I’m sure County Board members are squriming over the report recently released by transportation consultant and Democratic Party leader Peter Rousselot which recommends BRT (bus rapid transit) for Columbia Pike instead of the trolley. According to Rousselot, the bus alternative actually performs about as well as the trolley on a number of key criteria but costs far less, $53 million for the bus v. $250 million for the trolley.
In an appendix to the report, transportation consultant and Georgetown University professor Robert Dunphy underscored Rousselot’s findings. He said:
The performance of the two options on the “basic transportation” measures is quite similar. The TSM2 [BRT] alternative expands transit capacity by 1/3 with more and longer buses, compared to the base case, reduces the travel time from end to end by three minutes, and improves reliability, the degree of bunching, from today’s levels. Ridership growth forecast is even greater, 67% by 2016 and 93% by 2030, an extraordinary expansion. Relatively small additional improvements are projected from the streetcar option.
Yet the incremental cost of upgraded bus service is only $1,800 per new BRT rider compared with $123,000 per new streetcar rider. Not only that, but the streetcar will cost between $3 and $7 million more to operate than BRT. Clearly the benefits of running a trolley up the Pike are far outweighed by the costs. Rousselot argues that the county’s position that a streetcar is needed to spur development along the Pike is speculative at best, because it presumes that economic resurgence of other cities’ streetcar corridors was predicated on the streetcar without consideration of other factors associated with redevelopment.
Considering the near term inconvenience and long term financial liability of constructing a trolley coupled with the county’s uncertain financial outlook, it is imperative that County Board take Rousselot’s report under advisement. I know the Arlington Green Party will.