Greater Greater Washington

Columbia Pike streetcar opponents deceive about "BRT"

A new organization is fighting the Columbia Pike streetcar in Arlington by showing a picture of a Bus Rapid Transit system that couldn't possibly go on Columbia Pike. In response, another new group has formed to support the streetcar plan.


Looks great. Not possible in Arlington. Image from AST.

The pro-streetcar group, Arlington Streetcar Now, wants to see the proposed streetcar become a reality on Columbia Pike between Pentagon City and Bailey's Crossroads in Fairfax County (and potentially beyond), as well as a future streetcar from Pentagon City to Crystal City and then Potomac Yard in Alexandria.

It counters another new group, Arlingtonians for Sensible Transit, which launched in January. Its supporters say they want Arlington to study a "modern Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system" along the Pike. But that group's platform is deeply misleading.

Prominently plastered across its home page is a concept sketch of such a "modern BRT" system from Eugene, Oregon, which runs in a dedicated lane. But transit on Columbia Pike won't get a dedicated lane. The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) won't allow it. That's a travesty, but Arlington has been trying to make the best of the situation with the streetcar design.

You can build a very high-quality bus transit system, with a dedicated paved transitway, enclosed and sheltered stations, off-board fare payment, real-time information, and more. You can also build a cheap bus line that's scarcely better than a classic bus.

A number of true BRT advocates really want to see "gold standard" bus-based transit lines, like those that have been very successful in Latin America. But in the United States, this often gets drowned out by people who just want to see cheaper projects, even if they're less effective. We see campaigns with pictures of fancy, gold standard BRT paired with cost estimates more in line with not-really-BRT. It's snake oil.

AST claims a "BRT" system would be far cheaper than a streetcar, but they are using estimates for alternatives in earlier studies that aren't really BRT at all. Building something like the Eugene transitway would cost far more, perhaps more even than the streetcar.

Stop using "BRT" to talk about not-really-BRT

Streetcar isn't always the right mode. Nor is rail in general. In many of the corridors where Montgomery County is considering BRT, assuming the county executive goes along with planners' recommendations to repurpose existing lanes for BRT, this can be the right form of transit. It's probably even right for the Corridor Cities Transitway.

But in Arlington, since a dedicated lane is not even on the table, it's disingenuous from the start to use the term "BRT." The Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP), the leading group of genuine BRT supporters, calls dedicated lanes a "vital" part of any BRT system in a BRT rating system they devised. Like LEED, ITDP's system gives points for different elements; systems with a certain number of points are "gold," then "silver" and "bronze."

ITDP's system tries to help define what really is "BRT" and what is just an overhyped regular bus line, and to differentiate higher-quality BRT lines from ones that have made more compromises. The US has not yet built a single gold-standard BRT system, or even silver, and most projects dubbed "BRT" aren't at all.


Rendering from Pike Transit Initiative.

Arlington has already studied not-really-BRT and chose streetcar

On its website, AST doesn't claim any particular cost savings or push any specific plan, but just asks for "a study." The problem is, Arlington has done 2 studies already. Both looked at bus alternatives.

A 2005 study considered what it called a "BRT" option, with frequent, new buses, special stations, some off-board payment, but ultimately just a bus running in mixed traffic.

I went through the ITDP rating system and tried to match each category to the description in that study. Assuming the most optimistic choice each time, this would yield a score of about 61, or just barely enough to rate as Bronze BRT. Compromise on even the tiniest element, like only some off-board payment or lower off-peak frequency, and that proposal wouldn't qualify as BRT at all.

The 2012 Alternatives Analysis considered an articulated bus option. Streetcar supporters Mary Hynes and Walter Tejada told the Arlington Mercury the capacity of articulated buses is just not high enough compared to streetcar.

Arlington Streetcar Now also cites studies showing that many riders will take a streetcar over a bus. They say Tacoma saw a bus line's ridership jump 500% when it transformed it into a streetcar. 59% of residents along Columbia Pike said they would use a streetcar, while only 36% use the bus today.

It might be that those respondents think the streetcar will be faster than in reality, but other cities' experiences have been that ridership on new streetcar lines outstrips predictions while bus ridership does not.

Argue facts, not fiction

There are surely valid arguments for a bus project over a streetcar, just as no transportation choice is ever unequivocal, but there are many arguments for the streetcar over buses as well. What isn't on the table, however, is "modern BRT." Should Arlington not build the streetcar because it could just use a Star Trek transporter instead?

There's nothing wrong with a group advocating for a different transportation choice, though we might disagree; it's disingenuous, though, to promote an impossible and expensive nice-looking option and assert it's cheaper. Can the case against the streetcar really be strong, if opponents need to dangle a completely unrealistic hypothetical in front of residents?

Arlingtonians who want to see the streetcar built can declare their support and get on the email list for Arlington Streetcar Now.

Support us: Monthly   Yearly   One time
Greatest supporter—$250/year
Greater supporter—$100/year
Great supporter—$50/year
Or pick your own amount: $/year
Greatest supporter—$250
Greater supporter—$100
Great supporter—$50
Supporter—$20
Or pick your own amount: $
Want to contribute by mail or another way? Instructions are here.
Contributions to Greater Greater Washington are not tax deductible.

David Alpert is the founder and editor-in-chief of Greater Greater Washington. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and daughter in Dupont Circle. 

Comments

Add a comment »

afaict the opponents are a coalition of A. People concerned about a large capital investment at a time of uncertainty - and who expect the redevelopment of the Pike will happen anyway B. people concerned about affordable housing, who fear the street car will induce substantial redevelopment C. Folks whose main concern is the use of the Pike for cars, and whose preference for buses over rail is based on the belief that street cars will have more conflicts with autos then buses do.

Its worth noting that positions A and B contradict each other, but of such contradictions are coalitions made.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 12, 2013 10:33 am • linkreport

On the AST FAQs they even admit that they couldn't do a separated lane (so what would be different about these new buses vs. the regular ones)?

Meanwhile during rush hour on Columbia Pike you pretty much have a bus every two minutes. Tell me, how are you going to magically add more buses while increasing the avg. speed of said buses?

In another "advantage" they list is that buses can pass each other in a breakdown. But if you go with the segregated lanes then you see in most cases for separated BRT you've only got one lane in each direction so that doesn't mean a broken down vehicle is easy to pass whether your on tires or rails.

I could go on about the spurious comparisons without any numerical value but that's already been highlighted and I don't want to get snarky about people who are lying either on purpose or through incompetence.

by drumz on Feb 12, 2013 10:33 am • linkreport

Walker,

Even re: C in your comment that's already false. The county has identified a huge number of currently affordable units in the Columbia Pike shed and has committed to keeping them affordable.

http://www.columbiapikeva.us/housing/

by drumz on Feb 12, 2013 10:37 am • linkreport

drumz

yes, but there will almost certainly end up being fewer affordable units in the corridor than there would be if the corridor did not become more desirable.

Though that still leaves the contradiction - the rail line cannot at one and the same time both lead to incremental gentrification and loss of market affordable units, AND fail to generate development that will help pay for the line.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 12, 2013 10:42 am • linkreport

Please declare your support at http://streetcarnow.org/declare-your-support.aspx

We want to make it clear that the County Board, not only made the right choice when they chose Streetcars for Arlington, they made a choice supported by Arlington residents.

