Public transportation remains a hot topic in Arlington, Virginia, as streetcar proponents debate bus rapid transit (BRT) proponents about a proposed development along a five mile stretch of Columbia Pike from Pentagon City in Arlington to Skyline in Fairfax County. Last night, the Arlington Committee of 100 hosted a debate between David DeCamp from Arlington Streetcar Now (http://www.streetcarnow.org) and Peter Rousselot from Arlingtonians for Sensible Transportation (AST) (http://www.sensibletransit.org/). The room was packed and there were more questions than the one hour format allowed--when moderator Scott McCaffrey from the Arlington Sun Gazette cut off questions, one person yelled out that she "had to ask a question because she owned a lot of property along Columbia Pike." (She did not get her way.)
Arlington Board Members Jay Fisette, Mary Hynes, and Libby Garvey were in attendance but did not speak. It was impossible to determine the overall sentiment of the crowd and the audience was, of course, not representative of the community as a whole. Key points:
There is fundamental agreement that the cost of the streetcar proposal, at $250 million, is five times the cost of the BRT proposal, at $50 million. Beyond this, there is much disagreement.
DeCamp claimed that the streetcar is critical to economic development along Columbia Pike and argued that the proposed BRT is in fact not true BRT because it doesn't meet all of the BRT standard requirements, including exclusive lanes and median alignment.
Rousselot argued that the proposed BRT system offers equal capacity to the streetcar, that rail is not needed for economic development (witness: Shirlington), that BRT attracts the same level of "choice" riders, and that while property owners are expected to pay for transportation developments, there is a limit to the amount that property owners can pay.
Arlington has begun staffing to support the Streetcar project, has submitted a request to the Federal Transit Administration for funding, and is awaiting a response.