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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Scale of the Challenge

Sometimes it is the personal impact that can help underline the scale of a challenge. On my 13 mile drive into the office this morning I heard the great news that work is going to begin this month on the extension of the Washington DC Metro system out to Dulles Airport. I sometimes avoid the drive and the association emissions by teleworking. But I enjoy coming into the office and being with colleagues, so I don’t do that every day. The Metro rail extension should be great news for my commute as it involves extending the line from the Metro station nearest my home out to a new station that will be within walking distance of my office.

The extension will be completed in 2013 - so I only have to wait four years until I can leave the car behind and take the train to work.

But then I realized that although the Metro service is available now into DC, I still often drive when I have a meeting downtown. Why? To take the Metro, the station is two miles from my home, so I have to start my journey in the car anyway. Parking can be unpredictable in DC, but I can always find something, whereas after 10 am there is often no parking at the Metro and I end up driving anyway. Metro plus parking costs just short of $10.00 and takes about 50 minutes door-to-door. Driving plus parking costs $16.00 but takes a very predictable 25 minutes door-to-door.

I am thrilled that the Metro rail extension is on its way, but I think this small example illustrates the scale of the challenge we face in just one component part of creating a more sustainable infrastructure.

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