Thursday, November 20, 2014

3 Way Better Options Than The Now Defunct Arlington Streetcar Project

And just like that, the Arlington Streetcar project has been canceled. We've been hearing about this project in one form or another for the last 15 years. So part of me is disappointed that after getting so close to reality, it was quashed.

On the other hand, I'm not convinced that a streetcar would have actually solved the the traffic congestion nightmare that is the Pike. Today, you can be stuck behind a car that's behind a bus that's behind a stopped car. Now add a streetcar to this mix, and it's not a pretty picture.

Also, I've got to say I'm actually impressed that a major project which received funding and had awarded contracts could be more or less stopped on a dime. That shows flexibility and agility that I don't often associate with government (national or local). Another way to view the decision is as a bunch of politicians saving their own butts in the next election. Let's hope this wasn't their motivation.

Anyway, the streetcar is dead, time to move on. In fact, I think we can do far better than the streetcar. And no, I'm not interested in building the once proposed metro line. Never going to happen.

Solution #1: Monorail. I'm telling you, we *need* a monorail down Columbia Pike. Think about it: it would be far sexier than a streetcar or bus, and assuming it's elevated, it would zip down the pike while traffic below was crawling. But don't take my word for it, read this and this. Oh, still not convinced? Well, then watch this:

Solution #2: Gondolas. The only thing slicker than a monorail down the Pike would be a series of gondolas. Just imagine stepping into your own private cabin and gently floating down the Pike while the suckers in cars below do battle with each other. It may not be the fastest way to move people, but it would be efficient. And awesome. Again, don't take my word for it, read this, this and this. And before you laugh off the gondolas, note that the idea may hit closer to home than you imagine:

In Georgetown, a neighborhood in Washington, D.C., community leaders are studying a proposal to use gondolas to cross the Potomac River, connecting Georgetown to the Rosslyn Metro station in Arlington County, Virginia.

“We feel like it is an interesting idea and maybe could be a solution to the problems we’re facing,” says Joe Sternlieb, chief executive of the Georgetown Business Improvement District.

Georgetown community leaders raised the idea after visiting Portland, where an aerial tram, opened in 2006, connects the waterfront to the Oregon Health and Science University, Sternlieb says. The group is raising $200,000 to explore the concept.

Solution #3: Dedicated Scooter Lanes. OK, I'm reaching here, but hear me out. The problem with the Pike is getting folks from point A to B efficiently. What if we reconfigured the roads to carve out a section open only to Scooter (or Moped) traffic. My thinking is that scooters are relatively low costs and efficient for moving individuals around the city. Back in 2010 Brisbane floated this exact idea:

“We’ve got the bicycle lanes, but it would actually help to have a dedicated separate moped lane that’s undercover.”

Mr McLindon called for a rethink of “rarely used” T2 transit lanes, saying many cars stuck in traffic contained only one person and transport planners had to “start thinking outside the square”.

Better, safer options for moped riders within 10 kilometres of the Brisbane CBD could prompt more people to take up the environmentally friendly, cost-effective option, he said.

Heck, as long as I'm in fantasy land, we could also consider augmenting the Capital Bike Share to rent out Scooters (or maybe it's more of a Zipcar thing? Zipscoot?). And at the same station, we could have a baguette vending machine, so you could truly look the part while zipping down the Pike.

The streetcar is dead. It's time to start thinking outside the square. Let's do something awesome!

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