Arlington Transit Celebrates 25th Anniversary of Service

Published on November 15, 2023

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Arlington's transit agency – ART – is rolling into a milestone 25th year of serving the community and providing reliable and sustainable bus service across the County.

The Journey Begins

The bus service, which first launched in 1998 with one route in Crystal City, was established to connect Arlington neighborhoods along with the growing regional transit network anchored by Metrorail and Metrobus. In its first year of service, the ART fleet served 118,156 passengers.

Today, a total of 78 ART buses serve 16 routes across Arlington, handling over 2 million passengers annually. In 2019, ART had its highest ridership with 3.4 million trips and was on track to break that record before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Commitment to Sustainable Travel

ART offers a safe, environmentally friendly way of getting around without generating the carbon footprint and congestion of multiple single occupancy personal vehicles.

In coming years, ART service hours will be increased 29% on weekdays, 66% on Saturdays, and 98% on Sundays, in response to feedback from passengers who said they would choose bus over driving if it ran earlier and later in the day and on weekends and more frequently throughout the day.

In 2022, ART demonstrated a pair of Battery Electric Buses (BEBs) on passenger routes to see how they handled Arlington’s roadways, including challenging hills. Based on the data, ART will be adding four BEBs to its fleet in 2025 after completion of the new ART Operations and Maintenance Facility on Shirlington Road. These buses will test how evolving technology can help reduce the agency’s carbon footprint while meeting service reliability goals.

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County Board Proclamation to Celebrate the Arlington Transit 25th Anniversary

All Aboard

In 2019, ART ridership averaged about 7,751 passenger trips daily, or roughly 3.4 million trips for the year. Throughout the pandemic, ART proved its essential value as it continued to take people to work and healthcare facilities, maintaining a 50% ridership on weekdays and only decreasing by 15% on weekends.

ART continues to support passengers by distributing preloaded SmarTrip Cards to individuals receiving food assistance benefits, and by providing a fare-free program for all Arlington elementary and secondary students using an iRide SmarTrip card.

Next Stop: Continually Improving Service for All Passengers

On November 14, 2023, the County Board approved a new 10-year Arlington Transit Strategic Plan (ATSP), which will guide service for the next decade. The ATSP was informed by nearly two years of planning to ensure  passengers had a say in what was important to them to continue to improve ART service. The project team met with transit and accessibility advisory committees and commissions and collected input from over 2,300 passengers to determine travel priorities, challenges and feedback on how proposed route changes would meet needs. Future service upgrades will include longer hours and increased frequencies on weekdays and weekends, with new destinations like schools and recreational facilities.

From new vehicle options to evolving routes and services, it’s exciting to imagine what the ART system will look like in the next 25 years. Judging from the past quarter century, Arlington will no doubt still be relying on safe, dependable ART service -- all headed in the right direction.

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