Elections and Streetcars

As we head into the last three weeks before the election I wanted to touch base with you on a few things – elections and streetcars.

Elections – I hope to have your support on November 6th, but what we all need is for you to get out there and help re-elect President Obama and make sure that Tim Kaine is our next Senator. Arlington is so important to the statewide efforts of Virginia Democrats. If you can contribute time or money in the next three weeks, please do! Head over to arlingtondemocrats.org to find out how you can help. And while you’re looking for ways to help, Vote Early! You may not realize it, but most of you have a good excuse to vote absentee, either by mail or in person. Find out more because you never know what might await you on election day – working late, weather, traffic… earthquakes!

Check now to see if you can vote early.

Streetcar – I’ve been quite busy both with debates, candidate questionnaires and, of course, my Board work, and one big issue has been at the forefront – the Columbia Pike streetcar. As many of you probably know by now, I have been studying this issue since last spring and recently decided that I cannot support a streetcar for Columbia Pike. But I do support a modern Bus Rapid Transit system (BRT). What finally made me realize I must oppose the streetcar was a report that came to the board on October 9 from Peter Rousselot. I have found the report very persuasive, and it re-enforces everything that I’ve been learning about (BRT) and streetcar solutions. The report offers the first real cost benefit analysis I have seen comparing modern BRT and streetcar so I hope many of you will read it. I believe it will lead to a robust, informed and healthy conversation in Arlington as to what vehicle we should be using for the new transit system we are currently designing.

Read the report here.

Please note that it is important for everyone to realize how similar modern BRT and streetcar systems are. Indeed, the Crystal City streetcar system has always been planned to be a BRT system first and then transition later to streetcar. The report showing the tremendous cost differential, as well as the fact that Fairfax, Alexandria and Montgomery County are all planning BRT lines, makes it clear that we need to reexamine the plans for a streetcar on Columbia Pike. The potential for real regional connectivity with an affordable BRT system is exciting.

Many people talk about the relationship between an improved transit system and affordable housing along Columbia Pike. I firmly believe that without some form of much improved transit on Columbia Pike, we will certainly lose all the affordable housing there due to market forces. That is, doing nothing will allow gentrification to happen naturally and nothing will be in place to protect the affordable housing we currently have there. This constitutes much of Arlington’s current affordable housing, all of which is ripe for redevelopment if unprotected. What we need to do is manage the development and try to leverage increased density to support affordable housing. I believe a BRT system and negotiations with developers for increased density can get us there, in part because we will need much less money from developers for transit and have more available for affordable housing.

I hope everyone is enjoying the fall and hope that you might consider a final donation to my campaign. We’re doing well as we approach the 6th, but there is still one large mailing I need to make to connect with voters and a fairly large debt to pay back from my special election.

As ever, if you have any concerns or thoughts to share with me, do not hesitate to let me know.


Oct, 16, 2012