IF ALL THE known studies of Metro were laid
end to end, they would stretch the length of the Red Line without one memorable departure. Transportation policy-making in this region never has been all that it could be cooked up to be. But at least in the last week there have been encouraging calls for better coordination of all transportation services in the region. Both the Greater Washington Board of Trade and the Greater Washington Research Center are looking at separate reports they commissioned. There is one common conclusion: a regional agency--as opposed to a collection of people from around the region--would improve things.
There is well-founded concern that the Metro board is becoming paralyzed by its very structure, even though the membership is respectably "regional" in its makeup. The trouble is, members represent their local jurisdictions, not the entire metropolitan service area. Moreover, the board's authority does not extend beyond buses and subways to highway development, commuter trains, carpooling and other ingredients of a regional transportation system.
One reason, usually the first cited by certified naysayers, is that such a regional super-agency is politically unacceptable: no local government or constituency would agree to an oversight body with any serious authority. That may be so today. But as more people recognize the need to overcome local disputes over fare policies, state and local payments for transit services and other obligations to any regional system, the more likely it will be that some area-wide transit authority can be created to make these decisions.
That is why we continue to suggest that the governors of Maryland and Virginia and the mayor of the District begin this process by examining immediate as well as more difficult possibilities for consolidating authority on transportation matters--road as well as rail --throughout metropolitan Washington. They need not--and should not--wait around for yet another study to say the same things.