(Updated 10/27) Did you know that a little over 90 years before the King Street trolley started ferrying visitors through Old Town, another streetcar ran from Del Ray up into D.C.?
A new Christmas ornament for sale for $25 through the Office of Historic Alexandria celebrates the city’s first streetcar — which ran for 14 years before the popularity of the car helped drive it out of businesses.
“Car 303 of the Mount Vernon Alexandria & Washington Electric Railway was one of a fleet of art deco cars purchased in 1918 for the essential trolley line that connected Del Ray commuters to DC and tourists to Mount Vernon,” the city said in the ornament description. “Car 303 ran until the railway’s closure in 1932.”
According to the Library of Virginia, the Washington, Alexandria and Mount Vernon Electric Railway was one of the first successful electric trolley lines in the country. The first was in Richmond in 1888.
“By 1896 the company had expanded their tracks and were also using tracks owned by the Belt Line Street Railway Company, which operated in Washington D.C. Soon after railways began to expand into other portions of northern Virginia, allowing for more travel,” the library said. “However, their expansion was threatened in the 1920s when patronage declined due to the availability of other options such as buses and personal automobiles, forcing many companies out of business.”
The ornament’s description said the trolley car became a diner in 1936.
“Historic Alexandria’s 2021 holiday ornament commemorates a period of the City’s growth as it began the transition from industrial manufacturer to DC suburb and history tourism destination,” the city said.
It was a quick week in Alexandria. Here’s the rundown.
On the COVID front, the city’s DASH bus service announced that one of its drivers passed away from complications from the virus.
Meanwhile, Mayor Justin Wilson believes that the city has met its 80% vaccination threshold, while Virginia Department of Health data says about 65% of residents over the age of 16 are partially vaccinated. The Alexandria Health Department, which just launched a COVID-19 test and vaccine pilot at T.C. Williams High School, says the data does not take into account city residents vaccinated in Washington, D.C., and Maryland.
It’s also July 4 weekend, and in this week’s poll we asked whether readers plan on traveling, with 67% of respondents voting to stay home, 27% opting to travel by car and just 6% traveling by air.
- City Council to specify when local dogs are allowed to bark
- Woman shot in Landmark Area Monday night
- New mixed-use development headed to the heart of Chirilagua
- Alexandria’s unemployment rate has been cut in half since May 2020
- Alexandria’s Sportrock Climbing Center is packed with business after Biden visit
- Alexandria eyes bus rapid transit and bike lanes for Duke Street
- Alexandria Police looking for driver in fatal hit-and-run
- Basilica of St. Mary bridge and expansion designs move forward
- Military spouses ask Sen. Tim Kaine to help with childcare in Alexandria roundtable
- Alexandria Reggae band FeelFree gets political in latest single
- Alexandria teaching racial and social equity with 30 day challenge
- Visit Alexandria website gets most views ever as businesses slowly climb back
- King Street Trolley service to return next Monday
- Researchers call out shoddy craftsmanship in buried 18th century Alexandria ship
- Man suspected of raping 12-year-old stepdaughter in Landmark area flees to El Salvador
- Landmark Mall plan approved as Planning Commission demands better environmental considerations
- Alexandria leaders acknowledge serious security issues with elimination of school resource officer funding
- Shortened Alexandria Birthday celebration is still on for July 10
- Alexandria eyes bus rapid transit and bike lanes for Duke Street
- Parker-Gray tiny lot home moves forward with some unique challenges
- Alexandria woman dies after veering off road on Interstate 95
- City talks strategy on making Chirilagua/Arlandria neighborhood Amazon-proof
- UPDATE: Man taken into custody as West End apartment barricade situation ends peacefully
- BREAKING: California man arrested for West End murder, indicted with 16 others in massive racketeering conspiracy
Have a safe weekend!
The long-awaited return of Old Town’s King Street Trolley is scheduled for next Monday, July 5.
According to a press release from the City of Alexandria, the trolley will resume daily operation on Monday, with a few modifications.
For starters, the trolley will run from the King Street Metro station to Market Square, outside of City Hall, with the 100 block of King Street converted into a pedestrian zone. A new stop will be added at the southeast corner of Market Square for better access to the Potomac River waterfront.
The trolley will run every 15 minutes from 11 a.m.-11 p.m., seven days per-week including holidays. The city said the simplified schedule will help make the trolley more accessible.
