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How will Virginia brand its streetcars?

Arlington is moving forward with streetcar plans for Columbia Pike and Route 1. How might the trains be branded once they start running?

It seems unlikely they'll be branded as Metro. What are the options? I created some potential concepts in Photoshop. These are not official branding proposals, just my own ideas for discussion.

The DC Streetcar will look like a DC Circulator. What about the same for Arlington Transit? ART's wavy green livery is clean and unique. Extended to a streetcar, it might look like this:

That's pretty nice, but unlikely. After all, both the Columbia Pike and Route 1 lines will extend into other jurisdictions. Fairfax and Alexandria might not like their streetcars branded as part of ART.

How about mimicking the DC streetcar, so as to give the impression of a unified regional system? Starting with that paint scheme but substituting the red from DC's flag with blue from Virginia's, a streetcar might look like this:

That could work, but it's certainly not the only option. There's no reason Virginia streetcars need to be branded like anything currently out there. There are endless permutations. Here's another:

In fact, streetcars don't necessarily need special branding at all. The mere fact that they're streetcars may be branding enough. Portland and Seattle each use a variety of solid colors, and it works just fine. Applied to Virginia, that might look something like this:

What do you think?

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

Dan Malouff is a transportation planner for Arlington and professor of geography at George Washington University, but blogs to express personal views. He has a degree in urban planning from the University of Colorado, and lives in NE DC. He runs BeyondDC and contributes to the Washington Post


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This is going to sound tacky, but I'd say a key feature in the design should be that it's easy to retrofit with advertising.

by Dan Miller on Feb 22, 2011 11:43 am • linkreport

I like the second option - the one that ties in with the DC streetcar design. As far as advertising goes, they generally just wrap the whole streetcar, so it doesn't matter what the branding looks like.

by nevermindtheend on Feb 22, 2011 11:49 am • linkreport

I like Option 2. It's clean, simple, and will probably get the most support from Richmond.

by Barry on Feb 22, 2011 11:50 am • linkreport

The first Va. option seems to reflect the Route 1 REX bus theme.

by Transport. on Feb 22, 2011 11:52 am • linkreport

Paint it with Bob McDonnell's face with the windows representing the interior of his empty head.

by aaa on Feb 22, 2011 11:55 am • linkreport

+1 on aaa's idea.

The purple is a non-starter. Ewww...

Option 3 is visually pleasing, but I think the VA-ized version of the DC design is the best concept.

by ronnie on Feb 22, 2011 12:13 pm • linkreport

If they're going to cross the border into Fairfax, then maybe the streetcars should be branded as VRE trains:

by tom veil on Feb 22, 2011 12:26 pm • linkreport


Are you going to remove the ad hominem attack on an elected official?

by TGEoA on Feb 22, 2011 12:53 pm • linkreport

Depends on who is paying for it. If Arlington is, then heck yeah, it should look like the ART buses.

by daltonminimum on Feb 22, 2011 1:16 pm • linkreport

The 2nd option looks a lot like the Alexandria DART busses.

by Max D. on Feb 22, 2011 1:51 pm • linkreport

@tom veil

I fail to see why VRE branding would make sense. I can't think of a single instance in which heavy rail shares branding with local transit service. I mean, VRE is co-owned by PRTC and they don't even share branding.

by nevermindtheend on Feb 22, 2011 2:18 pm • linkreport

I like the green ART design just fine. That system is growing quickly and they've made a brand out of it, so run with it.

Sorry but the DC-circulator derived design reminds me too much of a jesus fish. (FWIW me and Mr. J get along just fine, I just don't like the fish)

by spookiness on Feb 22, 2011 2:34 pm • linkreport

All these designs are great, but 2nd one is probably the fav here. Although I think the ART design is the best looking, it wouldn't make sense considering plans to extend into Alexandria and Fairfax.

by John M on Feb 22, 2011 2:35 pm • linkreport

I vote for the bus livery. That helps "it's not faster or more reliable than a really frequent bus, but at least it's really expensive".

Wake me up when the area's trolleys get dedicated lanes.

by EJ on Feb 22, 2011 3:05 pm • linkreport

correction: second sentence: "That helps *say*"

by EJ on Feb 22, 2011 3:06 pm • linkreport

I would love to see Metrobus livery on a streetcar someday, but I'm sure bureaucratic red tape will never let that happen. I like the blue version of DC's streetcar, though Virginia's flag isn't the most well-known symbol in Northern Virginia.

