And how to make it work as one city
First off, whoever decided to use “μSA” as the acronym for Micropolitan Statistical Area was clearly really proud of themselves for that one.
Second, as a Texan who was born in the DFW metroplex, when I moved to the DMV I was floored by how close Baltimore was. It seemed obvious to me that DC and Baltimore would be considered twin cities had they come into existence a century later than they actually did.
“In D.C. we have a popular football team.”
DC local here, want to chime in with a personal anecdote. At one point, my job was requiring me to drive from Columbia Heights to Centreville, VA. I hated the commute so I applied for a job in Baltimore. As the interviews progressed and the option of taking the job became more serious, I Googled the actual commute and noticed the Baltimore job was exactly 0.1 miles further away from my apartment. So I took it.
Commuting from DC to Baltimore on MARC every day was...kinda a nightmare. It was better than driving to Centreville, but only because I subjectively hate driving. But the infrastructure improvements necessary to integrate the two cities more seamlessly are real challenges.
Lastly, I think the political lines matter here. Baltimore, and the Maryland/Virginia border, have been around longer than the United States has. They're mattering less now than they did when I was growing up, and the trend is good, but they're still important. It's extremely interesting to me how little Maryland looks to Virginia (and vice versa) in e.g. regulatory matters.
I started listening to Mike Duncan's French Revolution podcast during the December podcast lull, and, rightly or wrongly, keep drawing parallels with the current US, one of which is the absolute chaos of our administrative map. Municipal lines are gerrymandered just as badly as Congressional districts (only for different ends; see, e.g., Los Angeles County), Boston suburbs have zero incentive to work together and so just spend their time screwing each other on housing and transit, and the only elected government D.C., Arlington, and Baltimore have in common is the feds.
Bourbon France's was an order of magnitude worse than ours is, but administrative reform is just another way in which our peer countries are leaving us in the dust. But god forbid we redraw the sacred lines set down by the founders.
Sad that NIMBY's allowed SF to have lower population than JV San Jose
“I’m not an outdoorsy person by nature.”
Pun intended? If so, well done.
I grew up in the suburbs between DC and Baltimore and still live in the area. While I don't hate the idea of more interconnected travel I think you're greatly misinterpreting some things on that truck.
-First, note that the Oriole bird also has the Redskins feather on his hat. While the Nationals' fans have a long history of denying this there was in fact a major Orioles following in DC/the DC area for a very long time after the Senators left. The O's were front page news on the WaPo sports page, you could get tickets to Camden Yards in DC, and the stadium itself was built to be accessible to the DC market. There were plenty of Cal Ripken fans everywhere and O's farm teams in the DC area (Bowie, and you could arguably count Frederick).
-You also had an absence of NFL football in Baltimore from 1983 to 1996, which coincided with the Redskins glory years. The result was Redskins fandom expanding throughout metropolitan, and into southern, and eastern shore Maryland.
-The legacy of this is a cohort of older millennials and young GenX who grew up in the middle with loyalties to both Washington Football and Baltimore Baseball, though this is in decline as the fortunes have gone in very different directions (i.e. Nats good/O's bad, Ravens good/WFT bad). However it was normal growing up for people to be a fan of the Redskins and Orioles while still being more DC or Baltimore oriented. Lots of people are still like this without a regional identity crisis, though probably will think of themselves more as Marylanders than anything else.
-Also worth remembering before the Capitals and Wizards/then Bullets moved to Chinatown in the late 90s is that they played at US Air Arena in Landover Maryland. The Bullets began as the Baltimore Bullets before moving to the DC suburbs and eventually DC. Both have served as attractions to Baltimore area sports fans and their connection to DC used to be much looser than it's become with the downtown arena.
Point being it's not that there's a merging in progress, it's that there's a long complicated history of sports between 2 cities that are only 35 miles apart.
Lastly on the Savage MARC thing, good luck. I wanted it so badly to be a great experience but I tried commuting on MARC for a summer and it was a nightmare.
