err, VIBRANT!
    People who are afraid of real people will not be afraid to ride it.
    Supposedly easier to enter/exit than an articulated bus.

    More expensive
    Can’t adjust to contingencies (power, weather, accidents, water mains)
    Further congests an already busy route.
    Potential hazard to drivers and cyclists
    Separate fare kiosks will be needed and will need to be maintained.

    • Chimichanga

      Why is this more dangerous then a bus or as we’ve seen a bike! I still don’t get that silly argument. They all hit hard!

      What are you doing in front of it? It’s predictable, its going in a straight line. Why are you in front of it?

      • JohnB2

        People just aren’t used to them. There will probably be a few incidents at first then once people become more familiar with navigating near the streetcars, the incidents will hopefully decrease.

        Then there’s the whole grooves in the road issue for the cyclists but as has been discussed elsewhere, CP has plenty of other road hazards for cyclists already.

        • Chimichanga

          People aren’t used to them?
          So, drivers aren’t used to a big arse thing driving by them? how do they do on the highway with a row of 18 wheelers? DMV test had a test section to make them “Use to that” like say they are use to parrallel parking?

          I’m a cyclist. I don’t know every pot hole in the world is. i look for them, avoid them. Tracks, i will know where they are so i won’t ride on them. SIMPLE.

        • CrystalMikey

          What cyclist in their right mind, would bike on the Pike?

          • Trolly Troll


          • I completely agree. I too am a cyclist and, among all of the arguments against the streetcars, the “The rails will be dangerous to cyclists” has got to be one of the dumbest. Buses are dangerous. Drivers talking on their cell phones are dangerous. Hell, riding on the Pike in the first place is dangerous. I will gladly take a couple of steel rails embedded in the street over having to dodge all of the various 16 buses.

            So, for those of you looking for another weak argument against improved transportation infrastructure, find something else. Me and my two wheels will get along just fine with the Columbia Pike streetcars.

      • Id

        It’s not that they hit harder, but the probability of accidents are higher because people are unfamiliar operating cars around them. The County can barely get the power on after a thunderstorm, wait until the next blackout or EMP.

  • E-love

    It seems the good news (from reading all of these responses) is that hopefully a bunch of whining republicans, who have been duped into thinking that it’s OK to spend buh-jillions on false wars Iraq and Afghanistan, but not here at home where we actually…ya know, live…won’t be using it….

    • Id

      We invaded Afghanistan because Osama Bin Laden was hiding there. Iraq was invaded because you had a dictator threatening a sensitive regional area that he was developing nuclear and biological weapons. Sadam himself said after he was captured that he thought his bluff would never be called. Sorry Saddam, it was.

  • confused

    “Then there’s the whole power outage and inclement weather issues.”

    IIUC the county is going to bury power lines along the Pike.

    • JohnB2

      Just because the lines are buried doesn’t mean they still can’t lose power. Ask the folks in Ballston and Courthouse who lost power in that big storm a few weeks ago.

    • Id

      power lines are the last step in restoring in the power. Dominion starts with its power distributors and its resources first. Won’t matter if the lines are above or below the ground when a transfer station is damaged.

  • Ken

    All the new hybrid articulated and double deck buses entering service have at least 3 doors. County Government refused to even consider these new buses in its so-called ‘alternatives analysis’.

    • confused

      the county did look at articulated buses – thats “TSM2”

      • Id

        I suggest Ricksaws!

        • Josh S

          Are those anything like Rickrolls?

  • Rick

    So what I haven’t seen addressed is what’s going to happen to the bus commuters who come from outside of the streetcar range? Will people in Annandale and points west be forced from the bus, to the streetcar, to the subway? Perhaps express buses that don’t stop between Baileys and The Pentagon?

    • citizenofAnnandale

      there will still be buses as well as streetcars on the pike. that will serve the folks from annandale commuting to col pike.

      Folks from annandale to pentagon at rush hour use the express buses on i395.

      • Rick

        If there are buses going from Annandale to a Metro station directly, why wouldn’t the buses stop at Baileys? People who need to get to the Pentagon/Metro can take an express bus, people “commuting to col pike” can use the streetcar. Seems like a redundant waste.

        • citizenofAnnandale


          The buses that run from Annandale to baileys and down the pike, will continue to do so. They will still stop at Baileys (and Kenmore). Those commuting from Annandale to Columbia Pike AND Baileys will use them. Those commuting from Annandale to pentagon metro will continue to use the express buses. The street cars will mostly serve people going from skyline to columbia pike (in arlington), moving along col pike(within arlington), and from the arlington part of Col pike to pentagon city metro.