This isn't just about Columbia Pike - the plan is to connect together with a Streetcar running down the Route 1 corridor through Crystal City into Alexandria.

by Chris Slatt on Feb 12, 2013 10:44 am • linkreport

Pretty sure Walker hit it dead on. The project makes a lot of sense, but especially on the housing affordability front there is a lot of lower income population along that corridor. It would be a wise move on the part of the county both to encourage economic development and transit in that area. But they will need to do a lot to prevent upheaval of people already in the area. I'm sure this is part of the reason the council is making such a big push on affordable housing.

by Alan B. on Feb 12, 2013 10:52 am • linkreport

AWITC,
Definitely, but those are likely to be lost anyway as Arlington continues to become the regions hot spot as you point out in the contradictions. It is helpful to point this out whenever people have the gall to say that Arlington doesn't care about affordable housing when in fact its winning national recognition for doing the job its doing.

by drumz on Feb 12, 2013 10:55 am • linkreport

This reads like a curious hit piece on a questionable website. Although I am in favor, I have reservations about streetcars on Columbia Pike. This post looks past the more common debate to tackle a lesser opponent and is largely based on photos not being representative of what would be present when the site even mentions neither option("BRT" or streetcars) would have ROW. Likewise, regardless of standards (frankly Grade A would be a waste of money in much of the US), this alternative has been called "BRT" for quite some time. The closing was also very unnecessary and proves critics like Linda Schmitt right.

by selxic on Feb 12, 2013 11:03 am • linkreport

Forgive me if I'm not sympathetic to the complaints of people who have to distort and mislead in order to try and convince people of what they want.

This goes beyond having photos that show something slightly different. It's entirely the opposite of what they're arguing. Without any attempt to actually explain what they actually envision. All over the site and FAQs they explain that BRT "can" do this and "has shown to be" capable of that but ignore the information coming from Arlington county itself.

by drumz on Feb 12, 2013 11:09 am • linkreport

"other cities' experiences have been that ridership on new streetcar lines outstrips predictions"

Except where it isn't: "With ridership falling, [Tampa's] streetcar's destination uncertain"

http://www2.tbo.com/news/business/2012/sep/30/4/streetcars-destination-uncertain-ar-517429/

by Barry on Feb 12, 2013 11:18 am • linkreport

selxc

my impression is that AST has gathered most of the mainstream pikerail opponents, its not a marginal site.

"The closing was also very unnecessary and proves critics like Linda Schmitt right. "

Indeed. those frogurt loving toonerville trolley fan hipsters who want to undermine our way of life should learn to avoid snark and keep the conversation civil

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 12, 2013 11:18 am • linkreport

wrt tampa

from the article

"•The 2.7-mile streetcar route between Ybor City, Channelside and downtown was chosen primarily for its draw to convention visitors and tourists rather than linking residential areas and workplaces.
•The streetcars operate with replicas of historic vehicles, which typically cost more to maintain than modern streetcars. And the historic image adds little appeal to commuters, who mostly want convenience.

...

•With a single track along most of its route, and schedules that require a wait of up to 20 minutes — with another 15 minutes or so travel time, interest from the downtown workforce for lunch or dinner trips along the route is unlikely."

doesnt sound like PikeRail to me.

its always good to click through, eh?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 12, 2013 11:21 am • linkreport

I actually think selxic has a point and have replaced the last paragraph.

by David Alpert on Feb 12, 2013 11:28 am • linkreport

Unlike the author, I live car-free on the Columbia Pike corridor and I support AST because the streetcar will do virtually nothing to improve my existing transit options. Yes, there is a minor (albeit increasing) capacity problem at rush hour, which can be solved relatively inexpensively with WMATA bendy buses. But my real problems are infrequent off-peak bus service on ART and non-Pike Metrobuses to destinations like Rosslyn, Shirlington and DC. Further, the streetcar will not go to Pentagon, which is one of the busiest bus transfer points in the region. Disneyland transit may attract a handful of riders that it wouldn't otherwise, but the County lacks a comprehensive plan to make car-free living easier, and as a result new transit riders attracted by the streetcar are unlikely to commit to regular transit use; as a result, the planned streetcar is a poor use of limited dollars available for transit.

by JC on Feb 12, 2013 11:28 am • linkreport

Right now, Arlington has about the same density as DC, but has less transit coverage. Despite it's density a lot of Columbia Pike still has largely auto oriented uses, and adding this kind of capacity could put it past the tipping point of denser mixed use development. The Orange line is bursting and the Silver line opening isn't going to improve that situation. This will be cheaper and quicker than a new Metro line, reduce regional traffic by providing quality transit options to tens of thousands of walking distance residents, and allow Arlington guide new development into priority corridors while preserving existing residential neighborhoods.

by Alan B. on Feb 12, 2013 11:34 am • linkreport

I am known to be an opponent of the streetcar. I was asked to participate in Arlingtonians for Sensible Transit, and haven't because I know that studies have already been done. The County Board has ignored the clear evidence that the streetcar will cost more than three times as much as BRT-style buses, and take much longer to build. They went ahead with the foregone conclusion. Another study won't change that. My only hope now is that the State and the Federal Government won't fund this thing.

I agree that showing a BRT bus in a dedicated lane is false advertising - none of the alternatives include a dedicated lane. One of my reasons for opposing the streetcar is that without a dedicated lane but WITH dedicated rails, a disabled vehicle (bus, car, or another streetcar) on the rails STOPS the system.

by John Flack on Feb 12, 2013 11:37 am • linkreport

JC,
The streetcar has more capacity than an articulated bus. Moreover streetcars have a much longer shelf-life (meaning decades) than an articulated bus which is only a few years and is easier to drive, board, quieter, cleaner etc.

Re: pentagon vs. pentagon city. Which buses are you specifically trying to get onto at pentagon? Most buses that I've ever seen on there are express buses to specific suburbs in fairfax and so forth. Regardless, if you need to get on the bus at pentagon you're still free to ride any of the buses still riding on Columbia Pike that go to the pentagon.

tl;dr it may not do much for your specific problems but it will help most everyone else who is car free on Columbia pike.

by drumz on Feb 12, 2013 11:47 am • linkreport

Mr. Flack,
re: this point
The County Board has ignored the clear evidence that the streetcar will cost more than three times as much as BRT-style buses, and take much longer to build.

Well yes, thats the point isn't it? I don't know how you do a BRT without the separate lanes and that's most of the cost. So yes, its a more expensive investment but with a greater return than whatever bus scheme they'd come up with while calling it BRT.

Meanwhile if you want to do things to speed up buses like introducing pre payment and such the county is entirely free to do that and I would encourage them to do so. It's not such a simple binary.

by drumz on Feb 12, 2013 11:51 am • linkreport

If you want to do transit for economic development and you can't do dedicated lanes, then streetcar is your only option. Yes, it has flaws compared to improved bus, but there are also benefits over improved bus. But improvements to some bus stops or putting in off-board fare aren't going to do jack squat for economic development.

The AST site also throws out a bunch of bunk about what their proposed BRT solution could actually look like. First they use the Eugene, OR system as a comparison, which as David says is nothing like what would be on the Pike. In their report they also use data from the Euclid Ave (Healthline) BRT in Cleveland to bolster their case (brought economic development and boosted ridership 54%). What they fail to point out is that the Healthline ALSO has dedicated lanes for the most congested half of its route. They basically just gloss over the one thing that shows that your BRT line is here to stay - the dedicated infrastructure. That's what drives the economic benefits of transit and that's what the Pike BRT would NOT have.

