Metro officials have a pretty good idea what they’re up against in trying to gather support for such goodies. Like Ralphie in “A Christmas Story,” they’re trying to build momentum.
They’ve even written a theme, titled “Momentum,” to build the kind of support among decision-makers that Ralphie longed for. But unlike Ralphie, who focused solely on obtaining a Red Ryder BB gun, Metro planners are dreaming of merry seasons more than a decade away.
That’s wise. They have many more opinion leaders to persuade than Ralphie did. And Santa doesn’t have this kind of money.
Besides, the projects on Metro’s list aren’t exactly shovel-ready. Many will be very difficult to build and finance. So transit officials hope to goad the region’s leaders into motion by starting what’s likely to be a protracted conversation about the capital’s mid-century transit system.
Metro officials’ look-ahead effort doesn’t begin from a dead stop. But you can’t blame them for being anxious to advance the discussion about transit needs. Consider this rather discouraging list of 21st-century ideas, drawn from Washington Post news reports:
●“Metro must build a new subway line through the heart of downtown Washington by 2015 to avoid gridlock on its rail system and serve the region’s voracious appetite for more transit service, engineers told the agency’s directors yesterday.” — May 4, 2001
●“District officials are exploring a way to isolate buses from the rest of the traffic on K Street NW, allowing them to travel the middle of the downtown’s major east-west corridor at a fast clip.” — Aug. 20, 2002
●“Metro is considering rerouting some Blue Line trains between Virginia and the District during weekday rush periods by having them cross the Potomac River on the Yellow Line bridge near the Pentagon.” — Feb. 12, 2008
That last one actually happened. But it took more than four years to rearrange the trains. Metro calls it Rush Plus. Meanwhile, there’s no rapid bus line on K Street or anywhere else, and Metro riders won’t be traveling through a new tunnel by 2015.
It’s not just about finding money and buying things. Part of the Momentum program involves Metro kicking itself to do things, and part involves pushing the region’s business, political and civic leaders — the same groups that got the transit system first built — to think about what they want done next and how it will all fit together.
Metro board members commented favorably on the draft of Momentum when it was presented to them last month. Board member Mary H. Hynes said she saw it as “a place to begin the really hard conversation that needs to happen in the region.”
Shyam Kannan, the director of Metro’s planning office, estimated it would cost $6 billion in 2012 dollars to increase the capacity of the existing system and improve the effectiveness of the rail and bus networks by 2025.