TESTIMONY re NoVA Transportation hearing

December 15, 2021 

Testimony from the Coalition for Smarter Growth to the Joint Northern Virginia Transportation Hearing Hosted by VDOT, DRPT, NVTAuthority, NVTC, VRE 

Thank you for the opportunity to testify. My name is Stewart Schwartz, and I am the Executive Director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth. 

We appreciate your public service and I understand the complexity of your jobs, but will be talking about the need to change course. 

We strongly support the state’s transformative rail program and appreciate the hard work of DRPT, NVTC, and local agencies to keep transit running and carrying our essential workforce during the pandemic. We support Smart Scale but would like to see greater emphasis on compact, efficient land use, and VMT and greenhouse gas emissions. We also appreciate those local officials who have put a priority on transit oriented development. 

But I must turn to the climate emergency to urge much more fundamental change in your land use and transportation policies. Not a day passes when we have yet more crises fueled by climate change. Stronger hurricanes and tornadoes, coastal and inland flooding, drought and forest fires, melting glaciers and water shortages, melting Arctic ice and collapsing glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica. We will see millions displaced, billions in infrastructure loses, health issues, and economic and national security crises. The impact on lower income residents will be particularly profound. What sort of world will we leave to our children and grandchildren? 

The TPB climate/transportation study confirms what CSG has pointed out. That EV’s will not be adopted fast enough, and even if so, will still not be enough. It shows we also need to reduce vehicle miles traveled by at least 20% on average. That means we need to use land use (both TOD and shifting away from sprawling auto-dependent development), pricing tools, and shifting funding from road and highway expansion to transit.  

Yet, the NVTAuthority appears to be ignoring TPB findings; and the Transaction plan has long been overloaded with highway and road expansion. It ignores induced demand and the need to reduce VMT. Congestion reduction is a misguided metric in a metro area. It is a measure that leads you to fruitless road widening with a return of more traffic, rather than the land use and mode share changes we need..

Unless fundamentally changed, Transaction will NOT achieve equity, safety, or environmental sustainability. I fear it will be business as usual, or at best, rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. 

Meanwhile, the state will need to spend billions of dollars on resiliency and fix-it-first needs rather than trying to chase sprawl with more lane miles. 

Yes, I’m being blunt. I’ve been in this field for 26 years. I am also a Navy veteran committed to our nation and national security. I learned about climate change in 1996. Now we have just 9 years to slash emissions. We are running out of time, and too many of our officials act as if it doesn’t matter and as if you have no role. You do. We all do 

Yet what is being planned for Northern Virginia is far too much business as usual that ignores the emergency before us. I urge you to change course.