wasting bandwidth since 1999

Tag: transportation

Constructing a Bigger Mess

Here in the DC area we do a mediocre job of moving cars around… and a very crappy job of moving people.*

There are areas of the US where the situation is worse, but not many.

Anyway, in one section of the Northern Virginia county in which I live and work (Tyson’s Corner, which is a rather charming name to anyone who hasn’t visited the place), the efforts to improve both aspects of transportation in the area intersects in an ever worsening mess.

Metro Builder 1

The picture above shows the massive structure being used to build the above ground tracks for an extension of the Washington Metro subway system that will slice through the center of Tyson’s Corner.

Behind is a small part of one terminus intersection for a set of HOT lanes (aka Lexus Lanes) that will run around a relatively short stretch of our infamous Beltway.

Add to the mix the fact that the area is the 12th largest employment center in the US, the largest shopping center on the east coast lies in the middle of both projects (the picture was taken from one of their parking garages), and across the street is another smaller but still popular center, and you have our nightmare before, during, and after Christmas.

Over the past few months, I’ve had to drive through these two projects too many times and I can’t help thinking that, even when the construction is all finished, very little will improve.

Let’s face it, neither our “leaders” nor society in general is willing to make more than a token effort to reduce the use of cars and provide an efficient public transportation system.

*That analogy is not original but I don’t remember who gets the credit for it.

Hypocrisy Overload

Washington DC is commonly used as a metaphorical punching bag by a wide variety of critics, both in and out of politics, and that’s to be expected considering this is the national capital.

But once in a while there comes instances of massive hypocrisy spouted by critics that sound like something straight out of The Onion.

For example, this past Saturday a crowd of people (one much smaller than claimed by supporters) staged a protest on the mall in front of the Capitol.

Nothing unusual. The city gets dozens of manufactured events every year, and those of us who live in the DC area always know to check the papers to see what kind of mess they plan to make of travel in and out of the city.

This particular group was rallying against “big government”, “government spending”, “excessive taxation”, and an assortment of other whines that were in their script.

However, it seems one of their pet congress critters is unhappy with Metro, our local transportation system, saying they didn’t provide enough subway cars to get everyone to the demonstration on time.

A PUBLIC transportation system, paid for by an inadequate amount of TAXES, run by the GOVERNMENT didn’t live up to his high expectations.

Let’s face it, Metro is far from perfect, and the system has been deteriorating lately due to lack of support.

But overall they do a good job of not only transporting hundreds of thousands of locals every week but also millions of tourists who visit every year. And by all reports, ridership last Saturday was not much higher than most weekends this time of year.

So, if these people who hate government programs and their government-paid representative don’t like the public transportation system around here, and don’t like waiting on the platform like the rest of us, maybe they should either walk or take a cab.

Oh, yeah. That same fine representative, who is now demanding a GOVERNMENT investigation of Metro, thought that using private transit was a bad thing.

And then there’s another congress critter I ran across on some program who regurgitated what he called “the old line” about Washington being “100 square miles surrounded by reality”.

Obviously this clueless character has never made the very short trip from his cozy House chambers to Southeast DC. Or many parts of Northeast. Both well inside his 100 square miles.

Plenty of stark reality going on in those neighborhoods, reality that has NO representation in Congress and is largely ignored by most of the idiots like him working inside that irony-free zone of hypocrisy perched on Capitol Hill.

Paying To Avoid The Riff Raff

First came the system by which travelers could pay to speed through the security lines at airports. Now football fans can do the same at some NFL stadiums.

So, which other lines in the world would you pay to avoid?

Threat Level has some suggestions.

Are you a frequent McDonald’s eater frustrated by infrequent fast-food eaters who hold up the line by not knowing their Value Meal numbers?

A daily Whole Foods shopper who hates those who don’t know how much their ginger-squash soup is per pound?

A regular lottery player frustrated by noobs who dilly-dally over which scratch-off tickets to buy?

A coffee snob annoyed by people who order low-fat mocha freezes at Starbucks?

And the trend goes beyond airports and stadiums.

The Virginia DOT just started building pay-to-drive car pool lanes on two major highways in this area.

I wonder. Just how much do you have to earn to avoid doing anything at all with the common folks?

Probably somewhere north of Obama’s middle class and south of McCain’s.

Welcome… Just Don’t Drive

One of the interesting and challenging aspects of spending a week in London, or any big city, is getting around.

Despite an excellent public transportation system and charging most people for driving around the central city, the English capital didn’t seem any less congested than it did six years ago when we last visited.

But at least their people seem to accept efforts to try alternatives, not to mention that they support paying for infrastructure that does not use asphalt.

Which is a very different attitude from here in the US capital where any effort by the District government to reduce the traffic mess and make the city more livable is seen as a war on suburban workers.

City officials say that the moves are part of a policy of putting the needs of its residents and businesses before those of suburban commuters and that they are trying to create a walkable, bikeable, transit-oriented metropolis.

Like New York, London, Stockholm and Portland, Ore., District officials said, the city is reclaiming its streets for the people who live there. With billions of dollars invested in the Metro system, there are plenty of ways for commuters to get into the city without bringing exhaust-spewing vehicles with them, officials said.

Well, I’m not so sure about there being “plenty” of alternative ways to get in and out of the city.

However, considering almost everyone in this area assumes a God-given right to drive, and no one wants to pay a dime to improve things, anything DC leaders can do to discourage driving in the city is a step in the right direction.

Getting Around

I guess we’re not alone with the big increases in the cost of feeding our cars. And we’re certainly not at the top of the charts when it comes to gas prices.

But with prices surging past 1.40 euro a liter in France (about $8.20 a gallon)…

However, when it comes to conserving fuel and developing transportation alternatives, most European countries are already miles ahead of the US.

Highways are filled with fuel-efficient Smart cars and Minis, most cities have highly developed public transportation systems, and green-minded policies have spawned everything from special bicycle lanes to downtown congestion charges. Now the current surge in the price of oil has many Europeans asking how much leaner they can become.

Considering most American cities, the DC area has a pretty good public transportation system – IF you’re traveling to and from the federal district.

If you need to get between two places in the suburbs, which is my daily pattern, you’re pretty much out of luck.

As to imposing a congestion charge for driving in the district, can you imagine what would happen if the DC government proposed such a thing?

The energy produced by their Congressional nannies railing against it could power the city for years to come.

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