Washington, DC — The MetroNow Coalition—comprised of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, Federal City Council, Greater Washington Board of Trade, Greater Washington Partnership, Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce, Prince George’s Chamber of Commerce, the 2030 Group, and Tysons Partnership—today released the following statement on the ongoing WMATA Metrorail service disruptions.
For Immediate Release:
September 23, 2021
Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director, 703-599-6437
Cheryl Cort, Policy Director, 202-251-7516
CSG Applauds COG’s Initiative for Equity, Smart Growth, Climate
COG Proposal to Focus Development around DC Region’s High-Capacity Transit Stations Vote Scheduled for October 13
Today, the Washington Post reported that the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, composed of the region’s local elected officials, some state legislators, and state and federal representatives, are on the verge of agreeing to focus development around the DC region’s high-capacity transit stations. These include Metrorail, Purple Line, VRE and MARC commuter rail, and bus rapid transit stations. At the same time, COG intends to prioritize transportation, housing, trails, and other investments around stations within equity emphasis areas, which have high concentrations of lower income residents and high numbers of Black, Latino, or Asian residents.
COG also announced preliminary findings that show a combination of smart growth, electric vehicles, and pricing tools will be necessary for the region to slash its greenhouse gas emissions from transportation. Focused growth in transit communities is an essential part of this strategy.
“We applaud COG’s proposal which is to be voted on at their October 13 meeting,” said Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth. “COG’s action is the natural outgrowth of the work and long-time advocacy by our organization and COG’s own studies and vision statements over the past two decades. But now this agreement must be followed by action.”
Founders of the Coalition for Smarter Growth first proposed a “network of livable communities” centered on the region’s transit hubs in reports released in 1992 and 1996, and in CSG’s 2002 Blueprint for a Better Region. It was a vision largely endorsed by the Urban Land Institute’s “Reality Check” conference in 2005, COG’s Region Forward vision of 2010, COG’s follow-on studies and plans, and by many local elected officials who have been approving transit-oriented developments.
“Anyone frustrated by sitting in traffic, or concerned about the growing evidence of climate change including frequent floods in the DC region, should support this COG initiative. Mixed use, mixed-income, walkable, transit-centered communities mean many more people will be able to drive less and reduce the air and climate pollution they generate,” said Schwartz.
“The region’s east-west economic and racial divide, first highlighted in the 1999 Brookings report ‘A Region Divided,” has persisted for too long. Accelerating investment in transit communities in Prince George’s, eastern Montgomery, and eastern Fairfax and Prince William would shorten commutes, reduce vehicle miles traveled, and improve access to jobs and opportunity,” said Cheryl Cort, Policy Director for CSG. “In fact, building out transit-oriented communities on the east side of our region and investing in affordable housing near transit throughout our region are key transportation and climate solutions.”
“But there was also sobering news from the meeting of COG’s Transportation Planning Board (TPB) yesterday,” said Schwartz. “Early findings from their climate scenario study confirm that neither the rate of adoption of electric vehicles, nor land use changes, will be enough to slash our greenhouse gas emissions sufficiently by 2030. We’ll need to move on a number of fronts – much faster adoption of electric vehicles, much stronger action to focus growth and reduce sprawl in order to reduce vehicle trips and vehicle miles traveled, increase telecommuting, and use pricing (congestion pricing or vehicle miles traveled fees, and parking pricing), if our region is going to reduce greenhouse gas emissions enough to do our part to address the climate emergency.”
“Electric vehicles alone can’t save us. We must stop sprawling outward where people have no option but driving, and create inclusive, walkable, transit-centered communities, in order to slash our greenhouse gas emissions. In the process, we will increase access to opportunity and address regional inequity, while improving quality of life for everyone,” concluded Cort.
For immediate release
May 12, 2020
CSG Released the Following Statement from Executive Director Stewart Schwartz
Senators Warner, Kaine, Cardin, Van Hollen Can Fix the Infrastructure Bill
“The bipartisan infrastructure bill would pour record amounts of money into transportation. But there are critical flaws which should be addressed. Fortunately, Senator Kaine and Senator Cardin are two of the Senators proposing critically needed amendments to ensure that the bill achieves our nation’s goal of fixing existing crumbling infrastructure, sets firm goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, and funds the reconnection of city neighborhoods torn apart by highways in the 1950s through 1970s.
