Photo by dan reed! on Flickr.

Capital Bikeshare, the Purple Line, and Silver Line are among the best transportation projects in America, according to the Sierra Club’s annual list of the 50 best and worst. Virginia also scored 3 “worst” slots with sprawl-inducing, environmentally destructive highway projects around the state.

Capital Bikeshare: Our system, now in DC, Arlington, and Alexandria and soon in Montgomery County, is still the largest bike sharing program in the United States as long as New York and Chicago are delayed (not that we’re rooting for any more delays).

The report says, “Capital Bikeshare resolves the “first and last mile” dilemma for many transit users by providing convenient transportation to and from transit stations. User surveys show that bikeshare eliminated 5 million miles of driving in 2011.”

Purple Line: The Sierra Club says, “The Purple Line is estimated to have 68,000 daily commuters when complete, replacing an enormous amount of automobile traffic, enhancing air quality and decreasing greenhouse gas pollution. ... Construction on this project is will begin in 2015 and the line is scheduled to open in 2020.”

If, that is, Maryland can come up with money to get it built. Local leaders and stakeholders are meeting tomorrow for a “Regional Transportation Funding Summit” to talk about how the state can find the necessary money for its share of the project; right now, it has no funding from 2014 on to keep going with the project.

Silver Line: The line has already spurred TOD at Tysons Corner and is projected to displace 91,000 car trips with both phases complete. “The project will also help preserve the rural nature of western Loudoun County by absorbing growth in higher density TOD around the two stations in the eastern part of that County,” notes Sierra Club. It can do that best if Virginia doesn’t also build the Outer Beltway to generate more sprawl.

Meanwhile, Virginia’s highway-building spree, which Governor McDonnell accelerated but Governor Kaine laid plenty of groundwork for, is causing significant damage and warranted 3 dishonorable mentions:

Outer Beltway: “The project has been repeatedly rejected because it doesn’t relieve traffic on the overly congested Washington D.C. Beltway, I-95, or I-66. It will induce greater traffic demand by encouraging housing developments, strip malls and office parks along its route in the now rural areas of western Prince William and Loudoun Counties.”


Look for the McDonnell administration to try to push this through in the final years of his term; he’s promised to find a solution for transportation funding, which to him means only road funding.

Coalfields Expressway: “Located in Southwest Virginia, [this] is a proposed project to construct a new four-lane highway through rural areas of the Appalachian Mountains via mountain top removal coal mining methods.” It will pollute the environment and do little for mobility in the lightly-populated area.

Route 460 in Hampton Roads: This $1.5-2 billion project would create a new 4-lane, 55-mile road paralleling an existing one, which will create more sprawl and environnmental damage. Sierra Club writes, “The new parallel highway is intended to serve as a truck corridor for the Port of Virginia, detracting from a less oil-intensive freight rail alternative for the port.”

Transit cuts: Another “worst” project is the nationwide cuts to transit, pressure to raise fares, or both that systems around the nation are facing as the federal government, states, and municipalities reduce their investments in transit.

"A survey of 117 transit agencies by the American Public Transit Association in 2011 found that “nearly eight in ten transit agencies (79%) have cut service or raised fares or are considering either of those actions. Half of the transit agencies (51%) have already cut service or raised fares,” the report says.

David Alpert is Founder and President of Greater Greater Washington and Executive Director of DC Surface Transit. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. Unless otherwise noted, opinions here are his and not the official views of GGWash or DCST.