Posts about BRAC
The US Department of Defense has approved a $180 million plan to widen Richmond Highway in Fairfax County. The proposal is unlikely to reduce traffic over the long term. It's more likely to harm the community character, degrade historic sites, and make traffic worse.
Moving so many jobs to Fort Belvoir, far from effective transit, was a mistake in the first place. Unfortunately, that decision is out of local hands. But rather than impose an ineffective and undesirable highway, DoD and Fairfax County need to find a more creative way to address the area's congestion.
Communities along Route 1 have long fought to revitalize the corridor. The current plan, however, would turn Richmond Highway into such an expressway that it would make revitalization along its sides difficult. It would divide rather than knit together the two sides of Route 1.
Expanding the road would also harm adjacent historic sites like Woodlawn Plantation and the Woodlawn Baptist Church. It risks repeating the scale and sterility of the massive 10-lane expanse of pavement that already exists around historic Pohick Church to the south.
Lanes and other elements can be narrower
Even if the number of lanes grows, the highway doesn't need to be so wide. The current proposal for the southern portion of the project, from Telegraph Road to the new Mulligan Road, is for a whopping 148 foot-wide cross-section. That's enormous. It includes a 32-foot median reserved for future transit and overly-wide, highway-scaled lanes that are up to 14 feet across.
Several components of the highway could be a more reasonable scale without reducing the number of road lanes. Doing so would be more appropriate for the area, and would better accommodate other modes. Many arterial streets in the DC region have lanes of 11 or 12 feet wide. There is no reason why the lanes on Route 1 need to be so much wider.
It is commendable that the DoD plan designated land specifically for rapid transit in the future, but DoD and Virginia should go further. They should include transit in a dedicated right-of-way as a core component of the proposal. This could use existing buses right away. Perhaps the transit lanes could replace the new third lane of the highway in each direction.
Walking, biking, carpooling and living on post can all reduce traffic
Addressing the traffic generated by Fort Belvoir requires a comprehensive solution, including transit, bike and pedestrian access, as well as creative solutions specific to the military base.
Although it's true that many workers will commute to the base from too far away to walk or bike, the current plan would force even those who live nearby to get in their cars. That's a mistake.
While the plan appropriately includes a bike path and sidewalk, the width and speed of the road would discourage walking and biking. It would be so difficult and dangerous to cross such a wide road that few people would ever try. Furthermore, if the entrances to the fort are not designed with bicyclists and pedestrians in mind, it is even less likely that the paths would be used.
DoD should take advantage of Fort Belvoir's status as a military complex to reduce traffic congestion. One way to do this would be greater use of federal transit benefits and carpooling. For example, DoD could design parking policies with strong incentives for carpooling, especially for those with regular work schedules.
Fort Belvoir should continue to maximize opportunities for soldiers and their families to live on post. The base has earned praise and awards for its "new urbanist" military housing, and should expand those communities. This would reduce single-occupant vehicle demand and allow for a reduced number of through and turn-lanes, particularly in the areas most endangered by the current plan.
Narrowing the road in this manner, while maintaining the number of through lanes, would make the road more manageable for non-automobile modes, without disrupting car traffic too much. A narrower road would be safer, would reduce the necessity to take land from historic sites, and could potentially move more people, by converting car trips to other modes.
It is important that DoD and Fairfax County consider all options before hastily widening Route 1. The changes coming to Fort Belvoir are significant, but turning a community's main street into a through highway is not the answer.
5 Democratic candidates are vying for Barbara Favola's vacated seat on the Arlington County Board. Where do they stand on the issues? 3 of the candidates responded to a Greater Greater Washington questionnaire about the major issues facing Arlington.
Left to right: Melissa Bondi, Libby Garvey, and Kim Klingler. Images from the candidates's websites.
Favola was elected to the Virginia State Senate in November, leaving an open seat on the 5-person board. Arlington Democrats will hold 2 caucuses on January 19th and January 21st to nominate a replacement. No Republicans will challenge the Democratic candidate.