We strongly support Senator Kaine’s “fix-it-first” amendment for highways and roads. The infrastructure bill has been sold to the public because of crumbling roads and bridges. While the bill does require aging bridges to be prioritized, and imposes strict fix-first requirements on transit, there is no similar requirement for roads. Senator Kaine’s amendment 2373 would address this and we applaud VDOT for supporting this.
We also strongly support Senator Cardin’s amendment 2465 to require states to set goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation. Transportation is the number one source of U.S. and DC regional emissions. Addressing this will take more than electric vehicles — it will also require reducing vehicle miles traveled through walkable, transit-oriented communities, transit, telecommuting and other demand reduction tools.
We also support Senator Klobuchar’s amendment 2301 to require states to reduce deaths on our roads, and Senator Warnock’s 2167 to invest more money into reconnecting and restoring city neighborhoods torn apart by highways, like those in DC, Baltimore, and Richmond.
While the package provides record amounts to intercity rail — an implicit endorsement of Virginia’s success with passenger rail, we are very concerned that the bill allocates less than 20% of the combined package to the transit upon which so much of our workforce depends. The transit share should be increased by at least $10 billion.
These are critically needed amendments if our nation and our region are going to truly fix its aging infrastructure, fight climate change, and create more sustainable communities.”
For Immediate Release
June 17, 2021
Ben Fried, TransitCenter, 347-675-5592
Stewart Schwartz, Coalition for Smarter Growth, 703-599-6437
Ron Thompson, DC Transportation Equity Network, 202-780-7940
New Analysis Measures Racial and Economic Disparities in Transit Access Across National Capital Region
The Transit Equity Dashboard illustrates inequities in access to jobs, health care, and other services for Black and brown residents.
An analysis released today measures racial and economic inequities embedded in the National Capital Region’s transportation network. The Transit Equity Dashboard, produced and launched today by the national foundation TransitCenter, maps and quantifies the disparities in transit access caused by segregation and discrimination in land use and transportation policy. TransitCenter is releasing findings for an initial six U.S. metropolitan regions over the coming week.
The COVID crisis made racial inequities in public health and economic status very plain, and demonstrated just how critical transit is for our essential workers. “As recovery from the pandemic accelerates in greater DC, our organizations call on political leaders to prioritize public investments that will shrink gaps in transit access and address other inequities as a result, putting the region on the path to a just recovery,” said Ron Thompson of the DC Transportation Equity Network.
People of color are more likely to rely on transit in the Capital region — in 2019, 18% of Black residents took transit to work, compared to 12% of white residents. But disparities in transit access linked to race and economic status are undermining transit’s capacity to function as a “ladder of opportunity” connecting people to jobs, education, medical care, and other necessities. Using data from transit agencies and the U.S. Census, the dashboard reveals these disparities.
In addition to job access, the dashboard measures transit access to grocery stores, hospitals, parks, and colleges, reflecting the fact that most trips are not commute trips, and that equitable transit enables people to access more than the workplace. Key findings include:
- The average Latinx resident can access 157,040 potential jobs in 45 minutes using transit, the average Black resident can access 160,893 jobs, and the average Asian resident 184,018 jobs — compared to 256,140 for the average white resident.
- On a weekday evening, it takes 40 minutes for the average resident of the Washington D.C. region to take transit to the nearest hospital, and even longer for the average Asian or Latinx resident. Poor access to healthcare is associated with worse health outcomes; it also means long transit commutes for essential healthcare workers working second- and third-shift roles.
- On a weekend morning, it takes more than three times longer to reach the closest hospital using transit than using a car, and nearly three times longer to reach the third-nearest grocery store. The dashboard measures time to the third-closest grocery store to show how effectively transit connects people to a variety of options.
Achieving more equitable transit in greater DC will require changes to both the broad sweep of transportation and land use and the specifics of transit operations and fare policy. Advocates have proposed reforms to remediate the racial and economic divides in the region’s transit access, including:
- Redesigning bus networks in DC, Northern Virginia, and Maryland to expand access to jobs.
