Michael Barone
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So there is no station serving Tysons Corner in Northern Virginia, which has become the largest office center between downtown Washington and Atlanta.

Joel Garreau, in researching his book "Edge City" on Tysons and similar clusters, asked Metro planners why they didn't put a station there.

The reply: We never thought there would be any development there. Suburbs are for houses.

But Northern Virginia lawyer named Til Hazel, who handled land acquisition cases on the Capital Beltway, figured it out. He bought big parcels in the triangle between the Beltway, Leesburg Pike and Chain Bridge Road, and made millions developing Tysons.

Now Metro is trying to extend the Orange Line to Tysons and beyond to Dulles Airport. This would have been much cheaper when the system was planned in the early 1970s and much of the land in between was vacant.

Now the costs are astronomical and construction deadlines seem far distant. But, hey, other systems are worse. New York opened its first subway line in 1906, but you still can't take a subway to LaGuardia or Kennedy airports.

Central planners have trouble envisioning the future and, at least in the case of rail transit planners, have a bias toward recreating the past.

They love the idea of channeling the masses into central destinations and have had trouble imagining that suburbs developing beyond the leafy residential enclaves of the 1950s. They have been slow to see that airports would be a major destination.

But as Joel Kotkin has pointed out, the centralization of business and shopping in downtowns was predominant only for a moment in time, between the onset of rail transit till the arrival of the automobile.

Systems like the Metro have failed to anticipate the future and, at great cost to national taxpayers, have helped the minority who prefer dense urban living. But with higher fares and lower reliability. Metro looks nice, but it's not much of a bargain.

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Michael Barone

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM