There’s certainly an interesting debate raging over the Metro rail extension to Ashburn, particularly with the looming "opt-in" deadline. Just for the record, here’s how I see the arguments shaping up.
On the one hand,
- Is it necessary today? No
- Will it cost us money? Yes, but not clear how much
- Will taxes go up? Probably, but, again, not clear how much
- Will it drive billions of revenue to Loudoun? No.
- Will it reduce traffic? Not much.
- Will it bankrupt us? No.
- Will it bring in some revenue? Yes, but not clear how much.
- Are buses a realistic alternative? No.
- Will it raise the value of my home? Probably, but not sure how much
- Is it a generally a good thing to have (money aside)? Yes.
- Will it lead to rampant crime? No.
- Will it make some commutes better because they can take the train? Yes.
- Will we live to regret not building it? Depends on how old you are.
1. The future. I’ll admit that Ashburn is no Arlington in terms of density or demand for mass transit. But where will Ashburn be in 20 or 30 years? As Chairman Scott York has noted, Loudoun along with Virginia, the US and the world will continue to grow. It’s inevitable. We may not necessarily agree that Metro is that impactful today, but our kids certainly will reap the benefit of having such an alternative.
Look at San Mateo, California and Georgetown, both of which lost out on major mass transit opportunities. They did live to regret it. And don't forget those areas that removed rail lines and later regretted it, too, including southern California and even northern Virginia with the removal of W&OD.
2. There’s no better alternative. Given the abject failure of every other major traffic improvement initiative, I am for just about anything that might ease our pain. Moreover, quite frankly, the opponents of Metro seem like the same people who oppose virtually every measure to reduce traffic since, in their eyes, it ultimately leads to more development. Time for them to face the reality that development in western Loudoun is inevitable. We may as well plan accordingly.