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CPRO: Streetcar is Superior to Bus Rapid Transit

by ARLnow.com October 16, 2012 at 10:55 am 7,256 126 Comments

Despite statements to the contrary by each of the three candidates for Arlington County Board (see below), the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization says a modern streetcar system is a better option for Columbia Pike than a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system.

Last night CPRO issued the following press release, explaining its support for the streetcar.

Recent publications suggest that Bus Rapid System would be superior to a Streetcar serving the transit needs of our area. The Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization takes this opportunity to reaffirm support for a modern Streetcar.

In July 2012, the Arlington County Board and Fairfax County Board chose a modern Streetcar as the preferred transit alternative in our corridor.  This decision was correct and well informed.

The rationale in support of a BRT alternative has been exhaustively discussed during the many years of public process preceding the aforementioned decisions.

Among many other benefits, a modern streetcar system:

  • Commits the land use and economic development for decades to come. The sense of permanency and the corresponding growth dynamics that rail based transportation conveys to investors and businesses cannot be matched by a BRT system.
  • Serves important destinations that focuses on corridors, connectors and regional development nodes. By contrast, BRT would serve a constellation of ever changing destinations and routes, leaving the network design, scope and functionality at the whim of political and market changes.
  • Offers superior passenger capacity and superior economies of scale in the network both on Columbia Pike and on top-capacity corridors (like Route 1) where streetcar trains outperform BRT.
  • Provides superior comfort to passengers. Comfort is not an optional luxury. It is a critical parameter that determines the level of ridership.
  • Improves traffic safety in mixed traffic by keeping the largest vehicles on predictable tracks free from random lane-changes, which, combined with the narrower width of streetcars improves overall flow in a congested corridor.
  • Supports our community’s goal to preserve affordable housing by having the proven potential to create enough real estate value to cross-subsidize committed affordable units.

The Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization applauds the Arlington County Board and the Fairfax County Board for upholding their commitment to the community’s long standing vision for Columbia Pike.

The decision has been made.  It is time to move forward.

Incumbent Democratic County Board candidate Libby Garvey, meanwhile, is doubling down on her support for a BRT system. In an email to supporters this morning, Garvey said BRT won out over the streetcar in a recent cost benefit analysis conducted by Peter Rousselot, former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

I’ve been quite busy both with debates, candidate questionnaires and, of course, my Board work, and one big issue has been at the forefront – the Columbia Pike streetcar. As many of you probably know by now, I have been studying this issue since last spring and recently decided that I cannot support a streetcar for Columbia Pike. But I do support a modern Bus Rapid Transit system (BRT). What finally made me realize I must oppose the streetcar was a report that came to the board on October 9 from Peter Rousselot. I have found the report very persuasive, and it re-enforces everything that I’ve been learning about (BRT) and streetcar solutions. The report offers the first real cost benefit analysis I have seen comparing modern BRT and streetcar so I hope many of you will read it. I believe it will lead to a robust, informed and healthy conversation in Arlington as to what vehicle we should be using for the new transit system we are currently designing.

Please note that it is important for everyone to realize how similar modern BRT and streetcar systems are. Indeed, the Crystal City streetcar system has always been planned to be a BRT system first and then transition later to streetcar. The report showing the tremendous cost differential, as well as the fact that Fairfax, Alexandria and Montgomery County are all planning BRT lines, makes it clear that we need to reexamine the plans for a streetcar on Columbia Pike. The potential for real regional connectivity with an affordable BRT system is exciting.

Many people talk about the relationship between an improved transit system and affordable housing along Columbia Pike. I firmly believe that without some form of much improved transit on Columbia Pike, we will certainly lose all the affordable housing there due to market forces. That is, doing nothing will allow gentrification to happen naturally and nothing will be in place to protect the affordable housing we currently have there. This constitutes much of Arlington’s current affordable housing, all of which is ripe for redevelopment if unprotected. What we need to do is manage the development and try to leverage increased density to support affordable housing. I believe a BRT system and negotiations with developers for increased density can get us there, in part because we will need much less money from developers for transit and have more available for affordable housing.

This summer, Arlington County’s Transit Advisory Committee narrowly defeated a resolution supporting articulated bus service as an alternative to the streetcar for Columbia Pike.

