Greater Greater Washington


Columbia Pike streetcar may still get federal funding

Arlington's plans to use federal funding for the Columbia Pike streetcar hit a snag recently, when the project was not accepted into the FTA's Small Starts grant program. Streetcar opponents took this news as a sign that the project is in trouble, but it's not.

Photo by cliff1066â„¢ on Flickr.

The FTA isn't turning down the project permanently. They are requesting changes and suggesting Arlington reapply later this year. Federal rules changed with last year's MAP-21 transportation bill, and so Arlington has to apply under the larger New Starts program instead of Small Starts.

The delay is good, anyway. Another new rule is that once a project is accepted into New Starts, construction has to begin within 2 years. Even if it had won funding this year, Arlington is 3 years away from construction, so next year is the right time to apply in any case.

County Board chairman Walter Tejada confirmed at a board meeting last night that county leaders are still committed to funding and building the streetcar.

It's not really $410 million

Some reports erroneously claim the that FTA turned down the streetcar because it thinks the project will cost $410 million. That's not what happened, explained Arlington transit bureau chief Steven DelGiudice.

The FTA's report on Columbia Pike does cite a $410 million figure, but that isn't for the cost of the streetcar. Instead, it's an insurance figure that shows the worst-case scenario, if everything imaginable were to go wrong. It shows the streetcar cost, plus the cost of other tangential projects nearby, plus a $70 million contingency figure in case of overruns.

What sort of tangential projects? Things like 12th Street in Pentagon City. 12th Street doesn't exist right now. A private developer will build it as part of a skyscraper development, regardless of whether or not there is ever a streetcar.

Once 12th Street is there, it will be a convenient place to put the streetcar. But since Arlington plans to run the streetcar down a street that isn't built yet, FTA's rules say the total has to include all of the street's costseven though all of the money comes from a developer. FTA assumes that if the development is delayed, the county might have to build the road itself.

The total cost also has to show an insurance contingency for those tangential projects, like 12th Street. Double whammy. FTA also recommended that the county increase its contingency fund from 18 to 35%.

There are a few new costs the FTA identified that will probably increase the budget. They anticipate very heavy ridership on the route, and recommended that the county look at a larger vehicle to meet these capacity demands.

The result is a slightly higher real cost figure, and another paper figure that's way bigger than what the project will actually cost to build. FTA knows it won't really be $410 million. In fact, their cost range says $255 million is just as likely, with the probable cost somewhere in between.

Because the rules of Small Starts require including everything and cap projects at $250 million, the streetcar project has to go under a different program. The Small Starts program is for small, low-cost, particularly easy-to-accomplish projects. Most new rail lines, and many large BRT lines, go through the New Starts program instead.

Since the New Starts program is larger, that also means that the project can get more total dollars of federal funding. The statute allows FTA to provide up to 80% of the funds for a project, but because there are more projects applying than available funding, the federal share is more likely 50%.

The chances of getting New Starts funding are good

According DelGiudice, the FTA's report is very positive for the streetcar and affirms the county's projections.

FTA believes the ridership will be strong, and even suggested Arlington increase the capacity of the streetcar with more cars and a bigger railyard. That shows FTA believes this is a good place for rail transit.

Despite not being accepted into the Small Starts program this year, FTA's report on Columbia Pike is actually very good news and shows the FTA thinks it's a strong project. Arlington can reapply under the larger program, and since they're 3 years away from construction anyway, doing so is not even a delay.

The decision ultimately lies with the County Board to choose whether to apply under New Starts, but if they do, the streetcar project stands a good chance of winning approval next year.

Canaan Merchant was born and raised in Powhatan, Virginia and attended George Mason University where he studied English. He became interested in urban design and transportation issues when listening to a presentation by Jeff Speck while attending GMU. He lives in Falls Church.  


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Most projects get turned down for Small Starts funds on the first attempt. That's not because the project is bad, it's because there ten times as many projects (in terms of $ requested) as there are funds to give out every year.

by MLD on Apr 24, 2013 10:40 am • linkreport

This is interesting Canaan. Thanks for the post.

