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New Study Demolishes Anti-Streetcar Arguments; Project Benefits Means It More than Pays for Itself

by: lowkell

Thu Mar 27, 2014 at 08:23:48 AM EDT

Great, albeit not surprising, news.
A Columbia Pike streetcar would spur $3.2 billion to $4.4 billion in development over the next 30 years in Arlington and Fairfax counties, triple the amount that would be triggered by improving bus transit, according to a consultant's study released Wednesday.

The report by HR&A Advisors said the benefits of building a streetcar line between Bailey's Crossroads and Pentagon City would far exceed the expected $310 million cost of the project - boosting property values, new construction and tax revenue.

Development encouraged by the streetcar project would result in as many as 6,600 new jobs...

If you're interested, I strongly recommend that you check out the study for yourself. Also, I've taken a few screen shots of highlights, which you can see below. The bottom lines are:

1. The economic benefits to Arlington and Fairfax Counties that would come from investing in a streetcar system rather than enhanced bus service are enormous. It's not even close. Heck, it's not even CLOSE to being close. Which really calls into question what the anti-streetcar folks - including Republican and anti-streetcar County Board candidate John Vihstadt - have been yammering about the past few months. It's never made any sense to me, and after this study, I am 100% certain that the anti-streetcar folks' arguments are just dead wrong.

2. Because of its enormous return on investment, the streetcar MORE THAN PAYS FOR ITSELF! Assuming a 3% discount rate, for instance, the streetcar brings in $895 million in additional tax revenues over 30 years, nearly THREE TIMES the $310 million cost of building the streetcar system. Enhanced bus service brings in far, far less tax revenue, in large part because it spurs far, far less economic development. The streetcar also carries more passengers than enhanced bus service. In short, there are NO economic or tax revenue advantages to enhanced bus service over a streetcar system along Columbia Pike. Z-E-R-O. Case closed. Build the darn streetcar already and let's start enjoying the (massive) benefits that will flow from it!

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I'm Dreamin' of a White Prius

by: TBill

Thu Dec 12, 2013 at 12:30:12 PM EST

On a snowy winter day in Virginia, a new holiday tune has been written.  I hesitate to share this, but perhaps it will "resonate" with someone:

  The Virginia Car Tax Blues (White Prius)

  I'm dreamin' of a white Prius...
  with every car tax check I write.
  Where the hybrids pay more, and big cars pay less,
  To use, Virginia's bumpy roads.
  I'm dreamin' of a new Prius...
  but I don't think it makes sense here.
  Low de-pre-ci-a-tion, high val-u-a-tion,
  You pay, more car tax every year.
  Now thinkin' of a used Chevy...
  just like the one Gramps used to drive.
  If you think that's crazy, you're right!
  But may all your White.
The lyrics were written a few days ago when two Virginia grandfathers, who do not know each other, were nonetheless commiserating on an on-line forum about Virginia's new hybrid fees.  As it turns out, we both own white Prii (whereas Prii is the official plural form of Prius).  Hey elected officials: when grandfathers have to unite to write protest songs, perhaps there is a problem.   


Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Combating Revisionist History on Bob McDonnell and the Transportation Bill

by: lowkell

Thu Dec 12, 2013 at 11:47:56 AM EST

Among the many other absurd claims made by Bob McDonnell and his supporters to try and burnish his supposed "accomplishments" as governor of Virginia the past 4 years, perhaps the most absurd is how great he was on "fixing" transportation in Virginia. That's wrong on so many levels, it's hard to know where to begin. Let's just review this history a bit, before the revisionism gets etched in stone.

1. See my 9/26/09 blog post, which summarizes a Washington Post editorial (entitled "Drunk Driving"), blasting then-candidate Bob McDonnell's transportation "plan" as "yield[ing] only disappointment." Why is that? Well, perhaps because it "relies on wildly optimistic assumptions, brazen exaggerations, gauzy projections and far-off scenarios: budget surpluses and revenue growth that may not materialize; interstate tolls that the federal government may not approve; royalties from offshore oil and gas wells that may not be drilled; borrowing that the state may not be able to afford anytime soon." As if that's not bad enough, the Post adds that the $500 million McDonnell promises he'd raise from selling off Virginia's liquor stores is nothing but an "invented" number or, "worse, an intentional distortion." The bottom line, in the Post's (and my) view, is that McDonnell's 2009 transportation "plan" - using the word very loosely - "crumbles under close scrutiny." #FAIL

2. After being elected governor, McDonnell didn't do much about transportation. In January 2010, for instance, McDonnell said "he will not propose a fix during this year's legislative session." As Sen. Chap Petersen put it at the time, "McDonnell campaigned on the idea that he had a plan -- that he beat up Creigh for not having a plan -- so I'm very surprised not to see legislation to enact that plan during this session." Yep.

