County Planning Premium Bus Service for Columbia Pike

Published on January 26, 2016

  • Upgraded bus service to replace cancelled streetcar

  • Recommendations being developed as part of 10-year transit plan

  • Community input needed next month

Arlington plans to bring premium bus service — service that is faster, more frequent, more reliable and easier to use - to Columbia Pike, County Manager Mark Schwartz said today.

"At the Board's direction, staff has identified several features that could be part of premium bus service on the Pike that would be similar to the Metroway service already operating in Crystal City," Schwartz said during an update to the County Board. "We are looking at near-level boarding platforms, traffic signal priority for buses, and the possibility of creating locations with dedicated bus lanes, along with other innovations."

Building a transit system that will replace cancelled streetcar

In November 2014, the Arlington County Board voted to discontinue the Streetcar Program for Columbia Pike and Crystal City-Pentagon City and instructed the County Manager to develop transit alternatives for these corridors. The effort to develop a transit alternative is occurring as part of a State-required Transit Development Plan (TDP) update, which is looking at bus service in Arlington for the next 10 years.

Premium bus features under consideration

County staff have identified several features that could be part of any premium bus service on Columbia Pike, including:

  • Faster service with near-level boarding platforms, traffic signal priority for buses, off-board fare collection/loading, and/or dedicated lanes for buses.

  • More frequent service with limited stop/express service, a variety of service types, and new transit connections.

  • Easy to use features such as simpler route structures, real-time information at stations, branded vehicles and stations, and comfortable and attractive amenities.

The Transit Development Plan effort is evaluating which of these features would improve travel times, enhance transit reliability, and move more people through the corridor over the next 10 years, and could be implemented during that timeframe.

Further analysis, community input needed

Features such as transit-only lanes — whether dedicated 24/7 to transit or only for specific time periods or peak directions — need more analysis to determine if they are possible, particularly along Columbia Pike. After that analysis, any change in the number of general purpose travel lanes on the Pike would need to be approved by the Virginia Department of Transportation. Read the Board presentation for an overview of all features under consideration.

Specific recommendations will be presented to the community for feedback at a series of public events in late February and early March. Event dates and locations will be listed at

Transit improvements already underway

Premium bus service would build on transit improvements already underway in these corridors. Columbia Pike, Pentagon City  and Crystal City are among the most transit-rich areas of Arlington, with the Pike's 600 bus trips carrying more than 17,000 passengers each weekday. In the last year Arlington Transit has introduced additional weeknight and weekend service and more frequent weekday service in these areas.

The County's Columbia Pike Transit Stations project is working to upgrade and consolidate transit stops along the Pike and provide stations features such as near-level boarding platforms. Similar improvements are coming to Crystal City and Potomac Yard as part of the Transitway project. The Transitway also will introduce the first dedicated bus-only lanes to Arlington, in Crystal City and Potomac Yard.

What is the TDP?

The Transit Development Plan is a State-required study of the County's transit service. It helps identify transit service needs and prioritize improvements. The plan ensures any improvements are eligible for State funding, one of Arlington's main funding sources for transit. New bus strategies for Columbia Pike, Pentagon City and Crystal City are being studied in the TDP to ensure they are coordinated with transit improvements in other parts of the County. More information is available at