They compare the proposed streetcar route with a list of how BRT "could" spread out and serve way more destinations - well of course it could, for more money. And less frequency along those split paths.

And anybody who foolishly compares the ride/noise quality of any bus vs a streetcar needs to have their head examined.

by MLD on Feb 12, 2013 12:12 pm • linkreport

Well... agreed that showing an (unfortunately) infeasible option and saying it's cheaper isn't worthwhile, but I also see Pike Transit Initative's image and think that's not particularly ideal, either.

I see significant limitations to rail transit when faced with issues such as stopped vehicles, bicycles, break-downs, and maintenance closures. All issues that buses can navigate around, or that dedicated right-of-ways would similarly alleviate.

The only benefits I see out of shared lane streetcars are the boosts to property values & ridership that come from the pro-rail / anti-bus stigma, but in practice I find myself much preferring buses unless we can run a system more definitively classes as LRT.

by Bossi on Feb 12, 2013 12:13 pm • linkreport

The BRT bait-and-switch described here is quite similar to what DMJM-Harris wrote in the 2003-2005 DC Alternatives Analysis. As with Columbia Pike, it was clear at the outset that a dedicated lane or dedicated right-of-way was of the table; this is why "light rail" was screened out in the Mode identification and screening stage. The BRT definition (granted, this was before the ITDP ratings) was kept sufficiently vague to include street running, but that didn't stop them from using pictures from (I think) Bogota's TransMilenio in the project newsletters and describing how some BRT systems run on dedicated rights of way. After the mode screening was done, they introduced a new, unevaluated mode, "Rapid Bus," and in the final report maintained that there would be a "BRT" mode that, although it wouldn't have a dedicated right-of-way, would still be sufficiently better than "Rapid Bus" to be considered a separate near-equivalent to the Streetcar. But the particular features each bus-based mode needed were never clearly defined.

It seems that with BRT, you're promised something that's "just like rail" but end up with a handful of repainted buses that are anything but rapid.

The BRT bait-and-switch is so pervasive in BRT advocacy, and especially in news media reporting about BRT proposals, that I'm inclined to think the conspiracy idea (that BRT is primarily a diversion intended to replace proposals for effective rail-based transit with ineffective bus-based transit to ensure that choice riders will continue to choose cars) has merit.

by thm on Feb 12, 2013 12:19 pm • linkreport

If people are so worried about what happens with blocked streetcar tracks and such why don't they look up what they do in other cities (drive a couple hours north to philadelphia and see for yourself even).

What did they do when DC had streetcars? This is not the most insurmountable problem.

by drumz on Feb 12, 2013 12:22 pm • linkreport

Who is AST? Who are its officers? Where does it get its funding? I can't find that information anywhere on its web site. It's tough to listen to a group that isn't transparent about that.

by TLL on Feb 12, 2013 12:23 pm • linkreport

Metrorail was built with provisions for a future Columbia Pike branch from the current Blue/Yellow line south of Pentagon. Aside from the fact that heavy rail on Columbia Pike was ruled out in previous studies, why isn't it discussed more on GGW? I'd like to see this line included on the maps that accompany Matt Johnson's recent articles about the future of Metrorail. Let's dream big.

by martindelaware on Feb 12, 2013 1:30 pm • linkreport

The question isn't necessarily BRT vs. streetcar on Columbia Pike but a decision about how you want to spend money for capital improvements to transit. If VDOT would never approve a segregated lane then you'd be looking at something more similar to what Kansas City has in its Max service, which has been successful in raising ridership, improving travel times and even drawing some development.

Arlington could provide an upgraded express/rapid bus service for both of its proposed streetcar routes and probably another two corridors for the same price as the one line on Columbia Pike.

I don't really care which one they pursue -- there are benefits to both sides -- but the choice shouldn't be BRT or street car on this one corridor. It should be pay for the street car, or pay for building out a much larger system of rapid BRT-lite service.

by norb on Feb 12, 2013 1:31 pm • linkreport

isn't "BRT-lite service" just....bus service?

by Birdie on Feb 12, 2013 1:40 pm • linkreport

birdie

bus service with better stops, maybe off vehicle payment to speed boarding, better signage, and in this case, articulated vehicles.

Could make sense in some places - I doubt it will do for ColPike what Arlco wants done though - the main merits of rail in a mixed traffic lane are the higher volume you can carry (even vs bendy buses) and the potential development impact. Both factors that make ColPike a particularly good place for rail.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 12, 2013 1:43 pm • linkreport

There is certainly deception associated with this issue. Unfortunately, it’s all being done by Mr Alpert.

Focusing on one photo in a website with thousands of words dedicated to the issue of streetcars in Arlington, Mr Alpert inferred that AST favors dedicated-lane bus service for Columbia Pike. A click on the FAQ page of the same website, however, reveals that AST is unequivocal that it is not advocating this. To accuse AST of deception because he was unwilling to read the rest of their site is what is deceptive.

Mr Alpert also make a claim that because ITDP believes that a dedicated lane is indicative of the best “BRT” systems that, ergo, a lack of a dedicated lane means that the plan supported by AST is not BRT. Mr Alpert, armed only with an internet search engine, could easily find many projects around the country under consideration or construction that have a partial or non-dedicated lane and are called “BRT.” Again, AST’s FAQs make, in effect, the same point. In any event, this is an argument over semantics, not transit, and thus totally misses the mark.

Arlington Streetcar Now and Arlingtonians for Sensible Transit are each offering a series of arguments about the streetcar, mostly in good faith. Rather than reading this disingenuous and petty post from Mr Alpert, readers should click on the links above (or join the columbiapiketrolley listserv on Yahoo!).

by Brian M on Feb 12, 2013 2:08 pm • linkreport

'Mr Alpert, armed only with an internet search engine, could easily find many projects around the country under consideration or construction that have a partial or non-dedicated lane and are called “BRT"'

this proposal does not even involve a partial dedicated lane, IIUC. One can call something without any dedicated lane "brt" and there are people around the country who do - that does not mean its not deceptive.

DA here is not addressing the all the arguments for and against street cars - that has been done many, many times before, and enhanced bus service was included as an alternative in that discussion. The branding of that enhanced bus service as more than it is, both by words and by pictures, is what he is calling out here.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 12, 2013 2:13 pm • linkreport

From the AST FAQ.

"No, this is not true. Modern streetcars are notoriously slow. The Portland streetcar, for example, has an average speed of somewhere around 7 mph on the NS line. Such speeds are far slower than those of almost any BRT system of which we are aware. For example, the [i]Cleveland Healthline BRT system averages 12.5 mph over all, and 13.5 mph over the sections in which it operates on a dedicated ROW.[/i] If express or unlimited stop services are added, the average speed can go significantly higher. For example,[i] the Transmilenio BRT in Bogotá, Colombia averages 18 mph.[/i]

I mean really - the entire site is strewn with items that make the case by conflating enhanced bus service with dedicated ROW BRT.

