Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of their organizations or ARLnow.com.
By Eric Harold
It’s ironic that ARLnow’s April 22 article said “Gutshall attempted to re-litigate the streetcar…” at the first County Board candidate debate held on April 20.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Along the Pike and in Crystal City we know that “streetcar” is no longer on our menu of transit choices. We understand that neither Erik Gutshall nor Libby Garvey is in favor of bringing the streetcar back, and both further agree that Arlington needs to move forward with alternative plans to address Columbia Pike.
The real difference between the candidates is that only one has, for well over a year, been in a position to act yet hasn’t.
Residents of Columbia Pike and Crystal City waited in vain throughout 2015 to hear more specifics from longtime BRT proponents Libby Garvey and John Vihstadt. While we attended meetings and filled out on-line surveys, these leaders offered no new ideas for us to consider – even though they had assured us that easily implemented alternatives were readily available.
Arlingtonians for Sensible Transit (AST) folded its tent, too, leaving us to wonder about its true purpose. AST’s Peter Rousselot, a very vocal opponent of the streetcar, has been thunderingly silent in advocating for any transit alternative. In fact, everyone involved with the “BRT movement of 2013-2014” disappeared completely from publicly advocating for improved transit services that met our well-articulated vision and needs.
The staff-led Transit Development Plan (TDP) process somehow became a reason NOT to provide active leadership for the Pike and Crystal City.
We thought that perhaps we would see the Board’s BRT proponents’ commitment to us in the recently adopted FY17 budget. After all, the draft TDP identified improvements in connectivity between the Pike and Ballston as well as enhancements in the Crystal City area as funding priorities in FY17. In fact, only one new route was funded in the FY17 budget — the ART 55 — a northside bus replacing a Metro bus route.
Unfortunately, our elected BRT leaders’ silence continues. The draft TDP contains nothing new or creative here for 22202 and 22204 to rely on. The TDP says our mode is “BUS and only BUS” and as proposed will do a great job of moving people OUT of Arlington but very little to help people move AROUND Arlington, and especially on the Pike.
Yes, some service is more frequent; and some commuters will get service during rush hour with fewer stops; but for those of us who were hoping to ditch our cars to do most of our regular errands off-peak there isn’t enough here to make leaving our cars behind practical.
Arlington’s success has been built in large part on long-term vision and strategic public investment in solutions that provide mobility beyond the car for those of us who live here — especially in our densest neighborhoods. Making sure this continues to happen on the Pike and in Crystal City is critical to Arlington’s long-term success. We can’t do baby steps or we will strangle our economic recovery.
The streetcar — vilified as it was by some — was a transformational option developed over ten years with significant public input. We’ve removed it, but the problem still remains. Now, we need even more ongoing focused creativity to ensure that the Pike achieves its adopted vision and Crystal City becomes a great place to live as well as work.
In her New Year’s Day remarks, Ms. Garvey stated that “…we have all been frustrated at how long it seems to be taking to design a substitute [for the streetcar].” That is an understatement for residents of the Pike and Crystal City.
We are still waiting for leadership from the County Board — most particularly from Ms. Garvey, who worked so hard to kill the streetcar and advocated so loudly for buses. It is clearly easier to “just say no” and to criticize than to constructively develop and implement positive solutions.
Eric Harold has lived in the Barcroft neighborhood of Arlington since 1998. He has served twice as president of the Barcroft School & Civic League (the Barcroft civic association) and for twelve years until 2013 on the County’s Environment and Energy Conservation Commission (E2C2). He currently serves on the APS Advisory Commission on Facilities and Capital Construction (FAC).
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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