Arlington County has announced that it will mothball the proposed Columbia Pike and Crystal City streetcar projects and wind down all related spending. 

This latest move follows recent projections increasing the total cost of the project by tens of millions of dollars and, perhaps as a result, Arlington County election results expressing strong voter opposition to the project.  Instead, focus will now turn to enhancing bus service in the area, including along the new dedicated lanes along Jefferson Davis Highway/Route 1. 

This news will have large economic ripple effects, as governments, businesses, and individuals in Arlington and Fairfax Counties had long planned significant development around the proposed streetcar lines.  Those entities now must return to the drawing board and attempt to mitigate sunk investments. 

The project’s cancellation is also noteworthy given that it occurred in one of the most progressively transit-oriented regions in the country, and followed on the heels of serious questions regarding expansion of DC streetcar beyond the initial 2.2 mile H Street line.  The Washington Post editorial board, a long-time transit advocate, recently called into question the ongoing viability of the DC streetcar project in its current form. 

While streetcar projects have been a success story in certain cities, given the current era of constrained budgets, the spread of streetcar across the U.S. will depend on even greater political support and economic/environmental justification.

For now, for me and my Arlington neighbors, we’ll just have to take the bus.