Streetcars, aka trams, are a hot topic in the news recently. They helped form the communities that we now think of as some of the most livable, walkable areas in the Washington, DC area. Some 70 years ago, they fell out of fashion through very questionable actions by the automobile, electrical, and oil industries. It seems they are coming back to the area, so why not here?
The Columbia Pike streetcar project is moving along. Alexandria, Arlington, and parts of Fairfax county make perfect sense as future phases of an eventual Northern Virginia streetcar network.
The newly formed Northern Virginia Streetcar Coalition (NVSC) wants to build momentum for this resurgent form of transit that can get you from Metro or VRE to your doorstep (facebook group).
NVSC is holding a kickoff meeting this Wednesday, Nov 18 @ 7pm in Room 158 of Northern Virginia Community College's Bisdorf Building (map). Speakers will include Chris Zimmerman from the Arlington County Board and Stewart Schwartz, the Executive Director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth.
To whet your appetite and catch you up a bit, here is a roundup of recent news and information about streetcars. You can also find lots of links on NVSC's facebook group page, linked above.
- What is a streetcar vs. light rail vs. bus rapid transit? Here's a discussion on the Greater Greater Washington blog about the benefits of different modes. Also, here's the Wikipedia entry on Light Rail, which contains a comparison between various transit forms, and the Wikipedia entry on streetcars.
- Here's a link to Alexandria's Comprehensive Transportation Master Plan. Section One includes mention of Light Rail, Street Car, or Bus Rapid Transit as eventual forms of transit for the 3 identified transit corridors.
- DC recently released the most comprehensive streetcar plan in the area (BeyondDC).
- AlexandriaNews.org posted a letter to the editor from former Alexandria City Councilmen Tim Lovain and Lois Walker about the new NVSC and general streetcar info. Here's a key point from the letter:
Done right, streetcars induce mixed-use “transit-oriented development” that accommodates growth while enhancing livability and reducing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Streetcars can promote street life, define neighborhoods, reinforce retail, and fit easily into built environments with little disruption to existing businesses, residents and traffic. They help create places where people want to be.
Simulated Photo from www.piketransit.com
So if you'd like to get involved with this group, just show up November 18th. You can RSVP to NOVAStreetcar@aol.com, though nothing says an RSVP is required.