Since the race got underway in November, candidate Melissa Bondi has received notable endorsements from sitting board members Walter Tejada and Chris Zimmerman, while former School Board member Libby Garvey just announced an endorsement from Favola for her own former position.
I distributed a questionnaire to 5 participating candidates, and received responses from Bondi, Garvey, and Kim Klingler. The questionnaire asked about the candidates' positions on the Crystal City Sector Plan, the Columbia Pike streetcar, the need for more affordable housing, and more. The candidates also participated in a January 4th debate at GMU's Founder Hall that featured many similar questions.
While the 3 respondents agreed on many points, key distinctions emerged. Bondi and Klingler offered more pointed, direct suggestions for bolstering Arlington's affordable housing stock, while Garvey's experience serving 15 years on the Arlington County School Board gave her detailed knowledge of the ACPS system's current efforts at mitigating the capacity crisis.
All 3 candidates, when asked about the County Board's October 2011 decision to approve Boeing's new regional headquarters in Crystal City, cited concerns with poor urban planning and citizen involvement throughout the process.
Below are exerpts from the candidates' positions on some of the most significant urban issues in Arlington County right now.
What do you see as the most pressing issue facing Arlington County today?
From the need for more affordable housing to transparent governance, each candidate expressed a different view on Arlington County's greatest challenge. What all three candidates appeared to agree on in their answers, however, is the need for collaborative, systematic planning between the County Board and the County's citizens for Arlington's growth.
I think the most pressing issue is to mitigate the continued threats to, and losses in, Arlington's affordable housing stock. A significant portion of our diverse Arlington population, from immigrants to seniors to persons with disabilities and young families need access to safe, decent affordable housing.Kim Klingler:
As Arlingtonians, I believe our most pressing issue is to be able to maintain our identity, diversity, and quality of life as we continue to grow as a community. Therefore, we must pay special attention to:Libby Garvey:
a. Smart Growth and Transportation.
b. County/Schools Collaborative Planning.
c. Maintaining a Diverse and Caring Community.
I think the most pressing issue is the need for more intentional and transparent systems for planning and improvement to manage growth: an overall strategic plan with clear goals, measurable data points and monitoring systems to see if we are progressing towards our goals and working as efficiently as possible.What are your thoughts on the practicality and cost of the Columbia Pike streetcar? Is this project a good use of funds?
Arlington plans a $261 million streetcar project along Columbia Pike, which leaders say will drive economic growth and improve mobility far beyond what buses can provide, but critics charge is too expensive to justify the benefits. Bondi is a strong supporter of the project, while Garvey and Klingler expressed some doubts in their answers.
While I can see many benefits from a streetcar, the question for me and many people is, are those benefits worth the cost. Arlington needs a clear cost benefit analysis for the streetcar so we can make an informed decision as a board and a community.Klingler:
In order to determine whether this $261M investment is justified, we need to take a step back and address the following:Bondi:
a. What do Arlingtonians want? What is their strategic vision and plan for Arlington?
b. How will the street car project be implemented?
c. Can we afford it?
d. Do we have the resources to appropriately manage the contractors?
With the appropriate planning I think the Columbia Pike streetcar could be a promising investment; however, per my points above, I would need to be convinced that now is the right time.
I am a supporter of the Columbia Pike Streetcar, as an integral piece of Arlington's transportation network that will insure mobility for the residents of Columbia Pike in the near term, and for the region in the long term. Major transportation efforts, like a modern streetcar system, require extensive planning and are subject to rising costs. We need to be able to explain any changes in costs and to provide context that helps to reinforce the overall value Arlington residents will realize through such an important investment.What is your opinion of the Crystal City Sector Plan and its impact on the economic development of Crystal City?
In response to the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process, which could take up to 18,000 jobs from Crystal City and leave millions of square feet of office space empty, Arlington embarked on a years-long planning process to develop a Sector Plan to shape the neighborhood's future growth.