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Tom "all it does is produce Democrats" Davis Raises Money to Fight Columbia Pike Streetcar

by: lowkell

Fri Nov 15, 2013 at 11:57:08 AM EST

This Sunday, a group called Arlingtonians for Sensible Transit (AST) is holding a fundraiser with former Rep. Tom Davis (R) and Arlington County Board member Libby Garvey (D). The #1 goal of AST is to stop a proposed streetcar project along Columbia Pike (supported overwhelmingly, and for many years, by both the Arlington and Fairfax County Boards), and to replace it with a mythical "Bus Rapid Transit" (BRT) system (I say "mythical" because you can't have BRT without dedicated lanes, and that's not possible on Columbia Pike).

Anyway, my question for today isn't about AST or about the merits of the streetcar project (which I strongly support, by the way), but about former Rep. Tom Davis (R). The last we heard from Davis, he was making the case for the Republican "extreme team" ticket (Cuccinelli/Jackson/Obenshain) and how they could win the election on November 5. Uh, guess not - ha. Now, Davis is busy raising money to fight a streetcar in Arlington? Why?

I don't know, but perhaps this 2005 Washington Post article might provide some clues regarding Davis' attitudes towards smart growth?

[Rep. Tom Davis] says he's deeply concerned that at the Vienna station, "smart growth" -- the slogan of those who favor building more densely around transit stations to funnel population growth there rather than letting it seep deeper into the countryside -- is really dumb growth, overly congesting both roads and rails.


Three Fairfax elected officials told me that Davis explained his opposition to the MetroWest development to them as a matter of party politics: The congressman believes that the people most likely to move into condos and townhouses near a Metro station are -- oh, the horror! -- Democrats.

One politician who spoke to Davis says the congressman told him straight-out that he opposes Pulte Homes' MetroWest project because "all it does is produce Democrats."

Of course, this doesn't explain why Davis would care about a smart growth project like the Columbia Pike streetcar, given that it's not in his (former) district. Perhaps it's as one Virginia Democratic political power player told me, that "Republicans would like to see flat population growth in NOVA so it can't completely dominate statewide races," and that smart growth/high-density-development projects, such as flows from transit projects like Metro and streetcars, do indeed "produce Democrats," as Davis so inelegantly (but correctly) put it back in 2005. The bigger question is, why are some Arlington Democrats working with Tom Davis to oppose this project? That's what I don't get at all.
Discuss :: (11 Comments)

Defending Against Republican Improvised Economic Devices

by: Dan Sullivan

Thu Nov 07, 2013 at 15:49:09 PM EST

 photo 120514Bobslefthand.jpgFor three years we have heard that Virginia is enjoying budget surpluses. All the while, a series of gimmicks have been employed that will unravel during the years to come; some immediate, some long term. Terry McAuliffe would be well advised to determine baselines that provide context for funding obligations.

Ken Cuccinelli was right when he claimed that taxes would increase during a McAuliffe administration; what he failed to point out was that they also had consistently increased during the current administration and would under his own. The difference will be that Governor McDonnell was allowed to borrow against the future and underfund capital requirements, in effect levying the tax on his successors and generations to come. Cuccinelli would have done much more of the same. Such maneuvers by the coming McAuliffe administration will not be met with the deafening silence afforded the current administration.

    Maintaining the Illusion of Surpluses
  • The Virginia Retirement System (VRS) "loan" amortization, the legislatively mandated 20% annual contribution deficiency, and total unfunded pension obligations
  • Education infrastructure maintenance, capitalization and re-capitalization underfunding
  • Transportation infrastructure maintenance, capitalization and re-capitalization underfunding
  • Positive growth of revenue streams; particularly from areas such as agricultural production where weather and markets are beyond the influence of state government but have had a good run

Terry McAuliffe should conduct an audit early on so that the inevitable future claims of fiscal malfeasance can be placed in context when the bills come due. This one must be much more honest than the audit by McDonnell's team which made claims like turning up over $100 million that had been "mismanaged" by the Department of Transportation during the Kaine administration (conversely, McAuliffe should make certain that operating funds and reserves have not been drawn down). No, this audit should nail down underfunded and unfunded obligations that are currently, to a great extent, off the books. Some will come due during the next four years; some will continue to grow otherwise unacknowledged until they explode with consequences similar to the Detroit pension crisis.

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No justice, no cabs

by: VANewMajority

Fri Sep 13, 2013 at 11:37:15 AM EDT

Ask cab driver Daniel H. Mariam about working conditions for people like him in Arlington and he'll tell you it's nothing less than "modern day slavery."

Mariam, 60, hails from Ethiopia and provides for a family of five, including a son at Virginia Commonwealth University and a daughter he can't afford to send to community college. He works 70 to 80 hours per week if he's lucky. Yet he says that Yellow Cab company makes more off his taxi fees than he does driving it.