          Im not sure why you think thats redundant – these serve different markets with different needs.

          • Rick

            By stop, I mean turn around. What’s the point of buses AND streetcars on Columbia Pike if the people using the bus from Annandale can get to the metro quicker and easier using an express bus. Bus service on Columbia Pike after the streetcar goes into service wouldn’t take cars off the road, it would just add less crowded buses to the streetcars.

  • Becoming indifferent

    If the trolley goes as planned, this will not help “small business.” If property values go up, as everyone says they will, the only businesses that will able to afford the rents are corporate chains.

    • Chimichanga

      Viva Walmart!

    • Frank

      While there are some chains in Clarendon, there are also plenty of small businesses. And property values in N. Arlington are certainly higher than along the Pike.

      • Becoming indifferent

        There are a lot of chains in Clarendon. There are few small businesses left, and those that are won’t be around for much longer. Many of the restaurants are not necessarily chains, but they have what I would call corporate backing and are not what one would call a s”mall business.”

        • DCBuff

          If you are contending that Clarendon is some sort of small biz haven in 2012 you haven’t lived in Arlington very long.

        • Id

          Lazy Sundae a ma and pa ice cream shop had to move to Falls Church. Can’t fight the corporate menus.

          • Josh S

            On the other hand, the terrible Mexican restaurant that they own up the street is still going strong.

  • So.Arlingtonian

    BAD IDEA: I initially thought a streetcar was a brilliant idea, but then when I realized they won’t have an additional dedicated streetcar lane, I quickly realized it’s a congestion nightmare, especially if the tracks are blocked.
    BETTER IDEA: A much better solution would be electric trollybusses / civis busses like ones being used in Lyon France and Bologna
    Speed passenger loading with only ‘off-vehicle’ fare collection systems like SmarTrip which do not need to be supervised by the driver, and allow passengers to board from all/multiple entry doors. Also have fewer stops along the route to keep the trolleybus moving. I believe it’d help with the revitalization as much as a streetcar.

    • So.Arlingtonian

      PS – electric trollybusses / civis buses can drive around obstacles, and have battery back-up systems to move off the cables, and/or if there’s a power outage.

      • confused

        but they dont have larger capacities than conventional buses, so they don’t address the issues on Col Pike.

        • So.Arlingtonian

          Confused, don’t get confused! haha
          A 82-Feet Long Youngman JNP6520G Bus holds 300 passengers, don’t confine yourself to the short ART bus http://freshinfos.com/2012/01/19/82-feet-long-youngman-jnp6520g-bus/

          • confused

            those appear to be articulated conventionally powered buses, NOT the electric trolley buses discussed above.

            They also, I would venture, would have difficulty navigating on Col Pike – note the website you link to suggests operating them on bus only right of way. Also, from what I can gather, articulated buses in general have high maintenance costs.

          • So.Arlingtonian

            Confused, that was just an example of a bus platform’s ability to hold 300 people. Manufactures can build trolleybuses that are electric to the size we need. There’s no standard size. Also doesn’t require a bus-only lane, although nice to have. Another simple example of two 18 meter trolleybuses immediately following each other replacing one 40 meter streetcar would give an increased frequency that would be appreciated by passengers. The staffing cost differential is not significant to the overall cost. Also consider track maintenance of a streetcar. Arlington can hardly maintain our paved roads.

    • Chimichanga

      So does that overhead wire stretch for a lane change?

      And about accidents and not being able to go around. I think on one can go around. EMS usually blocks 2, 3 lanes at a time. No one gets around.

      • So.Arlingtonian

        Yes, they can stretch to go around lanes, traffic, and even detach from the wires, switch to battery to go off the grid to where ever they need to go.

        • Chimi-churri

          cute, but what’s it going to go around if they don’t let you get around? which is what really happens.

          • So.Arlingtonian

            if Columbia Pike is 100% closed to traffic, then detours to a parallel street like the rest of the vehicles. Streetcar can’t do that.

  • Chris B

    I’m happy to see that this was approved and that the Council has the guts to create big, bold plans. Just like they did in the 1960’s with the Wilson Boulevard corridor.

