This spring, the Fairfax and Loudoun County Boards will vote on Phase II of the Dulles Rail project. Construction for Phase I is in progress and there is strong support for Metrorail in Fairfax County. What has been the most controversial aspect of Dulles Rail today is Phase II which extends into Loudoun County from Dulles International Airport.
I strongly support Phase II of Dulles Rail.
Many Republicans in Loudoun County oppose Phase II of Dulles Rail. They cite the taxes, increased tolls, and the PLA issue as the primary reasons why. In reality, while they do care deeply about those issues which must be addressed, I surmise that at the heart of the matter is a rabid philosophical predisposition against public transportation.
Like Rush Limbaugh, they believe that cars represent the epitome of American freedom and individualism and that public transportation is for yuppies, tree-huggers, and socialists. They wouldn’t want public transportation even if it was completely free and useful to them.
I know they believe this because I have prodded them enough to have them reveal their true motivations and intentions.
If cars and roads are the epitome of American freedom and individualism, how free is a person in actuality when that person is stuck in traffic for 2-3 hours everyday? Even worse, when a person is behind the wheel, the person cannot work or rest simultaneously and this results in an untold amount of lost productivity and profits.
When I give Loudoun Republicans my business reasons for supporting public transportation, they scoff at me. I tell them that I have grown to dislike driving because I can’t work and drive at the same time. Driving from point A to point B for one hour causes me to lose one hour of work, profits, sleep, and leisure. Taking the train or the bus from point A to point B for one hour and 15 minutes causes me to gain one hour and 15 minutes because I am working furiously as I travel or I am sleeping on my way to my destination so I can fire on all cylinders and not be fatigued by the stress associated with driving through the congested streets of DC/MD/VA. It is good for my business.
Recently, I went to Old Town Alexandria to meet with a client. I took the Metro from Vienna/Fairfax to King Street and enjoyed a half-mile stroll through Old Town Alexandria’s historic streets to arrive at my destination. The trip took me about 45 minutes, but I had my computer with me and while I was riding the train, I completed a position paper for another project. There is absolutely no way I would have been able to type and drive at the same time. I saved 45 minutes by taking public transportation and improved my bottom line.
At another time, I went to Baltimore for a convention. I took the Metro from Vienna/Fairfax to Union Station and hopped on the MARC train to Camden Yards. The trip took 2 hours during the morning rush hour, but I was able to catch up on all client correspondence on my computer and even do some reading on top of it all by the time I arrived at Camden Yards. Had I chosen to drive the entire way, the trip might have taken 2 hours…on the Beltway alone. Most importantly, as I am pulling my hair out behind the wheel, I would have arrived at my destination tired, aggravated, and behind where I want to be with work.
These experiences are some of many business-related experiences that strongly reinforce my belief that public transportation is a pro-business policy.
A Loudoun Republican’s typical response to my pro-business argument for public transportation is to not directly address my business needs, because I believe that in their hearts, they think my argument makes perfect sense. Therefore, they counter by saying, “Why should I subsidize your ability to travel by train? I am never going to use it.” Right now, my response is, “I subsidize many of the roads you travel on that I will never use,” and the conversation goes nowhere which is unfortunate. They are always the ones who cut the conversation short after starting the, shall we say, robust conversation.
Telework is the major reason why expanded public transportation options will be necessary to catapult the economy well into the 21st century. In the 20th century, factories and offices dominated the landscape. The automobile (and its lobbyists) played a major role in urban and suburban development. American culture in the 20th century was a car-centered culture in which work was relegated to the workplace and compensated on an hourly rate.
Recall that minimum wage laws were passed in the 20th century to address industrial working conditions that had their origins in the 19th century and became dominant in the 20th century. Previously, all businesses were “home-based” as most people worked in agriculture and were paid by their work product, not so much by the hour. We can argue about the wisdom of such laws like minimum wage laws separately, but the point is that laws and public policies reflect the economic realities of the day.
Putting in time in the workplace became the equivalent of working hard, even though worker engagement does not occur at peak level for all eight hours of the day. People put in time and got a paycheck in exchange, though a good chunk of the day is wasted with coffee breaks and general nonsense. Even with the advent of computers, people drove to work to work on a computer.
Then something revolutionary happened. Wireless internet became mainstream. People are no longer tethered to the office environment. They could get the job done just as effectively and efficiently from home, at a coffee shop, at a restaurant, at a public library, at an airport, on a train, and everywhere in between.
Telework, the term describing “work from home”, started to increase. Employers saw the benefits in improved worker morale, efficiency, and retention. Employees saw the benefits in time flexibility, increased family time and leisure, and an improved quality of life.
