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Supervisors stress need to fund Metro, look at future housing needs at chamber

Loudoun supervisors at Chamber of Commerce’s 2017 PolicyMaker Series event.Times-Mirror/Sydney Kashiwagi
After wrapping up the first year of their terms, several members of Loudoun's Board of Supervisors on Wednesday shared what they believe is in store for the county over the next three years and beyond.

As they craft a new comprehensive plan, prepare for continued growth and brace for a new regional transportation system, supervisors stressed the need for more Metro funding, and they touched on the county's future housing needs.

“We were given real and honest numbers about what Metro is going to cost us going forward,” Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D-At Large) said, speaking at a Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce’s 2017 PolicyMaker Series event. “The numbers are startling, and they are concerning.”

Randall voiced concern that almost no local jurisdiction will be able to afford the transportation system’s operational costs.

“It is literally impossible. We don’t have it,” the first-term chairwoman said.

Randall said Metro needs “dedicated sources of funding” from the federal government and the General Assembly to help cover the bill.

“If the Metro goes down, the federal government workforce goes down,” Randall said.

The Democratic chairwoman said people have asked her if it was possible to change course on Metro and stop it from coming into Loudoun. She said that was out of the question and estimated the county would lose between $500 million or more even if it were possible.

“We cannot pull out of Metro. We can make Metro work,” Randall said. “That will involve the coming together of the business community, transportation community, politicians from both parties to get Metro on track.”

However, when asked for a ballpark on the cost figures she had received, Randall said since Loudoun will not become a part of WMATA's compact until Metro arrives, she didn't have exact numbers.

"Looking at other jurisdictions' numbers does inform us as to what Loudoun's could be, but it would not be appropriate for me to release the numbers of other jurisdictions, not to mention those numbers could adjust so they may not be hard numbers at this time," she added.

Housing needs

The chamber event came less than a month after a draft housing needs assessment report surfaced from George Mason University's Center for Regional Analysis and housing needs analysis firm Lisa Sturtevant & Associates, LLC.

The report found that by 2040 the county will be 17,860 homes shy of what it needs – this at a time when Loudoun is expected to house 7 percent of the region’s jobs.

Vice Chairman Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn) said the county needed to do a better job on growth and housing projections over the next several decades.

Buona noted the GMU study was “unconstrained” and did not consider land use and zoning or what was permitted under the county’s comprehensive plan.

The GMU study he said, looked at demographics, population projections and the projected number of jobs coming into Loudoun, while the county’s projections were “constrained,” and looked at what has already been approved and what the comprehensive plan permitted.

“We do a good job of projecting things for the next few years,” Buona said. “But I think we need to do a better job of projecting things for decades to come.”

Randall echoed the need to understand the extent of what types of housing needs are facing the county.

“I think housing is the one issue that could really derail economic development and job growth,” Randall said. “If you think about it, if everything else in the county is spot on, if our schools are perfect, if our taxes are perfect, our roads are clear, if everything is perfect and we don’t have homes, we’re not going to be able to attract jobs to Loudoun County.”

Buona said he is currently working with the fiscal impact committee to predict the county’s needs by 2045.

“It’s one murky crystal ball, but it’s absolutely necessary to do that,” Buona said.



Comments


Having fought against the Silver Line to Ashburn, I find it laughable that the Supers are amazed at the staggering, unaffordable, unsustainable costs. Everything you needed to know was right in front of you before the vote (Ken Reid). We CAN AND MUST get out of this contract!


Good deal Virginia SGP.  I won’t hold by breath though.  I have little confidence in Virginia’s FOIA system which, as you are well aware, gives great latitude to officials to block requests.  I’m sure they will invoke the section that says they don’t have to divulge information if they are in negotiations.

Sorry to poo-poo the effort.  It is a good request.


RQS, I fall under the “If you accept the need, but reject the cost” camp.

For the billions we are paying for the Silver Line, less costly bus services could have been enacted more quickly (but weren’t) at a lower overall cost to the taxpayer.  Currently we are in a funding quagmire with nobody willing to pay for Metro’s billions in debt and shortfalls.  Loudoun should have stayed out of it until Metro cleaned up its act.  Metro to Ashburn was approved 30 years ago.  What we agreed to 4 years ago was to be a funding partner to Metro.  Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.

I’d argue a couple of points on buses, but I find fault mainly with partnering with a bankrupt transportation system that will continue to jack up the cost in future years.  I read this week that Metro ridership dropped another 7% this year.  They can’t continue to increase costs and lose revenue forever.  The music will stop sooner or later.  And, in my estimation, much sooner than everyone thinks.


It is always amazing to me what the Board of Supervisors can and can not ignore. They certainly can and have for a long time, ignored the need to address Loudoun County’s much-needed road expansions, yet they cannot ignore an expensive Metro extension that we simply do not need. Bringing the metro to Loudoun County only places more stress on the badly obsolete roads of this county.


DD - Let’s discuss why buses are not the response answer equivalent to METRO. First, there are 2 types of buses - long-haul and local/circulator.  Loudoun County Transit has some LH’s to get you to Wiehle Metro, and about 10 ‘collector’ local routes within the County, including the 7-7-7 route. All of these use existing roads, and hence are buses in the travel lanes = buses in traffic. Dedicated bus lanes is a significant infrastructure creation, much like rail paths are, minus the electrification portion (which is significant). Dedicated bus lanes cannot be changed (as you mentioned, hence, buses in the traffic that is the reason people would choose a bus in the first place…to find a more time efficient manner to get from A to B.).