The plan calls for a modified street grid and a shift in demographics to better balance workers and residents. In their responses, Bondi and Klingler are supportive of the Sector Plan, while Garvey is skeptical that Crystal City residents truly had their voices heard throughout the planning process.
If it can be fully executed, the plan will favorably impact the economic development of Crystal City. [However], the plan will need to be updated to address: offering competitive pricing per square foot, lowering and maintaining emergency response times to Crystal City, planning for additional school and health services, and designing appropriate transitions between denser areas and traditional neighborhoods.Bondi:
Among the positive achievements I see in the plan are: 1) generally better urban design, more walkable streets, enhanced parks and public spaces; 2) affordable housing targets, perhaps the most ambitious yet included in an Arlington sector plan; 3) a commitment to transportation infrastructure, especially streetcar, which is essential; 4) inclusion of a vehicle for on-going citizen participation and monitoring in implementation, through the "CCCRC," a permanent advisory body led by residents.Garvey:
Residents of Crystal City value the underground networks for their convenience and protection from the weather. They value the small open spaces that provide relief from many tall buildings. [With the Plan], these amenities will be lost. I've heard from several the sense that excellence in planning, emphasis of transit use and preserving the amenities valued by residence were not included in the plan. Only two residents were on the task force and many residents who tried to participate and work on the plan as citizens, finally quit the process in frustration and anger. This is very unfortunate.Tomorrow, we'll post Bondi's, Klingler's, and Garvey's responses on the impact of defense spending cuts on the Arlington economy, the capacity crisis in Arlington County Public Schools, and what each candidate would most like to improve about Arlington County.
For smart growth, 2011 has been a year of continued progress. But it has also seen a few steps in the wrong direction. What are the top 5 milestones of 2011?
This year, we saw DC host Rail~Volution and saw forward-thinking planning in the region's largest suburbs. But we also felt the pain from poor office location decisions from the Department of Defense and the Virginia DOT's return to 1950's-era planning decisions.
The Coalition for Smarter Growth (CSG) hopes that you'll join us in continuing the work that needs to be done to implement smart transportation and land use solutions in the capital region, through your personal involvement and by making a contribution to our 2012 efforts.
We'd also like to hear your own thoughts about the smart growth milestones and issues of 2011.
"This is DC?" Rail~Volution arrives
Every year hundreds of the country's leading transit experts, architects, planners, civic activists, and decision makers gather at the Rail~Volution conference. This year Washington, DC hosted and we learned from our guests that we have a lot to celebrate about the progress of our home region.
More than a few attendees exclaimed: "This is DC?" They were blown-away by our walkable, transit-oriented neighborhoods, by the city's revitalization, by our suburban transit renaissance, by Capital Bikeshare, and more (and yes, they still have Metro envy). The hard work of an army of volunteers, staff from DC and other local jurisdictions, the DC business improvement districts, and our team at CSG resulted in a great conference. Attendees participated in eye-opening tours, forums on the latest in transit communities, a special set of local sessions, and a jam-packed film festival.
Transit communities advance in Prince George's
Prince George's made big strides toward tapping the vast potential of its 15 Metro stations. The CSG has long campaigned for investing in this remarkable asset to take further advantage of the multi-billion Metro investment, to address unbalanced commuting patterns, and to revitalize older, inner suburbs.
In his first year in office, County Executive Rushern Baker championed transit-oriented development and a new Economic Development Incentive fund. As unanimously passed by the Council, the record $50 million fund will support investment in transit-oriented development and inside-the-Beltway communities, serving as a catalyst for sustainable, long-term economic development.
The county and state also announced a major mixed-use development at New Carrollton Metro Station and the move of the state's housing agency to the station.
Fairfax County commits to a transit future
One year ago we held a "Future of Fairfax" summit for elected officials, local planners, business leaders, and civic activists. At the summit, Chair Sharon Bulova declared her support for transit and transit-oriented development as the future of the county and essential for both economic development and protecting the environment. In the year since, Fairfax County has led the way in advancing Phase 2 of Metrorail to Dulles, seeking cost savings, and a commitment of funding from the state.
