Tag: congestion

Not everyone thinks D.C. traffic is the worst

WASHINGTON — This week, an annual Texas Transportation Institute report once again found that the D.C. metro region has the worst traffic in the country.

But not everyone agrees with the report’s findings.  Transit advocates point out that the report focuses solely on highways and ignores the role mass transit plays in taking cars off the road.

“The annual report from that Texas group is always great for grabbing headlines, but the report itself is flawed, biased and frankly not helpful for D.C., Maryland and Virginia residents,” said Alex Posorske of the Coalition for Smarter Growth.

Posorske said the report does not account for potential congestion avoided by hundreds of thousands of residents who commute via transit, bicycle or their feet.

The transit group points out that millennials are moving to areas like D.C., Arlington, Alexandria, and Tysons in Virginia, and Bethesda, Silver Spring, White Flint, Hyattsville in Maryland–locations where they can use public transit, walk or bike around.  Many of these millennials don’t even own cars.

But when you talk about transit, you have to talk about Metro. It is the primary transit option in the region.  Even ardent defenders of Metro agree that the agency has had a tough year, and customers are starting to wonder if the system is reliable.

“As a regular Metro rider, I can tell you that three out of every four trips I take are uneventful and relatively on time.  That’s not a great percentage, by the way.  It’s far short of what a world class system ought to be doing,” said Falls Church Vice Mayor Dave Snyder, who serves on the regional Transportation Planning Board.  “But compare that to being on I-95 or I-66, where you’re guaranteed that every day the congestion will be bad, or if there is an accident on top of it, it’ll be even worse,”

Snyder and Posorske agree that the solution to the transportation problems in this region is to offer options.  Develop a reliable rail system, enhance the bus network, and continue to build and support walkable and bikeable communities.  Snyder said it’s about offering people options and making the alternatives as attractive as possible, then leaving the decision up to the individual.

Read this at WTOP >>

Pro-Transit Group Attacks D.C. Traffic Congestion Report As Deeply Flawed

We’re No. 1 again. But what does it mean?

study by researchers at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) confirms what most car commuters already think: The D.C. metropolitan region has the worst traffic congestion in the country.

But critics of the institute’s methodology say the report rests on false assumptions and draws misleading conclusions because it ignores region-wide gains in commuting by transit, walking, and biking. In the District itself, city data shows that roughly two-thirds of all work trips are in modes other than single-occupant vehicles, for instance.

“The report’s authors don’t really understand the region. They are telling D.C., Maryland, and Virginia residents that at the end of the day we need to spend billions of dollars on new highway connections, new capacity, for cars,” said Alex Posorske, the managing director at the Coalition for Smarter Growth, a pro-transit group that lobbies against most highway expansions.

TTI’s Urban Mobility Scorecard, the first issued since 2012, found the average auto commuter in the Washington area spends 82 hours a year sitting in traffic. The region was ranked at the top — or the bottom, if you are sick of gridlock — in the 2012 report, too.

Tim Lomax, one of the report’s authors, said expanding road capacity is only one of their proposed remedies for reducing congestion, which also include additional transit investment combined with denser real estate development.

“I certainly agree with that. I just don’t see that our report should reflect their preferences about what the solutions ought to be,” said Lomax in response to the coalition’s criticisms.

The transit advocates sought to poke holes in TTI’s research, pointing out that the report ranks “the cities with the strongest transit systems the worst on congestion, ignoring the much lower automobile commute mode shares in the transit cities, and therefore the lower per-commuter congestion delays,” a statement said.

Accounting for population increases

In an interview with WAMU 88.5, Posorske said the report ignores long-term trends that demonstrate driving has either declined or leveled off.

“In D.C. we’ve got 83,000 new residents in the last decade. Over that time, commute times for D.C. residents have stayed consistent. We’ve had 83,000 new residents who, by and large, do not own cars, who take transit, walk, or bike to work,” he said.

“If you move over to Arlington, from 1996 to last year we saw significant decreases in total traffic on some major arteries in Arlington,” Posorske added. “And this is at a time when they’ve added millions of square feet of new development and added 50,000 residents.”

In response to the coalition’s criticism, Lomax conceded the report’s methodology does not take into account non-car commuting modes.

“They have some good points,” Lomax said. “And they are points that we have included not only in our proposed solutions, but also in terms of our methodology.”

“We have backed away from trying to make estimates of what is happening on the transit side because we don’t have very good transit data. We don’t have good data about how people are walking. So we concentrated on where we have the data,” he said.

