Trolley service will make its way to Del Ray and Arlandria beginning this fall.
On Wednesday night at City Hall, Alexandria City Council unanimously approved a route that will send free, motorized trolley buses from King Street Metro north along Commonwealth Avenue, then turn right on Braddock Road and stop at Braddock Road Metro station. The trolley will then track back to Mt. Vernon Avenue, run north, make a left turn onto W. Glebe Road, right onto Russell Road and right back onto Mt. Vernon Avenue to return.
The first recommended route, initially released in March, terminated at W. Reed Avenue, short of the heart of Arlandria. At the time, members of the Arlandria-Chirilagua Business Association and other stakeholders said they wanted to see if go farther north. Councilmembers agreed in April and put the project on hold so staff could examine sending it into Arlandria.
On Wednesday, city staff recommended sending the trolley down West Street to Braddock Metro in what they strategized would be a cheaper route with more reliable headways.
Council moved to send it down Commonwealth Avenue instead.
Councilmembers argued that trolley service to Del Ray and Arlandria should be more focused on resident usage as opposed to use by tourists. They also said that headways shouldn’t be the driving factor in determining the route.
Much of city staff’s discussion of the trolley before Wednesday was on serving tourists who wanted an easy way to reach attractions and restaurants on Mt. Vernon Avenue.
“I see this as a very different kind of trolley service [than the King Street Trolley],” Councilman Paul Smedberg said. “You look at what’s between and it’s different.”
With a route selected, the city will start the process of selecting a contractor to provide and operate motorized trolleys on Mt. Vernon Avenue. The city owns the trolleys on the King Street line, which is operated by DASH. Different trolley buses will be used on the new line.
Councilman Rob Krupicka asked that city staff look into securing hybrid trolleys for this route to cut down on noise.
Alexandria Department of Transportation and Environmental Services chief Rich Baier said contracting hybrid buses is a possibility, but that he want to be mindful of the budget.
According to a city memo, the estimated annual cost of a route utilizing Commonwealth but not stopping at Braddock Metro is $850,000 annually. T&ES Deputy Director Abi Lerner said taking the trolley down Commonwealth and stopping at Braddock Metro will potentially increase headways, be cause to run another trolley on the route and add as much as $150,000 to the annual cost.
Funding will come from the city’s Transportation Improvement Program, which was established as part of the fiscal year 2012 budget when council dedicated 2.2 cents of the real estate property tax rate for transportation projects.
The city will monitor and measure ridership and other impacts of the trolley service, including its impact on DASH and local businesses.
Service is expected to begin in November. The trolley will operate on Thursdays and Fridays from 3 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., and on Saturdays and Sundays from 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Staff will try to utilize existing bus stops for the trolley service and install new signage.
The name of the line, which was the subject of some debate, will be “The Del Ray/Arlandria Trolley.” Councilmembers asked that Rosemont and other locations serviced by the trolley be mentioned on its exterior.
“Just wrap a banner around it that says this trolley will take you anywhere in the city,” Vice Mayor Kerry Donley joked.