Sunday, May 22, 2016

It's Past Time For A Baltimore-Washington Transit System

As all of us who live in the Maryland-Virginia-District of Columbia area know, the DC Metro system that serves the District and its suburban counties in two states has had a lot of physical problems, as might be expected of any 40-year old.  For someone like me, who remembers when the Metro was a very new-fangled thing (and when the concrete vaulting in the underground stations was cleaner and had fewer cracks), it's hard to believe that much time has passed.  In that time, the system has added new lines while expanding old ones.  In the process, it has fueled (pun intended) astonishing economic growth across the region it serves, helping to transform it into one of the wealthiest, if not the wealthiest, regions in the country.

That said, the system on which so many of us depend is in very serious physical trouble.  Stations, tracks, wires, and access/egress points all are badly in need of basic maintenance, the sort of maintenance this country used to routinely pride itself on as one of the things that made us the envy of the world.  But, as most of us know, we stopped taking pride in that many years ago, about the time that tax cuts for the rich became the latest political "in" craze.  And now, in a nation starved for funds just to keep its roads, bridges and tunnels in shape, the DC Metro system has become the poster child for our infrastructure neglect.

Sadly, this has happened just as a major public transit project, Baltimore's proposed Red Line, was systematically killed by a governor desperate to prove his willingness to cut spending, even if it meant throwing away a billion dollars of federal aid in the process.  Frankly, as someone who believes strongly in the environmental and economic desirability of mass transit, I have not been able to get over this unbelievable insult and injury to Maryland's largest city, at one time the sixth largest city in this country.  In part, that is because I cannot believe how little resistance there has been in response to Larry Hogan's Biggest Mistake; even the presumptive mayor-elect, Catherine Pugh, has signaled that she is not going to push back against this mistake.

And, as a consequence, I have found myself searching the Internet for some sign that maybe, just maybe, there were people like me who gave a damn about this issue.  And, in the course of that searching, I found this.

And, even though it was a map based on the now-dead Red Line, inspiration hit me.

No matter how much emphasis Congressional Republicans put on smarter management as the key to reversing the fortunes of the DC Metro, the reality is that the system will need more money.  Which means federal money, given the fact that Congress controls the budget of the District and almost everything on which it depends.

Why not maximize the impact of that money, and allocate enough to build a truly two-city mass transit system, like the one on the linked map?  Why not, as I suggested in a previous post on the Red Line, use dedicated publicly-controlled solar and wind powered resources to help fund such a system, so as to reduce the need for taxpayer dollars to fund such a project?  Why not create a transit system that would, in any case, generate more taxpayer dollars, by jump-starting the economy at both ends of the bi-city corridor?  And, speaking of that corridor, why not recognize it for what it is:  an economic entity on a scale with the New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago metropolitan areas?  Why shouldn't it have a subway system to match?

And why shouldn't we all get behind it?  Right now, when both cities are filled with people starved for access to work?  Let's give them that access.  Let's give them that future.  Let's give all of us a 21st-century mass transit system, or even a late-20th-century system.

And let's get started today.  Before another unnecessary accident happens on the DC Metro.  And before another politician tries to use that accident to further sabotage civilization.

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