Garvey Uses $1M Bus Stop to Voice Streetcar Opposition
The first so-called Super Stop opened this week at Walter Reed and Columbia Pike.
The $1 million price tag on the first so-called Super Stop along the Columbia Pike corridor gave Arlington County Board member Libby Garvey an opening Tuesday to voice opposition to the planned streetcar.
The Super Stop, which opened this month at Walter Reed and Columbia Pike, is designed to hold 10 to 15 passengers and allow two buses to stop in front of it at a time. Real-time ART and Metrobus information is available and the county hopes to install an exit fare machine in the future.
Garvey wasn't impressed.
"It is pretty, but I was struck by the fact that if it's pouring rain, I'm going to get wet," she said. "It's not much of a shelter."
County officials on Tuesday emphasized the various factors that fed into that price and pledged to try to bring the costs down on the remaining Super Stops.
Garvey, the lone opponent to the Columbia Pike streetcar system on the five-member board, also pointed out that the stop is designed so that bus passengers can board at the same elevation as the curb; people with disabilities would need a ramp deployed to board a streetcar.
Garvey asked county staff to provide a breakdown of the cost, including specific information about construction and design.
As Arlington will be in charge of future Super Stop construction — the Walter Reed prototype was done in conjunction with Metro — Garvey also asked the county provide details on all contractors selected for the project, including whether they are subsidiaries or otherwise related to larger companies.
Her request harkens back to a potential conflict of interest charge she lobbed at fellow board member Chris Zimmerman in December.
County Manager Barbara Donnellan lauded the Super Stop as "really a great thing."
The county has $20 million identified in its 10-year Capital Improvement Plan for the construction of the remaining 23 stops, Transportation Director Dennis Leach said. That includes local, state and federal dollars.
"Our goal is if at all possible to do it for less," Leach said.
For the initial $1 million stop, state and federal dollars accounted for about $800,000, Leach said.
All of the initial stops Arlington has targeted for the Super Stop upgrade handle more than 600 passengers daily, he said.
"These are treated more as high-capacity bus or rail-type stops," Leach said.
Zimmerman said "soft costs" were often front-loaded on prototypes and that the lessons learned from the initial construction should cut back on the price tag for future stops.
Zimmerman traced the history of the project to 2002, when local officials were first presented with a potential funding crisis for transportation and transit. The idea of a Super Stop was developed through a process to determine what could be done for a relatively small amount of money.
Construction, in part, was held up by the Virginia Department of Transportation, he said. VDOT controlled Columbia Pike through September 2010, he said, and the state forced the county to get permission to hang banners on lightposts along the Pike. VDOT, too, wanted the county to complete an environmental assessment for the bus stop upgrade, something the state Transportation Department wanted to bypass for its own HOT Lanes project.
Zimmerman called the Super Stop "extremely attractive."
"That is not a small thing," he said. "Making people confident and comfortable using transit is involves making them feel like it's somewhere they'd want to be, even in the dark."
The next Super Stop is planned in front of the nearby Penrose Square development.