The county also made progress on Tysons Corner, approving the first of 12 large mixed-used developments proposed under the new plan. In updating its planning policies and standards for its biggest urban center, the county is creating policies that can be extended to its revitalizing commercial corridors. These include a strong plan for bicycle and pedestrian access from surrounding communities to the Metro stations, the first application of stronger urban stormwater management standards, and steps toward achieving affordable housing goals.
With continued population growth, the county's commercial corridors with their acres of parking lots offer the best opportunity to absorb new homes, offices and retail, while creating mixed-use, walkable, bikeable, and transit-accessible neighborhoods that generate less traffic and help protect remaining forested green spaces. The Coalition for Smarter Growth continues to press for revitalization in these commercial corridors, places like the Richmond Highway (Route 1) Corridor, and Bailey's Crossroads.
The Purple Line advances and Montgomery commits to a transit future
Big news came in October when the Federal Transit Administration approved the Bethesda-Silver Spring-New Carrollton Purple Line light-rail project for "preliminary engineering." This is the critical stage when construction plans are developed and the alignments and stations are more clearly defined.
The Purple Line will provide thousands of people a traffic-free alternative for traveling to work and contribute to the revitalization and economic success of inside-the-Beltway communities in Montgomery and Prince George's counties, and it is only one part of the transit future that Montgomery County now envisions.
County Executive Ike Leggett launched a Rapid Transit Task Force to study and advance a 150 mile network of rapid transit long proposed by Councilmember Marc Elrich. The network is seen as critical for enhancing the economic competitiveness of the county, supporting economic growth while providing high-speed alternatives to sitting in traffic. The county hopes to create a national model with the system and attracted a $260,000 seed grant from the Rockefeller Foundation.
Stepping backwards: BRAC and the return of zombie highways
The scope of the traffic problems resulting from the Department of Defense's Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) moves started to become apparent in 2011. DOD's decision to move over 20,000 jobs away from locations with Metro and commuter rail service ignored the huge transportation impact and left local and state governments with a multi-billion dollar bill for infrastructure. There is no better illustration of the impact of poor location decisions on transportation and the importance of transit-oriented development for our future than the BRAC moves.
DOD's return to a 1950's suburban office campus model was paralleled in 2011 by Virginia Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton's revival of a 1950's and 1960's idea for an Outer Beltway and up to two Potomac River bridge crossings. We call it the Zombie Highway for its eerie ability to come back from the dead, with various studies in 1989, 1997, 2001, and 2004.
The project would divert scarce transportation funds from fixing critical commuter corridors, do nothing to relieve traffic on existing roads, and fuel scattered development in rural areas in Stafford, Prince William, and Loudoun counties in Virginia, and Montgomery and Frederick counties in Maryland. The Secretary designated the proposed highway as a "Corridor of Statewide Significance" and lobbying groups began a renewed push for bridges from Great Falls and Loudoun into Potomac and the Montgomery Agricultural Reserve. One group and Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell reportedly pushed the issue in a closed door meeting with Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley and DC Mayor Vince Gray.
The push for the Outer Beltway has been part of an overall shift in Virginia away from supporting transit and the core traffic issues of Virginia's metropolitan areas in order to fund questionable rural highways. Hundreds of Virginians have signed our petition against the Outer Beltway and historic preservation groups have joined the fight because the first phase of the highway would run through hallowed ground at the historic Manassas National Battlefield.
If you care about smart transportation solutions and sustainable growth for our region, then we hope you will join the Coalition for Smarter Growth and our partners in what promises to be a tough fight in 2012 to stop this project.
So what's next? Keep an eye out for our next post, which will look ahead to 2012. CSG will work to continue the progress we saw in 2011, and you can count on us to continue fighting the Zombie Highway and proposing more sustainable transportation solutions. We hope you'll join us as we move the region forward, whether you attend one of our events, testify at a local hearing, or become an official sponsor of our work with a donation of $100, $64, or $32.
