Streetcar – Arlington’s Next Generation of Transit
For decades, Arlington has worked to give people travel choices. Our County has the most Metrorail stops in Virginia; a successful local bus service; ART, which carries 2.5 million riders annually — and a growing Bike Share program. It is all designed to make it easier for you to live, work, play and visit in Arlington.
Now we’re taking our transportation network to a new level of service by making a strategic investment in a streetcar system – Arlington’s next generation of transit.
Arlington’s streetcar system, still in the early design stages, will put a decidedly modern twist on one of the nation’s oldest forms of mass transit. Streetcars will extend Metrorail’s reach and provide important infrastructure and people-carrying capacity. They will offer yet another travel choice — and help reduce traffic congestion as our community continues to grow and they will do all this at a fraction of the cost of building new Metro lines.
Arlington’s streetcars will bring clean, efficient, accessible, quiet transit to two of the most heavily travelled corridors in Northern Virginia — Route 1 and Columbia Pike. They will link to the regional transit network, connecting to Metrorail in Pentagon City and Crystal City.
When completed, Arlington’s streetcar system will serve already densely developed parts of the County that are projected to add 37,000 jobs, 21,000 residents, and more than 11,600 housing units between 2010 and 2040.
Is it bold to add a whole new form of transit to our mix? Yes.
But decades ago, Arlington made another key strategic decision when it opted for transit-oriented development, or Smart Growth.
By concentrating development around transit, and offering transit options, Arlington has built an impressive record of success –success at managing growth, expanding our tax base, attracting high-quality development and businesses and moving millions of people every year.
More than 40% of all transit rides in the Commonwealth of Virginia begin or end in Arlington. Within Northern Virginia, well over half of all transit rides begin or end right here in our community.
By 2040, we expect annual transit trips in Arlington to grow to 110 to120 million. That’s a staggering number for a County that is only 26 square miles. Only a robust mix of transit options can meet our County’s future needs. That’s why Arlington is making major investments in our transportation infrastructure, including in a modern streetcar system.
We’re already in the early stages of designing a two-segment system. One segment will run nearly five miles along Columbia Pike, from Pentagon City in the east to the Skyline area of Fairfax in the West. The Columbia Pike streetcar segment will link two major employment centers and, when completed, offer riders a “one-seat-ride” from Pentagon City to Skyline Plaza.
The Columbia Pike streetcar is the centerpiece of efforts to revitalize the Pike and transform it into a more walkable “Main Street.”
Arlington is planning a second segment that will run through the Route 1 corridor, the heart of one of Arlington’s most successful business districts.
The Route 1 streetcar segment will run from Pentagon City, through Crystal City, to the Potomac Yard border between Arlington and Alexandria. This segment will connect with the Columbia Pike segment in Pentagon City, ultimately providing a one seat ride from Skyline and Columbia Pike to Crystal City and Potomac Yard.
Across the nation, cities and counties are investing in streetcars because they offer many of the benefits of heavy-rail transit, at far less cost.
These are not the trolleys that used to carry people across Northern Virginia and to and from the District of Columbia from 1892 to the 1960s.
Arlington’s streetcars will be very similar to the electric streetcars that are transforming downtowns in Portland, Seattle and other American cities that are searching for ways to revitalize neighborhoods, encourage sustainable development and reduce pollution.
Portland has seen how a modern streetcar line can be an economic boon to a community. Developers are attracted to areas with fixed-route transit lines, because they don’t have to worry that stops or routes might change. They know that streetcars are a reliable, appealing, efficient form for transit.
Communities that have built modern streetcar lines have seen property values around those lines rise.
Streetcars offer high-quality transportation and greater capacity than buses – for about the same fare rates– yet they are quieter, less polluting, and easier to get on and off.
Streetcars also help create great places – the sort of places where people like to walk around, shop, dine and visit with their neighbors. They attract riders who might otherwise choose to drive. They help connect neighborhoods.
For all these reasons, Arlington is choosing to invest in streetcars … just as it invested a half-century ago in Metrorail.
Arlington’s investment in Metro, considered risky at the time, transformed our community from a fading inner suburb to a dynamic, model of transit-oriented development. Today, Arlington is known for its lively urban villages that successfully coexist with its world-class single-family home neighborhoods.
Won’t you join us in this next phase of Arlington’s Smart Growth Journey?
To learn more about Arlington streetcars, and about upcoming public meetings, funding and more, visit: