The Pike Trolley debate seems to take up all the oxygen on how to change the way that people are moved on the Columbia Pike Corridor. Here’s a simple, relatively inexpensive way to significantly upgrade the current transit service: the ART 41, which currently ends at Courthouse Metro, should be extended to Rosslyn.
For those of you unfamiliar with the ART 41, it runs from Columbia Pike (more or less at S Arlington Mill Drive) to Glebe, then heads east on Wilson Boulevard to Courthouse Metro. Unlike most of the ART buses, it runs on Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays and rather late into the evening (on all the days it runs). For the many residents (many of them in affordable apartments) in south Arlington, the 41 offers a one-seat gateway to the jobs and shopping of the Orange Line corridor. It also offers an affordable all-bus ride into DC via a transfer to Metrobus 38B.
The 41 bus is an excellent route, and the County’s willingness to run it on weekends and late into the night shows a real commitment to car-free Pike Riders. However, running the bus to Rosslyn would make a good bus route a great one.
Rosslyn offers significant opportunities for transit users that Courthouse lacks: double the trains into DC (as both Blue and Orange Lines run there), which would cut down on wait times for 41 riders transferring to Metrorail. Also, Rossyln offers an additional direct-to-DC bus connection, DC’s excellent Circulator bus. Rossyln also offers access to the bus routes along Lee Highway, and while not as developed as the Courthouse-Ballston corridor, the neighborhood still offers job oppurtunities for Pike residents. Rosslyn, too, is an easier walk to the many jobs in Georgetown when a Circulator/38B bus has a long wait time. Finally, Rosslyn in the sole spot in Arlington for the popular “curb side” direct bus services to New York.
Keep in mind, too, that ART runs a (weekday only, non-late night) bus to Rosslyn, so there is already a bus stop that ART can use.
One negative to acknowledge: ART 41, at least on weekends, runs the same vehicle in an out-and-back schedule throughout the day. In other words, the same driver apparently goes from Courthouse to the Pike and back for the duration of his shift. This is one of the ways that the bus runs with its high frequency. Running the extra mile or so (each way) to Rosslyn may require slightly less frequent service on the route, unless the County adds an additional driver to the route, a non-trivial expense. Nevertheless, on balance, the extension to Rosslyn would be worth this minor inconvenience.
One last idea: if the County has any reservations about this plan, it would seem to have the most utility on late-nights and weekends. While slightly confusing, the extention could begin as a pilot program solely during those periods.