Whatever branding they choose, I hope it contributes to the idea of a unified transit system of some kind, and I hope that there will be transfer discounts to reinforce that branding. In any case I think we could do better than simple solid-color designs.

by Anonymous on Feb 22, 2011 5:20 pm • linkreport

I like the idea of different branding for different agencies. Virginia isn't Maryland isn't DC. Arlington has done a great job with ART so I think that it works fine for the streetcar, it runs mostly in Arlington anyways. But maybe I am just a bit bias.

by Andrew S on Feb 22, 2011 5:49 pm • linkreport

What happens if either the Columbia or Route 1 streetcar lines are extended across the Long Bridge? (or- for that matter- the Key Bridge)? Even if they don't, shouldn't we send the message that they might in the future (as Metro did all those years with the hashed-out future lines on the Metro map)?

I like the fact that CaBi, Metro, and the Connector maintain a consistent brand on both sides of the Potomac: not only does that strengthen our regional identity, but when I accidently end up in Virginia or Maryland, I trust that I can get home again (and that I don't need cash to get there).

The streetcar won't get me across the river any time soon, but if K Street, H Street, Anacostia, Crystal City and Columbia Pike all have the same brand, then I know what I'll be getting, and will be more likely to stray into all those new areas that will be opened up by these new transit options. And who knows? Maybe one day I'll be able to take the same streetcar from Rosslyn to H Street, or from Crystal City to K Street! (Or I can take CaBi, or Metro-- so many options in our little metro neighborhood!)

That said, since we won't have a unified brand, I vote for the next best thing: option 2.

by Steven on Feb 22, 2011 6:09 pm • linkreport

Why not call it the Nova streetcar?

by Nexis4Jersey on Feb 22, 2011 6:50 pm • linkreport

How about the same branding as "The Tide"?

by JJJJJ on Feb 22, 2011 7:38 pm • linkreport

Is "Virginia" paying for this? Isn't it being paid for by Arlington County and Fairfax County?

If "Virginia" isn't paying for it, I don't see why we would use a Virginia theme for the streetcars.

I like the ART livery but I understand if FFX doesn't want to go with that.

by Michael Perkins on Feb 23, 2011 8:26 am • linkreport

How about a minor modification to the 2nd choice: use green on top for ART, Connector Mustard on the bottom, keep the white in the middle, and Metrobus red for the wavy lines?

by Rembrandt on Feb 23, 2011 9:59 am • linkreport

If a regional paint scheme is used in the future, we should not base it off of the Circulator theme. It should be with colors of the two states and DC. Blue for Virginia, Red for DC, and the yellow/black checkers for Maryland.

We just need to remember that if we build a regional system, it is not only for DC but everyone else and just because the Cicrulator theme is popular in DC doesn't mean it should be used everywhere else.

by Andrew S on Feb 23, 2011 2:18 pm • linkreport

+1 for the blue VA flag version of the DC streetcars.

by Josh C. on Feb 23, 2011 3:09 pm • linkreport

Count me as skeptical this project will happen.

The current state is Arlington cannot even get its hotel transient occupancy tax renewed in Richmond, how is it going to get the trolley funded??

by Timothy R. Hughes on Feb 23, 2011 9:19 pm • linkreport

As a relatively new resident along Columbia Pike, and someone who would like a good light rail line along the Pike, I'm sort of with "EJ" on this - get back to me when the Columbia Pike light rail will be in a dedicated lane/right of way and not running in the lanes of a street that is already a pain to drive on.

by Nick on Feb 24, 2011 2:04 am • linkreport

Dan, I think you're really on to something with the ART concept. What if every jurisdiction that the streetcar passes through brands some with their local livery? Like you said, in Seattle and Portland the fact that it's a streetcar is branding enough. So we could have ART green, DASH blue, Circulator red and Connector ketchup and mustard all plying the rails together. There could be some kind of unifying text painted on the side, but otherwise they'd be a testament to regional diversity and cooperation.

And I wouldn't worry about someone being perplexed when a blue streetcar pulls up to a stop instead of a red one. A streetcar's a streetcar, and it's not going to be confused for a bus no matter what its livery.

by Matt on Feb 24, 2011 4:20 pm • linkreport

How about covering it with dollar signs and Naming it the "Taxpayer Express"?

After all, the funds to fuel this expensive project will be looted from local taxpayers.

by Bud Miller on Mar 6, 2011 3:30 pm • linkreport

I like the idea of regional branding....Potomac Streetcar resonates. By the same token it would be interesting, if the political will can tolerate, for something akin to the SNCF RER network in Paris covering the Ile de France region. The Capital Regional Express (CRE) network would basically consolidate the heavy rail role presently assumed by VRE and MARC. DC Metro like RATP in Paris remains the " municipal subway/light rail provider...the same for Baltimore City Metro. Potomac Streetcar coordinates and compliments the CRE. Imagine if that ever did happen it might even encourage the " giant" MTA and its brother-in-law New Jersey Transit to have closer collaboration and run-through services to Long Island, Connecticut. Small steps first though...get the streetcars out on the street!!

by Jon Fostik on Aug 16, 2012 8:13 pm • linkreport

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