“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.”
Whatever happens on Columbia Pike, both sides agree that it needs to happen soon. In the next 30 years, county leaders say, 65 percent of Arlington’s population growth will be along Columbia Pike and Route One — the two areas where the streetcar lines have now been cancelled.
The proposed streetcar would have run a 7.4 mile path between Fairfax County and Arlington, much of it along Columbia Pike in Arlington. The route was estimated to cost between $250 million and $400 million.
“The Coalition of Smarter Growth is disappointed by the Arlington Board’s decision,” said Stewart Schwartz, executive director of the group, in a statement following the announcement, “but far more so by the deeply negative and frequently inaccurate campaign against the streetcar.”
The Coalition for Smarter Growth, which backed the project, trained its anger not so much on Fisette and Hynes as on “the deeply negative, and frequently inaccurate, campaign” by opponents. “Failure to invest in modern, high-capacity transit will mean more traffic and less economic development,” the group said in a statement.
Stewart Schwartz, executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth in the District, said that opposition to the streetcars went against Arlington’s history as a place that has fostered transit-based development. “Arlington represents, perhaps, the top national smart-growth story,” Schwartz said. “It went from a declining inner-ring suburb to a very economically successful community.”
Opposition was rooted in resistance to the idea of streetcars in general, Schwartz said, and public transportation projects’ reliance on local tax dollars. “Unfortunately, transit projects face many more hoops and require more local funding than highway projects,” Schwartz said.s