WASHINGTON – Arlington County is working hard to boost support for the Columbia Pike streetcar line, even as a new rapid bus system is set to open next month that could help commuters dodge traffic along U.S. Route 1 between Alexandria and Crystal City.
Arlington has put out several new videos pointing to the benefits of the Columbia Pike streetcar, which has come under fire from critics who say it is not worth the roughly $360 million to build the line.
Fairfax County is chipping in 20 percent of the cost of the line, which will run to Bailey’s Crossroads.
In the new videos, elected officials and business leaders argue that the streetcar would broaden Arlington’s tax base, help move more people, and continue Arlington’s history of investment in transit infrastructure like Metro.
The county has hired a management firm to advise officials as the project enters the egineering phase. The county expects to hire a design and engineering firm this fall.
Meanwhile, Arlington is still working on the final touches for the new Metroway busway, a rapid transit system that will connect Crystal City, Potomac Yard and the Braddock Road Metro station in Alexandria.
The bus line is scheduled to open Aug. 24 and will use dedicated bus lanes that have already been built in Alexandria.
The trip along the corridor will get even faster next year when Arlington’s work on the initial lanes and stations is completed and the line is extended to Pentagon City.
When service begins in August, Metroway buses will run seven days a week and later at night than they do today, with scheduled trips every 12 minutes on weekdays and every 20 minutes on weekends. There will be additional trips during rush hour between Crystal City and Potomac Yard, providing service along that stretch of the route every six minutes.
When construction is finished next year, riders will pay on the platforms before boarding the buses to cut down on wait times at each stop. The stations will also have electronic displays showing when the next bus will arrive.
According to the county and transit officials, Metroway is the Washington region’s first rapid bus system. And it could serve as an example for expanded and improved bus service in other parts of the region.
Metro will operate the service.
The county has long-term plans to eventually convert the entire stretch into a streetcar line that would tie into the Columbia Pike line.