Multiple Changes Needed

To Curb Gang Activity

One of the unfortunate realities of public life is that when you get interviewed by the media, you also get edited by the media. As a sidebar, I recently mentioned to a reporter that among the tools that our police may want to have, to deal with threats in the community, is some limitation on the sale of machetes. That was only after I went through a detailed description of other things, including getting the federal government to acknowledge that ignoring its responsibilities on immigration control is leaving the problem to play out on our streets. All the media chose to share was the sidebar.

In March, my office received a written complaint about overcrowding, suspicious car activity and other unusual activity at 6807 Lynbrook Dr. My staff forwarded the complaint to the Franconia district police and to our county zoning enforcement office. Zoning enforcement reported back on May 5 that its team inspection on May 4 found no violations, only a nice family. (This was one of the first team inspections to take place since I requested such inspections on April 4 during a Board of Supervisors meeting.) The police also reported that they had found nothing suspicious.

On June 3, The Post ran a Metro story, "MS-13 Suspected in Attack; Youths With Machetes Wound Teenager in Springfield," about possible MS-13 gang activity by one or more residents at 6807 Lynbrook Dr. Police had searched the house the day before, following a machete attack on Augusta Drive on May 29. A teenager, who a witness said was living at the house, was later arrested in the attack.

Members of the Lynbrook community watched the police activity unfold over a number of hours, frequently calling my office to ask what was going on.

This is disturbing on a number of levels:

How did we miss signs of trouble at this address in both our zoning team and police investigations?

Does this not add a new dimension to the overcrowding and multifamily issue? Could these properties be hiding gang members and gang activities under our very noses? Not only is this a concern to neighbors, and a destabilizing neighborhood influence, but it could pose a real risk to the men and women we send out to inspect the properties.

I'll acknowledge that this is not a simple problem with simple solutions. However, it brings home that we are an urban area, and we need to establish inspection and police protocols that reflect our urban character -- not a nostalgic throwback to the Fairfax County of 1953.

First, we need more direct communication between our police and zoning staffs so people know what they may be walking into -- to the extent the information can legally be shared.

Second, our inspectors, be they zoning, health or other types of inspectors, should all be trained to recognize red flags that point to potential gang concerns.

Third, it's clear that our federal officials have chosen to largely ignore immigration issues, leaving us to deal with the fallout in our neighborhoods. Personally, I think proven gang membership -- linked to illegal immigrant status -- should be grounds for a one-way ticket home. That's clearly understandable and would be a strong incentive to stay out of gangs.

Fourth, we must review the various county resources committed to the "Strengthening Neighborhoods, Building Communities" effort to ensure that those resources are focused on the real issues affecting our neighborhoods.

And finally, I again ask that staff prepare language for our 2006 legislative package that would make brandishing a machete a violation in the same way that brandishing a firearm is now a violation. Burning a cross in a yard to intimidate someone is against the law. Painting swastikas on property to intimidate someone is against the law. It should also be against the law for gang members to use four-foot knives to intimidate people in our neighborhoods.

T. Dana Kauffman (D)

Fairfax County supervisor

Lee District

Metro in Dulles Corridor

Would Benefit Many

Ken Reid continues to mislead about the benefits of rail in his letters to the editor on the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project ["Contradictions Continue in Views on Dulles Rail," Fairfax Extra, June 16]. After a lengthy analysis phase with numerous opportunities to comment on alternatives, the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project has moved into implementation, with preliminary engineering underway.

The Commonwealth Transportation Board, the state's policymaking transportation panel, approved an increase in tolls on the Dulles Toll Road by 25 cents at the main toll plaza and 25 cents at the ramps, except for the Route 28 ramp, where the toll has increased by 15 cents. For a daily commute, this amounts to an additional $1 a day for most people, with a maximum one-way toll of $1.25 for cars.

The board was quite explicit in approving the toll increase and said in its resolution that if sufficient funds were not available from other sources, a second toll increase would be considered in an amount similar to the increase that it approved for the first phase (up to an additional 50 cents). Mr. Reid was referring to one alternative considered in the draft environmental impact statement issued in 2002, which has been superseded by approval of the final environmental impact statement and by the board action in February.

