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« Know Your Commute Options | Main | Car-Freedom: The Next Generation »

October 05, 2009

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BeyondDC

1. Vintage streetcar systems were mostly built by private developers, not government planners.

2. Planners absolutely did NOT miss the boat with Metro's design. Compare it to San Francisco's BART, which has the same mileage but is more focused on the suburbs. Metro has far higher ridership and is universally considered to be the better system. Suburban lines will only be convenient now that the core system is already in place.

3. The permanence of trains is exactly what makes them better than buses. Land owners know that if there are tracks in the ground, that train isn't going away, so it's safe to develop near it knowing that it will always be there. That's why Bethesda and Silver Spring and Arlington and downtown Washington have had so much development since Metro opened, while similar places in other cities without trains have languished. Trains guide where development happens.

4. Tysons Corner may have developed without Metro, but you may have noticed that the decision by planners to build Dulles Airport had something to do with Tysons' growth.

5. The great thing about streetcars, as opposed to Metro, is that they are so so so much less expensive, so we can afford to build a lot of them in a lot of places. Even if some externality causes development to happen somewhere it's not anticipated, a streetcar can be added relatively easily onto just about any existing street. As for costs, a new streetcar line costs about the same as a new high school. Any community that can build a high school can build a streetcar, in the same amount of time.

6. What's your alternative? We have 60 years of experience that tell us buses aren't as good as trains. We know without a sliver of doubt that buses don't influence land use the way trains do, and that large portions of the population simply won't ride a bus. Do you think we should eliminate transit and just build roads? How can you say you oppose central planning for relatively inexpensive streetcars that can be added to streets at any time, but not for much more massive and imposing highway or subway projects? If we shouldn't be planning streetcars, what *should* we be doing?

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