Read this on WAMU >> 

D.C. Has Worst Traffic in U.S., Study Says

More jobs and cheaper gasoline come with a big, honking downside: U.S. roads are more clogged than ever now that the recession is in the rearview mirror.

Commuters in Washington, D.C., suffer the most, losing an average of 82 hours a year to rush-hour slowdowns, a new study finds. Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York come next on the list of urban areas with the longest delays.

But the pain reaches across the nation.

Overall, American motorists are stuck in traffic about 5 percent more than they were in 2007, the pre-recession peak, says the report from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute and INRIX Inc., which analyzes traffic data.

D.C. Tops US Traffic Rankings

D.C. ranks number one for time spent in traffic, among all U.S. cities. NBC4 reporter Meagan Fitzgerald has the story on how much gas and time commuters are wasting sitting in traffic. (Published Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2015)

Four out of five cities have now surpassed their 2007 congestion.

Rounding out the Top 10 worst commuting cities are San Jose, Boston, Seattle, Chicago, Houston and Riverside-San Bernardino.

Cities with fast-growing economies and the most job growth are the most plagued by traffic. Other factors: Urban populations are increasing and lower fuel prices are making driving less expensive, so more people are taking to city roads.

David Alpert, founder of the D.C. transportation website Greater Greater Washington, said transportation in the area is improving.

“Unlike what some people have been seeing or hearing, there’s definitely traffic on the roads, but it actually seems to have stayed about even over the last few years,” he said.

The advocacy group the Coalition for Smarter Growth called the report “deeply flawed.”

“The report exaggerates congestion, underplays the major declines in driving by large demographic groups and ignores the wide ranging economic, social and environmental benefits of smart growth policies and transit, pedestrian and bicycle investments,” Executive Director Stewart Schwartz said in a statement.

Congestion increased in 61 of the nation’s 101 largest cities from 2012 to 2013, the data showed. The following year, nearly all cities – 95 out of 101 – experienced greater congestion.

The findings are based on federal data about how many cars are on the roads and on traffic speed data collected by INRIX on 1.3 million miles of urban streets and highways.

The growth is outpacing the nation’s ability to build the roads, bridges, trains and other infrastructure to handle all these people on the move. Congress has kept federal transportation programs teetering on the edge of insolvency for nearly eight years because lawmakers have been unwilling to raise the federal gas tax and haven’t found a politically palatable alternative to pay for needed improvements.

Frustrated by Washington’s inaction, nearly a third of states have approved measures this year that could collectively raise billions of dollars for transportation through higher fuel taxes, vehicle fees and bonds. But that’s just a down payment on decades of delayed maintenance, repairs and replacements.

“Our growing traffic problem is too massive for any one entity to handle – state and local agencies can’t do it alone,” said Tim Lomax, a co-author of the report. The report recommends a mix of solutions, including making existing road and transit systems more efficient, encouraging more flexible work schedules, adding capacity to high-growth travel corridors, and creating more high-density neighborhoods where homes, offices, stores and other development can be reached through walking, biking or public transit.

Transportation analyst Alan Pisarski said the nation missed a “tremendous opportunity” to catch up on building additional transportation capacity during the recession, when construction costs plummeted. “We didn’t take advantage of it and now we’re back in the soup again,” he said.

The national average time that commuters wasted stuck in traffic last year was 42 hours, about the same as in 2007 and more than twice the delay in 1982, when the transportation institute first began assessing urban mobility. But because there are so many more commuters today and far more congestion in off-peak hours, total delay across the country has increased over 2007.

Overall, Americans experienced 6.9 billion hours of traffic delays in 2014 compared to 6.6 billion in 2007 and 1.8 billion in 1982.

The problem has become so bad in major urban areas that drivers have to plan for more than twice as much travel time as they would normally need to account for the possibility of congestion delays caused by bad weather, collisions, construction zones and other impediments, the report said.

Other findings in the report:

– Trucks account for about 18 percent of urban congestion, although they represent just 7 percent of urban travel.

-The cost of congestion to the average auto commuter was $960 in lost time and fuel in 2014, compared to an inflation-adjusted $400 in 1982.

– About 40 percent of delays occur in midday and overnight hours, making it more difficult to avoid delays by avoiding commuter rush hours.

– Severe or extreme congestion levels affected one of every four trips in 2014, up from one in nine trips in 1982.

The report comes on the heels of other evidence that Americans are embracing driving more than ever. The Department of Transportation said Americans drove more than 3 trillion miles in the last 12 months, surpassing the previous record set in 2007. And the National Safety Council said preliminary data for the first six months of this year shows traffic deaths are up 14 percent, a turnaround after years of fewer fatalities.

