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The Past, Present, and Future Issues of the Arlington Streetcar

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While we all know by now that the long-planned Arlington streetcar is kaput, it's time to look back and see what led to the end of a long and difficult journey planning the project. With millions of dollars already spent planning the total $550 million project, it took many key moments, issues, and outcries for Arlington to finally say nay to the Columbia Pike streetcar. Even so, while plans are over, there are some saying that a streetcar is an inevitability.

Conversations that led to a streetcar stemmed from efforts to extend the Metro under Columbia Pike into Bailey's Crossroads almost half a century ago. With opposition to a Metro stop from the public, a streetcar was meant to rectify the issue, but with this proposed solution, even more issues piled up. The Washington Post listed key moments that caused plans for the streetcar to eventually drop through. One included the Arlington County Board election of John Vihstadt, a Republican-turned-independent who staked his campaign against the Columbia Pike streetcar. Other key moments included public outcries against a million-dollar bus stop that would have doubled as a streetcar stop, a lack of a referendum on the streetcar, and that the cost for the streetcar was millions of dollars more than predicted.

It's still possible that the conversation on streetcars isn't over, though. Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Sharon Bulova says, "I personally hope that in the future there's some way to reconsider or to resurrect some version of the streetcar." This sentiment is bolstered by the projection that 65 percent of Arlington's population will grow along Columbia Pike and Route One within the next 30 years. Peter Rousselot, founder of Arlingtonians for Sensible Transit, says that it's possible that a Metro line may extend to the Skyline neighborhood in the future, but that is expected to be way in the long term to maybe 2035 or 2040. For the short term, Coalition for Smarter Grown director Stewart Schwartz says that an enhanced bus service in Columbia Pike may be the best solution, but that it may not work in the long term due to "heavy bus bunching." The ideal situation for Schwartz would be "a dedicated transit lane in each direction, a through-vehicle lane in each direction, and safer turn lanes." That possibility, though, will experience many issues with the Virginia Department of Transportation, which has already refused the conversion of curb lanes to all-day transit lanes in the past.
· Five steps to doom for Arlington streetcars [Washington Post]
· With Streetcar Dead, Arlington Ponders: What's Next? [WAMU]