Disclosure: CPRO is an ARLnow.com advertiser

  • Cate

    They both suck.

    Coming from Boston, I’ve only used the Silver Line (the Bus Rapid Transit line) a handful of times, and unless it has a dedicated tunnel/lane, it’s no different than a regular bus.

    The E branch of the Green Line runs as a streetcar past a certain point (i.e. the tracks are in the road as the Pike streetcar would be, not a dedicated median) and it’s slow and dangerous to people getting on/off the train as well as drivers. Not to mention that driving on the road when it’s raining is a nightmare – wet trolley tracks make for an incredibly dangerous driving experience.

    • Josh S

      Your results may vary.

      (Rode the streetcar in SF (*not* the cable car) for many years and never felt it was dangerous, either on foot or in a car driving alongside it.)

      (Also, I have ridden the Silver Line in Boston and can see no reason to feel that it “sucks.” It does its job. What more do you want? But you’re right that absent a dedicated lane / tunnel, it is no different than a regular-length bus – which is a huge knock against any argument for BRT on Columbia Pike – there is no way to make such BRT any more Rapid than regular buses.)

      • Cate

        The South Station-Logan Silver line is fantastic, it’s the Washington Street route that I criticize. I say it sucks because it was touted as a replacement for the subway line that the old Orange Line El was supposed to be replaced with after it was moved underground and rerouted through the Southwest Corridor, with the same kind of service. But like any bus it falls victim to traffic, bunching, detours, etc. There was never supposed to be a bus, what is the silver line was supposed to be another subway or trolley line.

  • JnA

    When will we see actual photos and information about articulated and double deck buses that are operating in other U.S. cities (e.g., Las Vegas) and receiving rave reviews on Arl Now and other local blogs?

    Why can’t Arlington residents vote in a referendum regarding specific high cost infrastructure projects?

    • Josh S

      Articulated buses operate in many, many cities around the country (including DC). There is nothing special about an articulated bus and they are certainly not synonymous with BRT.

      • Chris Slatt

        An excellent point – do these “Transportation Consultants” who prepared Libby’s report not know that BRT is generally defined to required dedicated right-of-way, or are they advocating for re-purposing car lanes as dedicated bus lanes?

        More likely BRT sounds exciting so they’re trying to associate their proposed articulated bus system with a fun buzzword.

        • JohnB

          Or Libby is a spineless hack who is embracing the BRT because she thinks the Streetcar is controversial. What she needs is a polling firm to tell her what we actually think. I’m going to write in “Pro Streetcar” for my county board vote.

        • WL95

          It may “generally” be associated with a dedicated ROW, but it does not have to be.

          Let’s just concede that the details of the new bus paradigm that we are talking about in this particular case are the ones used in the alternatives study. They showed the bus system and the streetcar system provided essentially the same capacity and level of service.

          Stop saying “it’s not BRT, she doesn’t know what BRT is” That’s obfuscating the debate.

          They are using the same ROW, after all.

          • puzzled in FFX

            not the same ROW – look at the link to the CBA. Its comparing rail on Col Pike to a Bus “Rapid” Transit system covering many other areas.

          • Chris Slatt

            I understand what system they’re trying to talk about, but when something has a generally accepted definition and “experts” ignore it, it makes me question their expertise.

            At the end of the day, the report adds nothing new. It says the same thing streetcar opponents have said all along “the bus can carry just as many people just as fast” while ignoring what the streetcar boosters have said all along “it doesn’t matter if the bus CAN carry lots of people if nobody actually WANTS to ride it”. It waves off academic studies, surveys, real world ridership data and FTA acknowledgement of “mode preference” with a FOOTNOTE that says “It is doubtful that Arlington residents are as unsophisticated when comparing transit options.”

          • JohnB

            No. They showed the streetcar providing additional capacity. It also failed to show the life cycle cost of the TSM-2 option vs the life cycle cost of the Steetcar alternative. Buses have to be replaced more often than steetcar vehicles and the capital cost of the streetcar alternative included construction of a concrete roadway where as the O&M cost of TSM-2 did not include the increased maintenance of the asphalt roadway. Factoring those in the cost differential would be much less.

