January 5, 2023
Hon. Canek Aguirre and Hon. Dalia Palchik
Current Chair and 2023 Chair nominee
Northern Virginia Transportation Commission
Re: Proposed NVTC 2023-24 Work Plan
Chair Aguirre, Supervisor Palchik and Board members:
The Coalition for Smarter Growth appreciates the opportunity to provide feedback on NVTC’s proposed 2023-2024 Work Plan. As an organization that promotes walkable, inclusive transit-friendly communities as the most sustainable and equitable way for the region to grow and prosper, we appreciate the important work of NVTC in providing the funding and transit services to support sustainable, transit-oriented communities.
Overall, we believe the proposed Work Plan reflects well the core duties of NVTC and addresses key regional needs, and we offer the following comments:
- Envision Route 7 – this project is critical for the region, and we are glad to see completion of the current study phase and initiation of the next phase in the work plan. We encourage NVTC members to do everything they can to expedite this project and work together for its success and timely implementation. We also urge the member local jurisdictions to act quickly to prioritize preservation of existing affordable housing to prevent speculative rent increases and displacement.
- WMATA Oversight – we applaud the continued coordination with and support of WMATA and its member jurisdictions. Metrorail and the regional bus network are critical to our region’s economy, access to jobs and opportunity, and to shaping sustainable patterns of growth. We urge full regional support for meeting rail and bus capital and operating funding needs.
- Transit Resource Center – these studies and tools, such as the data dashboard, are important resources for telling the story of successful transit efforts and showing where our region can improve and meet the needs of post-pandemic travel.
- Other critical programs – the Commuter Choice program, VRE support, technology coordination, bus service coordination, and other initiatives keep our transit agencies operating as an integrated regional system.
CSG asks you to incorporate these elements in your activities:
- Coordination with WMATA Better Bus Network Redesign – CSG is glad that NVTC is taking a broad look at regional bus service and local gaps in its own Regional Bus Analysis Study. We encourage NVTC and its members to coordinate closely with WMATA to support its Better Bus Network Redesign study. Currently, the NVTC work plan only briefly mentions the WMATA study on page 7. The WMATA Network Redesign is critical for the region’s transit network, so we ask for NVTC to share a more detailed approach for coordination and support of this effort with the public and stakeholders. We also encourage NVTC to coordinate closely with the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority on its regional Bus Rapid Transit network study that is anticipated in the coming fiscal year.
- Transit safety means safer access to stops and stations – CSG supports a potential Transit Resource Center study to look at bicycle and pedestrian access to transit stations as noted on page 10. We ask that NVTC prioritize this proposed study and that it assess how NVTC members are ensuring safe access to bus stops in addition to rail stations. Traffic fatalities have risen alarmingly in Northern Virginia. Pedestrians accessing bus stops on high-speed arterials are particularly at risk, and this disproportionately impacts lower-income and minority residents.
- Make the case for transit by prioritizing the analysis of environmental benefits – the proposed study to look at the environmental benefits of transit systems in the region should be prioritized by NVTC. This can help make the case for NVTC member agencies and investments needed. Multiple studies have demonstrated that shifting more trips to transit, biking and walking – in addition to rapid adoption of electric vehicles – is the only way to meet our adopted climate targets. Shifting travel modes and fostering walkable, transit-oriented land use with affordable housing also provide the most community co-benefits among transportation-climate strategies.
We look forward to supporting your work in the 2023-2024 year and engaging our local partners to ensure its success in the community.
Northern VA Organizer
Senior Policy Fellow