Weak discourse on "congestion" by Washington Post columnist
This of course is nothing new, but is still damnably frustrating. See "Washington area has a real chance to reduce traffic congestion."
I would argue the best investment the region can make in transportation is in sustainable mobility, not roads.
Robert McCartney, the columnist does acknowledge this, but the column is about what he sees as the four most important road projects for the area: widening of I-66; I-395; and I-495; and the creation of the Bi-County Parkway in Prince William and Loudoun Counties in Virginia (I'm surprised he didn't suggest widening the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and an Outer Beltway or at least another east-west crossing between Montgomery County Maryland and Northern Virginia), as well as paying for subway expansion.
His focus on roads comes because:
Today, with people driving less and development planned more intelligently, we have a shot at expanding road capacity without contributing to the problem.
I wrote about the reported reduction in commute times too ("Road building, induced demand, and tolls") and made a point that seems to have eluded the columnist.
The most recent additions to road miles are tolled. So maybe these roadway expansions are improving trip times but not "inducing" demand, because each trip on the roads costs money. I don't see freeway expansions without tolls as being capable of not inducing demand.
But there isn't enough data to conjecture very much about it, especially because the reported data that the Post is reporting is data only on automobile trip and for a short period of time.
That being said, the column misleads as does most reporting on congestion. Mostly, congestion is a suburban phenomenon. It's produced by a mobility paradigm that is automobile dependent.
Yes there are streets in DC that are congested--mostly the main commuter entry and exit arteries. Although some places here and there are choke points because of configuration and what we might call UTS--unintelligent transportation system--issues.
But for the most part, especially in the core, DC is not congested. To me it's proof that the Walking City urban design works and WMATA--for all its foibles--especially the subway system, works particularly well for the center city.
So that means that for many hours of each day, it's not that bad to get around, especially if you aren't doing it by car. (Go bike!)
For me the biggest DC transportation priority ought to be the expansion of subway service:
1. the so called separated blue line (now the Silver Line), which would add a Potomac River crossing, serve Georgetown, parallel downtown in part, add another line serving Union Station--absolutely necessary to support Amtrak's planned growth as well as local "commuter" railroad expansion, and depending on the routing, could serve other parts of the city in the northeast quadrant would be my biggest priority.
2. But considering the creation of a separated yellow line going up Georgia Avenue is high on my list too.
In either case, funding for this would likely come from allowing a height increase for buildings in the central business district. Otherwise the city probably doesn't have enough money to pay for it, and it's not like these days the Federal Government will step up and fund it.
For the suburbs it would be to:
3. Build the Purple Line light rail line between Bethesda and New Carrollton in Prince George's and Montgomery Counties.
(At the same time Prince George's County needs to reposition its planning and development paradigm toward transit proximity and connectivity (see "Another lesson that Prince George's County has a three to five year window to reposition based on visionary transportation planning " and "Frustration #3: the talk about transit oriented development and Prince George's County ".)
4. Merge MARC and VRE into one metropolitan area railroad passenger service, and plan for expansion of service and the creation of additional lines. (Although this will also help the center city and actually, DC should join in with Maryland and Virginia to support such a service.)
5. Begin expansion planning of the Purple Line on the southwest from New Carrollton to Alexandria Virginia (thereby serving National Harbor) and on the northwest from Bethesda to Fairfax County.
6. Think about routing a separated yellow line subway beyond DC into Montgomery County. New Hampshire Avenue would be the best routing for Montgomery County, but not for DC.
It could be possible for DC to pursue a separated yellow line up Georgia Avenue and then into MoCo, while a separate line could serve Montgomery County from White Oak and connect into the city at Fort Totten and follow the green line routing. (Additional stations along New Hampshire Avenue in DC doesn't accomplish for the city, with the exception of the possibility of a station serving part of the Armed Forces Retirement Home campus, if part of it got developed.)
I'd love to see a Washington Post columnist write about these issues.