            It also showed a modest increase in the value of the land due to the street car resulting in additional tax revenue for the county where TSM-2 showed no increase in value further reducing the cost differential.

            It also did not give any credit to the street car for attracting private development and business capital to the area because they couldn’t determine if the additional development would have happened elsewhere in the region. Frankly, I want to attract development dollars that might have gone to build tract housing in South Riding. This development will further increase the taxable value of the real estate and will (in my estimation) eliminate and reverse the cost differential between TSM-2 and the street car alternative.

          • puzzled in FFX

            “They showed the bus system and the streetcar system provided essentially the same capacity and level of service.”

            but sufficient extra capacity and improved ride quality to make possible significant additional ridership for the street car alt.

  • Mike Honcho

    What are the Arlington County Board and Fairfax County Board going to do to protect wildlife in the area? Raccoons, possums, squirrels, deer, and rabbits aren’t able to defend themselves in the court of public opinion.

  • South Awwlington

    BRT is NOT the right option for a transit leg stemming less than 10 miles.

    In fact, it is 100% incorrect and wrong on its face. Yes, Montgomery County is CORRECTLY endorsing BRT along the I-270 Corridor. I-270/=/Columbia Pike – VA -244. If Montgomery County were advocating BRT along the Rockville Pike, it would also be the wrong solution. I am amazed at how uniformed some of our leaders are regarding transportation OR even more amazed that they would say/do anything to hold onto elected office, and a local office at that.

    BRT is the right solution when travelling between town centers and along less populated corridors; ie Germantown –> Gaithersburg –> Rockville, etc.

    Columbia Pike supports a solid line of density as one large activity center. Dedicated, fixed rail is the right solution. Can we stop arguing “the decided” and move forward on to other issues.

    • Observer

      But there are plans to extend articulated rapid transit buses into a regional network. That’s where Arlington is going to miss out if they do streetcar on the Pike.

      But then again, when has Arlington ever played nice with their regional neighbors on transportation issues?

      • South Awwlington

        Please provide details of said service. The Route 1 Streetcar is again the correct choice as it is intended to circulate large populations along a line to exceed 10 miles in one direction.

        Alexandria has determined that their top funding priority (and rightly so) is the Potomac Yards Metrorail station.

        There is nothing wrong with building the right of way and operating buses along their leg until they are able to finish the track work.

        Also, please consider the economies of scale and ability to leverage equipment and infrastructure at better pricing should Arlington, Alexandria and the District partner to purchase the vehicles.

        • Observer

          Economies of scale apply to any mode procurement. Get back to me when there’s a cross-jurisdictional purchasing agreement in place for any type of new system.

          Frankly, any upfront “economy” discussion shows streetcars as the most expensive option for upfront costs. I’m baffled why streetcar supporters even bring that up.

          • South Awwlington

            Cross Jurisdictional:

            Pretty Sure METRO will be involved in most (if not all) of these lines in some operational aspect.


            Increased upfront costs, long game view- greater tax revenues, more folks interested in living within walking distance, more folks using a desired mode of transit therefore taking cars off the road.

            Please advise the board, since BRT travels at a high rate of speed (60 mph+), would you just leap frog over all of Crystal City from Braddock Road and all of Columbia Pike from King St to the Pentagon?

            Would you fly a plane to Richmond or Hagerstown from DCA? I guess you would if you think BRT should travel along dense corridors.

          • Observer

            Is Metro involved in the current DC streetcar equipment procurement? I thought the DC government was doing all the purchasing for that?

          • South Awwlington

            DDOT is currently heading it up and may continue to do in the District because of the amount and extent of lines. Northern VA is another story.

            Even if WMATA isn’t the Operating Partner in DC, they could be a Purchasing Partner.

      • puzzledInFFX

        why are they mutually exclusive? You can run buses on the same route where you run street cars – in mixed traffic (which is in fact the plan for both Col Pike and H Street) or in a dedicated transitway (the plan for the crystal city – pot yard route)

        • Observer

          Why would you do both?

          • puzzled in FFX

            to get the maximum capacity and density increment in a capacity constrained and development capable corridor, like Col Pike, while still adding transit to other areas with different charecteristics.

