Gray fills out transportation policy, wants to 'get people out of automobiles'
The now-infamous streetcar reversal, besides raising questions about Vincent Gray's commitment to transparency and fiscal responsibility, also raised questions for many about his views on transportation.
Critics may say what they will about how Mayor Adrian Fenty gets things done, but his supporters say that under his watch, the city's been pretty darned innovative in finding new and better ways to move people around. And Gray has never assumed a high profile on transportation issues.
At Thursday's debate in Ward 3, the candidates were asked to hold forth on transportation -- and on streetcars in particular.
Gray's answer is one that should ease some concerns among the increasingly influential urbanist crowd: "I think that the only answer to the issue of gridlock is to get people out of automobiles in the first place."
He lauded the Circulator system, much expanded under Fenty's watch, as "increasingly becoming a part of our bus system" and as "a very inexpensive way to move around the city, especially in the downtown area."
But this comment might give some pause: "The answer is not increased parking fees," Gray told the crowd, foreclosing the possibility that higher parking fees might make better use of a scarce public resource (cf. The High Cost of Free Parking) and might help with his overarching goal -- getting people out of automobiles.
Fenty, following Gray, had plenty to talk about, starting with his record of pushing "smart growth," which he aptly summarized as such: "If you build up around Metro stations, less people need to rely on cars."
He moved on to talk about Circulators, bike lanes, bike sharing, car sharing, and, yes, streetcars, which he called "absolutely essential." There was but one exception to his multimodal cred: He boasted of his decision to kill studies that might have concluded that tearing down the Whitehurst Freeway was feasible -- an urbanist pipe dream.
Candidate Leo Alexander made it perfectly clear where he stood: "I'm not in favor of streetcars," he told the crowd, calling them a "want" in a city of needs and "luxuries ... for tourists and other businesses along those corridors." He springboarded from talk of trolleys to his stump speech on ending generational poverty, and never again mentioned any aspect of transportation policy.
Traci Hughes, Gray's campaign spokeswoman, says her candidate will issue a more complete transportation platform within a month.
June 7, 2010; 3:52 PM ET
Categories: Adrian Fenty , DCision 2010 , The District , Vincent Gray
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