One could make a strong case for street cars, by using heavy rail systems as examples. To their credit, most street car advocates have not done so.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 12, 2013 2:18 pm • linkreport

Brian M,

So you have an organisation that has words and pictures all extolling the virtues of BRT and then buries the lede halfway through its FAQ by saying that none of the examples they list are indicative of what they want to see (but they'll still call it BRT even when it isn't) and yet its the guy who calls them out on it being disingenous?

by drumz on Feb 12, 2013 2:19 pm • linkreport

Bus rapid transit was initially developed in Curitiba, Brazil and was then for many people perfected in Bogota. In both cities, dedicated lanes (sometimes separated) for primary corridors and transit-stle stations are cornerstones of the system. To call anything less than that BRT is what is disingenuous or at the very least woefully misinformed.

by Alan B. on Feb 12, 2013 2:29 pm • linkreport

If BRT were possible, it would be the transit of choice everywhere. But hardly anyone uses it, and it's not a very desirable choice.

Rather, BRT is advocated in order to head off the possibility of streetcars or lightrail so that an ineffective alternative can be put into place before being quickly and cheaply dismantled.

by JustMe on Feb 12, 2013 2:56 pm • linkreport

@Brian M - Call it whatever you want...there is no "Rapid" in Bus Rapid Transit without a dedicated lane. It is simply enhanced bus service. Thankfully, we live in Arlington, where the citizenry do their homework and will see through this intended deception.

I wish I could say the same for one of our locally elected officials (who supports the farce of proposed BRT on the Pike.

by South Awwlington on Feb 12, 2013 3:15 pm • linkreport

Focusing on one photo in a website with thousands of words dedicated to the issue of streetcars in Arlington, Mr Alpert inferred that AST favors dedicated-lane bus service for Columbia Pike.

Yeah, but a picture is worth a thousand (or more) words. Also, the picture is prominently displayed while the true proposal advocated by AST is only clear after spending some time reading the website.

by Falls Church on Feb 12, 2013 3:26 pm • linkreport

@Alan B: not disagreeing with what should "count" as BRT but there is some notable history before Curitiba. The use of the phrase "bus rapid transit" (although perhaps not the abbreviation "BRT") goes back at least to 1937 when General Motors published a "Bus Rapid Transit Plan for Chicago." In 1963, busways were studied as an alternative to Metro and the results were put in a report called "A study of bus rapid transit operations for the national capitol region," which is available in the Washingtoniana section of the MLK library.

There were also some pieces of infrastructure that, if not explicitly called "BRT," certainly had BRT features. In 1967 the exclusive right-of-way of the Ardmore line in suburban Philadelphia was converted to a busway, and in 1966 the Hodiamont streetcar line in St. Louis was converted to a busway. What are now the HOV lanes on I-395 were opened in 1970 as the Shirley busway, and the El Monte busway in Los Angeles opened in 1973. None of these, of course, has persisted the way that Curitiba's system has.

by thm on Feb 12, 2013 4:08 pm • linkreport

@Walker - you don't think that the examples listed on the AST website are fair comparisons to their goals. That's a fair opinion (I tend to think that most of the streetcar success stories are poor examples because the regions tend not to have existing rapid rail transit, similar job markets, existing transit use rates, demographics or density that South Arlington does). But you've accused AST of using bad examples, and DA accused them of deceit.

by Brian M on Feb 12, 2013 4:46 pm • linkreport

And you don't think it's possible to deceive through either deliberate or poor use of examples?

by Drumz on Feb 12, 2013 6:17 pm • linkreport

Manchester has just opened a street running extension through it's Eastern suburbs, seems to be running fine in traffic so far.

by Rational Plan on Feb 12, 2013 8:44 pm • linkreport

They may be poor examples of street cars (I am not so sure) but they ARE streetcars. Your examples are, again, not BRT in any meaningful sense - what makes them succesful are PRECISELY those features that many consider DEFINITIONAL to BRT, which enhanced bus service on ColPike would not have.

DA spoke of the picture being deceitful, and you appealed to readers to look at the website. While the rest of the website may not be deceitful in the way that the picture is, it tends to reinforce DA's site, which is that AST's case is made by bait and switch about what the actual alternative to street cars is, and is capable of.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 12, 2013 10:35 pm • linkreport

pardon - your examples are BRT - but they are not effectively the same mode as what you propose on ColPike.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 12, 2013 10:37 pm • linkreport

note the deception involved in the paragraph I quoted. A street running street car's speeds are compared to buses in a dedicated ROW. The reason of course that the buses are faster is BECAUSE of the ROW. You could have compared the dedicatedROW buses to LRT in dedicated ROW. Or you could have compared the streetcars to enhanced bus service. Instead you chose to mislead - one could say, deceive.

Certainly what AST did was as close to deception, as enhanced bus service is to BRT.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 12, 2013 10:42 pm • linkreport

David Alpert is absolutely correct. I had to help fund the South BusWay in Pitts- burgh. They promided it would increase bus use from 18,750 per weekday to 32,000 but it peaked at 20,750 during the Second Energy Crisis and has since fallen down to only 10,000, far below before it was built. That is not all. North- ern Virginia has had the Shirley BusWay new in 1969. The Council of Govern-ment's TPB reported it lost 67 % of is riders from 1982 to 1996 when MetroiRail went down there and really helped. Buses use oil which is not good. Street Cars use electricity which is very good and less costly.

by Ed Tennyson on Feb 12, 2013 11:55 pm • linkreport

Most of the trips along the Columbia Pike cannot be replaced with a bus or trolley ride. These are realtors, contractors, homeowners running errands, children and parents going to events, people shopping for food, so many things which cannot be easily handled on any kind of tram service. Removing current lanes for any new system even bikes is going to force commerce out of the neighborhood and definitely going to force traffic to the side streets which are almost totally residential now.

by AndrewW on Feb 13, 2013 6:52 am • linkreport

There are arguments to be made both for and against either improved bus services or light rail on Columbia Pike. However, when considering BRT, the “standards” established by the self-appointed ITDP should not be considered the last word. Yes, a system that meets ITDP’s Gold Standard would be truly wonderful but using the Gold Standard to asses all BRT proposals creates a situation of letting the perfect stand in the way of the good. There is no Gold Standard system in North America but the BRT operations (yes, I consider them BRT) in Ottawa, Pittsburgh, the Gold Line in LA, Eugene and Cleveland all have provided better transit service to their riders. Even the not-really-BRT service in Kansas City has achieved a 20% gain in riders over the previous bus route. More importantly, on the Kansas City route and similar lines one sees riders that you know would not have been found on any other bus line in the city. The regular frequency, expanded service span, designated and identifiable “stations,” and branding bring many of the features that are needed to attract travelers.

Other professional groups such as the National Bus Rapid Transit Institute (NBRTI) and the Bus Transit Systems committee of the Transportation Research Board take a more practical view of BRT recognizing that BRT has many elements. Yes, a dedicated lane is important in maintaining the speed and reliability that are essential for a true “rapid” service but taking what one can get (e.g., dedicated lanes combined with traffic signal priority or separate right-of-way for 60%, 70% or 80% of the route) can yield an attractive and effective service. Each community needs to determine what level of BRT is right for its current and projected development patterns and what can be achieved to better serve exiting customers, to support transit oriented development, and to build the transit market.