      • John Snyder

        Observer–miss out? There are existing bus lines on Route One and west of Arlington on the Pike. Are they overcrowded? If so, and people really want to go in buses from other parts of the region onto the Pike, why not just drive the big bendy bus onto the Pike, as vehicles do now? Why do we need to cancel the Pike streetcar so one more bus can drive from Fairfax county to the Pentagon?

  • puzzledInFFX

    “The report showing the tremendous cost differential, as well as the fact that Fairfax, Alexandria and Montgomery County are all planning BRT lines,”

    1. FFX BOS is on record supporting streetcars on Columbia Pike

    2. Where, exactly, is FFX planning BRT? Does she mean the beltway HOT lanes? Not exactly comparable.

    3. MoCo is planning BRT AND is supporting light rail (the Purple Line) and has not ruled out street cars for the Corridor cities transitway, IIUC

    4. City of Alex supports EVENTUAL conversion of rte 1 transitway to street cars

    • FrenchyB

      The report cites the Route 1 REX line in southern Fairfax County as a BRT line, when in reality it is just an express bus.

  • puzzledInFFX

    Oh, she means rte 1 – richmond highway. Those are buses running in mixed traffic. not the most rapid “Bus RAPID transit” Defining BRT down.

    And yeah, PikeRail won’t be in dedicated lanes either – but there is evidence it will both draw incremental riders over articulated bus ON the pike, and will induce more development. The proper CBA is rail vs articulated bus on the Pike, NOT Pikerail vs regional BRT. thats not apples to apples.

  • puzzledInFFX

    And as to apples to apples, whoever did that CBA is obviously NOT familiar with federal standards for corridor alternatives analysis.

  • Amen

    Thank you, CPRO! Excellent press release and absolutely correct on all fronts!

  • Chris Slatt

    If you’re going to mention that the Transit Advisory Committee narrowly defeated a measure to support Articulated Bus on the corridor you should probably also mention that the Transportation Commission voted UNANIMOUSLY (10-0) in support of the Columbia Pike Streetcar.


    Just saying.

    • Steve R

      Are you on that committee too?

      • Glebe Roader

        Good catch!

  • SteveM

    “Commits the land use and economic development for decades to come.” Therein lies the problem. We are making decisions today that will be with us for decades to come. Why saddle future generations with what we think might be the best idea today?

    • Observer

      Yep, flexibility in future transportation should be what we strive for.

    • Josh S


      So no one should have been building railroads in the 1800s?

    • drax

      Wow, steve. We should never build anything that will last into the future, because we might get it wrong.

      That’s not how civilization works.

      • civplayer

        how civilization works

        usually I make a beeline for the good techs, and then build a bunch of strong units to grab key resources.

        Ive never played Civ5 though, is it any good?

        • Josh S

          Everybody knows SimCity is ten times better…..

  • Mary-Austin

    This isn’t news…CPRO is the main propaganda outfit for the streetcar.

    • Becoming indifferent

      I agree. Was anyone surprised by CPRO’s statement? Why is this news?

      • Allan

        How much money do they get from developers?

        • John K.

          Can’t be that much if they only have that tiny office… Perhaps they’re cheerleading for more.

        • CPRO on the take

          Does it matter? The bottom line is developers are more willing to invest on Columbia Pike (a pretty “crappy” part of town) with the assumptions there will be a streetcar. Those investments result in the values of the new properties replacing the old ones to almost triple. Meaning Arl Co gets 3 times the tax, not to mention all of the temporary parks or affordable units that the developers give to the county in return for board approval.

          At the end of the day the Streetcar is more appealing for business and people concerned with living in a “trendier” neighborhood. Businesses pay the most in taxes, and I am confident the difference in upfront costs will be more than recovered when a few more slummy properties get knocked down and rebuilt.

          • Allan

            It only matters to the extent that a group that holds itself out as grassroots kumbaya voice of the community should not be a marketing enterprise run by the developers.

