There are three problems with the Columbia Pike Trolley: 1) excessive cost; 2) increased congestion due to the narrowness of the roadway; 3) the elimination of affordable housing along the Pike due to the escalation of property values from trolley induced development.
Supporters of the Trolley acknowledge that a bus rapid transit system serving the same number of passengers, could be built for $50 million, but they nevertheless favor the Trolley at five times the cost. While developers will benefit from a Trolley, Arlington taxpayers will be stuck with the $250 million bill.
Construction of the Trolley will eliminate over half of the remaining market-rate housing supply in Arlington. Real estate taxes on homeowners and small businesses will rise sharply, and based on past trends, County Board will then raise tax rates as well. Excessive development in the county has resulted in the second highest tax and fee burden in Northern VA, and the Pike Trolley will only accelerate the trend.
Proponents of the Trolley claim it’s cleaner and more efficient. Yet the Trolley will run on electricity generated from mountain top removal coal and nuclear power, and neither is clean. Also transportation studies indicate that while the energy needed to operate a trolley and a bus system are comparable, the energy expended to construct the Trolley will be excessive.
Finally construction of the Trolley will create a traffic nightmare on the Pike that will last at least two years. Is the gridlock that will result when the Pike is dug up worth the hassle?
County Board’s latest white elephant project is a windfall for developers, no doubt about it. But the Pike Trolley is sheer folly for Arlington taxpayers and residents.