Home Local Politics 6 Months After Killing Streetcar, John Vihstadt (R) Continues to Demonstrate He...

6 Months After Killing Streetcar, John Vihstadt (R) Continues to Demonstrate He Has No Alternative


Thanks to Brian Devine for pointing me in the direction of this article (“To replace Columbia Pike streetcar, Vihstadt proposes Circulator bus“) on the always-excellent “Greater Greater Washington” website. The two key points it highlights are as follows.

1. Arlington County Board member John Vihstadt (note: he disingenuously calls himself an “independent,” but he’s been a big-time Republican donor and activist for years) is now calling for  “Circulator-type buses” on Columbia Pike, but there’s a big problem with that suggestion: “Bus service on Columbia Pike is already better than DC Circulator.” Even worse, “Circulator-type buses” on Columbia Pike “would do nothing to solve the chronic overcrowding and bus bunching that PikeRide buses already face,” “wouldn’t address Columbia Pike’s actual problems,” is “not a replacement for streetcar, and it’s not the kind of streetcar-comparable BRT that Vihstadt promised in his campaign. It’s even a step down from articulated buses.”

In other words, #FAIL all around for Vihstadt, whose 2014 County Board campaign was a model of demagoguery, b.s. and frankly flat-out lies (e.g., that “BRT” was possible on the Pike; that money was “fungible” between the streetcar and what he hand-wavingly called “core services”).

2. It calls out Vihstadt for having “promised communities along Columbia Pike a real solution” to their pressing transportation needs. Instead, what we’re getting is “flippant comments proposing something that already exists” and that “is less than the bare minimum to meet that promise.” So, so true. And so, so unacceptable.

I’d add that the Orwellian-named group, “Arlingtonians for Sensible Transit” (AST), of which Vihstadt was a leading member, is proving more every day/week/month that goes by, that it was really not FOR anything, but actually should simply have been called “Arlingtonians AGAINST the Streetcar.” Period. Why do I say this? Because, quite simply, since AST/Vihstadt et al. managed to kill the streetcar (with a huge assist by long-time streetcar advocates Mary Hynes and Jay Fisette, for no good reason I’ve ever heard), and after months of claiming that they could do something much cheaper and faster with most of the benefits of a streetcar system, AST has basically gone dark, with essentially no updates on their social media pages, no proposals for the promised alternative to the streetcar, etc. What happened? Where’s the faster/cheaper option to the streetcar? How about ANY alternative to provide badly-needed transportation options and economic development opportunities along this relatively neglected portion of Arlington? Uhhhhh.

By the way, about the only “counterargument” we ever get from anti-streetcar folks is some variant on the theme that we should all just “get over it,” “move on,” that we lost and Vihstadt won, etc, etc. Which, of course, is an utterly non-substantive non-“argument” that does nothing to answer our questions, let alone make progress in terms of transportation and economic development along the Columbia Pike corridor. Not that Vihstadt really cares; after all, he’s on the County Board for another 3 years 8 months, during which time he can focus on…apparently killing anything that doesn’t fit into his cramped, short-sighted, anti-progressive, “penny-wise/pound-foolish” Republican worldview of what government can and should be there to accomplish.

P.S. There are some excellent comments on Brian Devine’s Facebook thread on the GGW article. For instance:

*GGW is “correctly calling out a transit proposal that’s both redundant and lazy. That makes it worse than the streetcar project that he and his AST buddies torpedoed…AST’s raison d’être was to torpedo the streetcar plan. And the county had been holding hearings on the streetcar for years before that…AST went into overdrive opposing the streetcar and whipping up opposition to it, and now that it’s dead not only are they and their allies on the board not coming up with any new proposals, they’re actively denying their role in killing off the old one.”

*”John and Libby campaigned on the notion that they had alternatives and that the best alternative was some kind of BRT. They capitalized on everyone else’s failure and drove the stake into the project. So now that they have effectively killed the streetcar, their silence is deafening. Be it on transportation, school and facility siting, or housing issues, Arlington government right now is simply not functioning. People want vision, they want plans, they want answers. And so it is absolutely right to ask the prime proponents of ‘alternatives’ where their alternatives are. And it is incumbent on those others who supported the streetcar to either do the same, or explain why we are not. And if there are no alternatives, then the task is to begin again considering whether the streetcar is indeed the best available solution.”

  • essequamverderi

    Please take an hour out of your day in order to drive on Columbia Pike. You’ll quickly see that Columbia Pike needs to be widened. Whoever crafted the master plan for the Pike, without taking that into account, was an idiot. We need a dedicated lane there to service a Streetcar, BRT, or whatever other alternative you care to propose.

    I drive on the Pike weekly and cannot imagine a Streetcar dominating one of the already congested lanes. We can have a better transportation system for the Pike that serves businesses and residents; we can’t do it on the cheap, however. The problem with the Streetcar was never just cost alone.  

    Moreover, as I’ve said on this blog many times, I find the level of cognitive dissonance on this subject disheartening. How can we both project growth along Columbia Pike and then assume (wish, perhaps is a better word) that those new residents will be car-less? How can we project for an economic expansion on the Pike and then not take into account how residents outside the Pike will partake in that expansion? My assumption is this: the number of vehicles on the Pike would grow after a Streetcar system were implemented. What happens, then, when the Pike has more cars on it but effectively less lanes as traffic yields to a Streetcar? Is that worth a $400 million + investment? Until I see a counter-argument that makes sense, I would argue that the County Board should re-assess the transportation system on the Pike in light the current reality in order to devise better alternatives to the proposed Streetcar system.