          • McChipstah

            Let’s pull the transcripts from the 60-70’s when the metro was being proposed to rip right thru the center of Arlington…better believe that a fair segment of the population opposed it-let alone the families that literally lost their homes. 40 years later, it’s proven to be the best thing that ever happened to this part of DC. Stop thinking 10 years out and start thinking 50 years. Whether you like it or not, people are going to have to rely on public transit more and more. Why not make it as efficient, and as user-friendly as possible? I love the streetcar and wish naysayers would take a trip to Amsterdam, Toronto, or Portland. They see that it really awesome.

  • Chris Slatt

    For more information on the advantages of Streetcars, see http://www.arlingtonstreetcarnow.org/ with answers to many frequently asked questions, and direct links to the facts on the proposed streetcar systems, example streetcar systems in other cities around the US and links to academic research comparing streetcars to articulated bus.

    • Observer
      • Josh S

        What’s interesting is how many of the advantages apply to both – for example, here is the list from the VTA website-

        Special Vehicles – Stylized with green technology and comfortable, modern interiors
        Enhanced Stations – Equipped with striking shelters, passenger amenities and advanced features
        Transit Signal Priority – Traffic signals stay green as the vehicle approaches the intersection for faster travel time
        Dedicated Lanes – Vehicles are separated from congestion in their own lanes
        High-Tech Communications – Electronic message signs at stations and wireless capabilities bring riders up-to-the-minute information
        Rapid Boarding – Ticket machines and all-door boarding means faster stops
        Fast, Frequent, Reliable – Frequencies of 10 minutes or less and travel times often better than driving

        When you factor in the Superstops that are being built along Columbia Pike, almost all of these features touted as benefits of BRT in Santa Clara also apply to a streetcar in Arlington. The one glaring difference – a dedicated lane for BRT in Santa Clara – is not an option for either bus or streetcar in Arlington.

        • UptonHiller

          The fact that there will not be a dedicated right of way is why both ideas are bad ones.

    • South Awwlington

      thanks Chris. Look forward to updates from you on this site!

    • Arl4ist

      Adding some photos and maps to that site would make it easier to visualize what’s proposed.

  • Greg

    I threw up in my mouth when I read this. Why is it Arlington’s job to ensure affordable housing? There are plenty of places nearby. It’s not like Arlington is 1,000 square miles.

    “Supports our community’s goal to preserve affordable housing by having the proven potential to create enough real estate value to cross-subsidize committed affordable units.”

    • JohnB

      Because the citizens of Arlington support efforts to preserve affordable housing. It’s called representative democracy where the elected representatives of the people are supposed to do what the people want them to do.

      • Greg

        Most citizens I know don’t support it in the way the county does. The County Board pushes their own agenda, which includes ruining some clean and once-quiet neighborhoods.

        • JohnB

          What do you mean “the way the county does?” I’m pretty sure there is no agenda to ruin “clean and once-quite neighborhoods.” What specific policy tool intended to preserve affordable housing has the board implemented or utilized that you think is poorly designed and how would you do it?

        • SteamboatWillie

          “Most people I know” sounds like a sample size with a very small margin of error.

        • Chris B

          Greg, how many people do you know are eligible for affordable housing?

          • Greg

            I have no idea. I don’t discuss money. I lived in a neighborhood where Section 8 housing was added and moved because there were fights, domestic disputes, trash, and loud drunks at all hours 5+ days per week.

    • Affordable housing

      “I firmly believe that without some form of much improved transit on Columbia Pike, we will certainly lose all the affordable housing there due to market forces.”

      Garvey is telling us we lose affordable housing without any action AND we lose affordable housing if we build a street car. I’m so glad the BRT will prevent gentrification because everyone prefers less affluent, less educated neighbors to suppress the property value in their neighborhood.

      Gentrification is coming, deal with it Garvey, and turn the conversation back to long term transportation planning because there are too many people and it dosent matter if they need assistance from the county or not – they still need to travel down the pike.

  • SomeGuy

    Of course the organization that’s looking out solely for Columbia Pike is going to back this initiative when it’s subsidized by every other part of the county!

    My question isn’t whether a streetcar line is “better” than a bus line. It’s whether the streetcar line is 500-600% better to justify the $300+ million it costs to get it started.

    • John Fontain

      “It’s whether the streetcar line is 500-600% better to justify the $300+ million it costs to get it started.”

