Transit on the Columbia Pike

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Alice West Fleet Elementary Library
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Report of Meeting Sunday, October 17, 1999
by Jeff O'Malley

    Five AHCA leaders and five other South Arlington leaders met Sunday morning, October 17, in the home of Tom Greenfield to examine future transit options for Columbia Pike.  The featured speaker was Arlington County Board Member Chris Zimmerman, an active member of both the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization (CPRO) and Metro's board.

    Present were:

    Chris discussed various options for improving travel on Columbia Pike, including subway (aka "heavy rail"), enhanced bus service, and "light rail."  Traffic on Columbia Pike is the heavy and expected to increase, and according to Chris, Metro's conventional bus service on Columbia Pike is the most heavily-used in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

    Chris discussed how a light rail system could provide a better option for commuters, ease congestion, and contribute to reinvestment and better quality of life in the area.  The Pike apparently has sufficient population density and development capacity to warrant such a system.  (A subway does not appear to be a realistic option, given the significant expense and long
planning process.)  Advantages to light rail include increased capacity for ridership, relatively lower cost, comfort/cachet and shorter implementation time (6-7 years to build).

    Concerns about such a system were mainly about 1) the appearance of overhead wires and 2) the impact on land use decisions.  Improvements in bus service, including triggers to allow buses to get green lights, are likely to be implemented soon, possibly within the next year, and could "pave the way" for a light rail system.

    CPRO President Reid Goldstein followed the transit discussion with an outline of CPRO's current plans.  In particular, Reid mentioned that funds have been earmarked by the County for producing a framework that maps out a plan for developing the Pike.  CPRO intends to present the plan to the County Board in June 2000.