He starts his day in debt with $70 owed for insurance and gas, not including maintenance. Each week he pays $205 in fees to Yellow Cab, even though he says his contract stated $145. Each year he pays $15,000 in tariffs and $5,000 in ownership fees for his taxi, even though he paid $30,000 for the hybrid car he says Yellow Cab forced him to buy. And if the hybrid battery dies, he has to pay $3,500 to replace it.

Despite what he pays to own his cab, Mariam says that he can't transfer ownership to another driver in case he needs to be with his mother in Ethiopia because the temporary driver couldn't recoup the cost of fees through fares while he or she had the car.  

Mariam says that this exploitative red-tape behavior has been business as usual at Yellow Cab for the past 50 years. This is possible, Mariam says, because he and other drivers are considered independent contractors with few rights and "no value as human being[s]."

Three months ago, Mariam says that he had a meeting with company managers to address the grievances of 60 organized Yellow Cab drivers. He says that when he went into their office, they had a camera recording him to catch him if he said anything "wrong" which they could use to fire him.

Given these circumstances, Mariam has no regrets about lending his voice to lunchtime protest Tuesday at the Clarendon Metro station where he and 100 other immigrant cab drivers spoke out against what they describe as an excessive and unjust licensing system.

After rallying at the station, the drivers dispersed to carry out the planned action: putting Arlington on notice by taking up all public parking spaces then slowly driving their taxis around the station, as well as marching through the district with signs and chants of "no justice, no cabs" and "respect human rights for taxi drivers."

Miriam and the other drivers want copies of their signed contracts, the ability to transfer ownership of their cars to other drivers and adequate review of the drivers' proposal by the Arlington County board.

As Mariam left Tuesday's protest, he had one more message to his company owners: "I came here today. I knew what I was getting into. If you're going to fire me, do it tomorrow."

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Bob McDonnell Touts New Fairfax County Interchange; Fails to Mention Federal Funding

by: lowkell

Thu Sep 12, 2013 at 12:56:43 PM EDT

It's typical for hypocrite Republicans to gleefully take whatever federal tax money they can get (e.g., massive net subsidies for most "red states" for agriculture, water, power, roads, health care, you name it) with one hand while relentlessly bashing it with the other. Oh, and they also love to take credit for things that they either had nothing to do with, or even occurred in SPITE of them. For instance, here in Virginia, we benefited tremendously from the Economic Recovery Act of 2009 - which passed with basically ZERO Republican support, and played a huge role in allowing us to recover economically from the Bush/Republican Great Recession - yet you'll never hear a word about that from Bob McDonnell, Ken Cuccinelli, etc. Instead, THEY take credit for Virginia's economic recovery, when in fact they made matters much worse via their austerity policies at the state level. One thing these guys have is chutzpah, that's for sure.

Anyway, this morning we had another example: Bob McDonnell touting "the new $69.5 million interchange at Fairfax County Parkway and Fair Lakes Parkway." According to Grifter (and Federal Government Basher) Bob:

The 66,000 motorists who travel through this area each day are now shaving valuable minutes off their trips to work, school and shopping...Motorists now have an interchange that smoothes traffic flow and will accommodate future growth. A world-class transportation system is key to both economic opportunity and to the quality of life of every Virginian.
Ain't that lovely? The only problem is, T-Bob forgot to mention something: according to Rep. Connolly's office, "More than half of the $70 million cost of the project was funded with a total of $40.8 million in federal funds, which made it possible for VDOT to advance the project by two years." In fact, "The project remained in VDOT's 'unfunded' category until the Commonwealth received the needed federal funding through the Recovery Act." Details, details, huh? :)

So, did Bob McDonnell just "forget" to mention any of that highly pertinent information? Or, more likely, did he decide to remove it from his talking points, as obviously it interferes with the narrative he's trying to construct, that he - and only he - is responsible for any accomplishment that takes place in Virginia (didn't ya know, the economic recovery here was ALL BOB! lol). Well, sorry Bob, but that little thing called "reality" simply doesn't back you up. To the contrary, as Rep. Connolly says, "As [Fairfax County Board of Supervisors] Chairman, I worked with my colleagues here on the Board of Supervisors and VDOT to set aside money and advocate for this project." And, Connolly adds, "In Congress, I was proud to support the Recovery Act, which provided the final $13 million necessary to complete this important traffic improvement project." Hmmmm.

So, maybe now that Bob McDonnell has all the facts, he might update his website accordingly to provide a fairer picture of how this project came about? Naaaaaaaaah! Who am I kidding?!? Heh.

P.S. From folks who were at the ribbon cutting, I hear that Fairfax County Board Chair Sharon Bulova DID point out the "stimulus" funding for this project, and also reminded the crowd that federal funding played a part in finishing the Fairfax County Parkway as well. She particularly made a point of thanking Rep. Connolly for his help. In contrast, Gov. Grifter (aka, "T-Bob") blabbered on and on, but didn't mention federal dollars (e.g., OUR tax money!) at all. Shocker, huh?