      Bingo! This is the key point that people should be evaluating. Well said, someguy.

      • DCBuff

        This stood out for me: “By contrast, BRT would serve a constellation of ever changing destinations and routes, leaving the network design, scope and functionality at the whim of political and market changes.” Wow, let the market decide! Meet needs as the needs arise. What a concept. As if the trolley folly isn’t a function of “the whim of” politics.

      • Some other Guy

        Agreed as well, and the argument that it will spur future development seems strange considering the Pike is already undergoing significant redevelopment without the streetcar. Further, how do they reconcile wanting to spur development AND keep it affordable? If that means funds from affordable housing fund, that’s more County money going to pay for the delta from affordable to market to developers, doesn’t seem very cost effective.

        • puzzled in FFX

          without street car, the area still gets gentrified, but developers only rehab the lowrises, and toss out the poor.

          with the street care, the developers build mid rises in place of the low rises, and add Affordable housing to get density bonuses.

          • DCBuff

            Not at all accurate. Developers can build to zoning limits, which would not necessarily be “low rises” along the Pike.

    • puzzled in FFX

      if you look at lifecycle costs thats not the ratio.

    • Josh S

      You have to compare the total costs for each system over their expected lifetimes. Plus account for any externalities associated with each system. Plus divide by number of people carried. Then you can compare the cost of each.

  • Eschatonic

    CPRO: “Deal with it.”


  • YellowSubmarine

    The opinion of the CPRO is really the opinion of ONE PERSON, the CPRO Executive Director. It could be that the ED hopes for political gain as a result of his support of the streetcar.

    The CPRO office is on Columbia Pike, and the CPRO Executive Director lives within walking distance of his office. Therefore, he doesn’t have to deal with rush-hour traffic on Columbia Pike (nor do most of the County Board Directors).

    Most of us that use Columbia Pike for our regular commute would agree that, while a streetcar may have been a good idea 100 years ago, the Pike doesn’t have the capacity for it now. Installing a streetcar means tearing up 2 lanes of the Pike for years. If you’ve ever been on the Pike when the water mane near the I-395 entrance has burst (almost every December), you know how painful Pike traffic can be. I don’t see how anyone in his/her right mind would agree to going through YEARS of such awful traffic for project that may or may not ease the traffic burden in the long run.

    • Josh S

      Gosh, even by Internet comment thread standards, that’s an egregious overgeneralization – “most of us that use Columbia Pike for our regular commute would agree that…” You’ve got your pulse on the opinion of thousands of people?

  • puzzled in FFX

    “Most of us that use Columbia Pike for our regular commute”

    IE BRT appears better than street cars for the folks DRIVING on the pike, not the transit users.

    though the CPRO claims about it being better even for drivers is interesting.

    • WL95

      So if you don’t already use transit on the pike your ideas don’t matter?

      • puzzled in FFX

        everyone can express those ideas – those who already use transit, those who will use it when the Street car is built, and those who dont intend to use transit ever.

        But for those whose only concern is to keep traffic moving, and have no interest in riding transit in either case, to opine on the best form of transit, and whether there is any difference between them, would seem to require some context, to say the least.

  • JohnB

    Write in “Pro-Steetcar” for your county board vote.

    • YTK


      • Piker

        I’m going to!!!

  • George

    I’d like to see all major roads thru Arlington County ripped up (causing massive traffic jam’s) while the street car tracks and support infrastructure is installed.

    The only thing I can think of to equate to this idea of street cars is Seattle Sound Transit Light Rail. Such a good Idea that was.

    • Chris Slatt

      Some other modern streetcar systems and their experiences:

      • Greg

        Both Portland’s and Seattle’s run through the DOWNTOWN of the respective cities. If you put a Streetcar in DC by the monuments and universities, it will do well. What is going to be near Columbia Pike to support that type of traffic? People don’t come for the Streetcar. They come for the attractions surrounding it, and, there’s nothing. And if you think they’re going to build museums or universities or football stadiums that will attract people, you’re delusional.

        This the same logic that made people think the Bridge to Nowhere was a good idea.

        I just can’t believe how blinded people are to believe in such awful logic.

