Tomorrow, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority board will make some key decisions that could shape the future of transit and planning in the Washington region: Should the agency lead the way in conceiving the future of travel, or just take a back seat to disparate and disconnected local planning?
The board should choose to make their agency a leader, letting it set out a vision for the next generation of transit projects, one that interconnects the regional investments in transportation and gives riders something to advocate for.
In the 1960s and 1970s, WMATA and its forebears were setting the agenda. They studied regional travel and growth patterns and devised a comprehensive regional system that became Metrorail. WMATA spans three “states” with numerous counties and cities. Rail lines in each jurisdiction don’t only serve the immediate residents, but those traveling to and through each area as well.
More recently, WMATA has moved into the role of just operating their existing rail system, plus the buses and paratransit that were later added. Local jurisdictions lead the way for any expansions. The Silver Line was a Virginia initiative, paid for by the state and federal government. Rep. Gerry Connolly is pushing for planning for Yellow, Blue and/or Orange extensions to Prince William.
Non-heavy rail projects are also planned and potentially built by each jurisdiction. Maryland has the Purple Line, Corridor Cities Transitway, Montgomery BRT, and maybe rail or bus to Waldorf. Virginia has the Columbia Pike Streetcar and the Crystal City-Potomac Yard transitway (and few transit projects farther out, thanks to a lack of vision from state officials). Meanwhile, D.C. has its streetcar system which doesn’t plan to connect to Maryland even though many of the lines once did just that.
Many of these projects are excellent and may be just the right mode for their respective corridors. But do we really want to spend the next 30, 50 or 100 years building piecemeal rail lines and busways that don’t really harmonize? Wouldn’t it be better to have a regional plan that accommodates the various needs, desires and circumstances of each jurisdiction but also looks at the regional benefits of each and tries to interconnect them?
[Continue reading David Alpert’s post at Greater Greater Washington.]
David Alpert is founder and editor of Greater Greater Washington. 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.