Trolley service has been suspended for a little over a year due to the pandemic. Face masks will be required for anyone riding the trolley.
The free trolley is a popular service in Alexandria, and extensions down Eisenhower Avenue have been considered. Later this year, DASH is scheduled to follow the trolley’s example and convert the entire bus network into a free service.
The Alexandria City Council on Tuesday sent staff the proposed King Street Place pedestrian pilot program back to the drawing board.
The original plan would have turned a section of King Street near the waterfront into a pedestrian-only zone between Lee Street and Union Street on weekends, but more recent plans have included a single lane of traffic through the area that was going to be car-free.
Under the $190,000 plan proposed by staff, parking would be completely removed in the 100 block of King Street and a single lane of westbound traffic would be allowed for deliveries, valet parking, and picking up and dropping off visitors. That would shift dining to the south side of the street, while the north side would be open to vehicles.
“This is much different than what we had originally talked about, and I appreciate how we have gotten here,” Mayor Justin Wilson told city planning staff after a presentation at City Hall. “We’d like you to do it better and spend less.”
Wilson added, “If this works and is beneficial, then let’s do the whole King Street.”
The pilot, which staff was hoping to get approved by council next month, will now likely launch in early June after an amended plan is sent to the Waterfront Commission and the Traffic and Parking Board, according to Hillary Orr, deputy director of the city’s Department of Planning and Zoning.
“This is a lot of money,” City Councilman John Taylor Chapman told staff. “If we were to cut off the streets at the end [of King Street] and make this a plaza, it would probably be much less expensive… What I’d love to see is a much more streamlined, probably cheaper version of what you’re trying to accomplish here, because it is a pilot.”
“I did not think we were going to spend six figures on a pilot for that,” Chapman added.
Under the proposal, the King Street Trolley route along King Street would be redirected. Westbound traffic would continue, but eastbound traffic would loop around The Strand and Cameron, Union and Prince Streets.
“The street is only 37 feet wide emergency vehicle access needs 20 feet of that space,” Orr said. “That was really the key element we were thinking about in trying to balance the additional outdoor dining and then where pedestrians have additional space on the street. It did limit the design options, but it does allow for space that enhances the vitality along the corridor.”
Orr said city staff will look for some flexibility in its final presentation to the council to make changes during the pilot.
“If there are any unintended consequences of some of the proposals here or if we see that there is additional space needed for delivery, or things that we might not have thought of or ideas that people come up with, this is a pilot and opportunity to really test out how we use this space so that hopefully we can come up with a permanent solution in the future,” she said.
“The 2030 and 2022 Vision Plan Networks include the King Street Trolley with a potential extension from the King Street Metro to the Eisenhower Metro Station via the Carlyle and Eisenhower East districts,” the plan said. “This could provide a frequent connection directly between the large and dense activity center around Eisenhower Avenue Metro and Old Town.”
Proposed changes also include longer hours for the trolley. Currently, the trolley starts running at 10:30 or 11 a.m. on a 10-15 minute loop. The plan noted that this service means the trolley is not available for morning commuters, early shift workers, or others coming into Old Town before 10:30 a.m.
“The revised King Street Trolley also would operate with more traditional operating hours, including morning service,” the study said. “It should be noted, however, that due to the funding arrangement for the operation of the King Street Trolley, any potential changes to the trolley would require additional coordination and approval by City Council.”
The extension of the King Street Trolley is included in the longer-term goals for the project, with implementation planned by 2030.
The trolley is funded by hotel tax revenues from across the city, though the transit survey noted the current benefits are mostly confined to Old Town. The revised route would run through a neighborhood slated for extensive residential and commercial redevelopment.
“This raises an issue about the fairness of funding a free route in one part of the city that is paid for from hotel taxes across the entire city,” the study said. “[One option] would require fares on all routes, including the King Street Trolley. To offset the impact of this change on tourists and visitors, DASH could provide free passes to Visit Alexandria for all Alexandria hotels and other tourism entities.”
The plan does not make any recommendations for a fare policy.
The plan was adopted by the Alexandria Transit Company — which operates DASH and the King Street Trolley — in December. The Transit Vision Plan was presented to the City Council on Feb. 25 as an update. Implementation of the plan’s suggestions is scheduled to be considered next year as part of the Fiscal Year 2022 budget.
Staff photo by Jay Westcott