A pro-streetcar group, Arlington Streetcar Now, announced its formation at the Arlington County Board meeting on Saturday, February 23. Longtime Arlington resident and civic activist John Snyder made the announcement and presented the Board with a list of principles the group will promote in support of the proposed streetcar system that would link Fairfax County and Alexandra through Columbia Pike and Crystal City.
Arlington Streetcar Now is a growing group of Arlington residents and other strong supporters of the streetcar system. Calling the redevelopment plans for South Arlington “an exciting vision for the future,” Snyder called the streetcar system “the best way to achieve that vision.” Arlington’s vision for Columbia Pike and Crystal City depends on a qualitative upgrade and an increase in transit capacity which cannot be achieved merely by enhancing existing bus service.
Arlington Streetcar Now has been formed, Snyder said, to help “explain how a modern streetcar operates, how it is integral to growth of a locally-oriented business district, to affordable housing preservation on the Pike, and to environmental stewardship.”
Mary Margaret Whipple, former Arlington County Board member and state senator, pointed out that opposition today is similar to resistance to the installation of the Metrorail system in Arlington. “They made similar claims then – that it cost too much, that we should use buses instead, that kind of thing. It doesn’t matter how sensible or popular a transit proposal is,” said Whipple. “There are always going to be a few people who make it their mission to oppose it.” Today, Arlington’s investment in the rail system is widely regarded as a principal factor propelling Arlington from a community in economic decline in the 1970s to one of the most desirable locations in the region to live and work.
Local businesses have come out in strong support of this system and the vision for growth and sustainability it represents. Chamber of Commerce member David DeCamp, also a founding member of Arlington Streetcar Now, strongly agrees with the group’s mission. “The investment in the Streetcar will induce mixed-use development and pay us back with growing annual revenues as new buildings are developed – in much the same way that development along Arlington’s Metro corridors has produced a virtuous circle of growing tax receipts that keep a lid on our tax rates and contribute enormously to the quality of life in Arlington.”