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Video: Arlington County Approves Columbia Pike Streetcar Project Agreement

by: lowkell

Wed Jul 17, 2013 at 18:23:55 PM EDT

Get Adobe Flash player The speakers begin at around 2:05 into the video and conclude around 2:54:30. There's some seriously bizarre (not to mention false) stuff in there, particularly starting at around 2:11 ("FRAUD!" "CO-CONSPIRATORS!"). My god. As for the supposed "alternative" of "Bus Rapid Transit," I'm not even sure why this keeps coming up, as it's impossible to have BRT on Columbia Pike, given the lack of a dedicated right of way. It's the nonsensical talking point that won't die, apparently.

At around 3:26, there's a presentation on the Columbia Pike Streetcar Project Agreement, including the County Manager's recommendation to approve and execute it, as well as the authority to receive reimbursement payments from Fairfax County, the governance structure of the partnership between Arlington and Fairfax counties, etc.

Starting at 3:37, the board members discuss the streetcar and specifically the governance agreement which "advances the technical planning, environmental and conceptual design work for the Columbia Pike streetcar" project. Board Chair Walter Tejada emphasizes that this is NOT a vote on the streetcar project per se; those votes, he points out, have already been taken by both the Arlington County and Fairfax County boards in 2006 and again in 2012. Tejada also point out that both counties continue to be committed to the project.

At 3:39:40, Board Member Libby Garvey moves to defer a vote on the Project Agreement, but this motion receives no seconds and dies, accordingly. Garvey then offers her reasons for opposing the project, most of which have been articulated previously (as have the arguments in favor). Garvey states that this is "not the Arlington I know" or "the board I know," urges that the board "take a deep breath and pause," and that it get an independent cost-benefit analysis that can be shared with the public before it moves ahead on the project.

For Arlington County Board members Walter Tejada's and Chris Zimmerman's responses, see the "flip"

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"Streetcar: third time's the charm"

by: lowkell

Mon Jul 15, 2013 at 14:26:29 PM EDT

From the Coalition for Smarter Growth:


After years of planning, the Arlington County Board is set to take the final vote tomorrow to move forward with the Columbia Pike Streetcar. The Coalition for Smarter Growth supports the streetcar plan as the right choice for Columbia Pike (here's a reminder on why), and we hope you do, too. This vote will allow the design work that's necessary for the project to begin.

Tell the Arlington Board we support the Columbia Pike Streetcar Plan >>

Feel like we've been here before? While the Board approved the streetcar in 2006 and 2012, opponents asked that the Board reconsider the plan when earlier this year, the Federal Transit Administration declined federal Small Starts program funding for the project, instead recommending that the project should be considered in the larger New Starts program.

The third time's the charm - tell the Arlington Board to vote yes one more time. >>

Want to learn more about the issue? We've got you covered! Here's what the 
Sierra Cluband Arlington Streetcar Now have to say. There's lots of official information at Arlington County's streetcar website, and these great articles about the streetcar vs. BRTstreetcar capacity, and what it means for affordable housing.

Thank you for standing with us for smart growth in Arlington!

Aimee Custis
Coalition for Smarter Growth 

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Johnson Criticizes Attempt to Intimidate Leesburg Town Council

by: JohnsonForDelegate

Thu Jun 27, 2013 at 16:11:06 PM EDT

Tuesday evening, the Leesburg Town Council deferred consideration of a resolution opposing the North-South Corridor until July 23rd.  At the meeting, a controversial email chain came to light in which Bob Chase, Randy Minchew and other local figures were planning their defense of the corridor.

The North-South Corridor is not an adequate solution to our community's traffic problem.  Independent studies show that 32 times as many Loudoun residents commute east to west as they do north to south and that the Corridor will not help congestion.  In fact, most sources indicate that it will increase congestion around Leesburg.  We need to focus on improving our current roads, increasing bus access, and completing the Silver Line to help Loudoun residents get out of traffic.

I'm also disgusted by the email chain in which Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance President Bob Chase threatens that Leesburg will be deprived of transportation funding for all priority projects if the Council opposes the Corridor.

Intimidation is no way to make public policy.  I'm confident that, whatever the result, the Council will act in the best interests of Leesburg residents.  Randy Minchew's comments on the thread are both ridiculous and unworthy of a public servant.  Anyone who's seen Mayor Umstattd and Councilor Burk working in the community knows that their focus is on how to best serve the people of Leesburg.

Monte Johnson

 Monte Johnson is the Democratic nominee for Delegate in the 10th House District.
To learn more about Monte, please visit and don't forget to follow him on Facebook and Twitter!