  • 5555624

    Garvey was probably just following orders. Once it came out that she had some reservations, her fellow Board members probably told her that she could either vote for it or abstain. It’s a win for the Baord because no one voted against it. It’s a “win” for Garvey, because seh can always say she did not vote for it.

    • For a while, I thought Tejada was going to say no.

    • ACDC Hack

      Gee, you think so ??

      I think that this is a fine example of how our elected “leaders” treat us….folks who are too dim to see the hands behind the puppets …

      • dll

        I think you grossly overestimate Libby’s interest in coordinating with this board.

        • Elmer

          According to Ms. Garvey’s resume, she majored in “Politics” at Mt. Holyoak College.
          Her absentention shows she must have slept through any discussion of JFK’s Pulitzer Prize winning “Profiles In Courage”.
          Sorry, no chapter in the book for you Ms. Garvey.

          • dll

            I didn’t know you could major in politics. That seems even less serious than English.

            I don’t pretend to know what she was thinking, I just remember that two of her colleagues endorsed someone else in the democratic primary for this seat, and the other two didn’t support her either. My point was only, in that situation, I think it’s unlikely that she and the rest of the board are coordinating.

  • Collot

    I can’t wait for all the construction!

    It will make the Pike even a more enjoyable place to drive

    • infoleaf

      Just like H St NE was for YEARS. Joy.

      • G Clifford Prout (now moderated for extra purity)

        I drive H Street all the time. It’s cool. The bicyclists are so much easier to hit when they’re stick in the trolley tracks.

    • John K.

      Yep. Thank God I’m scheduled to go overseas for three years. I hope that they’re at least done with my section by the time I come back. I’m sure it will help secure me a renter 🙁

  • Manuel

    County board why don’t you moved to San Francisco. There you can ride your street car all day. What a waste of money

  • Stanley

    Stella !!

    • CrystalMikey

      Can’t believe it took that long for Stanley to yell.

      • Stanley

        My tee shirt was in the wash !!

  • C O O L

  • Speaking of vibrant

    I’d really like to read about how realistic it is to expect the feds and state to pony up the share that the Board expects them too. Particularly in these supposedly austere times. Are they just crossing their fingers or is it pretty much guaranteed?

    If not, I suppose we’ll see the streetcar on the ballot in a couple years. Of course, the word “streetcar” or “trolley” won’t be on the ballot. Just like the words “pool” or “four pools” or “$43 million pool” probably won’t be on the ballot this November. Like the fancy pool, the streetcar funding may eventually be wrapped in some vague, innocuous language about assuming debt to pay for “transportation improvements”.

    • UA
      • Speaking of vibrant

        That’s a three-sentence news brief that doesn’t say anything about Northern Va., much less the street car.

        • Speaking of vibrant

          Plus, it’s three million dollars of grants. That wouldn’t begin to cover what the Board wants from the state and feds, which is in the tens of millions or more.

      • nom de guerre

        Wow-$3 million for the entire state and Arlington is hoping for $60 million in federal grants for this project.

  • YTK

    This TOTALLY STINKS. MONEY that COULD and SHOULD Be used in MUCH BETTER WAYS — is being used to aggrandize egos of people who won’t even BE in office when this Toonerville Trolley is built. Arlington STINKS. It used to be a great place to live but no more.

    • Trolly Troll

      This totally rocks! Arlington County has top notch public schools, police dpt, fire dpt, 37% of the population has graduate degrees, top 10 in income, not to mention home of the flip cup champ…
      This is a great place to live and if you dont like it stop whining and move.

  • South Awwlington

    At the First Annual ARLnow mixer I intended on microchipping and name badging every single nay sayer on this website.

    You will be banned from utilizing the Columbia Pike Streetcar until you have written, 10,000 times (on a blackboard): “I will not use verbiage or phrases like “trolley folley” or “19th century solutions” or “what about the left turns.” When I disagree with a particular view or stance, I will educate myself on the plans with which I disagree and I will not intentionally use inflammatory speech in an attempt to provoke and incite the other deliberately ignorant audience members.” 🙂

  • Meh

    Anyone else (besides Libby) ambivalent about the streetcar?

  • ACDC Hack

    “I see the… streetcar as the next generation of a regional rail system,” said Jay Fisette. ”To me this is an investment.”

    Insert photo of Jay handing over that giant check for millions of dollars for Artisphere here……..

    • artist

      Artisphere is proof that county bureaucrats are not qualified to run a number of things that the county takes up as projects. Real, experienced arts management in there would have made a big difference, and maybe still could.