        • Josh S

          I think you stopped a bit short in your contemplation of things that can drive transit traffic. Sure museums, universities and football stadiums are great. But so are metro stations, residential, commercial, and retail centers. The buses that currently run along Columbia Pike are already quite full without any museums, universities or football stadiums. This seems to indicate a strong demand for transit along the corridor. Anecdotally, it sure seems that some of those buses have gotten more crowded in recent years, indicating the need for expanded capacity.

          • Greg

            You don’t build a street car to make the ride for usual bus riders to have a more comfortable ride. You build it to attract people — and at tr cost, you need to attract a LOT of people.

            You have your biases. I have mine. I refuse to fund something as antiquated as a Streetcar. Metro? Fine. That will have a real impact.

    • John K.

      Good lord, I hate that system. So slow! It could be so much better than it is.

  • Becoming indifferent

    The fact that buses are so much cheaper should automatically make the trolley a non-issue. It’s not even close.

    • John Fontain

      Yeah, but it’s YOUR money they want to spend so why not go for broke, right?

    • Allan

      It SOOO not even close. Trolley system will need a huge new maintenance and storage facility ($$$$), while they already have WMATA space to store the new buses.

      Plus the structural street upgrades and all the overhead power lines (cost in both building and maintaining). Those power lines will be knocked down regularly by bad truck drivers and just general accidents.

      • JohnB

        Actually, the TSM-2 option includes an expansion of a currently planned, but un-built WMATA bus storage and maintenance facility. Glad to see you’re on top of the facts.

        • Allan

          So, at much less cost than the trolley facility. Those are the facts to stay on top of.

      • Dezlboy

        Using that logic, the METRO subway would have never been built as it was very expensive and more buses could have been added to the roads. But, in fact, the METRO has spurred all sorts of revitalization and increased tax revenue.

        (yes, Metro sucks, but……)

        • Sam

          Dezlboy I agree with you until you get to the part about Metro sucking. I never understand it when I hear folks in DC complaining about Metro. I’ve used subways all over the world, and ours is by far the cleanest I’ve ever been in – cars and stations. The trains run pretty frequently. And it is a lot cheaper than driving. It’s almost like having a Disneyfied subway.

          • SteamboatWillie

            You’ve obviously never used the subway in Munich. That system allows the consumption of food and drinks, unlike WMATA, yet the floors are spotless, again unlike WMATA.

          • drax

            Um, Germany.

      • Josh S

        “regularly?” Care to A) define that, and B) provide any reason other than your own hunch that we should believe it will actually come to pass as you describe?

    • drax

      It would be even cheaper to make you walk to work on a dirt path. Does that make it the best choice over all others?

    • Josh S

      An important factor, but hardly the only one.

  • southarlington

    The bottom line is the County Board just wants to rasie real estate taxes on every homeowner to build this ” waste of money trolley” …We have more important things to worry about then this ….

    • drax

      Yeah, like economic development. Of Columbia Pike.

      • southarlington

        THe economic developement is already happening without the trolley you can look at all the develpements that need to break ground soon …..

        • Deadite

          And what happens when a bunch of new luxury high rises go up and you have thousands of new residents, and tens of thousands more people coming to patron the new business? You’re going to have massive gridlock, because these people are NOT going to ride the bus.

          • Josh S

            Says who?

          • John K.

            Good. They can stay home or go get their froyo, yoga classes, and pseudo-irish pubbery somewhere else.

          • drax

            No, they’ll drive on your street.

          • John K.

            They already do for other reasons (poorly I might add). I walk on that (unidentified) street and the Pike under current conditions and have dealt with worse in my life. The trolley would be worse AND would come with the beige, derivative trappings of what passes for economic development in Arlington. Insipid, boring, and expensive brah!

        • drax

          Much of it is happening in anticipation of the trolley.

        • JohnB

          The economic development is taking place because of the Columbia Pike Initiative which included land use planning and enhanced transportation investments. Not a single project broke ground until the board selected the street car in 2006. The only reason it isn’t in operation today is because the Virginia Supreme Court invalidated the funding source forcing the County to re-work it’s planning documents to qualify for Federal funding. If the county changed course and eliminated the street car in favor of articulated buses, it would significantly delay any new development projects along the Pike and the corridor would continue to stagnate as it did from 1985 – 2006.