- Operating transit more frequently throughout the day and week, in order to better meet the needs of essential workers.
- Dedicated transitways to make bus and streetcar service faster and more reliable, both within DC and throughout the region.
- Addressing the east-west economic and racial divide that cuts across the region as well as the racial and economic residential segregation apparent within each jurisdiction.
Transit agencies and local governments in the Capital region should also adopt new performance targets that measure inequities like those identified by this dashboard, and assess progress toward equitable transit access.
“TransitCenter’s maps highlight once again the need to address the region’s east-west racial and economic divide, as well as the need to prioritize dedicated bus lanes, more affordable fares, and networks redesigned for more frequent service and improved access to jobs,” said Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth.
While noting the recent actions by the WMATA board on service changes and fare affordability, the Alexandria DASH bus network redesign, and planning for regional network redesigns, the groups collectively urged much more rapid progress.
PRESS RELEASE – CORRECTED (to identify the correct motion maker)
For Immediate Release
June 16, 2021
Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director, 703-599-6437
Concern about Climate Change Leads to Historic Vote at the Region’s Transportation Planning Board
Vote removes 495/270 toll lanes from the long-range plan, requires next plan to meet climate goals
Today, in the latest of several significant debates at the Transportation Planning Board, the regional body of local and state officials charged with creating a regional long-range transportation plan Visualize 2045, the body voted to remove the I-495/I-270 toll lanes from the draft plan and to require the development of a climate-friendly plan by 2024.
Gary Ehrenrich, representing Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich made the motion to remove the I-495/I-270 toll lane project from the plan and it passed 16 to 12 with 6 abstentions. Mayor Bridget Newton of Rockville and other Maryland leaders spoke firmly about the reasons for removing the project, with the vote attracting near universal support from local Maryland jurisdictions as well as support from DC and some Virginia jurisdictions. This was followed by a vote on the draft 2022 long-range transportation plan – now minus the toll lane project, and with provisions advanced by Montgomery County Councilmember Evan Glass to commit the TPB to create a new plan by 2024 that significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions. The TPB voted 26 to 4 with 4 abstentions on the measure.
“The unifying theme in today’s vote was the overwhelming concern of elected officials about climate change. It motivated the vote to remove the toll lane project and to do more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from our region’s transportation sector,” said Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth.
A number of outer Virginia jurisdictions thought it was too late to change the current draft plan which will move forward into air quality modeling and adoption in the spring of 2022, but they ultimately also joined Maryland and DC in voting to begin work to adopt another more climate-friendly plan by 2024. “We wish the TPB would have acted this cycle to fundamentally reform the current plan because we have no time to waste,” said Schwartz. “Nevertheless, they made an important commitment today to adopt a more climate-friendly plan by 2024.”
- The scientific consensus is that we must slash our emissions by 2030. The Biden Administration and our regional Council of Governments have each set a goal of cutting CO2 emissions 50% below 2005 levels by 2030.
- Transportation is this region’s and the nation’s largest source of CO2 emissions.
- Recent studies show that electric vehicles will not be enough, therefore the region will need to use transit-oriented development, transit, and demand reduction solutions to reduce vehicle miles traveled and associated emissions.
- The Council of Governments’ recent Voices of the Region Survey found that 84% of the region’s residents want elected officials to prioritize climate change in transportation plans.
- Public comment on Visualize 2045 has overwhelmingly supported a plan that addresses climate change.
“Removal of the I-495/I270 project from the draft plan means it will not be included in the federally mandated air quality conformity modeling, a huge roadblock for the controversial project,” said Schwartz. “I believe the many flaws in the Hogan Administration’s approach to the project including failure to analyze more sustainable and less destructive alternatives, failure to hear the public outcry or account for the strong opposition of nearly every local jurisdiction, and rush to commit the state to a long-term contract before finishing all of the environmental impact studies, contributed to the resounding rejection of the project today at the TPB.”
