Arlington County, Virginia, streetcar plans
Officials in Arlington County, Virginia see a growing likelihood that a modern streetcar system will be installed on a 4.7-mile stretch of the Columbia Pike. The streetcar proposal emerged from planning efforts that produced a form-based code for the Columbia Pike corridor in 2003. A Metro system website says service could start by 2014, but County Board member Chris Zimmerman recently said he is increasingly confident the service will be operating in “four or five years.”
The streetcar — an electric tram running on steel rails set flush into the surface of the roadway — would operate in “mixed traffic lanes” shared with buses and other vehicles. Because streetcars carry more passengers than buses, the number of transit vehicles needed to serve the route could be reduced from a bus-only mode of service.
The cost of creating the system is estimated at $160 million, or about $34 million per mile. “While it is likely that the streetcar will have overhead wires, it will use a single wire that is less intrusive than multiple overhead utility lines,” the Metro website states. Alternatives to overhead power are being developed in other countries, and they may be more widely available by the time a source of power is chosen for the Columbia Pike, according to the website.