So here’s a fun fact, courtesy of a recent blog post from Metro: Eighty-six percent of new office construction in the Washington region is occurring within one-quarter mile of a Metrorail station.
If you expand the distance to what might be a reasonable walk, fully 93 percent of new offices are close to Metro.
The market has spoken. We want to work — and live — near transit. And the smart money is betting that we will continue to want that proximity, because that’s why developers are gobbling up properties near stations. They expect a good return on their investments.
In other words, Metro is making a lot of people happy.
Except it isn’t. As more people become utterly dependent on rail lines and buses, riders are becoming more acutely aware of the system’s shortcomings.
The other day my son’s friend had a chance at a career opportunity of a lifetime but an electrical malfunction forced him off his train and he had to, literally, run three miles to make his engagement. That’s not exactly the best way to make an impression. I hear stories like this all the time.
Which makes me wonder why the agency is struggling to win support for a funding plan to serve not just today’s demands, but the crowds everyone knows are coming.
If so much of the growth is tied to transit shouldn’t we invest more in the underlying asset?
Of course, that is a rhetorical question. I, kinda, know the answer. Some argue Metro can’t be trusted with more money, given the way it has managed resources in the past. Others say times are tough, we can’t ask people to pay more. Still others say the funding needs to be a partnership between the localities, states and the federal government, and lately they can’t all agree. Consensus is just too hard.
Perhaps a change in approach is needed. We need to come up with incentives to get people off their plastic transit seats. You want to build a big office tower over a station? It’s going to cost you. Believe me, development caps would have property owners racing over to city hall knocking on doors and filling campaign coffers, pushing for a resolution. Too heavy handed? How about a demonstration project: Lets provide Cadillac service on one portion of the system. A cushy seat for everyone, an attendant in every car and air conditioning that works. It wouldn’t take long for riders elsewhere to clamor: Me too!
The solution to this problem isn’t some magical funding formula.
It’s reminding people what’s in their best interest.