Have any honorable mentions for the top five smart growth moments of the year? Post in the comments!
Congressman Gerry Connolly and local officials are holding a public meeting September 26 in Prince William County to discuss extending Metro to Woodbridge.
It this a good idea? Like any proposal, it has pros and cons. The issue also depends greatly on whether you look at the problem from a transit planner lens or a public opinion lens.
Is actually bringing Metro to Woodbridge a good idea? If money were no object, probably. However, it would worsen capacity crunches in the core, and so really needs to be paired with a project like the separated Blue Line or separated Yellow Line in DC.
Is bringing Metro to Woodbridge worth the money? It depends what else you spend the money on, but if the same money went to other transit, expanding VRE and express bus options is probably better. However, the budgetary tradeoff is rarely between Metro and other transit of equivalent cost.
Is talking about bringing Metro to Woodbridge a good idea? Absolutely, because talking about how transit can best serve the people of Prince William County can only lead to better thinking about how to grow the Woodbridge area and general public support for transit. Besides, most likely if the state isn't planning a Metro extension, it would instead be planning some much more sprawl-inducing highway proposal.
First, let's talk about the actual tradeoffs in serving the area with transit.
Any Metro extension in this area absolutely has to serve Fort Belvoir. This is the largest focused job center in the area thanks to BRAC and will likely continue to grow. Putting any new transit here without going to Fort Belvoir would be foolish.
In particular, one factor that makes Metro much more cost-effective than other transit systems which serve suburbs, like BART, is the way Metro has significant reverse commuters. Instead of mostly empty trains out to the ends of lines in the morning, many people are riding those trains to federal facilities like those at Medical Center and Suitland.
There's already been talk about extending the Yellow Line down Route 1 instead of the Blue Line. This has the added benefit of helping the communities along the way, many of which are just the kind that could plan constructively around transit. Just like the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor 30 years ago, there are aging and often struggling commercial properties which could become mixed-used transit-oriented communities serving people who work to the south in Fort Belvoir or to the north in Alexandria, Arlington and DC.
Building any new rail line, however, is quite expensive. Most of the area is low density. Meanwhile, there's another rail line already here: VRE, which goes to Woodbridge (and has a station not far from Fort Belvoir).
Why not make VRE run far more frequently? It could even combine with MARC to create Metro "express lines." With fewer stops, these would provide a quicker route to the Pentagon and downtown than any Blue or Yellow line extension would.
The biggest obstacle is that VRE doesn't own the tracks, which also serve as the primary east coast freight line. CSX is planning to run even more freight here, which is why they're expanding the tunnels on Capitol Hill as part of the National Corridor plan.
The freight trains don't necessarily need to go through downtown DC. In fact, it's probably better if hazardous material weren't being transported a few hundred feet from the Capitol. NCPC looked years ago at adding a freight bypass, but it's expensive and encountered political opposition in Southern Maryland.
Without building the freight bypass, Virginia could still improve capacity on the VRE Fredericksburg Line by adding passing tracks and a third track as much as possible. Some of that is already happening to accommodate more Amtrak service. Plus, improving this line can enhance intercity rail to Richmond.
Any added Metro service would increase the numbers of passengers coming into the central sections of the Metro system (Arlington and DC). As that ridership grows Metro will need to run the maximum possible numbers of trains on the Blue-Yellow segment, but to do that, they'll need one of the core expansion projects to separate lines.
That's either a new M Street Blue Line subway from Rosslyn to Georgetown to downtown, so the Blue Line trains don't have to merge with Orange and Silver trains at Rosslyn, or a separate Yellow Line tunnel from Southwest to either downtown or Union Station, so Yellow Line trains don't have to merge with Green at L'Enfant Plaza.
