SIMMONS: Walkability, bicycle lanes no answer to gridlock

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While D.C. officials continue to press for voting rights in Congress, plans for a walkable city and bike lanes that increasingly make the city less and less friendly to drivers are rightly a look to the future for unclogged roads and enhanced mass-transit networks.

Between now and 2040, the region is projected to see a population growth of more than 1.3 million people, while the number of jobs is expected to grow by 37 percent.

Meanwhile, the region’s Transportation Planning Board also says travel models predict that commuter drive times will increase by 27 percent and that transit trips are expected to rise by 28 percent.

Those projections mean state and local leaders need to start planning right now.

The problem is, as things stand, each jurisdiction is thinking and planning in its own silo.

For example, the District could have been the leader on regional transportation issues when D.C. Council member Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat, served from 1999 to 2010 on Metro’s board and twice served as its chairman. Instead, he fought to hold down bus fares even as he pushed to expand local and federal funding, expand bus services and create streetcar service.

It’s that kind of thinking that has us mired in gridlock.

Regional officials issued yet another dire warning, too: Metro maintenance and rehabilitation programs are not funded past 2020.

While waiting to learn whether we are headed for a “fiscal cliff” or a “fiscal slope,” one thing is certain: D.C. officials need to learn how to walk and chew gum at the same.

Pushing for voting rights, making a city walkable and more friendly for bicyclists might be quaint urban trends, but such policies are out of sync with the real regional world, which includes commuters from Prince William and Loudoun counties in Virginia, and Frederick, Charles, Howard and Anne Arundel counties in Maryland coming into in the city while D.C. commuters move in the opposite directions.

Driving is the only way most of them can even pretend to have a family life.

Instead of voting rights, D.C. leaders should push for specific federal allotments in lieu of taxes to pay for transportation, public safety and public works, water and other services that are administered 24/7 to commuters, visitors and other nonresidents alike

To be sure, that’s a huge leap of faith as we enter the new year and a new D.C. Council is sworn in Wednesday, but now is the time for a fresh start.

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About the Author
Deborah Simmons

Deborah Simmons

Award-winning opinion writer Deborah Simmons is a senior correspondent who reports on City Hall and writes about education, culture, sports and family-related topics. Mrs. Simmons has worked at several newspapers, and since joining The Washington Times in 1985, has served as editorial-page editor and features editor and on the metro desk. She has taught copy editing at the University of ...

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