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Cuccinelli's Attacks on Project Labor Agreements are Par for the Course...and False

by: virginia_aflcio

Fri Jun 21, 2013 at 11:16:41 AM EDT

( - promoted by lowkell)

MarvinScapegoating unions. Attacking the workers they represent. This is Ken Cuccinelli’s plan to score political points and it's par for the course for him. But let's not lose sight of the proven benefits of project labor agreements and the well trained workers who proudly (and safely) build our infrastructure.

Background, facts, and local case studies on Project Labor Agreements:  

A project labor agreement is a market-based tool that sets the rules and expectations for management and workers and as a result, projects with PLAs come in on-time and on-budget.  

• Promote local workers on local projects
• Make sure workers are trained properly and have all the necessary certifications
• Help ensure projects are done on time and on budget, as evidenced on Phase I of Dulles Rail
• Provide exemptions for subcontractors, do not require them to use the PLA
• Promote Minority and WMB Participation on projects with set-asides
• Provide critical healthcare benefits to the workers
• Serve as a taxpayer protection and create accountability on megaprojects where millions of dollars are at stake
• Prevent megaproject DISASTERS such as the Springfield Interchange  which DID NOT USE A PLA and had massive cost overruns and deaths on the  project
• Anger many anti-union Contractor Groups and their Chamber of  Commerce allies because they don’t allow the companies to set the rules  and make money (taxpayer and toll road user money) off of mistakes and  delays  

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Coalition for Smarter Growth: "Where would you rather spend your tax dollars?"

by: lowkell

Wed May 22, 2013 at 10:27:14 AM EDT




Dear Lowell --

Learn the history of the Outer Beltway, view maps, and more in our Outer Beltway Resource Center.

We've been telling you about the McDonnell Administration's push for the Outer Beltway over the past two years, making the case that the project is a waste of money and will make traffic worse.

Last Tuesday, our opposition gained a major champion when Congressman Frank Wolf (VA-10)sent a scathing letter to Governor McDonnell expressing “serious reservations” about the project.

Congressman Wolf's opposition is just the latest in a string of objections: At the end of April, six legislatorsfrom Northern Virginia announced their opposition to the project (including the Tri-County/Bi-County Parkway segment between I-66 and Route 50).

Citizens like you are mounting opposition to the project, too. Over 400 people attended one recent town hall alone. 

Add Your Own Voice to the Opposition >>

This road project matters to everyone in Northern Virginia because it will have far-flung impacts -- wasting limited state resources, enabling sprawl, increasing traffic, and harming existing communities and the environment along the way.

Stand Up Against the Outer Beltway >>

The Project Doesn’t Add Up
With VDOT about to allocate the next six years of transportation dollars, we need to prioritize improvements that will make the most difference to people who are stuck in traffic today. The Outer Beltway is not a good use of transportation dollars, because:

  1. It doesn't address our overwhelming traffic problems on roads like I-66, Route 50, I-95 and other major commuter routes.
  2. It diverts funds that the state should be using to invest in Dulles Rail Phase 2, Tysons Corner transportation needs and the Route 1 corridor.
  3. It would cost at least $1 billion according to VDOT, and the associated connector roads to the west side of Dulles could cost another $500 million or more.
  4. It would add more traffic to already congested commuter routes I-66 and Rt. 50 due to higher levels of residential development within the Prince William Rural Crescent and the Loudoun rural Transition Area, .


Read the full text of Rep. Wolf's letter of opposition in our Outer Beltway Resource Center.

Ideas that Make More Sense
This is not a situation where we have to choose between the Outer Beltway or nothing. There are lots of alternative transportation solutions that have been long-promised and would improve traffic flow right away. Things like:

  • Improving the interchange at Braddock Road and Rt 28.
  • Expanding the interchange at I-66 and Rt. 28.
  • Extending VRE to Gainesville and Metrorail to Centreville.
  • Investing in Dulles Rail Phase 2 instead of forcing northern Virginians to pay most of the costs.
  • Targeted use of roundabouts to keep people from sitting at key intersections in Loudoun and Prince William. 

And that's just to name a few. We’ve joined the Piedmont Environmental Council in listing a set of alternative transportation solutions in Loudoun, western Prince William and western Fairfax that can be found in more detail on our website:, and would welcome your feedback.

We personally thank the six Virginia State Delegates and Senators, as well as Congressman Wolf, for their leadership in questioning this wasteful highway.  Please add your voice to the list of citizens who demand smarter, more effective transportation solutions going forward.

Add Your Voice >>

Thank you!

Stewart Schwartz
Executive Director
Coalition for Smarter Growth

P.S. - On May 29, VDOT will hold a public hearing on their proposed projects for funding in the state Six-Year Transportation Plan.  VDOT has also announced a Public Information Session on the project on Monday, June 3 in Manassas. There's also a meeting about the Dulles Access Road alternatives on Thursday, June 13th in Ashburn. Learn more here. Yes, it's a full-court press, and they need to hear your strong opposition to the highway.

