It’s 2030 and the Washington Area National Group (WANG), the 51st state of America consisting of D.C., Prince George’s and Montgomery counties formerly of Maryland, Arlington and Fairfax counties formerly of Virginia as well as a handful of smaller municipalities, has just elected it’s first governor, Supreme Chancellor Michelle Rhee.
Never one lacking bold ideas, Rhee has decided enough is enough: WANG will pick one mode of transportation and ban all others for the sake of continuity and efficiency. Different factions are beginning to assemble for the three coalitions: Rail, bus and automobile. Each gang has just a few sentences to sell their cause, then Rhee will select a mode of transportation and never turn back, the landscape to be altered forever. Here are their proposals:
Her Majesty’s SuperMetrorail
Having dubbed themselves with a Rheedeeming name, this group of straphangers has already succeeded in getting quite a bit more Metro built in the past 20 years, the system now looking much like a Greater Greater Washington fantasy map. A lot of people are happy they can get around without a car, but it’s been expensive. Going from Shady Grove to National Harbor costs over $20 at the peak of the peak of the peak of the superpeak (5 p.m. to 5:15 p.m.). And selling more rail is a tough one; scores of people from non-Metro accessible areas will have to be relocated wholesale to 50-story towers in Reston and Columbia along Metrorail extensions. But the transit unions are happy; Rhee may have learned something in a past a job about keeping them sated.
HMS says reorganizing the entire society around rail spokes is a genius plan, one that will maximize green space and curb emissions once and for all. More people will walk, increasing health benefits, and the area will become a model community for the Smartest Growth state. But billions of dollars of housing stock will be scrapped to make way for this plan, and the costs will be astronomical to build enough Metro lines to support millions of riders a day. Is it worth it?
Bus Extra Rapid Transit
BERT has succeeded in installing plenty of bus-only lanes in WANG in recent years, and ridership has exploded. Over 20 percent of WANG’s 8 million residents use a rapid bus in a given week. Unfortunately, predictions that WANG citizens would flock to buses as a substitute for rail have been false; Metrorail is still the area’s primary transit provider. For now.
Under BERT’s plan, all car lanes in WANG will become bus-only and a massive bus manufacturing plant would replace Crystal City, a 1970s era ghost town now devoid of human life. BERT will not alter any housing stock and instead send buses all over the state, with 1000s of one-seat rides that will go from any point to any point. Buses for all, they promise! Unused roads would gradually be returned to nature as BERT adjusts service to reflect demand. But citizens are wary: Would the very buses that bring them to work bring back crime to their neighborhoods? And are eight second headways on the Beltway really possible?
After a sweetheart deal signed during the creation of WANG, General Motors has become the sole provider of autos for WANG residents. Their transportation plan for the future includes replacing all Metro lines with 6-lane arterial roads and adding express express lanes to the now 24-lane Interstate 270. Private car owners could continue driving their current vehicles and replace them with GM autos at their discretion.
Those old, unused trade-ins would be pooled into a massive car-sharing service for those that can’t afford private automobiles. Auto insurance would be deducted from paychecks, and given to the unemployed for free-to-low amounts. Tax-financed subsidies would allow GM’s car-sharing service to be available at different rates, from $200 a month down to free, so that everyone who wanted a membership could have one. Environmentalists chafe at the plan to add more gasoline-powered cars tothe road (GM bought out every alternative fuel technology and tabled each one); GM and supporters argue Americans, especially those residing in WANG, deserve liberty and a personal transportation experience. One sticking point: Highways will have to be renamed across the region. Plans for I-1195 require an entire rejiggering of naming conventions.
Maybe there’s a happy medium.
“Balderdash!” the Rhee government says, threatening to pull the plug on DC Crank Tank, the last independent journalism voice in WANG, now run from a houseboat on the Southwest Waterfront.
Things in WANG are getting too hot. B-Money signing off…