Arlington streetcar plan prompts debate amongst residents

There's a showdown brewing in Arlington over a plan to build a pair of streetcar lines throughout the county.

The line would run from Pentagon and Crystal City to the Fairfax County.

Some say the streetcars are necessary while others say they are expensive and will not do much good.

In a video produced by Arlington County, streetcars are touted as the way to shuttle around the area.

"No other jurisdiction in the country that has attempted to have a modern transit system has done what we have," said Arlington County Board Member Walter Tejada.

The plan mimics ones already in use in places like Portland, Oregon. But at Wednesday's townhall meeting, many voiced that they want the concept to stay out west.

The $250 million design incorporates 10 streetcars along Columbia Pike and would span nearly five miles. It would give Columbia Pike a "Main Street" makeover while meeting the needs of an exploding population, county officials say.

"The business community will respond to a transit system that is an enhanced transit system," Juliet Hiznay of Arlington explained.

But the concept, even dubbed a "streetcar named undesirable," has consistently been met with resistance from residents. And their concerns aren't just over cash.

Arlington resident and opponent Bryan Taylor said, "The Pike has just gone through a rejuvenation to the tune of millions of dollars, and here we are talking about trying to dig it all back up again."

One selling point of using streetcars over buses is that streetcars move more people.

Libby Garvey, the only board member opposing the proposal, says that's not necessarily the case.

"If there is a storm like the derecho storm we had or an ice storm and the electricity is out, not only does the streetcar system stop," Garvey explained. "...but you've got streetcars all up and down the pike blocking emergency vehicles."