A far-reaching plan cooked up by transportation officials in the District of Columbia aims to propel the nation’s capital into a position of undisputed leadership in the wondrous world of “sustainability.”
The District’s “Multimodal Long-Range Transportation Plan” sets goals for 2040 that “will make the city more livable, sustainable, prosperous, and attractive.” Throwing caution to the wind, the plan calls for toll lanes at major entry points into the city and other measures designed to keep automobiles off Washington’s major thoroughfares.
According to the Washington Post (June 4), the District Department of Transportation plan “is in line with goals outlined in Sustainable D.C., a city blueprint to make the District ‘the nation’s healthiest, greenest, and most livable’ city within 20 years. As part of that, Sustainable D.C. would like to see 75% of D.C. commutes made via transit, bike, or walking.”
D.C. planners estimate that 28% more people will be living in the District in 2040 and that the number of jobs in the nation’s capital will grow by 200,000 over the same time period, a 40% increase. To meet this challenge, D.C. transportation planners want to add:
- 70 miles of high-capacity transit (streetcar or bus)
- 200 miles of on-street bicycle facilities or trails
- Sidewalks on at least one side of every street
- New street connections
- Road management pricing in key corridors and the Central Employment Area
- A new downtown Metrorail loop
- Expanded commuter rail
- Water taxis
Tilting the playing field
Washington is already well on its way to becoming a bastion of transportation sustainability. In recent years, the city has built more than 50 miles of bike lanes, making it the sixth most-bike-friendly municipality in the U.S., according to the sustainability website www.walkscore.com. By expanding bike lanes and adopting policies that favor transit, the city is tilting the playing field – in this case, D.C.’s streets – against the automobile.
This suits Cheryl Cort, policy director at the Coalition for Smarter Growth, just fine. “It doesn’t really benefit anybody to have corridors completely congested with a bunch of cars stuck in traffic,” she told the Post. AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman John Townsend put his finger on the crux of the issue by telling the Post: “The whole plan is done at the expense of the motorists. If you have to choose winners and losers, everybody wins, but only one person loses – the motorist.”
D.C.’s transportation officials put the cost of the plan at $54 billion in 2014 dollars. They claim to have “committed revenues” of $21 billion, leaving them with a shortfall of $33 billion. Large-scale transportation projects are notorious for running over budget, as Boston’s “Big Dig” and Washington Metro’s much-delayed Silver Line attest. As time goes by, the revenue shortfall will likely grow larger, and the city’s transportation “plantocracy” will be sorely tempted to go after motorists in other ways in order to raise funds to pay for their grandiose scheme.