This post replies to a recent Opinion piece written by Arlington County Board Chairwoman Mary Hynes, which can be read here. It is also posted as a comment at Arlington Connection.
Ms. Hynes likes to invoke SmartGrowth in defense of the streetcars, but there is nothing smart about spending money on one or two transit lines when Arlington needs better transit service on many routes.
- Data produced by board-funded Pike Transit Initiative proves that an articulated bus will have comparable service levels as the trolley for a fifth of the cost. This savings could open up funds for other transit needs.
- If you want fewer cars, you need routes that run to many more places that are fast, frequent and reliable. For example, most of the ART routes do not run on Saturday or Sunday. The streetcars will not take Pike residents (or Route 1 residents) to the Orange Line, or to DC. With current wait times for weekend Metrorail, the trolley will be a long, slow journey to anywhere but Skyline and Pentagon City. The cuteness of the trolley isn’t enough to counter all this.
- Development is coming to Columbia Pike under the Form Based Code (which is flawed but is far more responsible for the redevelopment along the Pike) along with the fact that the rest of Arlington is mostly built-out to Code. Trolley backers who give credit to an unbuilt, unfunded, dream plan for a trolley are deluding themselves that the planned trolley is the reason for Siena Park, the Halstead and the new Rosenthal Site. Don’t confuse correlation with causation. Relatively cheap land and a development-friendly board are what is responsible for these things.
- Most current PikeRiders go to destinations other that the one that the trolley will service (Pentagon City). More weekday Pike Riders take the bus to Pentagon and quite a few take the direct-to-DC routes. That is most current Pike Ride users will not be able to take the $240+ million trolley each day!
- The reality that the Boomers on the Board can’t internalize is that the DC area has become a Mecca for young people who want to live in a car-free environment. That is, there is no need to convince them to get out of their cars for a trolley, you just need to provide (and advertise) that the Pike/Route 1 is a place where people can live car-free because they added BikeShare, ZipCar, better bike routes and 7-day-a-week frequent ART and Metrobus service to the Orange Line Corridor and DC. That, Ms. Hynes, is Smart Growth for 2012.