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Posted at 09:57 AM ET, 03/23/2011

Metro’s nonrenewable asset

This Monday turned out to be a bad morning to leave my bike in the garage. As I do on most unseasonable days, I looked to public transportation for a ride to work.

I wasn’t the only person who was having a rough morning. Stories of commuters who arrived to work an hour or more late were all too common. “Rosslyn” and “Ballston” trended on Twitter – surely a sign of helplessness and frustration by stranded commuters. Monday proved to be the kind of morning that makes people wonder if they wouldn’t be better off if Metro weren’t in their lives at all.

Yet, ask plenty of people from around the country, and they’ll honestly and confidently state that Washington has one of the best public transit systems in America. It’s quite a sad statement, when you stop and think about it.

A few months ago, when I was home for the holidays, I remarked to some friends that I was active in local groups whose goal is to make public transportation better throughout the region. One person replied, “Why? It’s not already good enough? Look what we’ve got here; it’s pathetic compared to what you have.”

Similarly, when I first moved to the D.C. area last summer, I wondered myself how Washingtonians could have such bitter contempt for Metro, when it’s so much better than what most cities have.

Washington is a city that has something pretty unusual -- a constituency that actually cares about making transit better. It’s a large group of people who aren’t just going to shrug their shoulders and say, “Oh, well, I’ll just drive instead.” As long as Metro is generally reliable, those advocates will be a huge asset to the region. But if large numbers of them start to lose confidence and drift away, things will really start to change.

Rob Pitingolo blogs at Extraordinary Observations. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.

By  |  09:57 AM ET, 03/23/2011

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