Thursday, January 21, 2010

ACT: Use Costco Subsidy to Prevent Bus Cuts

Action Committee for Transit (ACT) has written the County Council urging them to use money intended to subsidize Costco in Wheaton to support the Ride-On bus system instead.

County Executive Ike Leggett has proposed reducing or eliminating 27 Ride-On bus routes as part of a mid-year $70 million budget reduction package, a move that would wipe out 52 bus driver positions. That idea has encountered significant resistance inside the County Council, with Valerie Ervin calling it "a mess of epic proportions." ACT President Ben Ross is now asking the council to use money intended for Costco to prevent those cuts:

The $4 million subsidy for a Costco store near the Wheaton Metro is ill-advised, and the money would be far better spent on Ride-On service. Furthermore, building the Costco store as designed would undercut the county's economic development strategy. The Washington area, like the rest of the United States, has a surplus of regional shopping malls and an undersupply of housing in mixed-use areas near mass transit. The construction business can only be restarted by encouraging the supply of product for which there is unmet demand. That is transit-oriented development, especially housing. We need to propel the county economy forward by encouraging the transformation of Wheaton Plaza into a lively urban center that will enhance its surroundings and stimulate more economic growth... We should not waste money trying to prop up an obsolete and economically unsustainable form of land use that is incompatible with its urban surroundings.
ACT joins MPW contributor (and your author's wife) Holly Olson and smart-growth blog Greater Greater Washington in arguing against the subsidy on the grounds that it is incompatible with transit-oriented development in Wheaton. Now the Costco subsidy was intended to be disbursed in FY 2012, so it is not directly related to the current Ride-On cuts. But we hear FY 2012 is projected to be worse than FY 2011 so those bus routes are definitely in danger next year - which also happens to be the year after the next election.

Readers may ask why a county that is full of politicians who proclaim allegiance to "smart growth" would want to subsidize a Bigbox near a Metro station. No, dear readers, we don't understand that either!

We reprint ACT's letter below.