Broadly speaking, how good are such estimates? That is, if I took a 1000 "big" municipal projects, how often is the final cost within the predicted window?

by Geof Gee on Apr 24, 2013 11:22 am • linkreport

Because a system of long buses is cheaper and faster to build (with identical capacity as the streetcar), this post proves that such a system would much more quickly get FTA funding to address the sole legitimate transit-oriented goal of the streetcar (capacity). But it won't happen because the developers along the Pike won't get to sell their new housing for the wealthy (with County-mandated parking minimums!) with the trolley premium, which is what's really driving the streetcar at this point anyway.

Note that GGW continues to refuse to link to any pro-transit criticism of the Pike streetcar – for example, Libby Garvey in Sunday’s WaPo:

by Perry on Apr 24, 2013 11:31 am • linkreport


The FTA recommended a vehicle larger than the Skoda vehicles (used in Portland) that Arlington studied. There isn't a bus big enough that would also be street-legal.

by Canaan on Apr 24, 2013 11:39 am • linkreport

The concentration of development is also a transportation issue - as people in denser areas are not only more likely to use transit, but to walk or bike for their trips.

If you think parking minimums on Col Pike should be modified, you should organize for that.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 24, 2013 11:42 am • linkreport

Where's this compelling evidence that long buses are cheaper to run than a streetcar?

WMATA have repeatedly reported that their articulated buses are more expensive, less reliable, difficult to maintain, and have a usable lifespan that's roughly half that of a normal bus.

Add in fuel costs, and I could easily see streetcars being a good investment along a corridor that already has a ton of bus service.

Buses aren't cheap. Everybody always seems to forget this.

Libby Garvey has some good points, but that article is just a textbook example of concern trolling, and makes a better argument for enhancing the project to add dedicated lanes than it does for scrapping the thing.

by andrew on Apr 24, 2013 11:50 am • linkreport

Perry, that's because what you call "pro-transit criticism" is actually no-transit criticism. The second that the streetcar project gets hypothetically changed to a "BRT" project will be the second that those same critics argue against that same project.

We've seen this movie before with the Purple Line. The anti-neighbors advocated for BRT on Jones Bridge Road because they actually want nothing. Your obfuscation isn't fooling anyone.

by Cavan on Apr 24, 2013 11:50 am • linkreport

Realistically, the Columbia Pike Streetcar project is at least five years from construction. Firstly, it can't precede the total reconstruction of the Columbia Pike roadway (and most of the underground utilities and sidewalks), under the *separate* Columbia Pike Multimodal street reconstruction project, which has been proceeding at a snail's pace, in fits and starts, over the past decade. It's also related to the now-infamous Super Stops project, which over the past eight years has built only one, poorly designed and sited, transit stop.

At any rate, now is the perfect time to step back and objectively evaluate the best mix of transit improvements for the corridor as well as extend the return-on-investment analysis done for the streetcar on its bus-transit (TSM-2) alternative.

by Allen Muchnick on Apr 24, 2013 2:12 pm • linkreport

while the construction may have to await the completion of the roadway reconstruction, the engineering and procurement steps do not, and they can be time consuming. I also cannot see resolution of the super stops project (not that related, as it was planned even if articulated buses were used) taking that long. They will determine what caused the costs, and either proceed with the current design, or get a new off the shelf design.

Given the FTA response, which suggests even higher ridership, and a need for even larger vehicles, I do not see how the TSM 2 alt can look better now than it did before.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 24, 2013 2:20 pm • linkreport

Libby Garvey also claimed yesterday that since buses have more seats than streetcars they then have more capacity.

by Canaan on Apr 24, 2013 3:42 pm • linkreport

The Columbia Pike streetcar isn't just about capacity and moving people during rush hour. It is about regional connectivity, placemaking, economic development, investing in the southern part of Arlington County (and Bailey's Crossroads), gathering funds for affordable housing, and providing transit alternatives during the day and on weekends. The Arlington Board and Fairfax's Mason District have worked on the streetcar project for more than 10 years, and taken multiple complementary actions (form-based code, neighborhoods plan, roadway improvements) to create a package that is transformative of Columbia Pike while retaining diversity and affordability.
The project got caught at a transition between an earlier Federal program and the current MAP-21 approach, which hasn't fully adopted evaluation criteria yet. FTA is probably right that Arlington needs to do more engineering and answer additional questions, but their report does end with a recommendation that the project should be moved to the Project Development pipeline for the New Starts program.