      Hopefully the bureaucracy tasked with developing the streetcar has some actual experience with what they’re trying to create. If not, well then you may be right.

  • Sam

    I see a lot of comments on here saying that the money used for the streetcar could be better used elsewhere. I’m curious where these folks think the money should go. Not really interested in comments saying that the tax revenue shouldn’t be collected in the first place, but if you think that the amount of money needed for this project should be allocated some other way, how would you do so?

    For the record, I recently moved to Arlington and am amazed that some people on here feel that the services they receive from the County are sub-par. I’m guessing that these people haven’t lived anywhere else and don’t know how good they’ve got it.

    • not your bro

      You’re absolutely right. We have it great here, and I for one am very happy with my decision to move here.

    • John K.

      Instead of issuing bond after bond… we could use the local tax funds for those bond-funded projects. That wouldn’t cover a lot of that which we fund by bonds, but there’s a start.

      Also, the roads. Awful. They are better in my PA hometown. Pennsylvania generally has lousy roads. Arlington’s are worse. I’ll let the folks with kids speak on school facilities… There seems to be some opinions around here on that.

      • South Awwlington

        Here here and road conditions in PA and Arlington. I too am from Dutch Wonderland. 🙂

    • Rick

      Well there was a lovely piece yesterday in the Clarendon Patch about road maintenance not getting enough attention, the storm last month may have opened some eyes RE: utility undergrounding, another entrance to the Ballston station (either into the mall or the “west” entrance further down Fairfax Drive), at or over-capacity schools, shall I continue?

    • Id

      I don’t use three fourths of the stuff out there but I pay for it. Let me pay for my utilities, use of the parks and trash. You can keep the rest.

  • ShirlingtonBF

    1880 called and wants its transpo back…

    • SARLingtonian

      That would be really witty if many cities in the US and around the world were not successfully using “modern streetcars’ to address their transportation needs. Know what else they had in the 1880s? Telephones! And Cameras! Let’s get rid of those as well, huh….

      • Elmer

        They also had Tammany Hall. Guess what? We have that in Arlington. One Party Rule.
        Let’s get rid of that too!

    • South Awwlington

      1769 called, it wants back its first steam engine.


      Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot (1725-1804) 1769 STEAM / Built the first self propelled road vehicle (military tractor) for the French army: three wheeled, 2.5 mph. France
      Robert Anderson 1832-1839 ELECTRIC / Electric carriage. Scotland

      Karl Friedrich Benz (1844-1929) 1885/86 GASOLINE / First true automobile. Gasoline automobile powered by an internal combustion engine: three wheeled, Four cycle, engine and chassis form a single unit. Germany Patent DRP No. 37435
      Gottlieb Wilhelm Daimler (1834-1900) and Wilhelm Maybach (1846-1929) 1886 GASOLINE / First four wheeled, four-stroke engine- known as the “Cannstatt-Daimler.” Germany

      George Baldwin Selden (1846-1922) 1876/95 GASOLINE / Combined internal combustion engine with a carriage: patent no: 549,160 (1895). Never manufactured — Selden collected royalties. United States

      Charles Edgar Duryea (1862-1938) and his brother Frank (1870-1967) 1893 GASOLINE / First successful gas powered car: 4hp, two-stroke motor. The Duryea brothers set up first American car manufacturing company. United States

  • LuvDusty

    Well I guess, as always, we will be “depending on the kindness of strangers…” to get this streetcar to work.

    (guess that MFA in Theatre was worth something!)

    • Id

      Buy big rubber bands.

  • Larry

    I think its great – a real step in the right direction to eventually rid Arlington of all private transportation. Think of the huge cost savings when Arlington, in a true forward thinking move, eliminates all public roads.

  • LuLu

    Gosh, what a surprise. Of course yesterday’s story about what lousy roads we have in Arlington, is not related. Too bad they don’t fix the streets instead. What a bunch of morons on the County Board…

  • Bill

    Who else was on Glebe this afternoon with a broken down BUS blocking the right southbound lane?

