Mom writes and mentions that she talked with an old family friend DW. DW has moved from Ohio to the D.C. area and has been commuting for a while from the Virginia suburbs into Washington, D.C. Whereas his commute into the city used to take about an hour each way, now it takes 2.5 hours each way. DW suggests that Metro be extended to the outer suburbs. Mom asks what I think about this idea. In short, I think it's a swell idea. I'm a big proponent of good infrastructure spending. However, DW and his neighbors should pay for the extension, not me and my neighbors in the city, and not the federal income taxpayers in rural Ohio. DW might get sticker shock when presented with his tax bill.
Subway track for the type that Metro uses (heavy rail) costs between $175 million and $225 million per mile to lay, depending on whether the track is above ground or is underground. Further, above-ground stations cost about $110 million apiece and underground stations cost probably double that. In the suburbs, you would want one of those every 2 or 3 miles. Once the extension has been built, the community has to pay for extra trains and operation costs. These costs are substantial. Hey, it's the Cadillac of subway systems -- you should not expect less.
As you approach a high population density, these costs become manageable, and in any event the Metro increases real estate values substantially. But it sounds like DW is in the outer suburbs, where there may not be enough people among which to spread these enormous costs. Perhaps a cheaper option might appeal to DW. Virginia could extend the Virginia Rail Express commuter rail system. VRE started operations in 1992. At first, VRE only attracted about 1,000 riders a day -- much less than had been anticipated. However, it slowly built over time to about 15,000 riders a day nowadays and is considered to be very successful. Like MARC -- the better-established Maryland suburbs equivalent that serves about 30,000 riders a day -- VRE stops at Washington Union Station, which is convenient to any part of downtown D.C. through the Metro.
Of course, there's always the option of encouraging his government to require that his car be able to drive for him, drastically reducing the time to get into the city. :-)