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In Maryland and Virginia, vote to build transit

Maryland and Virginia are very different places and not ones to cavalierly bunch together. However, we have one post with both sets of endorsements because the most competitive races in both states are more alike than different: a solid candidate with a beneficial vision faces one who would make it a top priority to kill a major transit project.

Anthony Brown and Alan Howze. Images from the candidates' websites.

These races are for governor of Maryland, where we encourage voters to elect Anthony Brown, and Arlington County Board, where Alan Howze is the right choice.

We also endorse Brian Frosh for attorney general. On ballot questions, our contributors did not have a consensus on Maryland's "transportation lockbox" Question 1. The choice is clear to support Fairfax County's bond measure that will help pay for many bicycle and pedestrian projects.


Maryland Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown (D) hopes to move up to governor. Brown will continue the policies of his predecessor including pushing to build the Purple Line, Baltimore Red Line, and Corridor Cities Transitway busway in the I-270 corridor (and, perhaps, challenge conventional thinking on road design and funding).

Brown also wants to ensure Metro has funding for eight-car trains and other upgrades. His Republican opponent Larry Hogan, meanwhile, has made clear that he wants to halt spending on these transit projects because he thinks they are too expensive... but spend more money on highway projects.

The Purple Line nearly died at the hands of former Republican governor Bob Ehrlich. Hogan wants to follow in the same footsteps. While Brown has maintained a lead in the polls, the race is far from decided. A Hogan win would be a disaster for Maryland's transit plans and we urge voters to show up on November 4 to cast ballots for Brown.

Brian Frosh, the Democratic nominee for Maryland Attorney General, has a more comfortable lead but deserves special praise. He played a major role in keeping the Purple Line alive in 1991 even while most elected officials believed the project was unpopular.

For the "lockbox" Question 1, our contributors were nearly evenly split while many simply suggested making no endorsement. You can read Ashley Robbins' summary for some reasons to vote for it and an understanding of why many will not.


Virginia state offices are not on the ballot this year, but an Arlington race is all about transit. Alan Howze is facing John Vihstadt in a rematch for Arlington County Board. Vihstadt won a special election this spring where residents angry about county projects had more incentive to turn out while Howze did not run a particularly dynamic campaign. However, the impact on the future of Arlington could be significant, and we again strongly encourage voters to select Howze.

Howze has a good vision for Arlington including concrete ideas to eliminate deaths on the roadways. Meanwhile, Vihstadt has continued to make opposition to the Columbia Pike streetcar a core issue. He and other opponents have relentlessly attacked the project that the county has justified in study after study while holding up dubious and misleading alternatives.

A dedicated lane has never been an option on Columbia Pike, and studies have demonstrated how rail can carry many more riders than buses possibly could. Nevertheless, opponents keep touting some amorphous idea of "Bus Rapid Transit" which somehow has the benefits of the expensive, gold standard lines but the costs and footprint of a bare-bones line.

It's not persuasive. This is the GamerGate of Arlington politics. The far more believable alternative is that Vihstadt simply does not want to spend much money on transit. Since transit is massively popular in Arlington, one can't win office opposing it; instead, the only hope is to shout "BOONDOGGLE!" over and over.

Arlington has been an exemplar in our region for the transit-focused direction its leaders have steered. It needs board members who will build on that success; Howze will do so.

In Fairfax County, the proposed $100 million transportation bond measure will pay for many bicycle and pedestrian projects in the newly-passed Bicycle Master Plan and other priorities. Fairfax County has taken strong steps to make what's now a very car-dependent county more accessible on foot or bicycle. This is the right decision, and voters should put money behind that effort to see it through.


Events roundup: The weather outside is frightful

But you won't hate going out in the storm for any of this week's events!

Photo by on Flickr.

Delightful discussion on DC education: Our friends at Greater Greater Education are hosting a forum with Councilmember David Catania tonight, Monday December 9, to discuss all things pertinent to public education in DC.

Come by the Hill Center, located at 921 Pennsylvania Avenue SE, tonight at 6:30 pm to ask a question or to listen to a good discussion. You can register here. Head over to GGE for more information about this event.

After the jump: Streetsblog hosts a happy hour, Maryland's candidates for governor talk about transportation, and see a film about how to design cities for people.

We've many places to go!: Purple Line NOW! is hosting a transportation forum with Maryland's gubernatorial candidates. All three Democratic nominees, Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown, Delegate Heather Mizeur, and Delegate Jolene Ivey speaking on behalf of Attorney General Doug Gansler, will attend, as well as Republican candidate Delegate Ron George.

The forum is tomorrow, Tuesday, December 10, from 7 to 9:30 pm at the Montgomery College Cultural Arts Center, located at 7995 Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring. Reserve your seat(s) here.

All the way home you'll be warm: Join Streetsblog DC readers tonight, December 9, for a happy hour at the Passenger, DC's transportation-themed bar. The happy hour starts at 5:30 at 1021 7th Street NW. You can RSVP here.

