Monday, February 2, 2009
It’s one thing simply to advocate for greater density and more public transportation; it’s another thing to make the tough policy choices that these land uses entail. I noticed that commentators Peter Katz and Walljasper annointed my old home county –- Montgomery County, Md. –- as the “most enlightened” suburb in the nation in a recent Utne Reader.
But here’s a story about a perhaps-not-so-enlightened side of Montgomery County. The state of Maryland is considering the creation of a new public transportation line to connect the busy downtown center of Bethesda, in affluent western Montgomery, with the less affluent communities, to the east, of Silver Spring (my old hometown) and Prince George’s County, which holds both the University of Maryland and a majority black and growing Latino population. Among the controversies that have plagued the “purple line” project (so dubbed because it would add to the variously colored lines of Washington’s metro system, which was not designed for suburb-to-suburb travel) are: (1) whether to use a light-rail or an express bus system (I have advocated the latter as far more cost-effective, while most public advocates have supported the more glamorous rail option, of course); (2) whether to run the line through a stretch of the popular rail-to-trail Capital Crescent Trail (other options appear too expensive for rail); and, finally, (3) whispers (okay, more than merely whispers) that affluent Bethesdans don’t like the idea of easterners having a quick access to their community.
Who knew that being “enlightened” was so complicated? …
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