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:
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.