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Citizen Impact on Transportation Issues

In the past 24 hours, I've visited two groups of your fellow citizens who were working to make sure the Deciders in our transportation agencies hear what you think. It's a tricky business in which handfuls of people invest vast amounts of their time while the rewards remain unclear.

Last night, the Metro Riders Advisory Council held a session exploring how it could work with the new transit budget proposal to advance the interests of people who ride the trains and buses. Sounds like a pretty good idea, right? Three people showed up to offer their ideas to the council.

If they're going to have real clout with the Metro Board of Directors during the budget discussions over the next couple of months, the riders' council members need to hear your ideas.

This is a weird little period in which Metro has put its proposals to increase fares and cut services on hold while the new general manager, John Catoe, reviews Metro's spending. It's good that he's doing that, but it won't leave much time for the public to assert itself when he does come back to the board and present his own plan. The riders council will have to be ready to act on behalf of traveler interests.

This afternoon, the McLean Chamber of Commerce hosted a panel discussion about the prospects for putting the new Metro line through Tysons in a tunnel, rather than building an elevated track. The tunnel backers are one of the most organized and aggressive citizens groups I've seen get mobilized on a transportation issue in the Washington area.

Still, it's not clear what their prospects are. They need to get Gov. Tim Kaine to ask the Federal Transit Administration to review the tunnel plan, and the governor has been reluctant to do that, because congressmen and other local leaders have been advising him not to risk losing federal money for the project by bringing in this new element of a tunnel.

They need citizens to contact the governor's office and the office of Fairfax Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerry Connolly and the congressional delegation to plead for consideration of the tunnel proposal.

Many of the letters in my mailbag come from drivers and riders who are frustrated about travel conditions that have been done deals for years. Many of you have chances today to control at least a portion of your fate.

By Robert Thomson  |  March 1, 2007; 2:23 PM ET
Categories:  Transportation Politics  
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