Monday, December 1, 2014

A Streetcar Named Despair

Alas, those of us who struggle to reignite a sense of purpose and optimism in this country, and especially those of us in the transportation field, took another hit recently with the announcement of the end of the Columbia Pike Streetcar project in Arlington, VA (story here).  County leaders took stock after the re-election of an anti-streetcar member of the county board (his initial election to the board in a special election was considered a fluke – my story here) and threw in the towel.
This was a real setback for smart growth advocates.  Arlington is the poster child for transit-oriented development – at least in the Northeast – and Columbia Pike looked to be an ideal setting for a streetcar that would promote transit, leverage sustainable economic development, and enhance the region’s investment in the Metro system (to which the streetcar would link).

No doubt the streetcar project had issues, being big and complex, and expensive, and perhaps just too heavy a lift for a small jurisdiction (227,000 people).  And when it comes to funding projects like this, the federal government is nowhere to be found, doling out money to only a handful of projects around the country.  At this rate, it will take us a century or more to build the projects that we ought to put in the ground in one generation.

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