- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 8, 2005

Extending Metrorail to Dulles makes sense

Virginia state Sen. Ken Cuccinelli II accused me of not laying out the “facts” to explain why, after years of study and public discussion, extending Metrorail was chosen as the method to improve transit service in the Dulles Corridor (“A fair debate about the Dulles rail project,” Letters, Aug. 30).

Rail was chosen because it is best able to:

• Serve a greater number of passengers per hour than buses. One fully loaded six-car Metro train can handle 720 people. At proposed six-minute headways, that’s 7,200 people per hour in each direction.

To carry the same number of people, fully loaded, 60-passenger buses would require 120 buses per hour, or a bus every 30 seconds. Aside from the logistics of unloading so many people at West Falls Church, each bus requires a driver, driving up payroll and health insurance costs, which represent over 70 percent of Metro’s budget. With eight-car trains coming online, a bus would be required every 22½ seconds to provide equivalent capacity.

• Recover its operating costs. Metro’s fiscal 2006 budget shows that it will spend $570 million to operate its rail system this year, taking in $370 million in fares (cost recovery: 65 percent).

Factor in advertising revenue ($50 million — assuming one-half of Metro’s advertising money comes from the rail system) and this rises to 73 percent. To operate its buses, Metro will spend $370 million, $100 million of that coming from fares (27 percent), or, with advertising money added, around 40 percent.

Since rail will be replacing bus service in the Dulles Corridor, why does Mr. Cuccinelli somehow think it’s misleading to differentiate between rail and bus costs? Or does he not want people to know how expensive running buses can be?

• Provide greater ridership and access to the region’s transit system. Current bus ridership in the Dulles Corridor is more than 15,000 per day and reaching capacity constraints. By providing a seamless connection to the region’s transit system we’ll be able to get more riders out of their cars and onto public transportation.

• Serve Tysons Corner. Because of traffic congestion, buses are not able to reliably serve Tysons Corner — the region’s largest employment concentration outside of downtown Washington. Anyone who has sat on Interstate 66 heading west in the morning knows exactly where the backup ends — when traffic peels off to head to Tysons Corner and the Dulles Corridor.

Bus service into Tysons Corner currently serves only a small share of its commuters and residents — under 10 percent. Express Metrobus service along the Beltway from Maryland, introduced several years ago to help commuters avoid the traffic-clogged Beltway, was discontinued a few years ago due to lack of riders.

The public knows the facts and clearly supports rail. It’s unfortunate the senator continues to ignore them.



Fairfax County Board of Supervisors


D.C. Medicaid

The Washington Times recently reported Medicaid’s adoption of quality performance measures for its managed care health plans (“Medicaid contracts to hinge on good health,” Metropolitan, Aug. 16). While the article is accurate, I wanted to offer further context to the story.

Medicaid’s quality assurance plan for its managed care organizations is a combination of health plan accreditation through the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) and the use of standardized health status reporting measures commonly known as HEDIS (Health Plan Employer Data and Information Set).

From this point forward, D.C. Medicaid will join several other states using a similar system to measure and report on the quality of the health-care services provided to its residents, and can then use this data in making decisions about purchasing of health care for our beneficiaries. Equally important, for the first time, D.C. Medicaid residents will be empowered to choose the best health plans for their unique health-care needs based on each health plan’s quality indicators.

With this consumer-driven power, D.C. Medicaid will now be able to answer the questions: What is the outcome of the services we are purchasing? Which health plan offers the best value?

This is a timely improvement of D.C. Medicaid’s program. This year has been a major milestone for D.C. Medicaid and Medicaid programs across the country. Medicaid was created 40 years ago out of the need for the United States to provide access to health-care services for our most vulnerable citizens.

Millions of Americans, including one in every four residents of the District of Columbia, have come to rely on Medicaid as their chief means to seek needed medical care.

Medicaid has achieved its goals and more. Still, we face significant challenges in the days ahead as Congress and federal policy-makers consider and debate possible cuts in federal funding for Medicaid programs across the country.

It has never been more important to our residents who rely on Medicaid that we efficiently manage this valuable asset and constantly seek to improve the quality of care for our beneficiaries.


Senior deputy director

Medical Assistance Administration

Department of Health


Sen. Specter’s evenhanded independence

Gary L. McDowell’s vitriolic criticism of Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Arlen Specter (“The Specter of extortion,” Op-Ed, Sept. 2) illustrates the polarization of opposing views on the jurisprudence of nominees who should be confirmed for the Supreme Court.

Mr. Specter does not give knee-jerk partisan reactions; he analyzes every issue and makes decisions based upon the facts. This has, in the past, opened him up to criticism from both the right, such as with his questioning of Judge Robert H. Bork, and the left when he saved Justice Clarence Thomas’ nomination to the Supreme Court through his questioning of Anita Hill.

It is true that Mr. Specter is looking for a balance of power on the separation of powers of Congress and the court. He correctly questions how the court can, on the consideration of identical congressional evidentiary hearings, invalidate Title I of the Americans With Disabilities Act on discrimination in employment in Garrett vs. Alabama (2001) and uphold Title II of the same act on discrimination in access to the courtroom in Lane vs. Tennessee.

Similarly, it is a fair inquiry for Mr. Specter to question the Supreme Court’s striking down portions of congressional legislation protecting women against violence when the legislation was supported by a detailed factual congressional record demonstrating the impact on interstate commerce.

The questions Mr. Specter submitted to Judge John G. Roberts Jr. concerning the Supreme Court’s pre-empting Congress’ well-substantiated factual findings under the Commerce Clause projected the same context where he questioned Clinton nominees Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer and Republican nominees William H. Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

Mr. McDowell did not challenge Mr. Specter’s spending nearly 30 minutes questioning Justice Ginsburg on whether she believed the court could second-guess Congress’ judgment on equal rights for women. No complaint was lodged that Mr. Specter was “bullying” or “extorting” when he asked Justice Ginsburg in several different circumstances, whether “it [was] the rule of the court’s to upset decisions of legislators based on the jurist’s own ideas about enlightened policy.”

Mr. Specter’s well-earned reputation for fairness and his credibility significantly aided Judge Roberts when NARAL Pro-Choice America pulled its scandalous television ad at Mr. Specter’s insistence, and when the Democrats failed to get traction on their repeated demands for Judge Roberts’ solicitor general records in the face of Mr. Specter’s analysis that they were protected by the “deliberative process privilege.”

Mr. McDowell and other extreme partisans may not like Mr. Specter’s independence, but his incisive, evenhanded questioning has won him national respect for integrity and has strengthened the confirmation process.


Communications director and

legal counsel

Sen. Arlen Specter


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