by Agnès Artemel on Apr 24, 2013 4:38 pm • linkreport

@ AWalkerInTheCity

Since the Pike streetcar would only replace 10 of the many ART and Metrobuses that run and stop along the curb lanes of Columbia Pike, longer streetcars may not be feasible, if the combination of a stopped streetcar and one or more buses could block intersections.

At any rate, articulated buses could provide greater and more cost-effective transit capacity than the proposed 10 Pike Streetcars, simply by running more articulated buses during peak periods; e.g., along the bus route to the Pentagon, which I don't think was modeled in the AA/EA study.

Finally, successfully building the Super Stops would provide the assumed prepaid boarding which accounted for the streetcar trip times and ridership forecast in the AA/EA study.

by Allen Muchnick on Apr 24, 2013 4:57 pm • linkreport

At any rate, articulated buses could provide greater and more cost-effective transit capacity than the proposed 10 Pike Streetcars, simply by running more articulated buses during peak periods; e.g., along the bus route to the Pentagon, which I don't think was modeled in the AA/EA study.

How would articulated buses be more cost-effective if you have to run more vehicles (and therefore more drivers, more labor cost) to achieve the same capacity?
The greatest cost of running transit service is the labor cost.

by MLD on Apr 24, 2013 5:02 pm • linkreport

"Since the Pike streetcar would only replace 10 of the many ART and Metrobuses that run and stop along the curb lanes of Columbia Pike, longer streetcars may not be feasible, if the combination of a stopped streetcar and one or more buses could block intersections."

I do not know the details of this opertional issue - if FTA has not looked at it, I assume PikeRail will. Again, I do not see how increased concerns for volume makes bus more attractive.

"At any rate, articulated buses could provide greater and more cost-effective transit capacity than the proposed 10 Pike Streetcars, simply by running more articulated buses during peak periods; e.g., along the bus route to the Pentagon, which I don't think was modeled in the AA/EA study."

More vehicles would not only increase the capital and mtnce costs above what was modeled, but as MLD says, labor costs. Also it would mean a greater impact on other traffic on Columbia Pike.

"Finally, successfully building the Super Stops would provide the assumed prepaid boarding which accounted for the streetcar trip times and ridership forecast in the AA/EA study." Much of the criticism of the forecasts has focused on there being no difference in trip times, and so seems to implicitly assume prepaid boarding for the bus alt (which I can only presume is one reason most street car oppoenents call that alt "BRT". But even with the prepayment and accompanied faster times being considered only for the street car case - I have not heard that that accounts for the larger share of the super stop costs.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 24, 2013 5:18 pm • linkreport

@ Agnès Artemel

How do treacherous trolley tracks in both curb lanes of Columbia Pike, ugly catenary wires, four or five streetcar traction power stations, and a streetcar storage and maintenance facility in the middle of Pentagon City effectively contribute to "regional connectivity, placemaking, economic development, investing in the southern part of Arlington County (and Bailey's Crossroads), gathering funds for affordable housing, and providing transit alternatives during the day and on weekends"?

The current Pike Ride, MetroExpress bus service to downtown DC, and ART bus service already provide good regional connectivity, but most current and future Pike residents and visitors will be traveling to destinations well beyond, Pentagon City, Columbia Pike, and Skyline.

