Local low-income housing providers said that people of low- to moderate-incomes might use the proposed streetcar along Columbia Pike if the price is right.
However, housing providers said that if a bus route along Columbia Pike is cheaper than the proposed streetcar, the bus will probably win.
"I can't see any reason why they would not use it,” said Catherine Bucknam, spokesperson for AHC, Inc. AHC is a regional housing provider for people of low and moderate income. AHC owns properties along Columbia Pike.
She was reticent to speak for the community that AHC serves, she said. However, she added that the choice might just come down to money.
"I think it's the economics of it for them,” Bucknam said.
Paul Browne sits on the county’s housing commission and works at Wesley Housing Development Corporation as the director of real estate development. Wesley also provides low-income housing. He spoke to the Mercury from his own understanding and experience, not as a spokesperson he said yesterday.
He thought at first that yes, residents of Wesley’s various housing complexes probably would use a streetcar.
"Generally our residents use public transit a lot," Browne said. Add to that, Columbia Pike has one of the highest bus ridership rates in the area, and he thought people would turn to mass transit, but his own thinking aloud gave him pause.
"That's a fair question now that I’m thinking about it," Browne said. "You might argue that they're being served by the public transit that they have already" and might not turn to the streetcar.
Stephen del Giudice, Arlington’s transit bureau chief, said the county plans to establish fares that are “comparable” to the bus line. The Columbia Pike streetcar would replace buses 16G and 16H, and the fares are intended to attract people who regularly take those buses, he said.
"In fact it would be quite affordable," del Giudice said.
Nina Janopaul, the CEO of the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing, said that the price point could be a tipping point, too.
She said that she has noticed that at APAH properties along the Orange line, the residents there tend to spend money on the bus rather than the more expensive Metro.
The housing companies have not spent much time one this issue, said those interviewed. None have plans to speak before the county board on this issue.
The county board plans to vote Monday July 23 on whether or not to move forward with the proposed streetcar.
The vote on Monday asks that they consider the streetcar as the "locally preferred alternative" to doing nothing or building an articulated (jointed) bus system. The "locally preferred" designation is necessary to apply for federal funds in the "Small Starts Grant" program.