An official website of Arlington County government

Why streetcar?

Comparison of transit vehicle capacity

Comparison of transit vehicle capacity

Streetcars help create vibrant urban places with a high quality of life — and less traffic congestion.

  • They can move more people than buses – a streetcar vehicle can hold 100% more passengers than a regular bus and 40% more than an articulated bus. Accommodating more people in fewer vehicles is key to keeping traffic moving.
  • They cost less to build than subways or even light rail.
  • Their electric motors and steel tracks offer a quiet, comfortable ride that encourages more folks to use transit.
  • Streetcars reduce the number of cars on the road, contributing to environmental sustainability.
  • Cities that have built modern streetcar systems have seen an upsurge in private investment in the neighborhoods served.
    • A 2014 return on investment study projected that the Columbia Pike streetcar will generate $3.2-4.4 billion in benefits for Arlington and Fairfax Counties, over and above capital and operating costs, during a 30-year time frame.

Why a streetcar system for Arlington?

  • Arlington needs to expand its transit system to handle expected growth:
    • Arlington’s streetcar system will serve the Columbia Pike and Route 1 corridors - where 65% of the County’s population growth and 44% of employment growth will occur during the next 30 years.
    • By 2035 we need transit capacity of 38,000+ daily on Columbia Pike (more than double today’s bus ridership) to ensure it doesn’t become gridlocked. Buses alone cannot accommodate that many passengers.
  • The streetcar will provide a high-capacity transit system that connects to job centers in Skyline, Pentagon City and Crystal City and to the regional Metrorail network – at a fraction of the cost of a new Metrorail line.
  • We will combine the flexibility of bus with the certainty and permanence of streetcar – allowing residents to choose the ride that works best for them. Both will use off-vehicle fare collection and multiple door boarding to improve efficiency and move as many passengers as possible.
  • Streetcar will strike a balance – encourage the dense transit-oriented development we want, while allowing us to preserve Columbia Pike’s diversity and affordability.