In my opinion, the most important development associated with telework is the burst of creativity and entrepreneurship from the people. Aspiring business owners see less of a need to rent office space. Why drive 30 miles to work on a computer with an internet connection when you already have that at home? Why rent office space to meet with clients when you can meet at a restaurant?
With less overhead required to start a business, we are living amidst a freelance revolution that will not subside. I am one of those business owners and this is my story.
I do not bill by the hour. I started my business with a 20th century mindset of getting paid by the hour and getting overtime for more time put in beyond the 40 hour per week restriction. I learned quickly enough that such an arrangement was to the detriment of both the client and the vendor.
Clients do not like the unexpected and payment by the hour can balloon to an exorbitant cost if the project is more complicated than expected. Most of all, as a business owner, I do not like payment by the hour because there is no incentive to do quality work efficiently. Completing the project in 4 hours instead of 8 hours at the same quality penalizes the business owner under an hourly billing scheme.
A long, long time ago, I worked an hourly job in a restaurant like many people. Being Phil Tran, I balled so hard at the onset and impressed the managers. Then I realized, that regardless of the intensity of my grind, I was getting paid the same hourly rate as the lazy dude right next to me. Why waste all that energy?
Some jobs still operate on an hourly scheme and there are instances when that is desirable. As for me, I work from home and bill by the project. It gives me every incentive in the world go hard because my time is valuable. Now, I can complete my client’s project in 4 hours and save the extra 4 hours to pick up another project and get even more money. I got money on my mind.
As a result, I have come to despise driving. I can’t work when I drive. I suspect that I am not the only one as more and more businesspeople arrive in the game with the same mindset and resources; a house, a computer, and internet access.
Because putting in more hours does not equate to more money, my time has actually increased in value. This is because the more time I save, the more money I will make. Alternatively, I will have more leisure time as well if that is something that is attractive to you. As for me, I get money.
This is where public transportation becomes more important in the midst of a major structural economic change. Business people like me can work simultaneously as we travel. We already own the tools to do business. Previously, they were all tied to the office, but wi-fi and telework have set us free.
People will demand living situations that are more tailored to their time-oriented needs, not so much car-oriented needs. This means we will see significant urban and inner suburban redevelopment. The future of living lies in redeveloped urban and inner suburbia. Business people and families will want the amenities of life to be closer to them so that they can save time and money on transportation costs. Spread out exurbs have reached their limit. In order for outer suburbs and exurbs to stay on the scene, a connection to a major hub of business and recreation will be vital.
Loudoun County needs Phase II of Dulles Rail because Loudoun County will need it for the future. With an awareness of changing economic times and the political will, this project will be completed. There are many challenges however.
Metro is currently inefficient and bureaucratic. I am very well aware of that fact. However, the solution is to make it better and do everything humanly possible to keep costs down, not cut yourself off from it. With the proper vision, foresight, and anticipation of structural economic changes in the next few decades, Loudoun County will need Metrorail in order to stay competitive economically and to stay connected as an integral part of the DC/MD/VA region.
I’m working on my own accord in my limited free time to help organize and be part of the positive, bipartisan voice at the grassroots level to support Metrorail and overall efforts to improve and expand public transportation. If you agree that public transportation is a pro-business policy like me, I am willing to work with you. I do not care if you are a Democrat, Republican, independent, or apathetic. My goal is to play a role in being a part of the coalition of business and community leaders who stand with public transportation as a business friendly policy. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to start the conversation on how we can protect Loudoun’s future by supporting a vital pro-business public transportation project.
Disclaimer: I write in my capacity as a concerned citizen. I reiterate that my views do not reflect the views of my clients, employers, or the other writers on this outlet in any way, shape, or form. People who know me very well, know that I even disagree with many of my closest friends and clients on their political stances. I can work for politicians I have little in common with politically who vote against my views quite a bit because I value character and integrity above all else. Character and integrity are universal values. As a result, I’m a rare independent political and public relations consultant who has worked directly for both Democrats and Republicans. People hire me for my quality, not my ideology.
Draves, William A. and Julie Coates (2007). Nine Shift: Work, life, and education in the 21st Century. Learning Resources Network. River Falls, WI. http://www.nineshift.com/
Horowitz, Sara (September 1, 2011). The Freelance Surge is the Industrial Revolution of Our Time. The Atlantic. Retrieved from http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2011/09/the-freelance-surge-is-the-industrial-revolution-of-our-time/244229/
Pearlstein, Steven (January 14, 2012). For Development all Signs Point Inward. The Washington Post. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/steven-pearlstein-for-development-all-signs-point-inward/2012/01/12/gIQAIM3czP_print.html