The rail line would obviously have an impact on relieving congestion by providing additional capacity in a growing corridor. Growth would continue, and congestion would be a fact of life. But, as the Texas Transportation Institute's recent analysis shows, without the rail extension our region would be much more impacted by congestion. The 69 hours of delay per rush hour traveler a year would increase by another 28 hours. The cost of congestion in lost time and fuel would grow from $2.5 billion to $3.5 billion. Congestion can get worse.

The rail extension will offer thousands of residents and workers in the corridor an alternative to congestion -- the opportunity to travel stress-free on a high-quality transit mode linked to the regional Metro system.

As for costs, to operate bus rapid transit you need a dedicated right of way. The median of the Dulles Airport Access Road has been reserved for rail since the airport was built more than 40 years ago. It would be incredibly expensive to try to purchase right of way along the corridor and in Tysons Corner. There is no way that the West Falls Church bus transfer station could be reconstructed to handle the hundreds of buses per hour that would be needed to provide the same capacity as rail. Long ago, decision makers determined that they wanted a seamless rail connection to the regional system.

The estimates for ridership are looking more and more like under-projections. Since the projections were made based on regional models, the growth in the corridor has been revised upward twice. Plans to develop more housing in Loudoun only underscore the need for additional east-west capacity in the corridor. We think trips will be much higher than projected, particularly as growth continues.

It is possible to change the way people travel, with beneficial results on surrounding streets. We can get people out of their cars if we can encourage developers to build mixed-use projects near the rail stations. As has been shown elsewhere in the region, with transit-oriented development, more people would be able to walk and bike or take transit to work, reducing the impact on traffic growth.

Dulles rail would benefit property owners along the corridor, both businesses and residents, but it would also be of tremendous benefit to the community and region. It would provide the opportunity to remake Tysons Corner into a vital downtown for Fairfax County and provide attractive neighborhoods for the increasing number of citizens who want the active lifestyle that transit-oriented development can provide.

Dan Wright

Board member

Dulles Corridor Rail Association

More Reasons to Extend

Metrorail to Loudoun

Ken Reid just does not understand, nor does he accept, reality.

Fairfax Board Chairman Gerald E. Connolly (D) was correct when he said he did not like toll road rate increases. Ex-Gov. James S. Gilmore III (R) ruined the state budget, so public transit has been grossly underfunded by the state. State officials raised the tolls as the only way they had to meet their obligation. With adequate state transportation funds, the toll increase would not have been necessary.

The 10-to-1 ratio of investment for rail over bus is not comparable. The rail investment provides new capacity for 7,500 more passengers an hour in the rush-hour direction. The bus investment would provide nothing new except a dangerous station arrangement.

A similar rapid bus line south of Los Angeles attracted only 5 percent of the promised riders.

Dulles rail would cost less than bus and auto when all factors are considered. Existing Metrorail proves it. It costs only 33 cents per passenger-mile to move people on Metrorail, but 80 cents a mile on Metrobus. Capital investment is additional, but it requires less capital for Metrorail per passenger-trip than for a freeway in an expensive area. Capital investment is necessary to increase capacity. Property tax rates have gone down 40 percent with Metrorail.

Metro's labor costs are not inflated. They are no higher than other similar systems, bus or rail. Federal and state laws require Metro to arbitrate labor disputes.

Fairfax Connector buses pay lower wages that make them ineligible for federal aid. It makes for a high rate of employee turnover. Not good.

The great value of the Metro system is ignored by Reid. With 1.6 billion annual passenger-miles on Metrorail, that is a saving of $700 million annually compared with auto or bus travel. That huge saving fully justifies the $1.5 billion Metro Matters capital improvement funding plan.

Bus rapid transit to Dulles was fully studied. Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.) demanded the bus study before rail could be approved. That set rail back three years, adding $225 million to the cost. Don't blame rail for that. The public did not accept the bus alternative. Neither did the professionals.

I was once involved in funding express bus lines in Pittsburgh. They attracted only a third of what was promised. Light rail transit in the same area gained 50 percent at the same time.

Reid confuses alleviating highway congestion with alleviating congestion for people. With the explosive growth of jobs and Loudoun County, highway congestion will only get worse.

But with Dulles rail half the people seeking rush-hour travel in that corridor would be able to bypass it on the trains.

To most of us, that would help greatly. Reid and his allies just ignore it.

E.L. Tennyson

Vienna

The writer is a retired transit engineer.