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Now That the Transportation Bill is Law, We Need to Make Sure We Don't Use It to Sprawl Further

by: lowkell

Tue May 14, 2013 at 18:12:01 PM EDT

Back in 2000, I read and reviewed the superb book Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream." The book describes how America decided, consciously, to pursue a development pattern known as "sprawl," based in large part on massive subsidization of automobile travel, as well as almost complete discounting of negative "externalities" such as environmental damage, medical treatment necessitated by car-related injuries and pollution, adverse economic and national security implications of our "oil addiction, etc. Instead of incorporating all those "externalities" into the price of gasoline, we instead pay the cheapest price for gasoline in the developed world. Here in Virginia, our current governor just recently proposed making matters even worse, by slashing the gasoline tax. Another Republican, Jim Gilmore, came to power in part by promising "no car tax" - the exact opposite of what "Suburban Nation" recommends we should be doing if we want to have livable communities and a society that works for everyone.

Today, 13 years after my book review, gasoline is double the $1.75 per gallon (in inflation-adjusted dollars) that it was back then. We're also living in the aftermath of 9/11, which in part resulted from the bin Laden family's petrodollars funding a previously obscure group named "Al Qaeda." Since 2000, the threat of global warming has become far more urgent, while our economy has experienced a real estate collapse concentrated mostly in areas (e.g., Prince William County) where gasoline-fueled transport, long commutes, and large houses heated and cooled by fossil fuels, are king, and where sprawl is the standard development model. In stark contrast, places like Arlington and Alexandria - walkable, bikeable, near Metro stations - saw little decline in housing prices, followed by a sharp rebound in the past couple years. Coincidence? I think not.

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David Alpert of Greater Greater Washington on Why "streetcars are Arlington's best bet"

by: lowkell

Sat May 04, 2013 at 12:30:52 PM EDT

There's been so much misinformation (and, frankly, DISinformation) spewed around about the Arlington streetcar project, that it's great to see people who know a TON about transit options respond. For instance, David Alpert of Greater Greater Washington, who has a new op-ed in the Washington Post entitled, Rail, streetcars or BRT? The definitions matter.  A few key points.

1. As I've pointed out, and as others - Arlington County Board experts, for instance - have explained time and again, "modern bus transit" (whatever that is exactly) or "Bus Rapid Transit" (which requires a dedicated right-of-way) are simply not possible on Columbia Pike. As Alpert explains, "It would be fantastic to dedicate lanes on Columbia Pike, but the Virginia Department of Transportation isn't willing to consider reallocating space from cars to transit, even if more people would be moved in the higher-capacity trains or buses." End of story. Next subject!
2. BRT supporters can deny or hand-wave this point away as much as they want, but it doesn't make it (aka, "reality") disappear. As Alpert humorously puts it, "Personally, I favor 'Star Trek'-style transporters on Columbia Pike, which would be far faster than any car, bus or train, but those are just as nonexistent." LOL - exactly! Nor are there dedicated lanes for any BRT or "modern bus transit" (whatever that is; it remains undefined by people who throw that phrase around as if it actually means something).
3. Among the MANY advantages of streetcars, Alpert explains, is that they "can transport more people than buses can and usually stimulate more economic development than an equivalent bus project." Let's see, it transports more people and brings more economic value to the community than adding more buses. Hmmm...gee, this is a really tough call! (not)
4. Of course, nobody's arguing that streetcars are the right fit for every situation. You have to analyze the specifics of each particular case, which is exactly what Arlington's done for over a decade now. And, not surprisingly, Arlington's come to the same conclusion over and over again, that - as Alpert puts it, "streetcars are Arlington's best bet" - the "right mode" for Columbia Pike.

The bottom line here is that the Columbia Pike streetcar's almost certainly going to happen, barring a truly bizarre turn of events (e.g., the Tea Party takes over the Arlington County board?). For starters, it's conceivable that somebody could primary leading streetcar advocate and County Board member Chris Zimmerman next year (in fact, I've heard VERY strong rumors that this is EXACTLY what's in the works) and try to replace him with someone who opposes the streetcar. That would be a huge mistake, to put it mildly, and we should all strongly oppose any candidate who runs on such a platform.  

Discuss :: (8 Comments)

Arlington Streetcar May Actually Move Ahead FASTER Without Federal Funding

by: lowkell

Mon Apr 15, 2013 at 15:19:04 PM EDT

For those of you who missed it late Friday afternoon, the news broke that "[t]he Federal Transit Administration has declined Arlington and Fairfax County's joint application for funding for the planned Columbia Pike streetcar system." On the surface, of course, this sounds bad, if you're a strong supporter of the streetcar, as I am (and as are most people who favor smart growth/transit-oriented development). However, dig a little deeper, and the lack of federal funds is not only not such a bad thing, but this news might actually turn out to be a good thing, in combination with another development right here in Virginia in recent months. A few points I've gathered from talking to people, reading the press releases, etc.

