Arlington County Board is mulling over possible design specifications of the streetcars that will one day traverse Columbia Pike.
At a work session earlier this month, the Board was presented with a number of streetcar vehicle design considerations, including the width, length, layout and emergency power capacity of the streetcar.
On the topic of streetcar width, Board members seemed to prefer the wider of three options. At 2.65 meters (8 feet and 8 inches), the wider streetcar would be only slightly more broad than the standard Metrobus, at 8 feet and 6 inches. The 2.65 meter streetcar could accommodate four seats and an aisle across, whereas another option, a 2.4 meter streetcar, would only be able to seat three across.
The wider streetcar would cost roughly the same as the narrower streetcar and would still fit within a 11-foot travel lane along Columbia Pike, the Board was told. A 2.65 meter light rail vehicle is also being considered for Maryland’s Purple Line, opening up the possibility of cost savings through joint purchasing.
“I don’t know why you’d go with the narrower one,” County Board member Jay Fisette remarked.
Depending on the length and width of the streetcar, each vehicle could have a total capacity of between 92 and 231 riders. A streetcar could thus have three times the capacity of a bus, but with only one driver, lowering operating costs.
While a longer streetcar could seat more riders, the streetscape along Columbia Pike would have to be designed to accommodate the longer length, potentially a daunting task for the longest of streetcar designs. Board member Chris Zimmerman asked Board members to think long-term when they ultimately select a length. He said that ridership will likely increase over time, necessitating higher vehicle capacities. To illustrate the point, he recounted how Metro ran 2- and 4-car trains when it started running in the 70s.
County staff projects that average weekday streetcar ridership will increase from 14,433 to 16,580 between the system’s first year in operation and 2030. Total Columbia Pike transit ridership in 2016 is projected at 17,802 without the streetcar and 26,155 with the streetcar and buses, rising to 30,457 with streetcars and buses in 2030.
Another design consideration has to do with the interior floor layout. Most streetcars have a “partial low floor,” with a low-floor middle section and two end sections with steps leading up to a higher floor, somewhat like current Metrobuses. The higher floor better accommodates the streetcar’s wheels, or running gear. Streetcars can also be built with the low floor throughout the vehicle — like a Metrorail train — but that would raise maintenance costs and possibly make the ride a bit rougher due to a shorter suspension system.
County Board Chair Mary Hynes seemed partial to the “100% low floor” design, since it could better serve parents with strollers, people with bicycles, individuals with disabilities and the elderly.
“We want the street car to be as accessible for as many people as possible,” she said.
A final consideration is how much emergency power storage each streetcar should have. Should a power outage occur, a streetcar without some form of emergency power would simply stop in its tracks.
More emergency power capacity comes at a cost, however, in terms of both vehicle weight and money. County staff is suggesting at least 200 feet worth of “off-wire” travel capacity.
“At minimum, we would want the capability to move the vehicle in emergency circumstances,” said Stephen Del Giudice, Arlington County Transit Bureau Chief.
Board member Walter Tejada asked about the feasibility of using a wireless, completely battery-operated streetcar, but transit consultants who were present at the meeting said that would be impractical for a route as long and hilly as Columbia Pike. Hynes said that the single overhead wire required to power a modern streetcar is much less visible than the overhead wires required by early and mid-20th century streetcars.
“Single wires are not unsightly, like the streetcars of the past,” she said.
Arlington expects to purchase 13 streetcar vehicles to initially run along Columbia Pike, as early as 2016. Each streetcar is expected to cost between $3.5 and $4 million, as compared to between $700,000 and $800,000 for a 40-foot, natural gas-powered Metrobus. Streetcars have an operating life expectancy between 30 and 35 years, compared to about 12 years for a bus.
A Crystal City streetcar line, which will connect to the Columbia Pike line at the Pentagon City Metro station, is also in the works. The Crystal City streetcar line will be designed to use the same streetcar vehicles as the Columbia Pike line.
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The Arlington-Aachen High School exchange is returning this summer and currently accepting applicants.
The sister-city partnership started in 1993 by the Arlington Sister Cities Association, which seeks to promote Arlington’s international profile through a variety of exchanges in education, commerce, culture and the arts. The exchange, scheduled June 17th to July 4th, includes a two-week homestay in Aachen plus three days in Berlin. Knowledge of the German language is not required for the trip.
Former participants have this to say:
_”The Aachen exchange was an eye-opening experience where I was fully immersed in the life of a German student. I loved biking through the countryside to Belgium, having gelato and picnics in the town square, and hanging out with my German host student’s friends. My first time out of the country, the Aachen exchange taught me to keep an open mind, because you never know what could be a life changing experience.” – Kelly M._
Learn about the new assessment of Arlington’s urban tree canopy and the many ecological and social benefits trees provide. Staff from the Green Infrastructure Center (GIC) will share study results and compare canopy cover for different areas of Arlington.The webinar will include assessments of ecosystem services such as stormwater mitigation, air quality, carbon uptake, and urban heat islands. For background on Arlington trees see the “Tree Benefits: Growing Arlington’s Urban Forest” presentation at http://www.gicinc.org/PDFs/Presentation_TreeBenefits_Arlington.pdf.
Please register in advance to assure your place at the webinar, https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/29543206508863839.
About the Arlington County Civic Federation: The Arlington County Civic Federation (“ACCF”) is a not-for-profit corporation which provides a forum for civic groups to discuss, debate, inform, advocate and provide oversight on important community issues, on a non-partisan basis. Its members include over ninety civic groups representing a broad cross-section of the community. Communications, resolutions and feedback are regularly provided to the Arlington County Government.
The next meeting is on Tuesday, February 21,2023 at 7 pm. This meeting is open to the public and will be hybrid, in-person and virtually through Zoom. Part of the agenda will be a discussion and vote on a resolution “To Restore Public Confidence in Arlington County’s Governance”. For more information on ACCF and this meeting, go to https://www.civfed.org/.
Valentine gifts for someone special or for yourself are here at George Mason University from noon -4pm on February 14, 2023. Satisfy your sweet tooth with Kingsbury Chocolates, find a handmade bag from Karina Gaull, pick up treats from Village