I’m working on gathering responses from 8th CD Democratic candidates regarding their positions on the proposed Columbia Pike streetcar project. There are three main reasons I’m doing this. First, there’s a huge debate taking place over this right now in Arlington, yet to my knowledge none of the Democratic candidates for Congress in the 8th CD, of which Arlington is a major part, have been asked about this project on the record. Second, the outcome of this debate will have a major impact on the Columbia Pike corridor, as well as potentially the broader 8th CD. Third, this is primarily but not only a “local issue,” as it has broader implications (e.g., possibly for streetcar systems elsewhere), and also given that Arlington has previously applied for federal funding and could very well do so again.
As I write this, I have received statements from three candidates and promises of statements from three other 8th CD Democratic candidates. I’ve decided that I’ll start posting them in the order I receive them, rather than waiting for all of the 10 candidates to send something (or not) before posting any of them, as that could take a while at this rate (and we’ve only got a bit over a month to go until the election, so time’s running out rapidly). With that, we’ll start with statements by Don Beyer, Mark Levine, and Bruce Shuttleworth (on the “flip;” click on “There’s More”). I welcome statements from all the candidates.
UPDATE: See comments section for further statements, the first one being from Adam Ebbin.
Shuttleworth said he agrees with my option “b” — “Support it with reservations.” He adds, “I support our local elected officials studying this project in greater depth than I have time for and making the best decision for the long-term return on investment to the community.”
I support the Columbia Pike streetcar project.
As you know, I’m a strong supporter of public transit, both for environmental reasons and because I believe it makes our communities more appealing and livable. I believe the streetcar is the best option for Columbia Pike for three main reasons. It is environmentally preferable to buses, both because of the volume of passengers it holds and because it runs on electricity instead of gas. Streetcars tend to spur long-term investment in a region, according to numerous studies of various metropolitan areas; this investment would raise residential property values in that portion of south Arlington and bode well for high-quality retail and residential development. And third, based on an Arlington option for developers — which gives them the right to develop greater density in exchange for including a certain portion of affordable housing units — this is the best chance for preserving affordable housing, which is a critical issue facing northern Virginia.
I support clean energy and efforts to reduce global warming. Well-designed public transit certainly helps keep gasoline-burning, carbon-polluting cars off the roads, and electric public transit in theory is a good idea because eventually, I would hope we’d get electricity from clean renewable resources. Unfortunately, much electricity in Northern Virginia is still created by coal-fired plants which pollute our air and water and cause global warming. So, on balance, at this time, I don’t see the street car as a significant clean-energy issue.
Having talked to thousands of voters, I have heard from a large number of Arlingtonians pro- and con- on the street car. The opinions on both sides are vociferous and heart-felt. While federal-funding may eventually be involved, this is, at heart, a local issue that should be decided by Arlingtonians themselves making the case (or lack thereof) to their fellow citizens. I would therefore support a referendum on the issue. Let democracy decide the street car’s fate