Leaders Need to Lead on Transit Funding

Today on Streetsblog Network member Greater Greater Washington,
David Alpert asks the multimillion-dollar question: Why do so many
politicians always say we have to "do something" about traffic, but not
about transit?

Alpert is referring to his recent discussions
with elected officials in the DC area about how to address the
long-term transportation and economic needs of this fast-developing
region. What he has found is disheartening, if perhaps not surprising.
The politicians can envision spending essentially limitless resources
on widening and expanding highways that lead to sprawl, but they can’t
imagine getting the money together to improve transit and encourage
development that allows people to live closer to their work:

431749326_80bd4f8ebe.jpgPhoto by shawnblog via Flickr.

That’s the conventional wisdom among most elected officials: We
"have to do something" to add road capacity, but transit projects are
so difficult as to be nearly laughable. Yet freeway projects are not
cheap. As we saw from ACT’s alternative plan
for the I-270 corridor, you can build a lot of transit for the price of
some freeway lanes. It’s just that leaders are too accustomed to
viewing road capacity as a necessity and transit as a luxury.

Sure, more people drive today than take transit along those
routes. In fact, virtually nobody takes transit between Tysons Corner
and Bethesda for the simple reason that there isn’t any. But
transportation expansion, whether roads or transit, will primarily
serve new commuters, not the existing ones. The current roads and rails move the
people who move today. The new infrastructure we build will govern the
locations and modes of new commuter growth. If we choose transit, we’ll
get new transit riders…

Leaders in Maryland and Virginia just need to stop saying "we
have to" build more freeways and big office parks at the edge of the
region, and instead encourage infill development and expand our great
transit infrastructure.

More from around the network: Kaid Benfield on NRDC Switchboard
today discusses the 20-minute neighborhood — a place where people
live, work and go to school, all within a 20-minute travel distance. Seattle Transit Blog
weighs in on the chilling Alaskan Way viaduct earthquake simulation and
what it should mean about the future of that city’s waterfront. And Fifty Car Pileup finally gets her day in court after a nasty dooring incident.

  • Krista

    I agree, leaders should be promoting public transportation and ways we can help commuting. Creating more roads sounds like limited solutions. Improving road conditions may dissuade people from using public transportation. With the current environmental state I don’t know if we can afford to have more cars on the road. Leaders should promote public transportation by advocating commuter benefits or making ordinances like San Francisco did. Thanks to the ordinance and Commuter Nation (www.commuternation.com) I’m saving money that I used to spend on monthly transportation costs.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Transit Volunteers Gear Up to Make Muni Better in 2016

|
Amazingly, it was only 2010 when a bunch of regular Muni riders, fed up with unreliable, dirty, and overcrowded trains and buses, got together to form the San Francisco Transit Riders Union (SFTRU). But it now has an impressive list of accomplishments and is striving for more, according to Andy Bosselman, a spokesman and volunteer. […]
STREETSBLOG USA

D.C. Metro Shutdown Should Be a Wakeup Call: Spend Smart on Transit

|
Today’s emergency 24-hour shutdown of the D.C. Metro system is a transit embarrassment of epic proportions. The shutdown follows an electrical fire in a subway tunnel Monday, and will allow for system-wide safety inspections. Metro has been under federal control following a smoke inhalation death caused by a similar problem last year. David Alpert at Greater Greater Washington wonders how the region’s […]

Advice for Policymakers: Time to Check Your Blind Spots

|
Last week, I left my Washington home, walked to the nearby Metro station, rode a train downtown, walked to the National Press Club, and settled in to hear Steven Rattner, former head of the Obama administration’s auto task force, declare that "no one has yet invented a substitute for the automobile." Steven Rattner (Photo: WSJ) […]