As long as you love transportation so: Also tonight, DC's Transportation Plan Advisory Committee (TPAC) meets from 6 to 8 pm. TPAC is comprised of DC residents who advise moveDC, the District Department of Transportation's effort to plan the city's future transportation network.

This public meeting is at the Frank D. Reeves Municipal Center, located at 2000 14th Street NW, in the second floor public meeting room. Please bring your state-issued ID to enter the building.

The lights are turned way down low: On Thursday, the Inter-American Development Bank hosts a screening of the film "The Human Scale - Bringing Cities to Life," about Danish architect and urban planner Jan Gehl. Afterwards, there will be a panel discussion with Jeff Risom, partner at Gehl Architects in Copenhagen, who will talk about designing cities for people.

The screening is on December 11 from 6:30 to 8:30 pm at the bank's Enrique Iglesias Auditorium, located at 1330 New York Avenue NW. For more info, check out the event description.


Lt. Gov. Brown open to new ideas, needs to hear them

On Thursday, July 23rd, I joined other Montgomery County-based bloggers for a conversation with Maryland Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown. Adam Pagnucco of Maryland Politics Watch organized the forum, and MPW contributor Marc Korman also attended. Many thanks to Adam for inviting me. Overall, I found Mr. Brown to be a competent and capable person. He clearly had a lot of experience communicating with people. He was open to new ideas, but still perceives traffic through the "Level of Service" lens and traffic solutions from the standpoint of moving cars.

Maryland State House. Photo by bcostin

Mr. Brown's duties include heading up the BRAC subcabinet. I argued that planning for Bethesda Naval Hospital needs to be completely different than for a place like Fort Meade. Bethesda Naval is adjacent to downtown Bethesda, one of the flagship examples of post-war Smart Growth in the United States. It has its own Metro station. It's nothing like Fort Meade, which is located in a low-density exurban area.

When I asked why the vast majority of the BRAC infrastructure improvement funds are planned to go towards road widenings, Mr. Brown responded, "The intersections that we plan to improve are already at failing Levels of Service. We're using the BRAC funds to improve already failing intersections." I replied, "Level of Service is an antiquated, rigged metric. Cars won't do those new jobs. People will." Antiquated Level of Service metrics generate bad ideas like a new reversible lane on Connecticut Avenue, despite their poor track record in Silver Spring.

Mr. Brown conceptually supports a twin strategy of auto infrasturcture and transit for BRAC. However, I don't think that he fully understands what that means. Most people automatically assume that traffic flow is like water: widen the path and the water flows faster. They, like Mr. Brown, aren't familiar with induced demand, where a new road's very existence actually creates more demand for new roads.

To his credit, he does view additional bus service as a key tool to accommodate BRAC. But once again, he didn't seem to know what that would mean at a detailed level. Most people, including hardcore transit users like myself, dislike riding a bus stuck in heavy automobile traffic. If you want to make a bus more attractive, take it out of mixed automobile traffic by giving it its own right-of-way. Give it a time savings over the private automobile. Mr. Brown's sub-cabinet needs to revise their BRAC-oriented plans. If they're going to add asphalt to our roads and intersections in Montgomery County, they should build bus-only lanes, separated by a curb from the regular lanes.

Mr. Brown supports Representative Chris Van Hollen's efforts to secure funding for improved access to the Medical Center Metro from the eastern side of Rockville Pike. He was not familiar with the various proposals, including the pedestrian tunnel that doesn't connect directly to the Metro station. Mr. Brown said that he had not seen the engineering proposals and didn't really have an opinion, leaving the decisions up to the county and the engineers.

Maryland isn't raising its gas tax anytime soon. Mr. Brown said that both the O'Malley/Brown Administration and the legislature oppose raising any taxes while the state and nation are experiencing current crippling job losses. While it would be a good idea, such a proposal would be politically infeasible at this time, he said.

Wha about I-270? Brown reiterated the Administration's support for both the Baltimore Red Line and the Purple Line. He was also shocked to hear about the $4 billion price tag for the I-270 proposal. This issue does not directly involve his office, but Mr. Brown is now aware of this study and its potentially harmful implications.

Marc asked about MARC, which he rides regularly to commute to Baltimore from Bethesda. The Lt. Governor described long-term plans for MARC such as opening more stations and increasing parking at rural and car-dependent suburban station. He also mentioned that the funding currently isn't in the pipeline. I also praised the state for employing a "fix-it-first" policy to transportation stimulus money. It is a much better use of funds than covering more land in asphalt.

After meeting Lieutenant Governor Brown I came away with a positive impression of the second ranking executive in Maryland. While I was disappointed with some of the details of his sub-cabinet's BRAC plans, I understand that he is not an engineer or an expert in urban planning. I was very impressed with his ability to sit, listen, and absorb new ideas. Meeting with him gives me hope that our county and state can improve our plans so we can absorb all the new BRAC-related jobs in a sustainable manner.

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