Before further advancing the problematic, unaffordable, and counterproductive Pike Streetcar, Arlington County should fully and fairly examine how to best increase transit ridership along the corridor, including improvements to Metrorail core capacity between Rosslyn and the Pentagon. Sadly, pushing ahead with the likely $500+ million Pike Streetcar project will defer and delay other and more cost-effective transit improvements.

by Allen Muchnick on Apr 24, 2013 5:19 pm • linkreport

Does anyone know with "New Starts Project" scenario if VA and Fairfax would still contribute 14% each to fund the project?

by Tom on Apr 24, 2013 5:32 pm • linkreport

"How do treacherous trolley tracks in both curb lanes of Columbia Pike, ugly catenary wires, "

treacherous? Ive walking along H street, and I do not find the tracks treacherous at all. Do you mean to cyclists? I bike in the region, and I would not bike on ColPike anywhere between Baileys and the pentagon. There may be a few cyclists who will prefer riding on the Pike to parallel streets, but that number is small I would suggest, compared to the benefits of the streetcar - including a densification that will ultimately make the area better for cyclists.

I also do not mind trolley wires.

What does add to regional connectivity is a system that will both add to transit supply (by its capacity) and to transit demand.

I did support the notion of a maintenance facility in Alexandria at NVCC. I wouldnt mind if that is reexamined.

"Sadly, pushing ahead with the likely $500+ million Pike Streetcar project will defer and delay other and more cost-effective transit improvements."

do you have a basis for that number other than the FTA statement, which that is a misreading of?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 24, 2013 5:40 pm • linkreport

The 2012 Pike Streetcar AA/EA study (which was clearly rigged by Arlington's consultant to favor the streetcar) concluded that annual operating costs for the streetcar alternative would be significantly higher than for the otherwise similar articulated-bus alternative (TSM-2).

TSM-2--like the streetcar--was modeled with prepaid boarding, level platforms, and traffic signal preemption, although it was erroneously made slower that the streetcar by modeling one fewer boarding door on each side.

Articulated buses replacing ordinary Metrobuses can increase transit capacity much more cost effectively than a whole new streetcar system because they require no more drivers than regular Metrobuses and no capital costs other than for the longer replacement bus and *perhaps* a new bus storage and maintenance facility, which was responsible for the bulk of the $50 million estimate for TSM-2.

While single streetcars can carry more (standing) passengers than typical articulated and BRT buses, and only streetcars can be joined in tandem, that extra capacity is of little or no benefit until it's actually justified by the increased ridership.

Implementing BRT on the Pike *now* would provide immediate benefits without precluding conversion to a streetcar in the future. Meanwhile, the Pike Streetcar is unlikely to be in revenue service before 2020 or built for under $400 million.

by Allen Muchnick on Apr 24, 2013 5:47 pm • linkreport

I live less than a half-block from Columbia Pike and cycle on it almost daily. With its general 30 MPH posted speed limit and frequent red lights at major intersections, Columbia Pike is relatively bikeable, at least compared to most arterial roadways in NoVA.

Unlike H St NE and most other streetcar corridors, Columbia Pike lacks any continuous nearby parallel streets for bicycling and traverses a series of hills, so trolley tracks in both curb lanes would seriously impact bicyclist access and safety.

by Allen Muchnick on Apr 24, 2013 5:54 pm • linkreport

If you're going to claim that the AA/EA was rigged (and good enough to fool FTA) you're going to have to back it up.

Meanwhile: bike boulevards are being planned on 9th and 12th streets providing an alternative to the pike if someone is uncomfortable with biking on the pike.

by Drumz on Apr 24, 2013 6:10 pm • linkreport

@Allen Muchnick
Street cars can be diesel powered, at which point you can get rid of the "ugly wires and substations"

The wires and substations allow you to dramatically reduce the fuel, pollution and noise. If you want to argue for fossil fueled trolleys go ahead.

I have no concept of how trolley tracks are treacherous, especially near the curb. Buses can and frequently do injure people by getting too close to the curb. trolleys on tracks are never too close or too far from the curb.

As for a trolley storage and maintenance facility, I am under the impression it it would be at the other end near the Northern Virginia Community College-Alexandria Campus, which is pretty ugly as it is. With good landscaping it's presence would be minimal.

by Richard Bourne on Apr 24, 2013 7:00 pm • linkreport

@ Drumz

The 2012 AA/EA was rigged by modeling the TSM-2 bus alternative with only two boarding doors per side (vs three for the streetcars), although plenty of existing articulated and BRT buses have at least three doors per side. This artifact erroneously reduced the forecast travel times and ridership for TSM-2 compared to the clearly favored streetcar alternative.

