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Arlington County Study Shows Streetcar Trumps Bus in Economic Impact

Arlingtons for Sensible Transit say $98,000 study told the county what they wanted to hear.

A new study says that a streetcar would be a big boost to the local economy in Arlington. Arlington County photo
A new study says that a streetcar would be a big boost to the local economy in Arlington. Arlington County photo
A study commissioned by Arlington County says that a streetcar would be a bigger economic boost to the area than a bus line.

The controversial proposed streetcar for Columbia Pike would spur $3.2 billion to $4.4 billion in new development, according to the study, which cost the county $98,000.

The study also showed streetcar benefits include more jobs and more tax revenue:

  • Over a 30-year period, the streetcar investment and resulting real estate impacts will generate $375-735 million in incremental tax revenues for Arlington. This is more than three times the amount generated by enhanced bus service. Streetcar service will help Arlington attract a more substantial share of new economic activity in the region.
  • Approximately 10 years after start of construction, streetcar will attract 6,600 new jobs to the corridor over the number that would exist under baseline conditions. This is more than three times the incremental employment supported by enhanced bus. Job growth corresponds to new real estate development catalyzed by the investment in transit infrastructure.
But a group called Arlingtonians for Sensible Transit was not persuaded by the report; they don't think a streetcar is the way to go.

The group predicted that the consultants would tell the county government only what it wanted to hear because the county was paying for the $98,000 study, the Washington Post reported.

“He who pays the piper calls the tune,” said Peter Rousselot, a leader of the anti-streetcar advocacy group, told the newspaper.

The company that conducted the report and county officials told The Post that the county had no influence over the six-month study.

View the full 2014 Return On Investment Study report (PDF).

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