Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of their organizations or ARLnow.com.
By Matt de Ferranti
In August, I wrote a column outlining positive progressive ideas for our County to keep Arlington a great place to live.
In today’s column, I offer a second set of proposals to address our needs in transportation, for our parks and open space, and for energy efficiency policies to confront climate change.
For many Arlingtonians, location and accessible transportation brought us here. Generations came to Colonial Village or Lyon Park and stayed. Others remained in the County, but moved west from their apartments, condos, and homes along the Orange Line in Rosslyn or Ballston, or in Crystal City, or on Columbia Pike. To keep our transportation network strong, I suggest several actions.
A Dedicated Funding Stream for Metro: Metro has been at the heart of many decisions to move here. Because this service is indispensable for so many Arlingtonians and our economy, we should be steadfast in our commitment to a dedicated funding stream for Metro.
Data Driven, Common-Sense Transportation Decisions: As we make decisions on County transportation issues, such as improvements to bus service on Columbia Pike or Lee Highway, the relocation of the Virginia Rail Station stop near the Airport, and the balance between parking and bike lanes in Crystal City, we should base our decisions on data and common-sense analysis.
Arlington should also be willing to consider new ideas such as, for example, whether agreements with ride-services such as Lyft may be cost-effective on little used bus routes. We should always ask: What works and where are smart investments most needed?
Make Good on our Commitments to Columbia Pike Bus Service: Four years ago, we committed to improving bus service on Columbia Pike. Last month, the County Board approved funding to begin the work to make that happen. We should accelerate that work and look to off-board fares and multiple doors as ways to speed up the Pike’s bus service. Both would require investment and need further analysis, but neither implicates a dedicated lane and they show real potential.
Continue with I-66 Express Lanes, but Use Data to Adjust if Necessary: Tolls on I-66 have been controversial. Before we rush to judgment, let’s acknowledge that it is only in its first weeks. I agree with the The Washington Post‘s argument that we should stick with the toll system.
The funding for improvements that Arlington’s transportation system will receive through the toll revenue generated by the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission will include roads, bus service, and other multimodal transportation improvements. We need these improvements and should stick with the plan, while being ready to seek changes to the timing of rush hour, for example, if necessary.
The quality of our parks has been a hallmark of Arlington and a shared source of joy. From those who walk our trails, to bicyclists on the Loop, to the fields that so many Arlingtonians use to play their sport of choice, to open space in increasingly short supply, we care about our environment.
Balance All our Needs: Space is costly in Arlington, so we must invest wisely. The Public Spaces Master Plan (PSMP) currently under consideration has and will identify new needs and ideas, and will help clarify a big-picture sense of the competing needs we face – including lighted sports fields and the need for free open space.
Aquatics Center at Long Bridge Park: The County Board made the right decision late last month to fund a significantly more cost-effective proposal for a swimming facility and improvements at Long Bridge Park. Demand for a swimming facility has been widespread for a long time. Arlington voters have already approved the funding for construction via bond measures. We should fund operations for this facility that will benefit County residents for years to come.
Climate Change: Underlying our choices on open space and parks is a defining challenge of the 21st Century — climate change. Arlington’s energy plan was adopted in June 2013 to provide “a long-term vision for transforming how we generate, use, and distribute energy.” The plan calls for using locally generated alternative energy and energy efficiency to reduce greenhouse gases and the cost of energy. Its goal is a 75 percent lower carbon footprint by 2050. Significant progress has already been made. We should continue to work to meet our 2050 goal.
Arlington can and should be both fiscally sound and supportive of wise investments in transportation, parks and open space, and policies to address climate change.
Matt de Ferranti is a member of the Joint Facilities Advisory Commission, is Chair of the Budget Advisory Council to the Arlington School Board, and Vice Chair of the Housing Commission.