D.C.'s density is one-seventh of Manhattan. I believe there would be plenty of demand to build inside D.C. , without building out infrastructure from further out in VA. or MD. if this stupid law gets repealed.
As someone who grew up outside DC, I can say with certainty that many people did adopt the Orioles as their baseball team before the Nats came along. I used to drive out with my Dad to Camden Yards for a few games a year. I even have friends now who are furious (somewhat sarcastically obviously) that I've become a Nats fan because "we grew up O's fans and you stick with your team man!!!"
I’ve known the Washington/Baltimore/Arlington Combined Statistical Area as “The DMV”. Maybe that’s just a nickname in NBA circles (i.e. Kevin Durant is from The DMV), but I like it.
This post falls into the category of making progressive government great again.
It's pretty clear that for the foreseeable future national government will not be the place where progressives can make great strides, mostly because the country is pretty much evenly split between two sides that increasingly loathe each other.
So more and more it's time to decentralize and focus on politics and governance at the local level. How can blue states make governing more effective and answer the needs of their increasingly urban population? This post is a good example of the kind of efforts they (and we) should be focusing on. Sometimes most of the work can be done within a state (especially a big state like California) and sometimes it will require coordination across neighboring blue states (like the DMV). In either case, it seems like there's lots of things these local agglomerations can do on their own.
The problem is that the engaged populations (like us on this Substack!) tend to be geared to and excited by grand national issues. This is a great post, but how many non-local readers will continue to subscribe with increasing numbers of DMV-related posts? (Or would Matt even be interested in such a local focus?)
It's a shame really because progressives' greatest need is to show that government can be effective in addressing real world problems, and that's just not going to happen (much) at the national level, yet that's where we expend all our efforts. But it's fun to argue and debate, I guess.
Great article but I'm surprised you didn't connect it to a discussion of DC statehood. It seems to me the observations and recommendations here would argue strongly for a "retrocession" of most of DC outside the Capitol Hill / mall area into Maryland to reduce the number of jurisdictions interfering with the further integration of the two cities. I believe in the past you have preferred outright statehood for DC (obviously there are benefits in the Senate to that path) but isn't this a pretty good case for a merger?
I brought this up on a previous post, but unfortunately there’s no way to go full conductorless S-Bahn in the US. FRA regs require (or at least, the FRA reads its own regs to require) at least one conductor per passenger train running on an FRA-regulated railroad. Since S-Bahn by definition runs on mainline track, any S-Bahn in the US would be FRA-regulated and therefore need at least one conductor for each train.
This isn’t prohibitive, of course. It just makes it more expensive, but probably doable. However, there is a catch: If the stations on the route have no uniform platform height, the FRA requires more conductors on each train to operate the stairs, possibly as many as one per *car*. (I’ve learned since my last post on this issue that whether the FRA regs require this and if so how many additional conductors are required is apparently a subject of debate, but the FRA is insistent and no regulated entity cares enough to raise an overt/formal challenge.) So as a practical matter, you also need to have all high platforms to have an S-Bahn in the US. This applies to MARC and VRE: MARC has both high and low platforms, while VRE only has low platforms (it uses trains with low floors for ADA compliance). A unified system would need to rectify this before operating as an S-Bahn.
As someone who lives in Oklahoma City, I feel like I need a trigger warning for when you’re going to write about anything having to do with “S-Bahn.” Perpetually a decade behind the latest fads, we just built a brand new electric streetcar system. :(
I know this idea is out of favor for national political reasons, but it seems like DC retrocession to Maryland would resolve a lot of the roadblocks you’ve identified to this plan. Then not only would you be much more likely to have an ambitious progressive governor, but also fewer jurisdictional conflicts over development goals and resources.
Oh, regarding through-running MARC and VRE trains for greater access across the greater region: the Maryland legislature passed a bill (overcoming Hogan's veto) requiring the Maryland Transit Agency to negotiate with Virginia about actually doing through-running.
As a fun aside, the bill also requires them to negotiate with Delaware about extending MARC service further North.