Gabrielle Gurley

Gabrielle Gurley is The American Prospect’s deputy editor. Her email is ggurley@prospect.org.

Recent Articles

Transit Safety Shuffle in the Nation’s Capital

Unless the federal government can exercise proper authority over D.C.'s ailing transit system, dangerous accidents may continue to occur. 

AP Photo/Alex Brandon
The entire Washington, D.C., subway system shut down for an emergency safety inspection for 29 hours last week, forcing thousands of District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia residents to find other ways to navigate the region. The Federal Transit Administration is the lead agency in charge of safety oversight on the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority, the only local agency in the United States that the FTA oversees. With the FTA (which is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation) charged with oversight for the system, you would think that federal officials were on the scene as their WMATA counterparts the inspected the subway. You would be wrong. No FTA or other Department of Transportation inspectors took part in the unprecedented safety blitz that discovered major problems with nearly 30 power cables. Asked why federal inspectors did not participate, a DOT spokesman told The American Prospect, “WMATA conducted the inspection without DOT participation. In its...

The Siren Call of Streetcars

How the real-estate industry foils cost-effective transit

(Photo: AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
The long-awaited D.C. streetcars recently started trundling down Washington’s H Street NE, near the U.S. Capitol. Yet the $200 million line, which had been in the works for a full decade, has mostly been greeted with the sound of one hand clapping. Residents have complained about the slow speed of the system, the short span of the line, and the paucity of new jobs or better transit connections for the area’s African American poor. When it comes to streetcars, New York is no Washington, insists Gotham Mayor Bill de Blasio. The Big Apple, he says, would have a “ different ” approach to the $2.5 billion Brooklyn Queens Connector, a cross-borough waterfront streetcar plan. Still, a streetcar is a curious choice for New York, a city that epitomizes a “the quick and the dead” attitude toward urban commuting—getting to a final destination by the shortest, fastest route possible. Streetcars are all the rage today in areas that would be otherwise ideal...

Atlanta Voters Say ‘Yes’ to Tackling City Water Woes

Atlanta is one of the cities most at risk of water disruption, and the Flint crisis loomed large for voters on Super Tuesday.

(Photo: AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/John Spink)
With the Flint water crisis looming large in the rearview mirror, Atlanta voters went to the polls on Super Tuesday and decided to continue to levy a 1 percent sales tax on themselves to fund water and sewer system projects. The measure passed by resounding margins in Atlanta-Fulton (74 percent to 26 percent) and Atlanta-DeKalb (81 percent to 19 percent). The victory was an encouraging sign that in one major metropolitan area, voters are heeding some important lessons about the importance of continued infrastructure investments. Like many American cities, Atlanta has had to learn the hard way about the downside of years of neglect. Originally instituted in 2004 and renewed in 2008 and 2012, the sales tax extension will raise about $750 million to pay for upgrades to the city’s water and sewer systems. The levy applies to just about every purchase made within the city limits, which helped the measure go down smoother since residents, businesses, and visitors alike pay the tax...

D.C., Northern Virginia Go For Gondolas: The Answer to Urban Congestion?

Washington's new transit proposal may seem fantastical, but gondolas have been rapidly growing in urban areas around the world.  

mhiran1/Creative Commons
The guffawing in the District of Columbia and Northern Virginia has stopped. A proposal to set aside one neighborhood’s long-held dream for a subway stop in favor of an option usually associated with alpine ski runs got serious traction recently when the Arlington, Virginia, County Board joined the District of Columbia City Council in agreeing to move forward on a gondola system study. Using gondolas to traverse the Potomac River has to be the quirkiest idea available to relieve congestion in one of the region’s notorious traffic bottlenecks. But the United States is far behind Europe and South America in using gondolas to cross short spans or to solve other transit woes, particularly in urban areas. Although gondola systems are often treated as fantastical ideas in a country that remains fixated on traveling by car, the technology has sparked glimmers of interest in areas like Washington, D.C., where transportation problems are plentiful, but transit dollars are in short...

Clinton and Sanders Infrastructure Platforms Go Nowhere Fast

Ambitious but necessary spending plans are likely to meet corporate and congressional resistance.

(Photo: AP/Tom Lynn)
When the nation’s top infrastructure analysts calculate the cost of the coast-to-coast investments that the United States needs to make in the country’s highways, bridges, dams, mass transit, and water networks, they end up with a number that few minds can grasp. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) recently issued its quadrennial rundown on the state of the country’s infrastructure. It is a sobering list of dollar signs. To get the country’s drinking water pipes in good working order could cost more than $1 trillion; “high hazard” dam repairs, $21 billion; major urban highways upgrades, $170 billion; deficient bridge replacements, $76 billion. Adding in mass transit, wastewater, hazardous waste disposal, aviation, and other demands means that the U.S. would have to spend an estimated $3.6 trillion by 2020 just to get these assets up to snuff. There is mounting evidence of the perils posed by the decaying backbone of American commerce and...

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