Choose Buses, Not Streetcars, for Columbia Pike

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Regarding the July 26 Metro story "Leaders Seek Control of Columbia Pike to Speed Up Development":

Transportation investments in inner suburbs such as Arlington should induce commuters to switch from cars to public transit. The Columbia Pike streetcar line is unlikely to do that. For $160 million, it will duplicate the existing Pike buses, requiring riders to switch to Metro at the Pentagon if they are going downtown to work. In contrast, consider the 16Y bus, which runs along the Pike, across the Roosevelt Bridge, up 19th Street NW and along K Street to McPherson Square. It is much faster than other public transit options, at least as fast as driving, and less expensive than either because it requires only a single fare and no parking fees.

Establishing similar bus lines to serve the Mall, Capitol Hill and other downtown areas would be a far more cost-effective way to encourage use of public transit than building light rail on Columbia Pike. It would appear, however, that this option has not been seriously considered by the area's transportation planners and politicians.

A streetcar line would encourage further development along the Pike, generating windfall increases in property values to adjacent homeowners. I am one of those homeowners and lived in Arlington from 1991 until 2007. As much as I like to see my home value go up, I do not consider this an adequate justification for the proposed system.


Trumansburg, N.Y.

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