Growing Smart – The Crystal City-Pentagon City Corridor
- On many major Arlington streets, traffic is less than it was in 1970, even though our population has doubled in that time.
- Our Metrorail corridors — just 11% of Arlington’s land – hold more than half our real property values.
How did we do it?
The secret is Arlington’s commitment to “smart growth” planning – our commitment to transit-oriented development (TOD) that keeps high-density mixed-use development along our transit corridors, while preserving residential neighborhoods. This consistent approach to planning and building community has been the backbone of Arlington’s succ
ess for more than four decades.
A plan for Crystal City-Pentagon City corridor
The approximately 1.5-mile stretch of land along Route 1 that lies between Potomac Yard on the south and Crystal City on the north is the heart of Arlington’s business district. The area is home to:
- 36 million square feet of mixed-use development
- More than 17,000 residents
- About 54,700 jobs
By any measure, this is a phenomenally successful area of Arlington. The tax revenues produced in the corridor help support high-quality schools, services, programs and amenities for all Arlingtonians.
But this area of the County also faces challenges. Through the federal Department of Defense’s Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process, Crystal City is expected to lose some13,000 jobs, creating 3.2 million square feet of office vacancies. The exodus of jobs from the area is already well underway. Arlington has been harder hit by BRAC than any other community in the nation. BRAC came at a time when many of the office buildings erected in the 1960s and 1970s in Crystal City were showing their age.
To help meet the challenge and seize the opportunities posed by BRAC, in 2010, the Arlington County Board and the Arlington community used smart growth principles to create the Crystal City Sector Plan. The Plan, a key element of the County’s bold vision for redeveloping the area over the next 40 years, sees the “Route 1” corridor as far more than just a place to work or to travel through. Our plan:
- Transforms Crystal City to a more vibrant, walkable neighborhood with 18/7 activity
- Anticipates growth: By 2040, Crystal City and Pentagon City are estimated to add a total of 8,500 more residents, and 35,500 more jobs.
- Encourages development that will bring more life to the streets, create better public spaces and better street connections.
Building for the future
To support the anticipated influx of jobs and people to this vitally important, already densely built area, Arlington is making major investments in expanding the overall transit system’s capacity. The County recognizes that no one transportation solution can accommodate the projected growth. It will take a robust combination of street improvements, more and better bus service and a streetcar line to improve traffic flows, provide more walkable streets, increase transit capacity and better connect the area to the regional transit network.
Streetcar planned as transit centerpiece
At the heart of the transit-oriented development vision for the Crystal City-Pentagon City corridor lies the streetcar, now in the early planning stages. Across the nation, modern streetcar lines are proving to be great tools for increasing transit ridership and spurring the sort of high-quality, sustainable development that helps build community and undergird prosperity.
The Crystal City-Pentagon City streetcar will not only help keep traffic moving in the corridor, and make it easier for workers to get to and from jobs, it also will link to the regional transportation network, helping to ease growing regional traffic congestion.
The streetcar plan is still in the very early stages of design. The County will be holding public meetings to share and gather input from residents throughout the planning process.
Why a streetcar for Crystal City-Pentagon City corridor?
For a fraction of the cost of extending Metrorail, Arlington will be able to:
- Encourage high-quality, mixed use development
- Improve traffic flow
- Connect neighborhoods by linking activities, destinations to a greater regional transit network
- Shape neighborhoods by stimulating active uses, promoting public-private investments, creating the vibrant, attractive places people want to be
- Further enhance the range of travel options for those who live, work and play in the corridor while increasing transit capacity
- Support the central business district, help it mature into a vibrant, attractive, livable 18/7 neighborhood
Phased service improvements
In the meantime, growth is already happening in the corridor. We are making improvements now to satisfy the demand for transit service brought about with new development in the corridor. This includes the introduction of new routes such as Metrobus 9S, a six-minute peak route that serves the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s new offices at One Potomac Yard and provides connections to Metrorail and the Virginia Railway Express (VRE).
Over the next several years, Arlington County will be building a Crystal City/Potomac Yard busway that will provide high-capacity, high-frequency transit service from South Glebe Road to 15th Street, continuing to connect with the Metro Station and VRE. Bus service in the corridor will be more frequent, and service between Alexandria and Arlington will be integrated into a single service, operated by WMATA, that will run from one end of the corridor to the other. This service, a precursor to the streetcar, will be a high-capacity, high-amenity, transit line. It will serve the corridor through the forecasted major phases of population and employment growth.
We have partners
We’re working with Alexandria and Fairfax to develop transit solutions that serve us all. The modern streetcar for Crystal City – a line that initially will connect Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard – is an important first step. Eventually, this “Route 1” line will meet up in Pentagon City with the planned streetcar line on Columbia Pike, providing riders with a one-seat option to travel from Potomac Yard to the Skyline area in our partner jurisdiction, Fairfax County. We hope it may even stretch further south into Alexandria one day.