“There may also be implications for Virginia’s 495Next HOT lane extension contract with Transurban but that would have to be confirmed with VDOT,” said Schwartz. “Many of us had urged Virginia not to rush into that deal because of the controversy in Maryland and the similar failure in Virginia to consider alternative approaches. We want to see solutions for the American Legion Bridge and 495, and the best solutions lie in addressing the east-west jobs/housing imbalance, focusing jobs and housing near transit, and in the growth in telecommuting.”
June 15, 2021
Hon. Charles Allen
Chair, National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board
Re: TPB Draft CLRP and Resolution by TPB Board Member Evan Glass
Chair Allen and members of the TPB:
We hope you all agree that climate change is an existential threat. You also know that transportation is our number one source of emissions and that electrical vehicles will not be enough to get us to the COG and national goals of a 50% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2030. The last CLRP (2018) is only estimated to reduce CO2 by 23% by 2045,
In the COG scientific and statistically significant Voices of the Region Survey, 84% of the region’s residents indicated they want elected officials to prioritize climate change in transportation plans. Public comment on Visualize 2045 has overwhelmingly supported a plan that addresses climate change.
Therefore, we urge you to address the issues raised in Councilmember Glass’ resolution and by many other members of the TPB seeking a CLRP that more effectively addresses climate change. At a minimum, we urge you in adopting the draft CLRP for air conformity modeling, to concurrently commit to the TPB to adopting a new CLRP by 2024 that meets COG’s climate goals. This includes conducting a rigorous initial climate strategy analysis this year (not just an academic exercise) and beginning immediately in 2022, developing the next CLRP by 2024.
We are running out of time. We need your leadership.
Senior Policy Fellow
May 19, 2021
Dear Chair Allen and TPB Board members:
You have the opportunity to create a better Visualize 2045, not next time, but now. The region’s residents and future generations are counting on you, and climate science says that we can’t delay anymore. At last week’s COG Board meeting, TPB Director Kanti Srikanth said in regard to climate change and Visualize 2045 that “Every option needs to be pursued as expeditiously as possible to attain our 2030 goal.” We agree.
193 of the 199 public comments submitted to TPB ask for sustainable and equitable transportation investments that prioritize non-auto modes, including land use and demand management strategies. This is consistent with the COG Voices of the Region survey.
Please note these two key findings in today’s presentation on TPB’s Climate Change Study Phase 1 Report:
– “At the regional and local levels, the studies show that land use policies that bring housing and jobs closer together and closer to transit reduce both GHG emissions and vehicle travel. Travel demand policies such as teleworking are also effective at reducing GHG emissions and vehicle travel and are also cost-effective.” and that “In contrast to most of the vehicle-related strategies, many of these policy actions can be implemented in a shorter timeframe contributing to critical near-term GHG reductions.”
– The memo notes the promise of the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI), and we agree. However, the TCI Program will only reduce on-road emissions by 7% by 2032. TCI clearly states that substantial reductions depend on jurisdictions, including MPO’s like TPB, adopting “complementary policies.”
Given Director Srikanth’s statement that every option needs to be expeditiously pursued, we are stunned by the staff response to the public comments — that the proposed project list with $40 billion in highway and road expansion projects is generally consistent with and advances TPB’s climate and equity goals, and that it is not as relevant to regional climate efforts.
That is simply not possible. Road expansion fuels more driving and spread out development and diverts billions of dollars from investing in transit and TOD to reduce emissions and address the region’s racial and economic inequity.
TPB’s own studies show we can avoid much proposed highway expansion if the region adopts effective travel and greenhouse gas reduction strategies, which are travel demand and land use policies that focus jobs and housing in walkable areas near transit, and expanding transit investments.
Stewart Schwartz Bill Pugh
Executive Director Senior Policy Fellow
Coalition for Smarter Growth
For Immediate Release:
April 29, 2021
Contact: Stewart Schwartz, 703-599-6437
Statement on the Washington, DC region’s deadly roads and too many lives lost
The Coalition for Smarter Growth shares in the profound sadness and anger at the deadly state of our region’s roads. In the past month, there have been six lives lost in DC alone to preventable traffic crashes: Jim Pagels, Brian Johnson, Evelyn Troyah, Zy’aire Joshua, Waldon Adams, and Rhonda Whitaker. Numerous other fellow residents have been killed in the region’s suburbs including at least four people so far this year in Fairfax: Raymunda Garcia-Hernandez, Christine Caldwell, Ramakant Bhusai, and Choon Yoo. We extend our deepest condolences to the loved ones of all those lost on the unnecessarily dangerous roads in our region..