ITDP recently issued a report saying that none of the corridors in Montgomery County would justify BRT – as defined by ITDP. One hopes that this will not lead to abandonment of efforts to develop a system of BRT routes to build the transit markets and support the expected development in the County.

by Frank Spielberg on Feb 13, 2013 8:45 am • linkreport

Yes, one of the problems with comparing US projects to the ITDP "Gold Standard" is that the gold standard BRT should never exist in the US. If you need transit at that intensity level it should be light rail in a dedicated ROW; operating costs will be lower at that intensity level.

by MLD on Feb 13, 2013 8:57 am • linkreport

Frank

I don't think many here are against taking what we can get in the way of bus service enhancements. I certainly am not. And whether those components are called "BRT" or not, is not a huge deal - EXCEPT when BRT is raised as an alternative to a rail line - in which case making sure we are doing an apples to apples comparison is important, and presenting a bus system with the costs of an enhanced bus with a few a la carte features, but implying it has the operating charecteristics of BRT in dedicated ROW, is misleading, even deceptive, in ways that will lead to poor choices.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 13, 2013 9:11 am • linkreport

I usually find Greater Greater Washington insightful, but this article is causing me to reconsider. Mr. Alpert criticizes BRT (or whatever you want to call it) because it will not have a dedicated lane. He fails to point out that the streetcar will not have a dedicated lane either. A train operating in mixed traffic is no better than a bus operating in mixed traffic, and arguably it is far worse. The train cannot change lanes to get around right-turning cars or traffic, nor can it swerve to avoid collisions.

Second, Mr. Alpert fails to point out that the "streetcar" project is not a streetcar project at all, it is a bus project. There will be 44 transit vehicles operating during peak -- 34 of those vehicles will be buses and only 10 will be streetcars. In other words, even with the streetcar, most of the transit vehicles will be buses and most of the transit passengers will use buses. The County is proposing to spend roughly $200 million more for those ten streetcars -- that's $20 million per streetcar. Yet, there is virtually no ridership increase as a result, especially when you consider that the County is creating a new bus route to shadow the streetcars, thus increasing their perceived ridership and frequency (which Mr. Alpert also did not point out).

Third, Mr. Alpert relies on ITDP's "Gold Standard" for BRT, an approach that has been widely criticized by transit experts. Why? Because the gold standard measures BRT systems based upon what they look like, not how they perform. As shown by the County's own studies, buses can achieve the same ridership as streetcars on Columbia Pike, and can save the County $200 million that can be spent on other priorities, like schools and affordable housing. Whether these buses would meet ITDP's arbitrary "Gold Standard" is completely irrelevant and a meaningless distraction. The question is whether a system using buses would work or not, regardless of what uou call it or what foolish label you slap on it.

Fourth, Mr. Alpert repeats the claims of Board Members Tejada and Hynes that articulated buses do not have enough capacity, but he does not explore this issue further to determine whether it can withstand scrutiny. It does not. The TSM-2 alternative has almost the same capacity as the streetcar alternative, and TSM-2 uses 34 standard buses and 10 articulated buses. Do the math. Adding a few more articulated buses to the TSM-2 alternative would easily exceed the capacity of the streetcar alternative.

Fifth, Mr. Alpert ignores other key shortcomings of the streetcar proposal. For example, the streetcars will not serve the Pentagon, which is the major trip attractor in the corridor. Passengers going to or from the Pentagon will not use the streetcar, they will use buses. Similarly, Mr. Alpert ignores that the streetcar will terminate at the border of Arlington and Alexandria. Passengers going to Alexandria also will not use the streetcar -- they will use buses. In fact, passengers going anywhere except up and down the Pike would be wise to travel by means other than streetcars, because any trip on the streetcar will require transfers.

Sixth, Mr. Alpert ignores the performance of some of the streetcar systems that were used by Arlington County to justify streetcars on Columbia Pike. For example, the County touted the TECO streetcar in Tampa. That system carries barely 900 trips per day. The performance is so poor that there are serious discussions about shutting it down. Mr. Alpert also ignores the Portland streetcar, which is much better than Tampa, but which has an average speed of about 7 mph. At that speed, it would take nearly an hour to go from one end of the Pike to the other -- hardly a competitive trip.

In short, this article appears to be nothing more than a thinly-veiled booster piece for streetcars on Columbia Pike. It is not journalism and, by masquerading as such, is in itself disingenuous.

by TransitRider on Feb 13, 2013 9:13 am • linkreport

What is very ironic here is with upzoning, Columbia Pike is already developing. Not transit friendly, but very walkable. TransitRider hits the major point for the anti-streetcar which is it doesn't go anywhere. In terms of transit, I think people would appreciate better transit up to R-B.

by charlie on Feb 13, 2013 9:20 am • linkreport

"A train operating in mixed traffic is no better than a bus operating in mixed traffic"

that is debatable - but the debate is not advanced by pretending the bus alt will not be in mixed traffic.

" The TSM-2 alternative has almost the same capacity as the streetcar alternative, and TSM-2 uses 34 standard buses and 10 articulated buses. Do the math. Adding a few more articulated buses to the TSM-2 alternative would easily exceed the capacity of the streetcar alternative."

thats only because you replace more conventional buses with articulated. You could OTOH do the street car AND replace some conventional buses with articulated - there are arguments against doing that, but they apply to any alt based on articulated buses.

"Mr. Alpert ignores that the streetcar will terminate at the border of Arlington and Alexandria."

Er, Columbia Pike does not enter Alexandria - it goes to Fairfax County, which supports the street car to Baileys, and, if it works out well, may extend it to Seven Corners.

You may be thinking of the CCPY streetcar, which WILL have a dedicated ROW.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 13, 2013 9:24 am • linkreport

We have discussed TECO above, and why its not at all comparable to ColPike.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 13, 2013 9:25 am • linkreport

" TransitRider hits the major point for the anti-streetcar which is it doesn't go anywhere."

yet oddly, the buses on the corridor have higher ridership than anywhere in NoVa.

We are supposed to believe that all of those folks either work at the Pentagon, or want to change to express buses there.

In fact most of the folks going to the Pentagon are boarding metro, which they can do as Pentagon City.

And from my experience, there are lots of people who get and off along Col Pike itself.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 13, 2013 9:27 am • linkreport

I should also add that Mr. Alpert's piece is disingenous because he does not subject the ArlingtonStreetcarNow web site to any scrutiny, yet apparently dug deeply into AST's website. Just a quick look that the ArlingtonStreetcarNow website reveals that it is chock full of misleading and disingenous information.

For example, the very first sentence on its streetcar information page says that: "While streetcars require a higher initial investment than buses, that capital cost is offset by significant operational savings."

Yet, the County's own studies concluded just the opposite! The County found that streetcars will cost $200 million more to build than enhanced buses, AND they will INCREASE operating costs by several million dollars per year.

Mr. Alpert, if you want to be a journalist, please apply a little more balance and rigor in your writing. If you don't want to be a journalist, please stop pretending to be one and make it clear that you are just offering opinion pieces.

by TransitRider on Feb 13, 2013 9:28 am • linkreport

Mr. Alpert criticizes BRT (or whatever you want to call it) because it will not have a dedicated lane. He fails to point out that the streetcar will not have a dedicated lane either.

That's because we all know this.

A train operating in mixed traffic is no better than a bus operating in mixed traffic
Yes it is, higher capacity, smoother ride, faster boarding. Among others.

