- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 30, 2012

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

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.

Who are we?

We aren’t who we think we are.

While out and about since Thanksgiving, the changes in our cultural dynamics became stark.

The Pentagon City mall in Arlington and the Mall in Prince George’s were both chock-full of people of color, many of them from other lands.

The Mall in Washington continues to draw thousands of American-born visitors, but it also was a huge hit with cluster upon cluster of Asian tourists.

Much of the chatter at bars, food courts and beauty shops, and on the screens on handheld devices was soap operas.

But it wasn’t the soap operas of old, the ones heard on the radio or reflected in the days of our 20th-century lives.

Those shows have been replaced with real-life dramas with titles like “Housewives,” “Mob Wives” and “Basketball Wives” and starring vain women acting out the very definitions of misogyny in 60 minutes or less.

Also, frighteningly, newspapers, magazines and books are seemingly going the way of the stone tablets (like the ones Charlton Heston embraced in “The Ten Commandments”) and being replaced with electronic tablets.

If these facts and observations are America’s new “we,” then our immigration system isn’t “broken,” as President Obama said Sunday, and a push for comprehensive reform needn’t be a major concern of his second term.

But “we” clearly need to be more heavy-handed about reality TV when the website anhoward.wordpress.com/the-effect-reality-tv-is-having-on-us-shocking-statistics/ cites the fact that eating disorders in girls 13 to 19 years old have nearly tripled since reality TV began its boom in 2000.

Deborah Simmons can be reached at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.