1. A strong majority (4 out of 5) of the Arlington County Board remains firmly committed to the streetcar project. Nothing has changed in that regard. This thing's a done deal, despite all the shouting by a vocal minority.

2. As for the federal money, it's very unusual for projects of this nature to get funded on the first go-around. In this case, it turns out that the problem is much bigger than that; namely, the FTA didn't fund ANY rail or BRT for the first time in 20 years. Check this out.

The final FY 2013 appropriation was $380 million below the President's request for the
New Starts/Small Starts program.
Reductions in FY 2013 funding are partially attributed to the automatic spending reductions under sequestration. As a result, FTA reduced  the FY 2013 payout level of all existing construction grant agreements for capital projects. Additionally, FTA was unable to make new funding commitments for new capital rail or bus rapid transit (BRT) projects for the first time in roughly 20 years.
In other words, thanks to the Teahadist House of Representatives, investment in America's future has been slashed, to the detriment of all of us. It's totally pathetic, wrong, you name it, but this is the type of mindless, know-nothing attitude that swept to power in the madness of the 2010 mid-term elections. Unfortunately, we're all going to be paying the price for those elections for a long, long time to come, both at the national and local levels. Thanks a lot, Teapublicans and those who voted for them (or stayed home because they falsely believed their votes "didn't matter" - ugh!).
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Video: Arlington Streetcar Forum Makes Strong Case FOR this Important Project

by: lowkell

Sat Apr 06, 2013 at 10:00:00 AM EDT

I strongly recommend that anyone concerned about the Arlington County streetcar project watch this video. Why? Because, as a strong supporter, I believe it makes an overwhelming case FOR the streetcar (and against the arguments of the streetcar opponents). Don't believe me? Again, watch the video for yourself. As you do, listen to the Arlington County professional staff thoroughly, methodically lay make the case for why a streetcar makes sense; why there's no possibility of "bus rapid transit" along the Columbia Pike corridor (no dedicated lane, no chance of "rapid" - end of story); why the money for this project is NOT "fungible" with other needs in the county; why this will add tremendous value to the Columbia Pike corridor, even as it protects low-income housing stock; why this is a crucial part of Arlington's vision for a sustainable, prosperous future; etc, etc.  As the Arlington Patch reported:
Several residents stayed afterward to thank the board members for their leadership on what's turning out to be an increasingly difficult issue. "I came in skeptical but now I think the streetcar is a no-brainer," one woman told Tejada after shaking his hand.
Watch the video, think about this one, and I believe you'll agree with what that woman said to Arlington County Board Chair Walter Tejada.

P.S. The Coalition for Smarter Growth handed out a Columbia Pike Streetcar flyer that sums up the arguments FOR the streetcar very well: 1) "Economic Development" ("Streetcars outperform regular buses in spurring economic development"); 2) "Streetcars Can Carry More People;" 3) "We Need the Capacity;" 4) "Planning & Community Input Has Been Significant" ("Arlington County has completed a planning and community input process of almost 10 years.").

P.P.S. For lots more information, please see and Arlington County's page on the streetcar.  

Discuss :: (3 Comments)

Charniele Herring Statement on Transportation Amendments Passing the General Assembly

by: lowkell

Wed Apr 03, 2013 at 19:16:55 PM EDT

From DPVA Chair Charniele Herring:
Richmond - Today the General Assembly passed Governor Bob McDonnell's amendments to the historic transportation compromise.  Democratic Party of Virginia Chair Delegate Charniele Herring released the following statement on its passage:

"I am encouraged that Democrats and Republicans were able to work with Governor McDonnell and pass this historic transportation bill despite Ken Cuccinelli's multiple attempts to derail it," said DPVA Chair, Del. Charniele Herring. "This transportation bill isn't perfect, but it will fund the construction and maintenance we need to reduce gridlock, grow our economy and improve Virginians' quality of life.

"Today's vote should be an important lesson for Virginians as we draw closer to electing our next Governor. While leaders on both sides of the aisle were working together to get results, Ken Cuccinelli tried repeatedly to torpedo the bipartisan compromise from the sidelines. Virginians can't afford to give Ken Cuccinelli four years as Governor to stand in the way of mainstream solutions that run afoul of his extreme ideological agenda."

Discuss :: (1 Comments)

Keep the Momentum Going for the Arlington Streetcar

by: lowkell

Fri Mar 29, 2013 at 17:54:44 PM EDT

From Arlington Streetcar Now:


At the County Board Town Hall meeting Wednesday night we saw the county present the facts about Arlington’s streetcar plans:

  • the years-long community process,
  • the greater capacity of streetcars,
  • the greater preference of riders for streetcars,
  • the benefits of streetcars to local businesses, and
  • the economic and environmental benefits. 

