I'm often amazed at how really smart people can't seem to put 2&2 together. This last Sunday's Washington Post had a long, in-depth article about the BRAC relocations. It included a great graphic shown here (click on it for a larger view). At the same time, virtually every day brings additional news about the need to take immediate and significant actions to battle global warming. Most of the nations of the world met in Bali recently for the yearly Conference of the Parties that guides the international dialog on climate change. Europe, for one, was pushing for 25-40% reductions in greenhouse gases by 2020 (the U. S. 'succeeded' in watering down much of the language).
If you look at the map you will see that the jobs are primarily moving away from places where transportation options are more plentiful to places where they are not. There is no question that the number of miles driven in the DC area will go up with this realignment. The article points out the need for hundreds of millions of dollars of additional transportation infrastructure just to accommodate the additional traffic. All of it is more roads. Does the BRAC commission read the news about global warming? Are they living on another planet?
What you might hear from them is, "Our job was to blah...blah...blah. Once we met those objectives, then global warming might be a secondary issue, but it wasn't our job." I once attended a presentation in which the presenter posed the question, "Who is in charge of climate change?" The answer is, well, no one really. Which means that we all are. Including the BRAC.It's probably too late to change the relocations, but it's not too late to make opportunities out of them. Knowing that all these jobs are moving, what changes can be made that will reduce the traffic and greenhouse gases at the same time? The most obvious is to look at which jobs can be done without needing the people to actually be there. Having workers telecommute 2-3 days per week (or full time) would reduce driving and congestion tremendously and also reduce terrorism risk by spreading out the workforce. Comprehensive additional planning should take place immediately, including starting work on extending rail (VRE and Metrorail to the Proving Ground and Fort Belvoir and MARC direct to Fort Meade). Other land use planning needs to be much smarter, both on the bases themselves and in areas that will attract workers. The forts themselves should make themselves examples of places that people can get around without needing a personal car. That way those who come by the train or bus or carpool can get where they want and need to be. One way might be to put in PRT (personal rapid transit), which I'll cover another day.
In any case, it would be great to see the Defense Department take the lead on being forward thinking and progressive on how to achieve their realignment goals without exacerbating global warming.