The AA/EA study also failed to examine the option of replacing existing Metrobus service to the Pentagon with higher-capacity and/or enhanced bus service, not to mention adding other limited-stop or non-stop bus services during peak periods or implementing a bus trolley to support local businesses on evenings and weekends.

In the 2005 Pike Streetcar AA study, the BRT alternative was dropped entirely, creating just one "Modified Streetcar Alternative", once it was determined that replacing half or more of the existing Pike Ride bus service with a streetcar was not viable.

Most importantly, the 2012 Pike Streetcar AA/EA and every previous Pike Transit Initiative study was predicated solely on rationalizing a streetcar system, rather than first fully, fairly, and openly studying the origins and destinations of existing and desired transit trips.

The parallel ca. one-mile-long bicycle boulevards on 9th St S and 12th St S (using long-existing low-traffic streets) are basically a cynical ploy to falsely portray the Pike Streetcar as a "bicycle friendly" multimodal project, when the truth is just the opposite. This modest bikeway project--already under development without any implementation for a full decade--will merely decorate *existing* and relatively short parallel low-traffic streets with wayfinding signs and pavement markings, while doing *nothing* for the foreseeable future to extend these routes along the bulk of the streetcar corridor, even while trolley tracks severely degrade bike access and safety on the *only* continuous through street in the corridor.

by Allen Muchnick on Apr 24, 2013 7:13 pm • linkreport

The claim that buses can somehow provide more capacity than trains is a blatant lie. The only way you can make it true is if you compare really frequent buses with really infrequent streetcars. Considering that streetcar opponents like to say buses could be just as good if only buses were designed with all the same amenities, it's the absolute height of hypocrisy to turn around and make an anti-streetcar argument that intentionally uses an un-level playing field.

The fact that streetcar opponents are resorting to such transparently hypocritical arguments really shows how intellectually bankrupt they are. It's not about facts. It's about throwing spaghetti against the wall and hoping something sticks.

As for the cycling-friendliness of streetcar tracks, I'd direct anyone who thinks bikes and streetcars can't live together well to visit Amsterdam. Or maybe that's yet another data point the opponents would simply prefer to ignore.

by Ballston Guy on Apr 24, 2013 9:17 pm • linkreport

@ Ballston Guy,

Before attacking your opponents as liars, hypocrites, and intellectually bankrupt, you might actually examine the assumptions and data used in the 2012 Pike Streetcar Alternatives Analysis.

As described in the Volume II chapter titled "Detailed Definition of Alternatives" [ ], the proposed Pike Streetcar was compared to a substantially similar articulated-bus/BRT alternative dubbed TSM-2.

Both the Modeled Streetcar Alternative and TSM-2 primarily differ from the current (and No Build Alternative) transit service in the transit vehicles serving Pentagon City. In fact, the four alternatives studied (No Build, TSM-1, TSM-2, and Streetcar) all assumed identical bus service to the Pentagon; namely, 12 regular Metrobuses and 3 ART buses per peak hour eastbound on weekday mornings.

Transit vehicle passenger capacity was described as follows:

1) Regular 40-foot Metrobuses: 41 seated, 22 standing = 63 total

2) TSM-2's 60-foot articulated buses: 60 seated, 34 standing = 94 total

3) Modeled 66-foot electric streetcar: 44 seated, 71 standing = 115 total

For an apples-to-apples capacity comparison between TSM-2 and the Streetcar, one can just look at the modeled transit service eastbound to Pentagon City during the peak hour on weekday mornings:

TSM-2 would run 12 60-foot articulated buses per hour for a total one-hour capacity of (12x94) = 1,128 passengers.

The Modeled Streetcar Alternative would run 10 66-foot streetcars supplemented with 2 40-foot Metrobuses for a total one-hour capacity of [(10x115) + (2x63)] = 1,276 passengers.

Thus, the Modeled Streetcar Alternative provides only a modest 13% increase in peak-hour transit capacity to Pentagon City compared to TSM-2.