Similarly, Mr. Alpert ignores that the streetcar will terminate at the border of Arlington and Alexandria.
You're thinking of the wrong project. The columbia pike street car will end in Skyline/Bailey's crossroads which is in Fairfax County. Meanwhile the crystal city streetcar will stop at the border but thats because Alexandria doesn't want to fund the potomac yard metro station and a streetcar line at the same time. I question the wisdom of that decision but it's hardly the fault of Arlington county.

Mr. Alpert also ignores the Portland streetcar, which is much better than Tampa, but which has an average speed of about 7 mph.

It's silly to tout this without context. What is the average speed of a bus for a similar trip? Or a car? Or why is that 7mph number going to apply to columbia pike as well. If you're going to claim that the article ignores sources you're going to have to provide those sources (like how an articulated bus which has a higher over-lifetime maintenance cost and less capacity is still preferable to a streetcar).

Your claims of redundancy are misguided as well. We still have bus routes that paralell metro routes.

Moreover, if your final stop is the pentagon then maybe you're better off on a bus but going to pentagon city (and then being able to hop on the crystal city transitway as well) isn't some huge increase and you still have access to the blue and yellow line. How many columbia pike transit riders are going to the pentagon to work there? I doubt its most.

Finally, the Arlington county government can spend 200M (actually less since the federal and state gov't is helping out) on affordable housing and schools and thats great. They already do. You still need transportation. Meanwhile Arlington County is continually nationally recognized wrt its efforts on affordable housing and has a very good school system.

by drumz on Feb 13, 2013 9:29 am • linkreport

Regarding TECO, the County used it in public forums to sell citizens on the streetcar. In that sense, it is completely relevant, because we were given false and misleading information and no doubt some people decided to support streetcars based upon that false and misleading information.

by TransitRider on Feb 13, 2013 9:31 am • linkreport

"I should also add that Mr. Alpert's piece is disingenous because he does not subject the ArlingtonStreetcarNow web site to any scrutiny, yet apparently dug deeply into AST's website."

an AST defender above, said that DA did NOT dig deep into ASTs website, he only looked at the picture. Now he dug too deep?

And no, he is not required to equally critique all websites related to the project.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 13, 2013 9:39 am • linkreport

"no doubt some people decided to support streetcars based upon that false and misleading information"

there are people opposed to the street car because they believe the redevelopment of ColPike will happen anyway, therefore the claimed development inducement effect is false.

There are other people opposed to the street car because they beleive it will induce more redevelopment, therefore reducing the number of affordable units, and changing the charecter of the area.

Clearly, then SOME street car opponents are opponents based on false beliefs.

You can complain about whoever used TECO as an example. Given how irrelevant TECO is, I dont think its an argument to derail this project, which has already been approved.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 13, 2013 9:43 am • linkreport

Hey drumz:

You are right about the termini for the Columbia Pike streetcar. I pointed out the Arlington/Alexandria border issue because the Columbia Pike project is being touted as part of an integrated system that will connect to the Crystal City streetcar. Some are claiming that this will enable passengers to take a streetcar from Columbia Pike into Old Town, but as you point out it will not.

I don't know what you mean about my claim of redundancy. I was not claiming anything, just pointing out the service plan for the "streetcar" project, which states that most of the service will be by buses.

I disagree that it is silly to point out that streetcars are slow. They are. That's why they are best suited as downtown circulators, not long, linear corridors like Columbia Pike.

On the O&M cost, i provided one source -- the County's own AA/EIS, which states that streetcars will INCREASE O&M costs by several million per year. If you look at the national transit database, you will also see that many light rail systems (including streetars) have significantly higher operating costs than buses. That is information reported directly from transit agencies.

Finally, I don't think you can count on federal or state support for the streetcar. If you look at the other projects competing for federal small starts money, it is quite clear that the Columbia Pike project is not competitve, at least in its current configuration. I think we have to assume at this point that the County will pay everything.

by TransitRider on Feb 13, 2013 9:46 am • linkreport

@Walker; the buses are used b/c they go OUTSIDE the area served the streetcar. That is why bus service is so critical here. Take a look at the 16y and others.

by charlie on Feb 13, 2013 9:47 am • linkreport

Images and words being invoked here are red herrings and completely unrelated to reality.

The South American systems are interesting concepts but simply will not happen here.

Every practical North American BRT has stops spaced half a mile or more apart. The concept of stopping every block (like a typical urban bus or the *usual* image invoked by streetcar) is ridiculous if you want "rapid".

Practical North American BRT systems also have very very reliable and regular local bus/streetcar/bus-trolley service in areas with density. This is a level of planning and interoperation that is almost unheard of in the DC region (perhaps impossible due to disparate localities).

by BO on Feb 13, 2013 9:51 am • linkreport

"@Walker; the buses are used b/c they go OUTSIDE the area served the streetcar. That is why bus service is so critical here. Take a look at the 16y and others. "

Ive ridden it, and the highest ridership is definitely between the Pentagon metro and Baileys Xroads.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 13, 2013 9:51 am • linkreport

" Some are claiming that this will enable passengers to take a streetcar from Columbia Pike into Old Town, but as you point out it will not."

they will be able to, with a transfer, if and when City of Alex converts to streetcar which they hope to do. Until then one can take the streetcar to CC and transfer to a bus to City of Alex. or to the metro.

"I don't know what you mean about my claim of redundancy. I was not claiming anything, just pointing out the service plan for the "streetcar" project, which states that most of the service will be by buses."

Im not sure why thats a problem.

"I disagree that it is silly to point out that streetcars are slow. They are. That's why they are best suited as downtown circulators, not long, linear corridors like Columbia Pike."

By the same logic, buses are not suited to long, linear corridors. The only thing suited would be a system with a dedicated ROW on the surface (which is not possible) or a heavy rail metro line, which is not in the cards in the next 40 years.

"Finally, I don't think you can count on federal or state support for the streetcar. If you look at the other projects competing for federal small starts money, it is quite clear that the Columbia Pike project is not competitve, at least in its current configuration. I think we have to assume at this point that the County will pay everything."

since the county does not have to commit anything till the know about the fed contribution, thats not a risk.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 13, 2013 9:56 am • linkreport

You are right about the termini for the Columbia Pike streetcar. I pointed out the Arlington/Alexandria border issue because the Columbia Pike project is being touted as part of an integrated system that will connect to the Crystal City streetcar. Some are claiming that this will enable passengers to take a streetcar from Columbia Pike into Old Town, but as you point out it will not.

I don't know what you mean about my claim of redundancy. I was not claiming anything, just pointing out the service plan for the "streetcar" project, which states that most of the service will be by buses.

I disagree that it is silly to point out that streetcars are slow. They are. That's why they are best suited as downtown circulators, not long, linear corridors like Columbia Pike.

1. I've personally never heard the claim about riding from bailey's crossroads to old town but even so, yes the CCPY did have that in cards until Alexandria started waffling. But even then you'll be able to get as far as Potomac Yard which is also no small feat.

2. You were basically saying that since the streetcar plan still involves buses you can still do it with all buses. It was never the intent to replace all bus trips so its disingenous to say that it was.

3. Re: the slow part. The silly part wasn't saying that a streetcar line in portland was slow. It was when that was thrown in without context or comparison. Again, how fast would the average bus be? Or even a car? Besides its five miles from pentagon city to Bailey's crossroads. Longer than most of the new starts in streetcars but not an incredible distance.

by drumz on Feb 13, 2013 10:10 am • linkreport

On the O&M cost, i provided one source -- the County's own AA/EIS, which states that streetcars will INCREASE O&M costs by several million per year.