Further, buses are gatherers of people, people who must get to the ‘bus stop’. In urban residential areas, riders walk to/from the stop. If buses take on more of the role of long-haul, it will have a wider capture of riders, and those riders will drive to the pick-up spot. Hence, parking lots and garages - just like METRO needs, and has been planning for decades. Recall, few years ago, the get in or get out moment was largely predicated on parking garage deals at the stations. It got done - predicated on rail. Not bus stops.

Finally, the end-of-ride situation - it’s the same as w/ METRO. People need to get from the end station to their destination. That might require circulator buses on that end. Granted, more smaller busses get people closer to where they want to go. But that is why METRO is good for the long haul (like Ashburn to downtown DC), and buses are good for local circulation (in the traffic).

If you never want to believe that heavy commuter rail has benefits and is needed to serve Loudoun (and those who come THROUGH Loudoun to get east and south), as part of the greater DC region, then you are always going to crow about it. Period.

If you accept the need, but reject the cost, you have to factor in the alternative costs of doing X, Y, and Z to still move people around. It’s not METRO costs or nothing, if it were, I myself would always vote nothing. But like ‘build no more houses’, growth is still going to occur, so are you going to do it the best it can be, or let it occur less-than-the-best possible? If Winchester blows up as an ex-urb to Loudoun, they are all still coming through Loudoun on 7, 9, and 50. I’d much rather they stop as far out as possible, board a train, and pass through silently. But they are coming.

Not enough sand in this world, I suppose.


DD, see my posts on Chair Phyllis Randall’s Facebook page.

Just issued a FOIA requests for the metro cost estimates.  We shall see if there is anything there.  Will share responses on Facebook.


” it would not be appropriate for me to release the numbers of other jurisdictions”

Really?  Why should the public possibly know the costs of public transportation paid with public taxation?


RQS, the alternative is an actual transportation solution: buses.  Unlike Metro, bus lines can be moved as demand changes.  Buses are particularly good for an area that is in the throes of growth like Loudoun.  If the population shifts, you can very, very easily change a bus route at a fraction of the cost of Metro.

I hear you on everything predicated on Metro, but that is where all the risk lies.  We are assuming Metro will happen.  Well, Metro Board members have threatened to cut service to Loudoun if we don’t pony up (a lot) more cash. 

We could build for Metro and not have any trains.  That would be the biggest waste of all.

Further, looking ahead, BMW said they will roll out their first autonomous cars in 2021, just 4 years away.  I think self-driving cars will very dramatically change America and will be the death of Metro.  Ridership on Metro dropped almost 20% just last year after years of other drops.  People are using it less and less and once autonomous cars show up, ridership will drop off a cliff.

Invest in the future, not the past.  Drop Metro now.


it is amazing that none of the stupid BOS who approved this boondoggle aka Metro into Loudoun did not see this. Anyone who has taken Economics 101 could see that bringing Metro to Loudoun was going to be unsustainable. The BOS once again let the jackal developers pull the wool over their eyes…again…stupid…stupid…stupid!


Metro doesn’t need more funding, it needs MASSIVE reform on every level of the organization.  Especially labor practices and salary structure.

Loudoun had a chance to opt-out of the Silver Line, but the real estate developers and their lackeys on the BOS prevailed. 

This was very predictable outcome.


...and your alternative plan(s) then for moving people from Loudoun to the rest of the region is…what? You guys are all critique and no solutions. Pull out of Metro? You think it would be so easy? The impetus for Moorefield Station, Loudoun Station (now Gramercy), the swirling developments around the 606 station area and at teh Ffx line, all of that is predicated on Metro coming. The last 20-30 years of transportation planning and funding has been the network of arterials and collectors that basically parallel the Greenway/Metro alignment. The entire build-out of the County in the current (and the future) Comprehensive Plan includes the 3 Metro Stations and the developments already approved to go near them. The justification for approval of certain densities of housing and citing of services were done w/ the Metro location and arrival in mind.

Pull out now?


Disastrous news on Metro.  And we now will get stuck with outrageous taxes to pay for this.  Thanks, Ken Reid!  You are the one who is most responsible for this, since you were the swing vote on this when you sat on the Board of Supervisors.  This goes to show just how incompetent - and dangerous - Ken Reid is as an elected official.


More funding for the boondoggle and where does Randall go, she will tax business, tax transportation (gas) the state and the feds. A never ending cesspool to pour money into. Take the loss now and save billions. Ever notice the bonndoggles are accompanied by the proverbial carrot the baseball stadium. Used at Kincora, thanks for nothing, used to fast track Loudoun One, still looking for the stadium. Now she wants to pilfer money from everyone on the food chain for Metro and here is another stadium story. Coincidence or deflection?


And, no new houses until transportation networks get fixed.


You can’t say we can make Metro work and also say we can’t possibly afford it.  That makes no sense.

Why not pull out?

First, I don’t believe the $500M number.  Loudoun hasn’t spent anywhere near that yet.

And what additional costs are there?:
1. Metro has an annual operating deficit of $290M.
2. Their unfunded pension liability is $2.8B.
3. Projected additional needed capital funding is $20B-$25B (and this number keeps going up every time Metro opens its mouth).

Now we are on the hook for almost 5% of Metro. 5% of $20B+ is over $1B from Loudoun. They need another $15M/year+ for operating costs from us. We will never recover those costs from additional commercial development.

Get out and get out now.  After Metro goes bankrupt and gets restructured in XX years, then partner with the renewed system.

There is waaaaaay too much risk to Loudoun with Metro.

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