Let me just make one more point concerning Metro and its funding shortage. Currently, the plan seems to be to hike fares and reduce service. This will seriously degrade the rider experience on and the utility of Metro. Since it will encourage current riders to start driving, it will also degrade the experience on roads. Given that the movement of people and goods into, around, and through a metropolitan area is of critical economic importance, this seems extremely stupid to me. Better to pay to keep service up in order to support the local economy. Find the revenues elsewhere.
But as it happens, these cutbacks are particularly dumb given the nature of recent growth in the core of the Washington area. From 2008 to 2009, Arlington, Alexandria, and the District added just over 22,000 people. This growth — new taxpayers! — overwhelmingly took place around Metro and in transit-oriented developments. Thousands of new housing units have been built, or are under construction, or are close to breaking ground around the U Street, Columbia Heights, and Petworth Metro stations. At the New York Avenue infill Metro station, the District has seen construction of new office and residential space continue through the recession, and another big new residential project will break ground in April. One station north, the Rhode Island Avenue station parking lot is about to be transformed into a walkable redevelopment. Find a District Metro station, and you’ll find construction plans, which mean new jobs, new tax revenues, and new residents.
The story is the same in Arlington, where new projects are going up along the Orange Line corridor, which has absorbed much of the county’s population growth — growth in the municipality’s tax base — over the past decade. And in Alexandria, a private developer is seeking approval to build three towers — 1.3 million square feet of residential space — adjacent to the Eisenhower Avenue Metro station.
Metro provides the infrastructure along which the core’s walkable developments are built, and those developments have driven local growth and helped central neighborhoods to thrive. It is incredibly foolish to treat that engine of growth so poorly.