Pike Transit Initiative
The Pike Transit Initiative is a collaborative project in Northern Virginia between Arlington and Fairfax counties and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority to bring transit improvements to the Columbia Pike corridor. Officially known as the Columbia Pike Transit Alternatives Analysis, the project began in 2003. Following three successive defeats of city council candidates who supported the streetcar proposal in 2014, the project was shelved indefinitely.
Pike Ride, a specially-branded set of bus lines, run along Columbia Pike to the Pentagon and Pentagon City Metro stations. Currently, over 14,000 people ride buses along Columbia Pike each day. Service is provided by Metrobus and Arlington Transit.
In 2006, the Arlington and Fairfax County governments approved a "Modified Streetcar Alternative" for the corridor, which involves building a streetcar line while retaining extensive bus service. The 4.7-mile streetcar line is expected to cost $138.5 million. The first streetcar was expected to begin service in 2011.
The Northern Virginia Transportation Authority approved $36.9 million for the streetcar in January 2008. However, since then, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled that the Authority may not collect taxes, as it isn't an elected body. This leaves funding for the streetcar project in limbo.
According to Arlington Now, freshman County Board member Libby Garvey was the sole board member elected at the last election to oppose construction of a streetcar. Garvey quoted mayor of Toronto Rob Ford's criticisms of streetcars, only to realize his credibility had been eroded due to a series of scandals.
Garvey stirred further controversy in 2014 when she supported and raised funds for John Vihstadt, a Republican, instead of fellow Democrat Alan Howse, because he agreed with her opposition to the streetcar line. Vihstadt was the first Republican to be elected to the County Board in fifteen years. Garvey defended her defection by asserting her most important obligation was to voters, not to the Democratic Party machinery, and resigned from the local Party apparatus.
In late November 2014 the County Board cancelled the streetcar plan. Eric Jaffe, writing in City Lab, characterized the cancellation as "abrupt" and acrimonious. According to Jaffe, the alternate plan under consideration would follow the same route as the streetcar plan, would stop at the same locations, and would use similar stations, all door boarding, and fare pre-payment, like the streetcar plan, except it would use buses rather than streetcars.
Post Streetcar Plans
In July of 2016, the Arlington County Board approved a Transit Development Plan that includes enhanced bus service along Columbia Pike. There will be 23 enhanced bus stops, with BRT-like amenities like near-level boarding, real-time bus arrival information and off-vehicle fare collection.
- "About the Study: Pike Transit Initiative - Program Objectives for 2006-2007". Pike Transit Initiative. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. Archived from the original on 20 June 2008. Retrieved 2 December 2008.
- Laris, Michael (14 January 2008). "Streetcar Plan Has Money and Desire: Funding Approved for N.Va. Network". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2 December 2008.
- Grass, Michael (14 January 2008). "Columbia Pike Streetcar One Step Closer to Reality". Express Night Out. The Washington Post Company. Retrieved 2 December 2008.
- Markon, Jerry; Tim Craig (1 March 2008). "Va. Road Taxing Authority Rejected: Unelected Body Violates Constitution, Court Says". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2 December 2008.
- Ethan Rothstein (2013-11-26). "Is the Ongoing Streetcar Debate Slowing Development on the Pike?". Arlington Now. Archived from the original on 2015-03-16. Retrieved 2013-11-26.
County Board Member Libby Garvey — who was elected last year on an anti-streetcar platform and is currently the lone voice of streetcar dissent on the Board — isn’t so sure about Karantonis’ hypothesis.
- Scott McCaffery (2013-04-29). "Streetcar Question of the Day: Who Is Mayor Ford and How Did He Get Into the Discussion?". Arlington, Virginia: Arlington Sun Gazette. Archived from the original on 2013-05-07. Retrieved 2013-11-26.
“I hate those damn streetcars – they are a pain in the rear end,” Ford said in a newspaper article quoted by County Board member Libby Garvey as board members again tussled over the streetcar proposal at their April 23 meeting.
- Ben Spurr (2013-04-30). "Meet Virginia's Rob Ford". Toronto: Now magazine. Archived from the original on 2013-12-03. Retrieved 2013-11-26.
Armed with quotes from Toronto’s mayor, a local official in Arlington fights an uphill battle against a streetcar to the Pentagon.
- Patricia Sullivan (2014-04-23). "Democrats may expel Arlington County Board member from party leadership". Washington Post. Archived from the original on 2014-04-24. Retrieved 2015-08-09.
- Mary Ann Barton (2014-05-02). "Democrat Libby Garvey, County Board Member, Resigns from Arlington Democratic Committee". Patch magazine. Archived from the original on 2015-08-09.
"I found myself with a conflict," she said. "The by-laws state that you must support Democrats." Instead, Garvey supported a Republican in a special election for the county board. Her candidate, John Vihstadt, won. The Democratic candidate Alan Howze lost.
- Eric Jaffe (2014-11-24). "Its Streetcar Plan Defeated, Arlington Looks to Better Buses". City lab. Retrieved 2015-08-09.
--> After announcing the cancellation at a press conference, Jay Fisette, chair of the five-person county board and a strong streetcar advocate, refused to shake hands with fellow board member Libby Garvey, who's been an outspoken opponent.
- "County Board Approves New Transit Plan, With an Asterisk". Arlington Now. 2016-07-18. Retrieved 2016-07-30.
- "Don't Expect Fancy 'Streetcar-Like' Buses on Columbia Pike". Arlington Now. 2016-07-24. Retrieved 2016-07-30.
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