The difficulty of the United States and thus the world to confront the worsening crisis of global warming is underscored by the resistance – even in well-to-do communities – to invest the financial and political capital in public transit and other infrastructure necessary for reducing carbon emissions.
Take, for example, Arlington County and other Virginia communities, just west of Washington D.C. You might think that this area of well-educated and politically savvy people with median household incomes over $100,000 would be at the forefront of doing whatever is necessary to get people out of their cars and into mass transit.
After all, scientists warn that a rise in temperatures by more than 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial days will wreak havoc on the earth — and we are already halfway there.
Yet, Arlington, which sits between the District and other close-in communities such as Fairfax County and Falls Church city, is turning its back on proposals for light rail that could reduce traffic congestion and help the environment. Arlington’s new ten-year transportation plan looks only to make marginal improvements in bus service inside the county.
A big part of the problem is political. Although the County Board has a Democratic majority, Tea Party Republicans found a winning issue in opposing a light-rail Streetcar for Columbia Pike, a corridor that runs through a poorer part of South Arlington, which has been historically home to a multi-racial population. The predominantly white voters in North Arlington rebelled against this investment in South Arlington, even though the state and regional agencies had agreed to pay for much of it.
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