Infrastructure We Can Believe In

It seems WMATA thinks that it needs $11 billion over ten years “to maintain, expand and improve train, bus and paratransit service.” That’s a very large number. But as Ryan Avent explains it’s money worth spending and doesn’t actually come out to all that staggering a cost:

But look, Metro is critically important to this metropolitan area, so it’s worth the spending of some of our money. And if you think about it, the amount required here isn’t that daunting. Some 3.8 million people live in jurisdictions served by Metro. Do the math and that comes out to about $300 per person per year. If you use the entire metropolitan area, which includes people who use the system but don’t live in a county that contributes to Metro, then we’re only talking about $250 per person per year.

The key to getting this done is to explore smart sources of revenue. As Ryan says, performance parking (where on street parking costs more during peak demand periods) and congestion pricing (where space on roads costs more during peak demand periods) could raise a lot of the necessary money in ways that would improve the overall functioning of our transportation system. Beyond that, a functioning Metro continues to be the key to infill development that, among other things, grows the tax base. The areas around the Navy Yard, Stadium/Armory, New York Avenue, Rhode Island Avenue, and Brookland Metro stations are all plausibly poised for dense, transit-oriented development but that’s premised on the Metro system continuing to operate at a high level.