Thursday, April 06, 2006

We ain't that easy...

Mixed into this story about the proposed Green line extension for the Washington Metro is the real motivation some lawmakers had for including a provision to study the potential of a stop in Columbia.

State Sen. John A. Giannetti Jr. (D-Prince George's), a strong proponent of the Green Line extension, said planners talked for years about Columbia as a possible connecting point between the two cities. After the Pentagon approved a plan last year to expand Fort Meade -- a move that could bring tens of thousands of people to the surrounding region -- Giannetti said it became clear that the rail extension needed to go through the base in Anne Arundel County, about eight miles east of Columbia.

Transportation officials said the extension could be paid for by a combination of federal and state money, private investment and contributions from Anne Arundel, Prince George's and Howard counties.

"You really need Howard County's money to make this work," Giannetti said. "They are one of the wealthiest counties in the country."

He has proposed a "Guilford/Columbia East" stop on the Green Line, near Interstate 95 and Route 32. Bus service could then connect that stop to downtown Columbia, he said.

"That's how we get Howard County's money," said Giannetti, who added that Howard County Executive James N. Robey (D) has pledged to support the project. Robey did not respond to requests for comment.
Actually, that’s not how you get our money. One stop, roughly eight miles from the center of the most populous city in our county – and the second most populous in the state – is not going to win my support. If, big “if” here, we extend the Green line and the most we get is this Columbia/Guilford junk, I won’t support the county spending gobs of money on the project, and I’m a huge supporter of public transportation.

My problem with this idea is that it’s the same old, same old that has proven to be ineffective. In concept, maybe, having people catch a connecting bus from downtown to the Metro stop might seem reasonable, but in reality all it will mean is a bunch of empty buses.

Look, extending Metro to Town Center would be difficult and expensive, although as I’ve said there are existing, completely unused rail lines that get us pretty close. But if we’re planning to building a denser, more populated Town Center and improving our existing county transit system in the process, putting a stop in downtown should not be just a possibility – it should be a priority.

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