Regarding the defeat of the Northern Virginia transportation referendum [Metro, Nov. 6]:

When I moved here from the West Coast, I was appalled at the level and variety of taxes. In California, property tax assessments can increase by only 2 percent per year; the tax assessment on our Arlington home has increased 37 percent in the past two years.

We have taxes in Virginia that other states may have never even thought of. When I was growing up in Washington state, we had no income tax, no personal property tax and no highway tolls (other than toll booths on Seattle's floating bridge, which were removed when the construction bonds were paid off). Yet despite Washington state's lesser tax burden, it is widely recognized that Seattle could have built light or heavy rail years ago, had the political will existed.

The same is true here.

This region should learn a larger lesson from Seattle: the importance of aesthetic surroundings on the population's mental health and well being. I would rather have fewer roads and McMansions on formerly beautiful farmland and historic sites.

et's bring the density back toward the city, where we have good public transportation in place. For example, my wife and I chose to live in a small, older home in Arlington instead of a starter mansion in Haymarket.

When people see "America the Beautiful" bulldozed and defaced with poorly built clone homes, they feel that something precious has died and that our supposed leaders were complicit in the crime.

Shaking us down for more money was the final insult.

SCOTT M. BARDEN

Arlington

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Northern Virginia, where I used to live and which I sometimes visit, had a chance to make some progress in straightening out the quagmire that passes for its transportation system, but it dropped the ball by voting down a half-penny addition to what is already one of the lowest sales taxes in the nation.

Practically every independent study ranks the commonwealth's tax burden in the bottom five of the 50 states, while its overall personal wealth ranks in the top 10. Yet people expect high-quality services. Where do they expect they're going to come from, the Easter Bunny?

Virginia Railway Express is a joke, Metrorail is overpriced and requires a degree in molecular physics to figure out the fare structure, and, what's more, neither service runs all that deep into the night. Highways and surface streets are as clogged and as congested as ever.

The argument that the tax would spur additional growth is ludicrous: People and commerce are going to continue to creep farther out, tax or no tax. And once they get there, taxes will have to go up to pay for schools, police officers, fire stations, etc.

Before people start asking their leaders what alternatives they have in mind to resolve Northern Virginia's transportation problems, they should take a good, hard look in the mirror.

MIKE SAELENS

Chicago

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I hope that the politicians in Virginia don't think that the defeat of the sales tax increase means that Northern Virginians don't want the transportation mess fixed.

I voted against the proposal because the state has the same responsibility to Northern Virginia as it does to the rest of the state. The state needs to fix this mess with the resources that it already collects from all Virginians.

CHRISTOPHER BANNON

Arlington

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The Northern Virginia tax referendum promoted highway projects that would not fix the traffic bottlenecks that area motorists know all too well. Furthermore, it included a wildly expensive proposal to extend Metrorail to Dulles International Airport.

Where were the traffic solutions for the Capital Beltway, Interstate 66 and the American Legion Bridge? None was proposed.

Mass transit now captures less than 3 percent of new demand nationwide. Allocating 40 percent of new money to transit would have been a guaranteed misuse of resources. Heavy rail in the suburbs has proven expensive and inflexible.

Among the 28 proposed rail systems evaluated for federal funding by the Federal Transit Administration in 1999, 27 were so costly that it would be less expensive for each new commuter to lease an economy car. The Dulles rail plan stands in a class by itself: It would be cheaper to lease a Rolls-Royce.

It's time to implement innovative yet proven techniques such as bus rapid transit, expanded HOV lanes, toll pricing for single drivers in HOV lanes, integrated slug lines, and feeder bus modernization with real-time information signs visible from the highway. Our highway and transit network operates at less than 25 percent capacity. Expansion is needed, but only selectively.

By making better use of what we already have, we can dramatically lessen congestion -- without a tax increase.

CHRISTOPHER W. WALKER

Middleburg

The writer is founder of Landowners Opposing Wasteful Expenditures on Rail, a citizen advocacy group.