Commuting Challenges Ahead
Three items in Sunday's Post showed why my mailbag is likely to remained jammed with letters from angry and frustrated commuters, no matter how they travel to and from work. See how these traffic and transit issues fit together to create a challenge that will be impossible for the region to dodge.
-- Tens of thousands of military jobs will shift from one part of the region to others in the next few years. The employees will either move closer to the new job sites, or not. Whatever their decisions, they'll wind up having an impact on a transportation system unprepared to accommodate them. Key choke points will be Fort Belvoir, Fort Meade and Bethesda. Only one, Bethesda, has good transit access. But even there, the main roads will be overwhelmed with traffic long before major new roadwork can ease the congestion.
Steve Vogel wrote:
Fairfax County officials estimate that up to $1.5 billion in transportation improvements are needed at Fort Belvoir, including finishing the Fairfax County Parkway connector. In Maryland, transportation officials say $300 million is needed to rebuild a five-mile stretch of Route 175 by Fort Meade, among other projects. Montgomery County officials are pressing the state for more than $70 million in projects to widen Wisconsin Avenue and improve other roads to accommodate a doubling in visitors to the Bethesda hospital. (See the full story here.)
-- Metro's fares go up next month, beginning a new test of riders' patience and Metro's commitment to improve service. In 2008, we'll see more trains and buses. But Metro's leaders made it real clear that the purpose of the fare and fee increases was not to add service but to avoid cuts. Still, the Metro board members acknowledged that the customers who will be paying more expect more in return.
Will many of the long distance Metro commuters decide they might as well drive? Metro doubts it, but nobody knows for sure. This will be a test like no other.
Lena H. Sun wrote:
In a bluntly worded address to 60 senior managers 10 days ago, [Metro General Manager John B.] Catoe said the level of customer dissatisfaction was unacceptable. The agency's image is not helped, he said, when riders don't receive courteous responses or when they see employees talking in groups at station platforms. (See the full story here.)
-- A Post editorial described the fare and fee increases as inevitable, while supporting Metro's plan to make future hikes more regular and gradual. But it went on to spotlight the even more expensive problem looming in the transit system's future.
The editorial said:
The more important and tougher problem for Metro, and by extension for the nation's capital, is how it will pay to expand, renew and maintain the system. That, and not the predictable squabbles over annual budgets and fares, is the $3 billion question. (See the full editorial here.)
While the impact of the fare and fee increases is hardly small potatoes, it's worth noting that they have no impact on the larger problem of creating a transit system that's going to ease pressure on the region's road network during the next few decades.
[Join me at 1 p.m. today for an online discussion in which we can exchange views on these and other local transportation issues. Here's a link that will allow you to submit questions and comments in advance.]
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