The other option is more express buses. Virginia has looked at projects which add special bus exits on and off the freeways, so buses can run in HOV or HOT lanes, get off and stop at a station near the freeway, then hop back on. Light rail could also serve the corridor.
These options are far cheaper. If the tens of billions of dollars required for such a project were sitting in a special bank account marked "TO BE USED FOR TRANSIT IN SOUTHERN FAIRFAX AND EASTERN PRINCE WILLIAM," then a combination of buses and light rail is likely the most productive use of the money. However, that's never the way it works, and planning a big transit project may be the best option compared to the likely alternative, which is planning big and destructive highway projects.
In the next part, we'll talk about the political and public opinion ramifications of talking about such a project.
From rural air service to military base sitings to post office closings, many federal policies pick winners and losers among places for people to live. Exurban communities require much more expensive infrastructure, yet policymakers cling to a system that rewards building or living on cheap land but has the government subsidizing all the other associated costs.
The Federal Aviation Administration has been shut down since Saturday. Planes are still flying but employees in DC are furloughed and capital improvement projects at airports are frozen.
The shutdown stems from an impasse between the House and Senate over reauthorizing the FAA. Sticking points include union organizing rights at airlines, long-distance flights at National Airport, and a rural air subsidy called the Essential Air Service (EAS), which Republicans want to substantially scale back.
The Wall Street Journal recounts one example of a crazy EAS subsidy: service from Hagerstown, Maryland to Baltimore. The $59 flight, which costs $191 in subsidy per passenger, lets people fly for 40 minutes instead of driving for 80 minutes.
The Journal quotes one visitor who liked the service because it let him avoid taking a bus, "and I'm not into buses," he said. That's not a great reason to subsidize a flight. And the airport director says he doubts losing the flight would really affect Hagerstown all that much.
Nevertheless, Senator Barbara Mikulski is fighting to keep the flight, saying it would hurt the economy and cost jobs. That may be true, but keeping it also creates a drain on the economy and costs jobs elsewhere. Republican Senators have fought for similar exemptions in the past, too.
But there's a larger problem. Democrats and Republicans alike generally operate on a belief that people should be able to live where they want yet face no consequences for their choices, with the exception of housing prices.
We subsidize rural air service, build expensive roads and power lines to accommodate more housing in far-flung areas, tax telecommunications to pay for rural broadband, and maintain a flat rate to mail a letter anywhere in the nation. When people live in areas with high risk of natural disaster, states step in to provide insurance if private companies are unwilling.
Land is cheaper in areas more distant from jobs because the land is more distant from jobs. That makes housing cheaper (and some government subsidies make it cheaper still). But infrastructure costs much more to provide, creating huge long-term burdens for states which find they can barely afford to keep up all the roads and other kinds of infrastructure they have, let alone build more.
That means government is mostly letting the market dictate the cost of housing, but not letting it dictate the cost of providing various services to that housing. This distorts the incentives.
When government officials look for cuts, like many families, they often focus most on the immediate real estate costs instead of the infrastructure impacts. The Department of Defense did that with BRAC, moving jobs to cheaper locations in Fort Meade and Fort Belvoir while imposing enormous infrastructure burdens on Maryland and Virginia. Congress and the administration might push for something similar for civilian workers, choosing locations where there's cheaper land instead of maximizing public infrastructure.
The Post Office is looking to close 3,700 post offices around the nation. Some are small rural ones that see very little usage, and could be replaced by a single clerk working out of the town's library or a store. That makes a lot of sense. But some are charging that the list targets more urban offices than suburban ones. They're closing one in downtown Silver Spring and leaving one a bit farther away, for instance. Yet urban residents are more likely to be walking or taking transit to post offices, and at least in my experience, lines are already longer in urban locations than their suburban counterparts.
The Post Office hasn't released details of their calculations, other than saying that they're evaluating each location based on its revenue, the number of hours workers spend there, and its distance from other post offices. If it's picking urban post offices to close just because they're geographically close to others, that's just downright foolish since urban areas have more people. If they're picking urban ones because land costs are higher, that ignores the infrastructure impacts of their choice by forcing more driving, saving money for the Post Office but dumping added costs onto localities.
