Arlington’s journey began when it decided to construct Metro’s Orange Line under the Rosslyn-Ballston (R-B) corridor, rather than aboveground in the middle of I-66, and created their “bullseye” plan for the Metro stations.
Today, Arlington boasts 50 million square feet of transit-oriented development in the R-B corridor alone and has done so without increasing traffic. The land in their two Metro corridors (their other one is Pentagon City/Crystal City) occupies just 11 percent of the county, but provides 50 percent of the tax base. 39 percent of trips in the R-B corridor are made by transit, walking, and bicycling.
Arlington is continuing to make major investments in bicycle and pedestrian facilities, bike share, transit, public parks, recreation centers, and affordable housing with a focus on getting the details right and maintaining an inclusive community. In addition to the two Metro corridors, the county is implementing transit-oriented communities along Columbia Pike, in Shirlington, and at the East Falls Church Metro station.
Columbia Pike Streetcar
Columbia Pike has been described as Arlington’s Main Street, thanks to its unique combination of local businesses, diverse neighborhoods, and everyday amenities. While Metrobus and ART provide strong bus service, consensus has grown that the corridor needs higher capacity transit to support revitalization and meet growing ridership demand.
New mixed-use development, expanded market rate and affordable housing, and new street connections and parks are being coordinated with the new streetcar line, including parallel bicycle boulevards along 9th and 12th Streets South.
This complex planning process required balancing transit with redevelopment, as well as the preservation and addition of affordable housing. After closely reviewing Arlington’s proposal for Columbia Pike and consulting with partners, the Coalition for Smarter Growth endorsed both the new development plan and the streetcar. The environmental analysis of the streetcar was completed in July 2012. In July 2013, the state of Virginia allocated $65 million in state funds to the Columbia Pike Streetcar, and the state will pay up to 50% of the total cost of this Fairfax-Arlington transit project. Shortly thereafter, the Arlington Board voted to include both streetcar projects in the county’s ten-year Capital Improvement Program.
Unfortunately, on November 18, the Arlington County Board cancelled the Columbia Pike Streetcar project.
The Coalition for Smarter Growth is disappointed by the Arlington Board decision, but far more so by the deeply negative, and frequently inaccurate, campaign against the streetcar. Arlington’s proven smart growth track record had given us confidence in their analysis and ability to create a great transit corridor. The streetcar’s ridership capacity was integral to the plan to use density bonuses to preserve thousands of units of affordable housing.
The most sustainable way to handle growth, manage traffic and fight climate change is through high-capacity transit and transit-oriented development (TOD). Failure to invest in modern high-capacity transit will mean more traffic and less economic development. Therefore, we have to keep fighting for transit projects and funding across the DC region.
Looking ahead, the question is whether the most strident opponents of the streetcar will support continued investment in mixed-use TOD, transit, affordable housing, and bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. The Coalition for Smarter Growth will continue to work with all Arlingtonians and residents across the DC region to advance the smart growth policies and investments that increase transportation choices, expand housing affordability, fight climate change, and clean up our air and water
- Washington Post - Arlington officials to halt work on Columbia Pike, Crystal City streetcar projects
- Columbia Pike Streetcar fact sheet
- July 2014 email update to supporters
- July 2013 email update to supporters
- Spring 2013 email update to supporters
Columbia Pike Streetcar Plan Map
Arlington has continued to earn its reputation with innovative programs that help create and preserve affordable housing in the county. To ensure that residents of all income levels have ample housing options, Arlington conducts an annual assessment of its affordable housing production and preservation and measures its progress against defined goals and targets.
To help meet these targets, the County established an Affordable Housing Investment Fund, which offers revolving, low-interest loans and tenant assistance to housing providers, and an Affordable Housing Ordinance, which requires affordable housing contributions from all new residential and commercial developments. Arlington also features a Live Where You Work home ownership subsidy for those who work in the County to motivate car-free commutes and strengthen its community fabric.
VDOT Pressure on Arlington
Even though Arlington has demonstrated the phenomenal transportation benefits of linking transit and development, VDOT highway engineers and some non-Arlington officials are pressing ill-conceived highway expansion on the community.
VDOT has pressed to widen I-66 one-step-at-a-time toward a possible expansion of the entire highway to six lanes, despite a federal commitment to limit the road to four lanes and despite the fact the traffic will have nowhere to go once it hits DC’s streets. VDOT has ignored more cost-effective solutions to relieve traffic including converting to HOV-3 from HOV-2, HOV in both directions, express bus service, and how the shift of new development to the Metro Silver Line stations will help shift workers to transit. In the I-95/395 corridor, VDOT is pursuing a privatized toll lane proposal without having analyzed alternatives and potentially undermining HOV and bus service in the corridor.