How popular is the idea of a Columbia Pike streetcar?
Arlington County paid for an updated version of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments survey, and a local blog did one of those self-selected online polls. We decided to listen to what Arlington and Fairfax county residents actually told the Pike Transit Initiative over the past month.
How much do residents love the streetcar idea? Not so much.
That’s not an official response, of course. When the compilation of public comments was released 24 hours ago, an official at the Pike Transit Initiative said they decided it was “not practical” to count how many were in favor and how many against a streetcar line, due to the number of comments (just under 300) and the unclear nature of some responses.
We’re nothing if not impractically practical here at The State of Nova, so I’ve read through the 108 pages of comments (Twice!Yes, being a reporter at The Washington Post is a glamorous life.) and marked by hand on a sheet of legal paper the number of people who spoke for each alternative, as well as those whose comments really couldn’t be determined.
According to my informal count, almost twice as many people preferred no streetcar, an enhanced or articulated bus, or no change, than those who favored the streetcar.
The actual numbers are these:
No streetcar: 49
Enhanced buses (TSM 1): 36
Articulated buses (TSM 2): 50
No change: 10
Those who supported the streetcar really supported it, and those who opposed it really disliked it. The No Streetcar crowd didn’t offer a preference; most supporters of the bus or of no change clearly expressed their objections to streetcars.
The unclear category included those who called for a voter referendum, or who raised questions, discussed funding ideas, complained about traffic or tried to sell the county leaders on other options.
Sample of some of the pros and cons:
Commenter 53: “I think the streetcar along Columbia Pike is a great idea. I lived in Jersey City for several years and that town was transformed by the addition of a streetcar system. Streetcars are also a far superior mode of transportation compared to buses.”
Commenter 36: “This is a crazy idea! I live 100 feet from the Pike and travel it often. A streetcar would block two of the 4 lanes MUCH of the time. There WILL be more accidents as a result of cars trying to pass the trolley and because BICYCLES and MOTORCYCLES will OFTEN CRASH if they try to cross the tracks.”
Commenter 145: “ I don’t like buses. They confuse me. I rode a bus years ago and I was in north Arlington, which is not where I wanted to go. I know if I get on the street, I’ll either end up in Manassas or Washington, D.C. or somewhere else from here to here; so it’s just it makes a lot more sense for me.”
Commenter 152: “You must be out of your everlovin mind to think that a streetcar, in today’s environment, is anything near a viable option. This “ain’t” San Francisco and we don’t need a tourist attraction that connects nowhere.”
You can do your own analysis if you don’t trust mine. The comments are online, at wapo.st/streetcarplan. Be warned: It took me about two hours to read, each time, and I’m a fast reader.