Questions from Michael Perkins to candidates for 47th district, Virginia House of Delegates. Alan Howze's answers below:
1.Q: What’s your opinion on the Columbia Pike streetcar project? Where else do you think we should upgrade our transit network with higher-quality service?
AH: As I have walked door-to-door in the neighborhoods that will be directly impacted by the Columbia Pike streetcar project I have heard a lot of concerns about how the implementation plan for the streetcar. While I strongly support the expansion of mass transit in our region, I believe that there are concerns about the streetcar project that need to be addressed by the Arlington County Board so that neighborhoods residents can better understand the project, its impacts, how it will be implemented and how their concerns will be addressed.
2.Q: Some people believe that Bus Rapid Transit is a cheaper but just as effective alternative to rail transit like streetcars or light rail. What’s your opinion?
AH: Bus Rapid Transit is one of the transportation alternatives that should be on the table for increasing our mass transit options in our region. There is no one right option and the appropriateness of BRT, streetcars, and light rail should be considered on a case- by-case basis. Whatever the option, mass transit has to be the first priority for any transportation solution for our region. We can not pave our way out of our transportation problems.
3.Q: After the election, it’s possible that the House might still be controlled by a faction opposed to any tax increase. How would you work to obtain more money for transit given this limitation?
AH: There is a growing recognition that our region’s transportation needs are particularly acute, and the lack of adequate transportation is a drag on our regional economy, and consequently on the state’s revenues. I believe that we have a unique opportunity to combine federal stimulus funding with increased Virginia funding to make some real investments in transportation in ways that we have not seen in a generation.
When I worked for Governor Warner as his political director, I worked on solving our region’s transportation needs. We passed through the legislature a regional referendum to raise additional local transportation funding. The referendum was not successful, and only further highlighted the need for a state legislative solution that directly raises the revenue needed to make investments in transportation.
I have worked on regional transportation issues, and understand the linkage between development, transportation and quality of life. Part of the solution for our transportation needs is making sure that we have a regional development that is clustered around mass transit. Arlington has led the way in planning growth and linking growth to access to mass transit. How would you ensure that Virginia's transportation money is being spent in the areas with the most pressing transportation issues, as opposed to the areas that enjoy political clout?
AH: We have tried twice to obtain a regional transportation solution, and neither effort was successful. I believe that solving our transportation challenges will require a statewide solution, and my experience working and living all across Virginia provides me with a unique perspective among the candidates on how to link Arlington’s transportation needs to the larger statewide needs. This means that transportation funding must be channeled into mass transit in our region and that we have revenue sources that are stable enough that we can bond against them to make the significant public works investments in mass transit that will be required to address our needs.
I have proven experience working with the State Legislature and the Governor and I will build the coalitions required not only to increase transportation funding but to provide the flexibility to allow region’s to advance the transportation solutions that are most appropriate for their needs.
4.Q: Some people believe that widening roads doesn’t reduce traffic because the wider roads will quickly become congested again. Do you believe that widening congested roads induces more traffic to use them in the long run? If so, what do you believe is the best way to spend transportation dollars to accommodate growth?
AH: We need to focus on moving people and not on moving cars. This means shifting our emphasis from road construction to mass transit. I am opposed to widening of I-66, as I do not believe that it will relieve congestion. Rather, we need to be investing in the expansion of the capacity of the Metro system by adding additional cars, and expanding the reach of the system such as extending the Orange line further out the I-66 corridor.
5.Q: Should localities be allowed to require LEED certification as a condition of approving rezoning, proffers or exceptions to zoning requirements?
AH: The LEED certification process is a good tool but not a perfect one. I have studied for the LEED certification, and understand its strengths and limitations. I am not opposed to allowing localities to require stringent building standards that increase our water and energy efficiency.
6.Q: If the money were spent on transportation improvements, would you support a gas tax increase? If not, where do you propose to get new funding for transportation?
AH: I have publicly stated my support for increasing the gas tax. The gas tax is the closest thing to a user fee and has to be part of the transportation solution.
7.Q: If taxes or fees must be increased to raise money for transportation, would you prefer to raise the fixed costs of car ownership (through increased titling or decal fees, or personal property tax), or to raise the marginal costs of operating a car (through a gas or mileage tax, or tolls)?
AH: The solution to funding transportation is not an either/or solution based on fixed or marginal costs. Both sources are significant to funding our transportation needs. We need to determine the cost of our transportation requirements and then put together a funding package that includes federal transportation funding, federal stimulus funding, and state revenue sources. The funding sources must be stable enough that we can raise bonds from them in order to make the significant investments in expanding our mass transit system that will be required to solve our region’s transportation needs.
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