during peak hours and carry more than 16,000
people each weekday—a figure that is projected
to more than double by 2035, says Dennis Leach,
deputy director for transportation at
Arlington County’s Department of
To solicit and respond to com-
munity concerns, the Arlington
project team has conducted public
forums regularly since the begin-
ning of the planning phase more
than a decade ago. A task force of
representatives from civic groups
has worked with the team to resolve
questions regarding the streetcar
design and its impact on neighbor-
hoods. Throughout the project,
“We’re faced with how to move more people in
1888 The first U.S. electric streetcar begins service in Richmond, Virginia.
1917 Millions of riders use the nation’s 45,000
miles ( 72,420 kilometers) of streetcar tracks.
1950s With the rise of cars and buses, only a
handful of cities keep their streetcar service.
1971 San Francisco, California begins planning a
streetcar line still in operation today.
1999 Portland, Oregon begins constructing its
2008 The Portland Office of Transportation
estimates US$3.5 billion in development
has occurred within two blocks of the city’s
2010 The U.S. federal government gives
cities grants for streetcar projects, including
US$47.7 million to Atlanta, Georgia; US$26
million to Salt Lake City, Utah; and US$23
million to Dallas, Texas.
2014 Streetcar ridership is set to begin in
Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Georgia and
Tucson, Arizona, with many more streetcar
projects under development.
an attractive, environmentally sustainable way,”
Mr. Leach says, noting that electric streetcars pollute less than cars and buses.
Building streetcars may cost more than adding bus
lines, but rail transportation provides benefits beyond
mobility, Mr. Leach says. In 2012, the Columbia Pike
Transit Initiative estimated that the Arlington streetcars will provide US$252 million in public benefits
and between US$292 million and US$532 million
in additional tax revenues during the next three
decades, while increasing adjacent land values and
spurring US$1 billion in development.
“You need to provide the quality infrastructure
in order to create the kind of community that’s
desired,” Mr. Leach says.
To make the case for their streetcar projects, many
cities look to Portland, Oregon, USA, the pioneer
of the streetcar resurgence. Mr. Nicholson, of the
D.C. project, calls Portland the “model that showed
“Streetcars were used as a catalyst for mixed-use
The Arlington streetcars will provide
million in public
benefits and between
US$292 million and
US$532 million in
additional tax revenues
during the next
Source: The Columbia Pike Transit Initiative, 2012
D.C., and Tucson,