  • soarlslacker

    The traffic on Cola Pike is so bad that I actively avoid it. Getting stuck behind a bus is a pain in the ass, so having to dodge street cars too will not lure me to the area. I have used 1 business on Cola Pike in the past 20 years. I don’t see how a street car will be a benefit to all the folks in Arl Cty that do not live along Cola Pike. It looks like a big hole in the ground that the board is throwing money into for Chris Zimmerman (who lives there) and because the board wants to do something they can tout and brag about.
    One of my not polite issues is that there seems to be a lot more crime in the Cola Pike area than in Pentagon City. Living near Pentagon City, I’d prefer that the higher crime along Cola Pike does not migrate to Pentagon City via easier transportation. We have a lot of car/motorcycle thefts and muggings along Eads St (aka hotel and tourist row), but not much violent crime. Drunks here are not breaking beer bottles and cutting each other in the streets.

    • The voice in your head

      Your understanding of reality is complete and 100% accurate. There is no need to ever question what you believe. Life is good.

    • ClarendonToSkyline

      I feel the exact opposite. I usually go down Wash Blvd to 395S to King street to get to work, but because of the construction on the ramp and backup on Washington, I’ve been getting off Wash Blvd at the Columbia Pike West exit to George Mason and I’ve been amazed at how well the traffic flows on the Pike. Plus the drive is more interesting so I go that way now.

    • WeiQiang

      Disclaimer: I have not undertaken a statistical regression analysis of crime data in the Pentagon City and Columbia Pike areas. The following is my opinion:

      Having had two armed carjackings in the Arl Ridge area in the past year and numerous burglaries and all the stolen cars and car break-ins in the Fashione Centre, my sense of the crime situation doesn’t sync with yours. As for the streetcar bringing crime to the neighborhood, I’m thinking that it won’t do anything that 395, Rt 1, or Metro doesn’t do.

      From my family’s perspective, we’ve significantly increased our visits to CoPi in the past year. Rappahanock, Bob & Ediths, WJ Tavern, Tacqueria Pob, Cinema & DH, Bangkok 54, Days Inn … oh, wait.

  • Southern Arlington

    Thank gawd the Meade Street people have moved over to Columbia Pike to attempt to muck that up too. Change is going to happen. Arlington County is moving out of the traditional suburban automobile model to a much better urban oasis transit oriented county. Bravo to the County board. Quoting Ms. Romney, “You people are just going to have to deal.”

  • TDC2

    I can’t stand the undemocratic rule of the Supreme Leaders For Life of Arlington Glorious County Board! It’s a shame there’s no way that the people who disagree with them could try to replace them, like voting for someone else.

    • The voice in your head

      You really are different and better than everyone else.

  • Randal O’Toole

    Streetcars are the latest urban planning fad, stimulated partly by the Obama administration’s preference for funding transportation projects that promote “livability” (meaning living without automobiles) rather than mobility or cost-effective transportation. Toward that end, the administration wants to eliminate cost-effectiveness requirements for federal transportation grants, instead allowing non-cost-effective grants for projects promoting so-called livability. In anticipation of this change, numerous cities are preparing to apply for federal funds to build streetcar lines.

    The real push for streetcars comes from engineering firms that stand to earn millions of dollars planning, designing, and building streetcar lines. These companies and other streetcar advocates make two major arguments in favor of streetcar construction. The first argument is that streetcars promote economic development. This claim is largely based on the experience of Portland, Oregon, where installation of a $103-million, 4-mile streetcar line supposedly resulted in $3.5 billion worth of new construction.

    What streetcar advocates rarely if ever mention is that the city also gave developers hundreds of millions of dollars of infrastructure subsidies, tax breaks, and other incentives to build in the streetcar corridor. Almost no new development took place on portions of the streetcar route where developers received no additional subsidies.

    The second argument is that streetcars are “quality transit,” superior to buses in terms of capacities, potential to attract riders, operating costs, and environmental quality. In fact, a typical bus has more seats than a streetcar, and a bus route can move up to five times as many people per hour, in greater comfort, than a streetcar line. Numerous private bus operators provide successful upscale bus service in both urban and intercity settings.

    Streetcars cost roughly twice as much to operate, per vehicle mile, as buses. They also cost far more to build and maintain. Streetcars are no more energy efficient than buses and, at least in regions that get most electricity from burning fossil fuels, the electricity powering streetcars produces as much or more greenhouse gases and other air emissions as buses.

    Based on 19th-century technology, the streetcar has no place in American cities today except when it functions as part of a completely selfsupporting tourist line. Instead of subsidizing streetcars, cities should concentrate on basic — and modern — services such as fixing streets, coordinating traffic signals, and improving roadway safety.


Subscribe to our mailing list