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Peter’s Take: Support Sensible Transit

By Peter Rousselot - ARLNow.com

Tuesday - 1/22/2013, 2:30pm  ET

Modern BRT bus (via sensibletransit.org)Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column published on Tuesdays. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Last week, ARLnow reported on the formation of a new citizens’ advocacy group: Arlingtonians for Sensible Transit (AST).

I am an AST supporter. You can check AST out here. I urge you to sign up if you support AST’s mission.

AST’s mission is to convince the Arlington County Board to do something it has not yet done:

  • hire truly independent experts to do a cost-benefit analysis of the Columbia Pike (CP) streetcar compared to a modern bus rapid transit system (BRT) and other alternatives,
  • share the results with the community, and then
  • have a community conversation about whether the CP streetcar really is the best transit choice in these challenging economic times.

Several streetcar supporters posted comments to last week’s ARLnow story saying the streetcar has been studied for years, and it’s time to move on. However, the vital studies AST recommends have never been performed. Because these studies have never been performed and shared with the community, the “Arlington Way” has not been followed appropriately. Moreover, the CP streetcar’s price tag has soared during these years, as ARLnow has documented .

AST supporters have identified quite a few misunderstandings and misconceptions about both the CP streetcar and alternative BRT systems. Several of the comments posted to last week’s ARLnow story reflected misunderstandings and misconceptions like these:

  • You can only have a BRT service if you have a dedicated lane for it
  • White collar professionals will ride streetcars but not BRT
  • Given projected density on the Pike, only streetcars will be able to handle the anticipated increase in ridership
  • Streetcars, but not BRT, will attract needed economic development to the Pike
  • BRT service on the Pike really wouldn’t be any different from current bus service

Every one of the above statements is incorrect. To learn why, check out the Get the Facts, Resources, and FAQ sections of the AST website.

BOTTOM LINE: if you think that all or some of the above statements are correct, while AST does not, that’s one more reason why the Arlington County Board needs to hire independent experts to study and report back on all these issues, and share their conclusions with the Arlington community.

Peter Rousselot is a member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.