An official website of Arlington County government


Conceptual rendering of a streetcar on Columbia Pike

Conceptual rendering of a streetcar on Columbia Pike

Transit that Serves the Community’s Vision

Years of community planning have produced a vision for Columbia Pike, and Arlington’s streetcar system is central to that vision. Hundreds of residents, business owners, organizations and others who care about the Pike have crafted a vision that seeks to:

  • Revitalize the Pike while preserving its character, diversity and affordability
  • Manage growth that we know is coming
  • Build a move vibrant, sustainable community, and
  • Create a walkable, bikeable Main Street served by high-quality transit

Streetcars encourage smart development

A modern streetcar will help us build a more vibrant and economically healthy Pike by attracting the sort of high-quality, mixed-use and residential development the community wants. Fixed-rail streetcars provide employers and developers with the sort of certainty that changeable bus routes cannot. They provide transit capacity that buses cannot.

Attractive, comfortable, affordable transit

Because modern streetcars are more accessible and offer a smoother ride than buses, they encourage people to use their cars less and public transit more. That means less traffic on one of the most heavily traveled roads in Northern Virginia, less air pollution and healthier living for all.

Bus stop at Columbia Pike and S.  Barton StreetRevitalization, preservation, affordability

The Community’s goals:

  • Preserve the Pike’s affordable housing and several of its original garden apartments to retain its character
  • Add broad, tree-shaded sidewalks
  • Add ground-floor retail and professional offices
  • Add a mix of housing types
  • Add attractive, vibrant public spaces and public art
  • Enhance transit service with convenient connections

County investing in the Pike

Arlington is prepared to invest in achieving these goals.  The County Board adopted a 30-year plan to ensure no net loss of the 6,200 existing market-rate affordable units and is creating new incentives and tools to keep those units available for low- and moderate-income households for the long-term.

In a move that will offer more affordable living choices in Arlington, the Board also voted to build the Columbia Pike streetcar and has invested in major infrastructure upgrades to improve the Pike’s bus service and enhance its streetscape. This will make it easier for some people to reduce the use of or eliminate their personal vehicles, which could dramatically reduce their household expenses.

The County also has completed the Arlington Mill Community Center on the west end of the Pike – a place where the entire community can enjoy a broad array of classes, programs and recreational opportunities.

The result  that everyone is working toward is managing and incentivizing growth on the Pike while retaining its affordability; its cultural, economic and ethnic diversity; its history, its heritage and its strong sense of community. The County is committed to improving the quality of life for all who live and work along the Pike.

Proposed Arlington streetcar system route

Proposed Arlington streetcar system route

Smart Growth – the key to Arlington’s success

This is the essence of Smart Growth – the people-centric approach to planning that Arlington has so successfully practiced for decades in the Metrorail corridors and that it has proven – in Shirlington and Westover – can be expanded beyond the Metro corridors.

Smart Growth assumes that the right kind of growth is the sustainable kind – the sort of growth that encourages transit use, incentivizes green building practices and concentrates development around high-quality transit options. It is the sort of growth that has made the Metro corridors some of the most desirable places to live, work and play in the nation, the sort of growth that the community wants along Columbia Pike.

Growth is coming to Columbia Pike. Because the community does not want the sort of densities on the Pike that are the hallmarks of the Rosslyn-Ballston and Crystal City-Pentagon City corridors, heavy rail would be inappropriate for the Pike – there would not be enough increased density to pay for it. Streetcar is the less expensive option that will allow the Pike to preserve its essence – its diversity and affordability – while increasing its vibrancy and economic competitiveness and meeting the expected commuting needs of the future population.