Yesterday we looked at the evolution of streetcar proposals in the District. Here’s how Northern Virginia’s two modern-day efforts unfolded.
Out of desire to revitalize one of its major corridors, Arlington County began the Columbia Pike Initiative in 2001. The project pointed out a need for better transit, and in February 2003 the county began the Columbia Pike Transit Initiative, a formal study of the possibilities.
After an April 2006 study of different transit modes, streetcars emerged as the best choice for Columbia Pike.
Arlington formally committed to a streetcar plan in March 2009, and an environmental study for the project followed. The county confirmed its plans in 2012 after a second alternatives analysis also recommended streetcar as the preferred mode. The state of Virginia committed funds in July of last year.
But by November, voter opposition to the project had grown, due in part to major holdups in the District’s streetcar plan. After elections in the fall, the project went onto the shelf.
The board of supervisors from Fairfax County, a partner in the project, called the decision to end it short-sighted and disappointing.
Crystal City/Potomac Yard
Arlington and Alexandria have been working together on a transit service for the Potomac Yard development since 1999. At first, streetcars got serious consideration, but a bus rapid transit (BRT) system won out as the preferred mode for the corridor because of cost concerns.
The cities did not fully rule out streetcars on the corridor at this point, though. As construction of the BRT system neared, Arlington and Alexandria agreed to begin a study on converting the system for streetcar use in the future as the corridor developed. Arlington started its part of the study in July 2011, but Alexandria put its part off until a later date.
In December 2012, when Arlington started seeking federal funds for the project, Alexandria pulled out altogether, focusing its efforts on the Potomac Yard Metro infill station project.
Arlington halted its study of streetcar conversion in Crystal City when the Columbia Pike project got suspended. The first phase of Metroway, the BRT system for the corridor, had opened for service two months prior, in August.
Further developments around the Metroway should be complete later this year.