Well yeah, considering we'll be going from 0 to about 10-15M on the streetcar. However the same report points out the savings from shifting some of that from the current bus costs. Meanwhile the expected revenue is expected to match or exceed the rest of the cost.

Again all from the same report.

by drumz on Feb 13, 2013 10:26 am • linkreport

"Well yeah, considering we'll be going from 0 to about 10-15M on the streetcar. However the same report points out the savings from shifting some of that from the current bus costs."

This is just wrong.

We are not going from "0". The starting point is what we would pay to operate existing bus service, which is about $16.7 million per year in 2016.

The streetcar is not "10-15M." It is $25.5 million in 2016 and 38.6 million in 2030.

The streetcar costs about $3 million more per year in operating costs than TSM-2 in 2016, and about $4 million more in 2030. The streetcar costs about $9 million more per year than the no-build alternative in 2016, and about $13 million more per year in 2030.

When you consider state operating support and fare revenue, the streetcar will require subsidies from Arlington that are about $2 million per year greater than the subsidies that would be required for TSM-2.

It does not matter how you slice it -- the County concluded that the streetcars will cost Arlington taxpayers significantly more to operate than enhanced buses under the TSM-2 alternative.

by TransitRider on Feb 13, 2013 11:43 am • linkreport

That's all well and good. Until you know, the county says that cost isn't the only factor they consider. And I agree that its not necessarily prudent. Especially when you look at the alternatives and realize you're already spending 88 % of the costs need to just go with the full streetcar build.

I think 3 million a year is reasonable, feasible, and certainly not "several million more" per year compared to expanded bus service (which is not BRT).

by drumz on Feb 13, 2013 12:01 pm • linkreport

Here's where they explain explicitly where cost wasn't the only factor.

http://sites.arlingtonva.us/streetcar/columbia-pike-streetcar/

Why is it in the gov'ts interest to pursue low cost options above all else even if its known that the return will be equally lower? If that had been the case when they were building the orange line then we wouldn't have the R-B corridor like we do today.

by drumz on Feb 13, 2013 12:04 pm • linkreport

It seems like the people doing amateur math on the issue have never run a project, nor done an Analysis of Alternatives and CBA as part of the planning process. Arlington's approach to Columbia Pike has seemed quite transparent and thorough to me, and appears prepped to yield strong ROI.

Objections to the outcomes cited by the county are a matter of opinion--no harm, no foul on someone saying "but I don't want Columbia Pike to get denser or more built-up," even if I think it's short-sighted. Objections to their methods based solely on stuff like "streetcars cost more than buses!" are, by contrast, a simplistic and not wholly accurate assessment of the data.

by worthing on Feb 13, 2013 1:08 pm • linkreport

I am not sure whether trolley or bus rapid transit is better, but I'm sure that the construction will take years. For example, there is a unfinished bus shelter in front of the Rite Aid at 2820 Columbia Pike. That is near the intersection of Columbia Pike and Walter Reed Drive in Arlington. The new bus shelter has been under construction for over a year, and no one knows whe it will be completed. How long does it take to build a bus shelter? So, I doubt that Arlington will be able to build a BRT or trolley in a timely fashion.

by jeff davis on Feb 13, 2013 1:14 pm • linkreport

I'm not local to this, so I'm not going to weigh in on the alternatives or the spin. But I do want to comment on the notion that a streetcar is no better, with regard to speed, than a bus in mixed traffic.

That idea is wrong. The streetcar is worse. If a vehicle is waiting to turn in front of it, if a vehicle stalls in front of it, if a vehicle double parks in front of it, the streetcar is absolutely stuck. Depending on the road geometrics and the traffic situation, a bus might be stuck, or it might actually be able to go around the traffic. There may be other reasons to build a streetcar, but speed isn't one of them. In Portland, many people say they can walk to their destination faster than the streetcar can carry them.

Case in point: An aunt of mine lives in the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia. While many railfans groaned when SEPTA coverted the Germantown Avenue streetcar (line 23) to a bus route. But as a passenger she applauded the move because the streetcar so frequently got stuck behind double parked vehicles.

by Wanderer on Feb 13, 2013 3:00 pm • linkreport

Meanwhile Bus's are never caught in traffic or behind parked cars and can dodge through traffic like a prancing gazelle.

by Rational Plan on Feb 13, 2013 4:46 pm • linkreport

I liked the enhanced bus service option. It has a better cost-benefit ratio. It can be improved over time to have BRT-like features such as controlling lights and prepayment. The improvements made can create an option to convert to streetcars. People are often unaware that options themselves are valuable. It appears to me that the option to convert to streetcars is being exercised prematurely, causing a drop in the net present value of the service.

by Chuck Coleman on Feb 13, 2013 8:38 pm • linkreport

@Chuck Coleman:

It appears to me that the option to convert to streetcars is being exercised prematurely, causing a drop in the net present value of the service.

The words individually make sense, but in this combination . . . I can't figure out what you're actually trying to say.

How do you propose picking a project to fund without choosing an "option"?

by Gray on Feb 13, 2013 9:30 pm • linkreport

The real story here is whether or not the state and federal government will provide tens of millions for the Columbia Pike Streetcar. It's an if. I don't want the streetcar but I hope the feds pony up. If they don't, the county board will find the money somehow, and without letting citizens vote on it. Just like they wouldn't let people who actually live in this county vote on whether or not to have a streetcar in the first place. And no, "stakeholder meetings" are not the same thing as a vote. Everyone knows that decisions get made before a meeting, not after.

by South Arlingtonian on Feb 14, 2013 10:58 am • linkreport

I am an Arlington citizen who cares deeply about the long-term economic strength of the County as well as the quality of life here for all of our residents. I want to see us invest in capital projects that improve quality of life, such as improved transit on The Pike, AND I want to be sure that we make good financial decisions. Here's the thing - I'm just not convinced (yet, maybe I will be) that a streetcar is the smartest use of our money. There are good arguments both for and against, as evidenced by this discussion. I want the whole County board to understand that there is a large number of educated, open-minded people like me who aren't political/ideological about this issue - we just want to see a *compelling* case to part with such a large sum of our money. I do not think that the current body of studies is sufficiently compelling, and yes, I've read them thoroughly (I understand that others are satisfied with what we have, I respect that). Being a systems engineer / operations analyst, I want to see clear, quantitative metrics along with vetted cost projections. And not just any metrics (one can always choose metrics to support any given a priori decision), but objective metrics that clearly relate to the quality of life deficiencies we seek to remedy. I would prefer to spend additional money now for further study of the problem than commit 1000x that much money with the level of doubt I have at this point. I don't think that's unreasonable. I would be just as happy to discover, upon further study, that a streetcar really is the best use of our funds as I would to discover that improvement of the bus system is optimal. Groups like ASN and AST can help by providing such objective study, and by politely and honestly refuting the objective arguments of those they disagree with. They should use their web sites for clear, non-sensational presentation of their positions, and not resort to the snarky, unhelpful attack pieces we have come to expect from DC area blogs (ahem).

by Deliberate Citizen on Feb 14, 2013 11:02 am • linkreport

Deliberate,

What in the alternatives analysis that you have doubts about? It does a good job defining what they're looking at and how they arrived there. They concluded that the high capital costs and the higher operations costs of the streetcar was justified by the expected increase of development along the corridor couple with the mobility improvements.

by drumz on Feb 14, 2013 11:06 am • linkreport

Drumz, I don't mean to pick on you, but your tax dollars/quality of life at stake here, right? You live in Arlington, yes?

by South Arlingtonian on Feb 14, 2013 11:14 am • linkreport

Yes, that's not super relevant but I think the opponents to the streetcar's concerns are either misplaced (complaints about loss of affordable housing) or wrong (buses are just as good).