We commit to working with our partners in the non-profit community and with area officials to address dangerous road conditions and other factors with a goal of ending traffic deaths and serious injuries.
Despite an overall reduction in vehicle traffic during the pandemic, traffic fatalities soared due to increased speeding and reckless driving. A recent report from the Governor’s Highway Safety Association showed that pedestrian deaths have risen 46% over the last decade, and the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments says bicyclists and pedestrians are one-third of traffic fatalities in our region. Smart Growth America (SGA), in Dangerous by Design, documents the racial and economic disparities in these deaths and serious injuries among pedestrians and cyclists, and the major role of dangerous road designs that favor the speed and movement of cars over the safe movement of people and safe local access to schools, libraries, services, jobs, and transit. SGA has also shown that as a percentage of people walking, it is our suburban arterials that are the most dangerous.
Unfortunately, the presentations at the recent Council of Governments/Transportation Planning Board Vision Zero Arterial Summit confirmed that most area jurisdictions are not doing enough to fix our roads — particularly our suburban arterials — to make them safe places for walking and biking and taking transit. Too many DOTs continue to focus on moving cars, building new roads, and expanding existing roads. Instead, DOTs should be redesigning our existing roads to be humane places that support the growing demand to walk and bike for access to daily needs, to improve our health, and to fight climate change.
We need action now from our local, regional, and state leaders to prevent further loss of life. We wholeheartedly endorse the five recommendations and accompanying detailed actions for DC offered by Nick Sementelli and Conor Shaw in their recent GGWash post, which should be adopted in the surrounding suburbs as well:
1) Implement emergency road diets on all arterial streets, followed by permanent changes
2) Reduce speed limits on all roads, and deploy automated enforcement to make those limits real
3) Reappropriate street space for public transportation, walking, and micromobility
4) Make safe modes of transportation free and deadly forms of transportation more expensive
5) More rigorous oversight and regulation of DDOT by the DC Council
There is much to do and among the many necessary actions that need to be taken we also call for all area jurisdictions to:
1) Provide much more transparency and detail in reporting deaths and serious injuries for pedestrians, cyclists, and other micromobility users on the region’s roads.
a) Police and transportation agency reporting must include more information about the road design at each site — including the width and speed of the road (both posted and design speed), location and distance between crossing points, type of crosswalk marking, availability of pedestrian refuges, turn radii, location of bus stops compared to crossing points, etc.
b) All cases should be included in publicly accessible and easily utilized websites.
2) Shift significant funding from road expansion to retrofitting and redesigning arterial and secondary roads to be safer for pedestrians and cyclists, using Complete Streets principles, and the National Association of City Transportation Officer (NACTO) standards.
3) Commit to creating Safe Routes to School so every child can walk or bike safely to school.
4) Invest in an extensive network of protected bicycle lanes and bike/walk trails such that biking and walking to work and to meet daily needs is no longer a high-risk activity.
Coalition for Smarter Growth
February 12, 2021
For Immediate Release
Contact: Stewart Schwartz, CSG, 703-599-6437
“Voices of the Region” Survey Shows the Region’s Residents Want to Walk and Bike More, Drive Less, and Prioritize Projects that Address Climate Change
Points to Need for Less Road Building, and More Sustainable, Walkable Communities
A recently completed survey asked the Metropolitan Washington region’s residents about their travel before, during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. The results show that residents’ travel patterns have changed as a result of the pandemic and that they would like to continue to walk and bike more and drive less post-pandemic. These results are similar to those from a national survey project.
The National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB) will receive a presentation at its meeting Wednesday, February 17, on the survey, which is intended to inform the update to the regional long-range transportation plan. This survey was conducted using randomly drawn addresses, covered all geographic sub-areas of the region and resulted in over 2,400 complete responses, with a margin of error of +/-2.5%.
“The findings of this survey are critically important and should be an important factor in the Transportation Planning Board’s development of their next long-range transportation plan, which is underway right now,” said Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth.
