Who doesn’t love a free trolley for getting around Northern Virginia’s congested streets? Some people in Alexandria, it seems, because they’re getting testy about being left off the route, and ignored by the name.
The Alexandria transportation office unveiled its preferred route two weeks ago for what it’s calling the Del Ray Trolley. Most of the route, after the trolley leaves the King Street and Braddock Road Metro stations, is up Mount Vernon Avenue and it turns around in the lovely, yuppified Del Ray, just short of the grittier but lively and rapidly redeveloping neighborhood of Arlandria, a center for many Hispanic residents.
Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille (D) and several City Council members both questioned and scolded the city’s transit staff Tuesday for choosing a route without consulting them, and for naming the trolley for just one of the neighborhoods it serves..
Oh, and not incidentally, for letting the news get into the local press before elected officials were briefed.
The trolley, which the city hopes to have operating by this fall, is supposed to help connect tourists who know of Old Town but not Del Ray, and vice versa. It stops just a few hundred feet from the historic Birchmere Music Hall, which anchors the southern end of the busy Arlandria neighborhood. (Map is below.)
The interest in the route isn’t just civic pride; the King Street Trolley has proven to be a reliable way to move tourists from stores and restaurants near the waterfront to retail establishments closer to the Metro stop.
More than 2 million people have ridden the King Street Trolley since it was started four years ago, the Alexandria Convention and Visitors Association reports, and 72 percent credited the trolley with moving them into new areas.
Using federal stimulus funds, the city has just purchased an all-new fleet of hybrid trolleys, to be operated by Alexandria Transit Company’s DASH system.
Trolleys, streetcars and rapid-transit buses are all the rage lately in Northern Virginia, whether in Alexandria or Arlington, which wants to put a new streetcar system down a rejuvenated Columbia Pike. The two jurisdictions are also in discussions about how to connect the Potomac Yards development to Crystal City to the north and to other nearby neighborhoods.
As with the King Street system, officials want to encourage a “hop on-hop off” attitude among riders of the proposed new route at existing transit stops. The vehicle would run in a 20-minute loop, and it would operate Thursday through Sunday, with weekday hours of 3 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. and weekend hours of 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
The decision to stop the route short of Arlandria was because of the difficulty in finding a place big enough to turn the bus around, staff members said, and because they wanted to concentrate on areas of dense population. Council member Paul Smedberg said the second reason argued for pushing the route into Arlandria.
Staffers did not explain why the bus will be called the Del Ray Trolley instead of the Mount Vernon Trolley, or a combination of the two, or in the style of area Metro stops, Del Ray-Mount Vernon-Historic Alexandria Neighborhoods Trolley. Council members advised them to rethink that choice as well.
Transit officials promised to bring the proposal back before the City Council before it proceeds further.