'Streetcars vs. homeless' is a false dilemma
Yesterday in this space, Tom Howarth said that streetcars are a luxury and that the city should focus its spending on social services, especially for the homeless.
Like we did during the Marion Barry administration. Those were glory years for the city's poor, right?
Maybe we should scrap WMATA and spend that money on social services, too.
Howarth doesn't seem to understand that infrastructure investments are economic development tools. Streetcars will lead to more jobs in the District, and more housing.
They will help struggling neighborhoods become healthy. They will increase the city's tax base, which will help secure the long-term financial viability of the social services that are so important. Healthier neighborhoods will mean fewer people need those services, and a larger tax base will mean we have more money to fund them for those who do remain in need.
The District has a better economy today, lower crime and fewer residents in need of social services than it did during the Barry administration precisely because leaders since Barry have invested in the city's economy in a way that helped to solve the long-term problem.
Spending on social services is important, but doing so attacks a symptom of the problem, not its root cause. The root cause is lack of economic opportunities, and the solution is economic development. Streetcars are an economic development machine.
It would be foolish to return to the failed Barry model of short-term thinking. We have to spend money to make money, and streetcars are one of the best ways the District can make money in the long term.
Dan Malouff is an Arlington County transportation planner who blogs independently at BeyondDC.com. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.
Posted by: WashingtonDame | June 11, 2010 10:00 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: krickey7 | June 11, 2010 10:39 AM | Report abuse
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