“Recently, the TPB voted to prioritize projects that reduce vehicle miles traveled and greenhouse gas emissions. This survey points to public support for telecommuting, walking, biking, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Climate change is a bigger concern than traffic congestion according to the survey,” said Bill Pugh, Senior Policy Fellow for CSG. “Land use must be a core solution to achieve people’s goals of driving less, walking and biking more, and fighting climate change. In fact the survey showed the benefits of this approach in that people living in DC, Arlington, and Alexandria, our most compact jurisdictions with the most transit oriented land use, expressed the least concern about traffic congestion.”
“We hope that our elected officials and government transportation planners will take to heart both the results of this survey and the urgency to reduce driving and associated greenhouse gas emissions when they create our next regional transportation plan,” said Schwartz. “In the process there will be other significant benefits including meeting people’s desire to walk and bike more, and create a world that future generations will thank us for.”
CSG’s Summary of Important Findings from the Survey
More Walking and Biking, Less Driving Anticipated for All Travel Post-Pandemic
38% of respondents expect a change in their travel patterns (both work and non-work travel) one year post-pandemic compared to their pre-pandemic travel patterns. 53% of all respondents anticipate walking more and 26% anticipate biking more, in contrast to only 3% who anticipate walking or biking less. While 34% of residents anticipate driving more, this was more than offset by the 47% of respondents who anticipate driving less for daily trips, a 13 percent net difference of residents who anticipate driving less.
Overwhelming Support for Expanded Pedestrian Zones, Bike Lanes, Bus Lanes
Three quarters of survey respondents said they supported use of street space for expanded pedestrian access and restaurant seating. 63% support more or wider sidewalks and bike lanes.
While transit ridership has been impacted by the pandemic, a clear majority of the region’s residents, 71%, which includes many non-bus riders, support dedicated bus lanes. And a narrow majority (54%) are supportive of dedicated bus lanes even in situations that involve removal of on-street parking.
Additional Bicycle Infrastructure, Road Safety Measures, or Access to a Bicycle Would Make Most of the Region’s Residents More Likely to Bike
The survey asked respondents about improvements that would make them more likely to use a bicycle. The proposed improvements with the highest percentages of residents more likely to bike as a result were: more direct and complete bicycle lanes and routes (34% of respondents), bicycle lanes separated from vehicles by a barrier (32%), and bicycle lanes or trails near home (31%). Overall, only a minority (42%) of all residents indicated that no improvements would make them more likely to use a bike.
When broken down by age, the impact of bike infrastructure improvements for the region’s residents under 30 was especially high. Almost half indicated that more direct and complete bicycle lanes and routes or lanes near home would make them more likely to bike. Only a small minority (24%) indicated that no improvements would make them more likely to use a bike.
Less Transit Use Anticipated, But Respondents Indicate Service Enhancements Would Make Them More Likely to Use Transit
While 13% anticipate using transit more, 38% anticipate using it less one year post-pandemic. Only 5% of frequent transit riders pre-pandemic and only 26% of infrequent transit riders pre pandemic indicated that nothing would make them more likely to ride public transportation after the pandemic.
Most respondents cited measures that transit agencies can undertake to make them more likely to ride transit. About half of frequent transit users pre-pandemic responded that more frequent cleaning, more spacing of people on bus and train cars, and more frequent service would make them more likely to use transit after the pandemic. (Of note, numerous studies have shown that even during the pandemic, riding transit is relatively low risk. Also, transit agencies in the region have implemented some of these safety measures already).
“The survey shows that frequency and reliability of service and convenient real-time travel information continue to be significant factors for making people more likely to use transit. Safe and convenient routes to walk, bike or scoot to train stations and bus stops were also found to be significant factors in transit ridership, where more improvement is needed across the region,” said Schwartz.
Climate Change is a Significant Concern and Residents Overwhelming Want Officials to Address it in Transportation Plans
84% of the region’s residents agree with the statement that elected officials need to consider the impacts of climate change when planning transportation in the future. For residents under 30 years of age, those most impacted by our long-range planning decisions and climate change, that percentage rises to 92%.