Moreover, the very alternatives analysis that's been brought out to "prove" that streetcars are expensive and therefore bad actually argues the opposite that the bigger investment will yield a bigger return.

by drumz on Feb 14, 2013 11:19 am • linkreport

And what's the point of having a county council if we the people are supposed to vote on every decision? Was there a referendum for buidling the metro? Or determining which ART bus lines were created.

by drumz on Feb 14, 2013 11:21 am • linkreport

SoArl

this is not a local news blog, like, say ArlingtonNow, its a blog where mostly discuss policy. People make comments about policies in jurisdictions they do not live in.

That said, I live in Fairfax, which IS a participant in PikeRail, and whose strategy to redevelop the Baileys Crossroads are will be impacted by it.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 14, 2013 11:22 am • linkreport

AWalker, thanks for your response. Just curious for whom this topic is simply academic. I'm sorry if I offended you by asking Drumz a question.

Drumz, I didn't say every decision. Arlington has several such referendums every election day to fund major items and bond issues. But the county board has chosen not put the streetcar up for a vote, and sought alternative funding sources precisely because they were worried it would fail.

by South Arlingtonian on Feb 14, 2013 11:32 am • linkreport

I'd rather not have the referendums we do have and just let the county make the decisions.

Anyway, people get testy about the "where do you live" question because its often used as a tactic to shut down debate rather than discuss an idea.

Anyway, is there something in the Alternatives Analysis that bothers you? If it's just the actual cost then I think it does a good job explaining why cost isn't the sole factor to consider. Which seems to be the main hang up of most opponents though we have countless anecdotal examples of gov't skimping on costs that costs tax payers more in other ways (time, congestion) and times when the government has made a larger initial investment and see a much better return (the decision to run the orange line under Wilson Blvd rather than in the median of 66).

by drumz on Feb 14, 2013 11:37 am • linkreport

"AWalker, thanks for your response. Just curious for whom this topic is simply academic."

I dont believe the topic is academic for anyone here. The region is interdependent and what happens in one part impacts residents in other parts - I think thats the general tone of GGW. Our job markets, real estate markets, traffic, etc are all connected.

And as a citizen of the planet, to the extent decisions like this impact green house emissions (and I at least, beleive they do) it impacts us all. Its far from academic.

That said, I understand that tax payers in Arlington have a greater stake in the impact of decisions by Arlington on the Arlington budget then others do. Though again, if not building PikeRail has a negative impact on redevelopment in Baileys, it will also impact the Fairfax county budget.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 14, 2013 11:44 am • linkreport

Question on VDOT - You mentioned that VDOT does not allow a dedicated bus lane in the state. 1) Are there any good reasons behind that; 2) Does that also preclude a dedicated lane for streetcar use; 3) Is there any way to change that rule?

That does not sound like a good rule at all. I am in favor of the street car, but I also think the success will be dependent on the ability to have right-of-way and have direct impact on traffic signals. There is no capability (as of today) to make a dedicated lane, but I think over time we could do this. If you look at the existing stock on CP, most of it will not last until 2030. So, if we're going to replace most of the stock along CP (yes, I'm looking at you Burger King) why not have the ability to push the buildings back to make larger lanes (to support dedicated transit lanes) and larger sidewalks?

A lot of what frustrates me about the dialogue with the streetcar is that people look at the current state of CP and have trouble envisioning the change, but if the streetcar comes to fruition it will probably be a whole decade off with an entirely different landscape on CP than currently exists.

I do love the name "Arlingtonians for Sensible Transit". I recommend Streetcar Now should change their name to "Arlingtonians for Logical Transit".

by E2DAV on Feb 14, 2013 11:47 am • linkreport

I think a different commenter had technical concerns, mine are political.

My impression is that the county board hasn't really sold the public here on the streetcar. That could come back to haunt them if that state and federal money doesn't come through, and if the county then puts the funding to voters in a bond issue. I'm sure that'd be a last resort, though.

Certainly didn't mean to shut down debate. Since Drumz is a vocal supporter, I was curious if he was in Arlington. I'm just looking for clues as to public sentiment here.

by South Arlingtonian on Feb 14, 2013 11:51 am • linkreport

It's all good, most of my peers would be apathetic to supportive (though the ones in Arlington do support it as with most transit things). But I don't really discuss these issues IRL because most of my friends aren't into it. I'd say that while the county may not have done a super great job of explaining what's been explained here the people opposed will try anything that sticks. Sadly, I'll be out of town on the next town hall meeting about the streetcar that I know of.

by drumz on Feb 14, 2013 11:59 am • linkreport

"Question on VDOT - You mentioned that VDOT does not allow a dedicated bus lane in the state. 1) Are there any good reasons behind that; 2) Does that also preclude a dedicated lane for streetcar use; 3) Is there any way to change that rule? "

my understanding is that VDOT will not allow the conversion of an existing general traffic lane to transit only - presumably because they are trying to protect the conventionally measured "level of service" on roads, and do not accept the assertion that dedicated transit lanes will improve traffic flow.

Dedicated transit lanes, where the lane is newly built, are allowed by VDOT, IIUC, and both FFX county and City of Alex are looking at such.

The problem on Columbia Pike is that widending the road in Arlington is simply not possible.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 14, 2013 12:01 pm • linkreport

AWalker -

Why do you say a widening is not possible? I could easily see a widening possible over the next 20 years from the Cemetery to Penrose. Part of that will be the CP realignment which is being sketched out right now and the other part is the evolution of replacing/rebuilding older buildings. You can move those back as you replace, I believe. Look at R-B corridor...it took 20 years, but let's say nothing more than 10% of buildings along Wilson/Clarendon are more than 20 years old.

by E2DAV on Feb 14, 2013 12:18 pm • linkreport

"the other part is the evolution of replacing/rebuilding older buildings. You can move those back as you replace, I believe."

A. I guess I thought we were talking a shorter time frame
B. That land is going to be very costly, I'm not sure that the political will is there to buy that land for ROW as lots are redeveloped.
C. off the top of my head Im not sure if there are spots where there are buildings dense enough to be unlikely to see redevelopment under the current code - I will take your word that there are no such spots.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 14, 2013 12:27 pm • linkreport

Regardless of what is decided on, Columbia Pike congestion will get worse and there will be years and years of construction that will only make that problem worse before it gets better.

by Rory on Feb 14, 2013 1:54 pm • linkreport

Add a Comment

Name: (will be displayed on the comments page)

Email: (must be your real address, but will be kept private)

URL: (optional, will be displayed)

Your comment:

By submitting a comment, you agree to abide by our comment policy.
Notify me of followup comments via email. (You can also subscribe without commenting.)
Save my name and email address on this computer so I don't have to enter it next time, and so I don't have to answer the anti-spam map challenge question in the future.

or