Arlington officials are waiting for the go-ahead from the state Department of Transportation to launch a shuttle trolley system in Crystal City to serve workers, residents and shoppers along a circular 2.6-mile route off Jefferson Davis Highway.
County officials say such a plan, which depends on a $105,000 grant from the state, would reduce traffic congestion and alleviate the area's parking shortage by making it more convenient for people to use the Crystal City Metro.
At the same time, officials hope that such a trolley system would help area businesses by encouraging tourists and hotel guests to shop there and making it easier for workers to get around the Crystal City corridor during lunch hour.
"This would be the kind of thing that would make using the Metro much more attractive," said Arlington County Board member Mary Margaret Whipple. "I also think it would facilitate movement around the area during the day."
"I could do a lot better with business and this could help," said Barry Feavyear, manager of Colorfax Laboratories Inc., located off Jefferson Davis Highway (U.S. Rte. 1). "I hear comments from people who come from the far end and wish it were closer. They hate the walking . . . . it's eating up 20 or 30 minutes of their lunch hours."
County officials estimate that 5,200 people live in Crystal City and 37,600 people, mostly federal employes, work there. Twenty years ago, the section of Arlington was largely an industrial area with a handful of residential and office buildings.
Today, Crystal City is a mile-long city of slate-colored towers on either side of Jefferson Davis Highway. The concrete stretch, which runs from 12th Street on the north to 27th Street on the south, includes 8.6 million square feet of office space, 37 office buildings, 14 hotels and 14 residential complexes.
The Crystal City Metro station is roughly in the middle of the stretch, off 18th Street. To get to either end of the Crystal City corridor is about a 10- or 12-minute walk, officials say. While some government offices and hotels run limited shuttle services, there is no fast, public transportation around the area.
If funding is approved, the shuttle system could go into effect as early as September. The plan is to run two trolleys, which could hold up to 60 people each, along a 2.6-mile circular route. The vehicles, which would follow each other and make frequent stops, would operate weekdays from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. The course, just to the east of Jefferson Davis Highway, would run between 12th and 27th streets and would head south along Clark Street and north along Crystal Drive.
"It would be neat," said Alan Newhouse, an employe of the Department of Defense, who said such a service would make lunch time errands easier to accomplish. "It would probably be very popular."
The proposed fare for the shuttle system is 25 cents and the hope is for trolleys to stop every six to eight minutes.
David W. Berg, an assistant division administrator with the Virginia Department of Transportation, said state officials are reviewing the county's plans and expect to come to a decision in several weeks.
Meanwhile, the county expects to raise $40,000 in contributions from Crystal City area businesses and has been allocated $44,000 in local transportation funds. In addition, county officials expect to raise more than $18,000 in fares during the first nine months of the service. Those funds, combined with the state grant, would provide enough money to hire a firm to operate the trolley system and hire a program administrator.
Arlington's Public Works Planning Supervisor Mark Kellogg said the Charles E. Smith Cos. is heading the effort to raise business contributions. Kellogg said about half the $40,000 already has been raised.