With pressure from Congressional Republicans to find budget cuts, Democrats could point to the many programs that bias settlement patterns in ways that cost more in the long run and hurt our metropolitan areas. Instead, many instead are just digging in to preserve those programs. That's because voters in those areas don't want the government money to stop flowing to exurbs and rural areas.
That will only stop when voters in the more populous cities and inner suburbs insist on an end to the silly public policy that the price of land should be set by the market, but the price of most other services somehow has to be equal for everyone, no matter where they live and what the cost.
The Department of Defense is now promoting alternatives to to the more than 5,800 employees relocating to Fort Meade in August due to the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) changes.
The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) headquarters is moving from the Pentagon in Virginia to Fort Meade in Maryland, and represents a substantial number of the relocated jobs. Unlike the the Pentagon, which is adjacent to Metro's Blue and Yellow lines and one of the largest bus hubs in Arlington, Fort Meade is nearly transit-inaccessible.
Approximately 25 MARC trains (PDF) on the Penn Line stop daily at nearby Odenton Station Monday through Friday. Several organizations on Fort Meade offer shuttle service from the station to their facilities, which are about two to five miles from the station.
Virginia-based DISA workers certainly have no reason to celebrate their commute being lengthened up to 30 miles each way due to the move. But the commute might not be as daunting as expected thanks to a couple of commuting options that DISA and other DoD Agencies are pushing to their employees.
For commuters who live near VRE stations, there is a cross honor agreement with MARC, allowing riders on inbound VRE trains a free transfer to outbound MARC trains.
If, for instance, riders are coming from Woodbridge and going to Fort Meade, they only need a ticket to Union Station, where they can then board an outbound MARC train to Odenton for free. This is still long commute with two transfers (VRE to MARC, MARC to shuttle), but with the federal mass transit subsidy recently being raised to $230 a month, it can be done for no additional money out-of-pocket.
For those who can get to Union Station via Metro or bus, MARC has the Transit Link Card (TLC). For $102 in addition to a MARC monthly pass ($125 for Union Station to Odenton), the TLC will offer unlimited monthly ridership on any service that accepts SmarTrip or Charm Cards.
The monthly cost for those going to Fort Meade via Odenton is $227, which again can be covered in full by the federal mass transit subsidy. Additionally, the TLC card can be used on weekends and holidays, making it fiscally advantageous for Fort Meade commuters to potentially give up their cars all together.
MARC's TLC can be used with Metro, Metrobus, DC Circulator, the future DC Streetcar, ART, CUE, DASH, Fairfax Connector, Loudon County Commuter Bus, OmniRide, Ride-On, TheBus, the Baltimore Subway and Light Rail, and any MTA bus. This connectivity makes it a highly viable option for Washington and Baltimore commuters to other BRAC sites, including Aberdeen Proving Grounds, which is also served by the MARC Penn Line.
Currently, MARC's TLC is the only way to get an unlimited use pass from Metro. MARC's TLC is the only pass that allows unlimited rides on multiple modes. Non-MARC Metro riders can use rail and bus passes which are fairly limited; several have recommended creating more flexible passes.
Will these services prevent a traffic nightmare from occurring? Probably not. MARC service is limited and does not run on weekends, and many employees relocating from Virginia are probably not keen on 2-hour commutes with multiple mode shifts.
DISA's move to Fort Meade isolates the agency from DoD headquarters and other related agencies in DC, Arlington, and Alexandria, which in turn means more and longer commutes for meetings and conferences. This will also be the case with most agencies that are moving from the DC core to transit-poor exurbs in the BRAC as land in the city core sits undeveloped.
Nevertheless, the fact that the DoD is beginning to recognize the importance of mass transit's role in providing an efficient way for employees to reach their facilities is an important step in the right direction.
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