However, the Modeled Streetcar Alternative would also cost roughly five times more to build than TSM-2--a ca. $200 million difference--and the AA/EA study never examined any alternative in which peak-period bus service to the Pentagon is also upgraded with some articulated buses.

As noted above, the AA/EA modeled 12 eastbound 40-foot Metrobuses serving the Pentagon during the peak hour on weekday mornings. Four of those Metrobuses (#s 16A, 16D, and 16L) originate in Annandale, whereas eight of those Metrobuses (#s 16B, 16F, and 16J) originate in Culmore. If those 8 Culmore buses were all upgraded to 60-foot articulated buses, such an "Enhanced TSM-2 Alternative" could carry (8x31) = 248 additional passengers per hour. When added to the peak-hour capacity of TSM-2, the total is now 1,376 passengers/hour, which is 100 more/hour than the Modeled Streetcar Alternative.

Moreover, as Libby Garvey has reportedly remarked, the differences in passenger capacity are reversed and magnified if one only compares *seated* passengers.

Looking just at seated passenger capacity, the Modeled Streetcar Alternative can move only [(10x44) + (2x41)] = 522 seated passengers in the peak hour; TSM-2 can move (12x60) = 720 seated passengers in the peak hour; and my "Enhanced TSM-2 Alternative" could move the equivalent of 872 seated passengers in the peak hour (i.e., the 720 of TSM-2 plus 8x19 additional seated passengers/hour on buses serving the Pentagon.

Since, no additional bus drivers are needed for either TSM-2 or my "Enhanced TSM-2 Alternative, labor costs should be essentially unchanged.

Thus, the claim that only streetcars can meet the transit capacity needs of the Columbia Pike corridor for the foreseeable future is fallacious.

Regarding streetcars and bicycling, I did not say they can't coexist well in many communities, only that streetcars would severely degrade bicyclist access and safety along the Columbia Pike corridor. That's due to the narrowness of the Columbia Pike roadway--which precludes both median-running transit and bike lanes--and the current lack of continuous parallel streets along most of the corridor.

by Allen Muchnick on Apr 25, 2013 12:32 am • linkreport

Got it. Buses can have as much capacity if you ignore most of the capacity for streetcars. Buses are also faster than streetcars if you remove the streetcar axels, and more comfortable if you eliminate the streetcar air conditioning unit.

by Ballston Guy on Apr 25, 2013 7:01 am • linkreport

Planners who think that eliminating driving lanes on roads will make traffic go away are not dealing with a full deck. Evacuation, emergency, construction, mass transit, and commercial traffic all require roads. Not one of these functions should be choked off or prevented. Not one. We aren’t even using hybrid buses? We aren’t even using great bus stops. We aren’t even using longer or articulated buses. In fact, we aren’t even trying to get the hand dealt to us already to work. Instead we want to tear down the civic features we already built and paid for to choke off the life blood of our economy and at insanely high costs to be borne by others like the miserable debt carrying US taxpayer. This is a folly trolley.

by AndrewJ on Apr 25, 2013 7:21 am • linkreport

This article is nonsense. The Columbia Pike streetcar does not have a good chance of receiving New Starts funding. Streetcars generally are funded through Small Starts. The only exception in recent memory has been the Tucson streetcar, which anticipates receiving just 12.7% of its funding through New Starts. The notion that disqualification from Small Starts is somehow a positive development for the streetcar is just ludicrous. This is especially true given that the County has already tried to cut costs from the project to prevent disqualification, such as by putting station construction in the separate Super Stops program (another fiasco)and removing most utility work from the project.

by TransitRider on Apr 25, 2013 8:47 am • linkreport

Has anyone examined the actual before and after impact of street car / light rail after it was build in other cities? I get the feeling that those who are for or against Streetcar rely on estimates or feelings rather than evidence of derived from other examples.

Are there "failing" new (built in the last 20 years) street car lines in the US? What where the estimated operational costs for a new BRT line compared to the plan? Was there "more" commercial or residential development after either transit implementation?

