Terry Jeffrey: The Conspiracy Against the Car

June 16, 2011 - 3:31 AM

Americans who live far from the Washington Beltway may have never heard of Tysons Corner, Va. But something is happening there today that has already hit them in their pocketbooks and may ultimately strike deeply into their lives or the lives of their children.

Big government is laying siege to Tysons Corner.

Whether it triumphs there will help determine whether most Americans remain freely moving people, who own and operate their own cars and trucks -- and go where they want when they want -- or whether we become a nation predominantly populated by mass-transit-riding government dependents who rely on the state to get them where they need to go.

This may sound like hyperbole -- unless you happen to be stuck in traffic driving your car on any of the formerly serviceable highways that run through Tysons.

Someone stuck in traffic at Tysons today would see -- as he would have seen last year and will see for years to come -- slow-moving masses of government-subsidized construction workers erecting, at glacial speed, the latest segment of what is supposed to be a 23-mile extension of the Washington Metro commuter railroad.

Nor will it sound like hyperbole, I suspect, to people living in non-urban precincts far from the Beltway, who learn that $900 million in federal money has already been spent on this public transit project that they may never see and do not want to ride.

The full estimated cost of this one Metro line -- which reportedly will take until the end of 2016 to complete -- is $6.6 billion.

None of these billions is supposed to come from tolls paid directly by the people who will actually ride the trains.

The big-government liberals pushing this Metro line -- and similar projects around America -- intend to redistribute wealth from car owners and suburban and rural property owners to government-transit riders.

They intend to reward the people who ride the government's trains and live in cramped, high-rise neighborhoods within walking distance of those trains, while punishing people who live in single family homes, or on ranches or farms, and who drive cars and trucks that are their personal property.

According to a fact sheet published by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, the agency responsible for the Metro project, 4.8 percent of the costs are supposed to be allocated to taxpayers in suburban Loudon County, 16.1 percent to taxpayers in suburban Fairfax County and 4.1 percent to the airport authority itself.

"The remaining 75 percent would be paid from proceeds from Dulles Toll Road revenue bonds and any other funding sources secured for the Dulles Rail Project," says the fact sheet.

Among the "other funding sources" this agency seeks are more federal funds.

Meanwhile, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved last June what The Washington Post described as "a landmark proposal to allow the transformation of Tysons Corner from a sprawling, auto-dependent office park into a vibrant, walkable city."

Twenty years ago, journalist Joel Garreau wrote in "Edge City -- Life on the New Frontier" that Tysons Corner epitomized a new type of American community built by developers responding to the market choices of Americans who liked to live in single family homes and drive cars. "The crazy quilt of Edge City made perfect sense if you understood the place as the manifest pattern of millions of individual American desires over 75 years," he wrote.

It was freedom.

Fairfax County's new Tysons Corner development plan is designed to veto those individual market choices and remake the area into a regulation-controlled dense urban center where people live in apartment complexes above government train stations.

The plan even requires residential developers to make 20 percent of the units they develop "affordable housing" legally designated for people in five specific income brackets.

What is going on here? A conspiracy against the car -- that is also a conspiracy against liberty.

As I noted in my book "Control Freaks," U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood freely admitted at the National Press Club in 2009 that his department's "livability initiative" was "a way to coerce people out of their cars." The initiative aims at encouraging federally subsidized mass-transit and redevelopment projects like the one at Tysons.

LaHood has repeatedly said Portland, Ore., is the Obama administration's model for America. "Portland is the green capital of our country. Portland is the streetcar capital of our country. And Portland is the livable community capital of our country," LaHood said in 2009.

The administration, he told an Oregon newspaper, wants to "take what you've done here in Portland and try to replicate it around the country."

In Oregon, the state government has drawn what it calls "urban growth boundaries" around all metropolitan areas. It uses regulations to force development into densely packed regions inside the boundary -- and prevent development outside the boundary.

"A key outcome of this effort," say the Oregon regulations, "is a reduction in the reliance on single occupant automobile use, particularly during peak periods."

The big-government liberals who have been redesigning Oregon believe traffic jams are good and parking spaces are bad.

Not another penny of federal tax dollars should go to make Tysons Corner or any other American community more like Portland.

As I wrote in "Control Freaks," it is not coincidental that places like Portland, where government tries to control where people live and how they move, are largely populated by liberals.

Liberals in power produce more mass transit because they hope more mass transit will produce more liberals.