Now that we’ve passed into 2013, there are some resolutions I’ll offer up for the D.C. area that will improve everyone’s lives. I’ll list these in no particular order.
1. End the irrational, over-the-top and constant complaining about Metro. Is it a system with a lot of problems? Most definitely. But, as I’ve said before, 24-hour, clean, cheap and safe public transportation is, unfortunately, not an inalienable right.
Metro has communication issues to work out, and worker attitudes and a safety culture to work on, but the griping that is ever-present on social networks, Twitter and among the bloggerati doesn’t make sense.
According to a poll last year by Walk Score, the D.C. area scored a 69 (out of 100) in the company’s rankings of public access transit in 25 of the largest U.S. cities. Washington ranked fourth in the United States; ahead of it were Boston, San Francisco and New York City. Of those three cities, only New York has higher yearly ridership.
More importantly, the rankings included transit scores. At No. 1, New York got an 81. According to Walk Score’s scale, a ranking of 70 to 89 qualifies as “excellent.” It determines score of 90 to 100 to be “world-class public transportation.”
Meaning, according to Walk Score’s list, there is no world-class public transportation in this country. Does that mean Metro has a right to be sloppy? No. But it does offer some perspective when it comes to how poorly the system is viewed.
We all want Metro to be a better system. The way that’s going to happen is through dedicated funding to rebuild the capital needs of the system and, yes, more fare hikes. And there have been and will be extremely rough patches along the way.
2. Make public health a visible priority in the city, specifically concerning the HIV/AIDS rate. Do you even know who the current head of the Department of Health is? Do you have any idea who’s on the Mayor’s Commission on HIV/AIDS? Unlikely.
I’ll fill you in: The current interim director of D.C.’s DOH is Saul Levin. The commission consists of more than 20 members who work in public and private sectors.
And while the infection numbers have been dropping overall (according to the department’s annual epidemiology report in 2012), among certain demographics, they are getting worse.
In June, The Washington Post’s Lena H. Sun reported that “the HIV infection rate for heterosexual African American women in the District’s poorest neighborhoods nearly doubled in two years, from 6.3 percent to 12.1 percent.”
We are still at epidemic levels of infection in this city. The people responsible for trying to implement change should be as visible as any other city officials. Whom can people look to as a symbol for access to healthy lifestyles and practices in the District? Everyone knows who Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier is. Many of us are familiar with D.C. Taxicab Commission Chairman Ron Linton.
There’s no reason our health officials shouldn’t be equally well-known, getting their message out on a regular basis to teach people that public health is not just a personal choice. It affects everyone.
3. Get D.C. United a stadium in the city. There have been discussions upon discussions about the feasibility of such a project over the past decade. All the while, the soccer team has turned from a beacon of the league to a proud franchise operating in a dinosaur of a facility.
The most recent talks include a plan to build a facility at Buzzard Point, where Pepco’s generation and substation facilities are housed, in Southwest. And though it’s not just a matter of the utility turning over the land to the city for the team’s use, that company could use a little public goodwill. Polling has showed that it’s one of the least-liked companies in the area, and fairly or not, it gets a lot of blame for pretty much anything power-related.
I’ve got an idea. Pepco turns over the land to the city, which then negotiates with development firm Akridge and Mark Ein to get a stadium deal done. Build the pitch, which could serve a lot more than just a couple of dozen pro soccer games a year, and have Pepco kick in the funds for a sponsorship naming deal. Call it the Pepco Pitch. Everybody wins. As long as the lights don’t go out.
Let’s hope this calendar year brings us the necessary steps forward we need to make life better, no matter whom we blame for that not already being the case. And make sure to e-mail me your suggestions and resolutions for the new year at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Yates is a columnist for The RootDC.