As a bicyclist from Philadelphia, I will admit that tracks are an issue but so are potholes, storm grates, and vehicles. At least the tracks are predictable and once you learn how to ride with them, it's not so bad. It could be tracks in cobblestones.

by Randall M. on Apr 25, 2013 9:09 am • linkreport

"implementing BRT on the Pike *now* would provide immediate benefits without precluding conversion to a streetcar in the future"

acquiring a different set of buses with a new mtnce facility seems unwise if we are shortly going to be shifting to the new mode. Plus, if the point is to encourage development, committing to the new mode as early as possible seems wise.

If the articulated buses will have prepaid boarding they need the super stops = whether they have two doors or three to board.

Col Pike may be better than many NoVa arterials for biking. Nonetheless I have rarely if ever seen anyone riding on it. I think the parallel blvds, even with their limits, will be a superior alternative. I believe the majority of cyclists in Arlington support this project.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 25, 2013 9:17 am • linkreport

Has anyone examined the actual before and after impact of street car / light rail after it was build in other cities? I get the feeling that those who are for or against Streetcar rely on estimates or feelings rather than evidence of derived from other examples.

Before and after impact on what?

Here's a paper about how transit service affects real estate values, two cities with only light rail (Minneapolis and Phoenix) are featured:

by MLD on Apr 25, 2013 9:27 am • linkreport


A travel lane isn't being taken away, you can drive over the tracks.

by Canaan on Apr 25, 2013 9:39 am • linkreport

I suspect the reason many other NoVa arterials get more cyclists than ColPike, despite being objectively worse places to bike than ColPike, is precisely the complete absence of parallel roads in most of the rest of NoVa, as compared to the parallel streets in South Arlington.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 25, 2013 9:48 am • linkreport

Why has there been little attention to the proposed streetcar maintenance facility and railyard? This is an unattractive aspect of the project that has to go somewhere. The county is aiming at a Pentagon City site along S. Eads St., between the new 12th St. and Army-Navy Drive, but so far has not made any concepts public, perhaps because it seems incongruous to put such an industrial facility in an area planned for premier high-density redevelopment.

by bemused bystander on Apr 25, 2013 10:13 am • linkreport

Randall - Has anyone examined the actual before-and-after impact of articulated buses when they are introduced? You wouldn't have to go very far -- WMATA has plenty of them. You often see them now on routes where you didn't 10 or 15 years ago. (Such as C2/C4.) It would be a fair comparison, because the folks advocating articulated buses on Columbia Pike have come out against the "superstop" which is necessary for off-bus payment.

Articulated buses are very useful for relieving overcrowding on buses. But in my observation their impact on land use and perceived quality of transportation is nil.

by Ben Ross on Apr 25, 2013 10:36 am • linkreport

There is NO BRT alternative whatsoever being considered in Arlington/FFX. For those on here advocating for that, please understand that it was never an actual alternative, but instead one that FTA forced, as previously mandated by an Alternatives Analysis, Arlington to consider for the sake of the New Starts program. Arlington has not and is not considering BRT.

by blah on Apr 25, 2013 2:17 pm • linkreport

@MLD & @Ben Ross - Thanks.

I was wondering if light rail drew more economic investment, or created more positive effects, than BRT. If it did, then the argument could be made that light rail, while more initially expensive, would pay for itself as a catalyst for economic development through community stability.

We seem to be arguing about the upfront costs of BRT over light rail; that seems to be a red herring. If we build BRT like every other place not in the United States, then an "expensive" station would make sense. I think the true question is 'should a street have fixed-guideway transit?' It appears that a fixed-guideway form of transit promotes a sense of stability that a road with buses does not. This investment might encourage private development that may not have otherwise been created because of a sense of permanence or the added transportation capacity.

What I'm trying to also understand is if the following is true: 'the greater the investment in transit infrastructure, the greater the potential economic return'. If true, it doesn't mean that BRT is better or worse than light rail. If true, a community that implements either option would likely benefit economically and in other ways depending on the quality, capacity, and overall amount of the investment in transit.

by Randall M. on Apr 25, 2013 4:25 pm • linkreport

by Justin on May 1, 2013 8:14 pm • linkreport

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