It was encouraging to see support from so many of our Arlington friends and neighbors.  I am sure we impressed the county board with the extent of community support for Arlington streetcars, as well as the high level of enthusiasm.   They saw that we not only support the streetcar plans, but that we are eager for the county to expedite the detailed design and construction process.  

We need to do more to keep up the momentum. 

Please write to the county board at  Tell them that you support streetcars, the higher quality of life they will help bring to our neighborhoods, the support for our local businesses, the environmental benefits, and all the other reasons you want progress on the Pike and in Crystal City to continue.  

Talk to your friends and neighbors; make it a point to get at least one other person to sign on as a supporter at   Volunteer-- we need help reaching out to people at events like farmers markets; contact  Or donate, if you can, at  Flyers and information sheets cost money, and we have too little.   We have a lot of work to do to make sure people understand the facts, so they will join with us. 

We want Arlington Streetcars Now!

Thanks for your continued support,

John Snyder

Chair, Arlington Streetcar Now 

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Virginia News Headlines: Friday Morning

by: lowkell

Fri Mar 29, 2013 at 07:00:24 AM EDT

Here are a few Virginia (and national) news headlines, political and otherwise, for Friday, March 29. The photo is from yesterday's anti-gun-violence event at the White House, as President Obama hugs Virginia Tech mom Lori Haas, now with the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.

*As Obama Calls On Nation To Remember Newtown, Rubio Pledges To Block Gun Reform (Rubio makes me want to drink something strong...but definitely not water!)
*Common sense needed on gun control law ("The assault rifle, with a 30-shell magazine, is a weapon of mass destruction. The framers of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights had no conception of such a weapon. The guns of that time were muzzle-loading, single-shot muskets, squirrel and bird guns, and simple pistols. The 'well-regulated militia' was the equivalent of today's National Guard.")
*New Obama rules will bring cleaner gasoline, cars (In contrast, Republicans want more dirty energy, forever.)
*Malicious Obstruction in the Senate ("President Obama's nominees face an unprecedented level of ridiculous Republican hurdles.")
*Report: Right-Wing Extremists Are 'Highly Engaged' With GOP On Twitter
*RPV's Mullins to Howard Dean's DFA: Come on down! (They're obviously afraid of DFA. Good!)
*McDonnell demurs regarding 2016, defends roads deal ("Speaking on radio, he insists focus is on Va., defends roads deal")
*Virginia governor's race could offer hints for the 2014 midterm elections (Virginia in 2009 certainly was a harbinger of the country in 2010...)
*Ken Cuccinelli wants credit he doesn't deserve
*Jindal to headline Va. GOP dinner
*US Sen. Mark Warner to seek re-election in '14 (Not sure why this is "news," as I got a fundraising email from him on 3/26 saying, "My next election is right around the corner.")
*'Mistake' amendment could deprive Henrico, Arlington of millions for roads
*Poll: Majority in Virginia supports sealing names of concealed carry permit holders
*Dealer and private car sales face higher taxes in road bill
*Cox: Transportation bill not 'ideal'
*Dem AG candidate Fairfax files nominating petitions (Minutes before the deadline...)
*Warner in Roanoke, discussing immigration issues
*Arlington streetcar forum gets raucous (When the Tea Party comes to an event, what else would you expect?)
*Putney makes history again ("The Bedford independent played a key role in legislative power shifts")
*For federal workers, furlough terrain unpredictably uneven
*A Cinderella Story? How The Koch Brothers Use Florida Gulf Coast University To Promote Their Agenda (Just like GMU and its right-wingnut Mercatus Center)

Discuss :: (1 Comments)

Arlingtonians Come Out to Support Streetcar

by: lowkell

Wed Mar 27, 2013 at 21:47:54 PM EDT

DSC00047The following press release is from Arlington Streetcar Now. I'll have more later, but for now I'll just say that the County Board and staff thoroughly, patiently, and comprehensively answered every question about whether or not to build a streetcar, and overwhelmingly confirmed my view that this is not just the best way to go, but the only serious way to go. Let's build this thing already!
Arlington, VA - Supporters of the long-planned Arlington street car project came out in force tonight at a town hall meeting held to inform the public about the proposed streetcar system that would link Fairfax County and Alexandra through Columbia Pike and Crystal City. County staff presented information about the project, dispelled myths, and answered questions from citizens.

"Arlingtonians strongly support moving forward with the streetcar which neighborhoods and businesses have been working to bring about for a decade." said John Snyder, president of Arlington Streetcar Now, a grassroots organization of Arlington residents and business leaders who support the streetcar as part of the revitalization of Columbia Pike and Crystal City.  "The streetcar represents a next-generation transit solution that will increase capacity, improve ridership, and spark new investment that will enhance and revitalize our community."

Lots more on the "flip," including some photos.
There's More... :: (6 Comments, 355 words in story)
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