Traffic Congestion is Less of a Concern Than Climate Change
Less than half of respondents (44%) indicated that traffic congestion is a significant concern that impacts their lives. 25% said congestion was somewhat a concern that impacted their lives a little.
Residents of core jurisdictions (Arlington, Alexandria, and the District of Columbia) reported the highest satisfaction with the transportation system and least concern about congestion. 75% of Core residents say that the regional transportation system meets their needs very well or somewhat well, in contrast to 55% of Inner Suburb (Montgomery, Fairfax, Prince George’s) residents and 38% of Outer Suburb residents. Likewise, only 27% of Core residents say that congestion is a significant concern that impacts their quality of life, in contrast to 46% of Inner Suburb residents and 54% of Outer Suburb residents.
“What these survey results suggest is that the more compact development in the core doesn’t reduce the satisfaction of residents when it comes to transportation, and may reflect the variety of transportation options available (walk, bike, transit) and shorter commutes or trips to the corner store. In contrast, people living farther out are being provided with fewer non driving options and face longer commutes in congestion generated by high-levels of auto dependent development,” said Pugh. “It points to the need for more housing options in the region’s walkable communities near transit and job centers, along with more affordable housing in these locations, and increased investment in transit.”
Residents Say that Future Generations Will Thank Us More for Clean Transportation, Transit, Walking, and Biking than for Wider Roads
The survey asked “What transportation investments should we make today that future generations will thank us for tomorrow?” and allowed respondents to provide their own open ended answers.
The majority of the answers involved clean transportation, public transportation, and improvements for walking and biking. A much smaller group cited roads, parking, and congestion.
● 259 responses mentioned expanding areas served by rail transit and bike infrastructure
● 172 mentioned clean transportation (electric vehicles, lower emissions)
● 72 responses mentioned improving the condition of (fixing and making more resilient) existing roads and bridges.
● Just 134 responses mentioned more or wider roads
33% of respondents anticipate telecommuting at least one day a week after the pandemic, up from 16% who telecommuted at least one day a week pre-pandemic. Among the 60% of respondents currently telecommuting during the pandemic, approximately half would want to continue to telework 3-4 days per week.
“Both national and local surveys of employers and employees predict sustained higher rates of teleworking after the pandemic compared to beforehand. This means that many of the highway and arterial expansion projects being planned in the region are based on outdated travel forecasts. Many of these projects were based on the premise of addressing peak-of-the-peak commuting congestion, but these trips may fall significantly. The Washington, DC region needs to cancel or at least put on the back burner these major road expansion proposals,” said Schwartz. “At the same time, we need to ensure that our transit system meets the needs of people returning to work and addresses their concerns, especially people without personal vehicle options.”
Land Use and Affordable Housing are Key Solutions But Are Missing From the Survey
“The Voices of the Region survey asked some great questions and provided lots of valuable insights. However, one of the areas it missed was asking about the proximity of services and destinations that are important to residents,” said Pugh.
● Do residents live close to their basic needs and would they want to have them closer?
● What factors make that difficult, is it due to the lack of affordable housing in walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods or due to job centers in isolated office parks?
“We see that 75% of Core residents find that the region’s transportation system meets their needs, and that has as much to do with the compact, walkable built environment as with the transportation options available beyond driving in places like DC, Arlington and Alexandria,” said Pugh.
Pugh continued, “three fourths of the trips in the region are for non-commuting purposes, so even if people are teleworking more, they will still want shorter and easier trips that don’t always involve getting in the car. The best way to address the evolving travel needs and desires of most residents to walk and bike more, is in our land use planning. Mixed-use, walkable, compact neighborhoods offer safe and convenient options for accessing basic needs.”
A Gap in the Survey — Failure to Reach Enough Low-Income Residents
“Low-income residents were less well represented than other groups according to consultant staff who presented the survey results at the TPB’s recent Technical Committee meeting. So it would be good to understand from the focus groups and possible follow-up surveys how the region can best meet the transportation and housing location needs of low-income residents and workers,” said Pugh. While low-income residents expressed similar satisfaction with the transportation system as non-low-income residents, staff said in their presentation that this result may be due to the concentration of those low-income residents sampled in Core and Inner jurisdictions.