          • Allan

            I thought the streetcar option was only selected just a few months ago.

          • Chris Slatt

            The Streetcar Alternative was adopted by the board back in 2006; then they started on the studies necessary to apply for Federal funding. As part of that process you have to AGAIN adopt a locally preferred alternative. That’s what happened a few months ago.


          • Allan

            It says they endorsed the streetcar option for further study. There were still other alternatives to meet the goals, right?

            I know it’s semantics at this point, but if you are going to insist on everybody being accurate in their characterizations, please do so yourself.

          • JohnB

            @Allan: They were endorsing moving forward with preliminary design to look at where the stops should go, investigate where the storage/maintenance yard would go, need/location of any traction power sub-stations, and what the eastern and western terminus options were. Again, the only reason there was a second vote was because the regional funding mechanism was struck down as unconstitutional by the VA Supreme Court, and the County needed to adjust it’s planning documents to qualify for the Federal New Starts/Small Starts grant program.


        • South Awwlington

          Like all the tire stores, gas stations, out of business restaurants, used car lots, run down and disgusting fast food joints west of Wakefield?

          That’s not the kind of development I had in mind.

    • Chris Slatt

      The bottom line is the County Board just wants to use transportation funds from an EXISTING tax on COMMERCIAL real estate to make a strategic transportation INVESTMENT in an existing, long-neglected commercial corridor.

  • meh..

    Personally….i’m ALL for gentrification of the Pike…..I don’t see why it’s always thrown around like a bad word. I invest in a home because I want my property value to rise. Gentrification is required in order for it to rise. So…..i’m all for gentrification.

    Reading the rebuttal from Libby indicates to me that she’s looking to keep the Pike as the “poor side” of Arlington, and she has little to no interest in really preserving affordable housing along the Pike.

    The truth is that gentrification of the Pike will FORCE affordable housing efforts and initiatives to be spread THROUGHOUT the county, not just along the Pike.

    • South Awwlington

      Some anti-streetcar folks use it as a human shield of sorts against improved rail transit under the guise of throwing out the poor…yet I don’t hear the same people talking about volunteering at Soup Kitchens, donating to Goodwill and the Salvation Army.

      It’s the slimiest type of political pawnery there is.

    • Chris Slatt

      It all depends on what you mean by gentrification. I’m all for making Columbia Pike a better place to live, but I’d prefer if in doing so we didn’t price it out of the reach of so many folks that I feel like I’m walking around inside a J. Crew commercial.

      I think the Neighborhoods Plan and the Streetcar are big steps to getting there.

    • Steve

      Absolutely!! Nothing wrong with wanting your local area to improve and increase in value. If gentrification is the result then I have no issue whatsoever with that!

  • Jim Webster

    I am happy to see the CPRO board showing vision. As a supporter of Libby Garvey, I am unhappy that she seems not to share that vision for the future of Arlington in this case.

    • McChipstah

      Agreed. Libby Garvey is spineless and opportunistic.

  • arlutingfacts

    i’m so over this streetcar. if your going to put the street car in put already otherwise expand on ART and Metro Busses.

  • Mc

    Streetcar is superior in so many ways. Libby is inferior in so many other ways. Small-mindedness will only result in a Prince George’s County outcome.

  • Ted

    Then accidents streetcar tracks generate alone make this option a complete loser, except with the 2100 Trolls who spend their ‘work’ days posting comments to this blog.

  • JnA

    Why do local blogs and news media REFUSE to show photos of state-of-the-art articulated buses, double deck buses, fuel cell buses?

    This information is completely off-limits. Who is telling the local media to censor this information?

  • Support the steet car

    What a great idea. Totally worth the cost. I think what people don’t understand about the articulated buses is that they will be at capacity almost as soon as they are in place. Street cars are a plan with a future.

  • ted

    Information about state-or-the-art articulated buses, double deck buses (like those receiving rave reviews from riders in Las Vegas) is completely censored by the local media.

    Also censored is any information about the dangers of streetcar tracks to two-wheel vehicles, especially bicycles.

    I also ask which persons and/or organizations are censoring this information?


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