If the economy remains strong, congestion will continue to worsen, the report projects. In the next five years, the annual delay per commuter would grow from 42 to 47 hours, the total delay nationwide would grow from 6.9 billion hours to 8.3 billion hours, and the total cost of congestion would jump from $160 billion to $192 billion, researchers estimated.

The following are urban areas ranked by the average annual extra hours commuters spend in their cars due to delay, together with the cost in lost time and fuel.

1. Washington, D.C.-Virginia-Maryland, 82 hours, $1,834

2. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, 80 hours, $1,711

3. San Francisco-Oakland, 78 hours, $1,675

4. New York-Newark, New Jersey-Connecticut, 74 hours, $1,739

5. San Jose, California, 67 hours, $1,422

6. Boston-New Hampshire-Rhode Island, 64 hours, $1,388

7. Seattle, 63 hours, $1,491

8. Chicago-Indiana, 61 hours, $1,445

8. Houston, 61 hours, $1,490

10. Riverside-San Bernardino, California, 59 hours, $1,316

11. Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, 53 hours, $1,185

12. Atlanta, 52 hours,$1,130

12. Detroit, 52 hours, $1,183

12. Miami, 52 hours, $1,169

12. Austin, Texas, 52 hours, $1,159

12. Portland, Oregon, 52 hours, $1,273

17. Phoenix-Mesa, 51 hours, $1,201

18. Honolulu, 50 hours, $1,125

19. Bridgeport-Stamford, Connecticut, 49 hours, $1,174

19. Denver-Aurora, 49 hours, $1,101

19. Oklahoma City, 49 hours, $1,110

22. Philadelphia, 48 hours, $1,112

23. Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 47 hours, $1,262

23. Tucson, Arizona, 47 hours, $1,128

23. Baltimore, 47 hours, $1,115

23. Minneapolis-St. Paul, 47 hours, $1,035

Read this on NBC4 >>

Transportation overhaul: New scoring system for project funding nearly set

The Commonwealth Transportation Board is slated to vote Wednesday on the key details of a new scoring system that will be used to decide what new road projects get funding around the state.

The board is expected to weight various scoring categories in the formula, which will be used to judge all future projects. Projects expected to reduce congestion will score high in Hampton Roads, particularly if a change that the Virginia Department of Transportation has suggested wins board approval.

When the scoring criteria were rolled out in March, the plan was to figure 35 percent of a project’s score in Hampton Roads based on congestion mitigation. The new recommendation is 45 percent.

Board members said they’re not sure whether the change has the votes to pass Wednesday, and two said they’d prefer a compromise of 40 percent. That, they said, would allow increases to at least one other category that they believe has a longer-term effect on congestion relief than the congestion mitigation category itself.

The basics of the new scoring system were laid out last year in House Bill 2, which called for an overhaul of the state’s road-funding process. Supporters on both sides of the aisle, including Gov. Terry McAuliffe, said they wanted to replace an often political process with something more objective and transparent.

Projects will be scored, those scores will be posted online, and if the Commonwealth Transportation Board deviates from those scores when it picks projects, people will notice, supporters said.

There are six scoring categories: Congestion mitigation, economic development, accessibility, safety, environmental quality and land use. VDOT was tasked with deciding how much to weight each category.

Weightings will differ around the state. In rural areas, safety improvement projects will score better. In Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia, congestion mitigation will reign supreme.

But environmental and smart growth advocates said Tuesday that just because a project scores well on mitigation, as opposed to accessibility and land use, doesn’t mean it will have the biggest long-term effect on traffic. Adding lanes addresses issues in the short term, but can discourage people from car pooling, taking mass transit and scheduling travel at off-peak times, said Stewart Schwartz, executive director at the Coalition for Smarter Growth.

Accessibility scores, on the other hand, judge how much a project helps people get to and from work, and it includes a transit component. Land use is based on how transportation projects support efficient development.

Accessibility shrunk in importance by 15 percentage points to increase congestion mitigation’s effect in Hampton Roads, and to up land use’s by 5 points. Marty Williams, a former Newport News city councilman and Peninsula state senator who sits now on the state transportation board, said he’d like to see accessibility bumped back up about 5 points before the formula is finalized.

Both Williams and John Malbon, who represents Hampton Roads on the CTB, said they’d be comfortable with congestion mitigation at 40 percent. They noted that the old system – the one in place before House Bill 2 – probably put congestion mitigation at about 80 percent, though projects weren’t formally scored that way.

Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne said Tuesday that there was some push, from legislators and others, to crank congestion mitigation up as high as 70 percent. Local officials were more likely to prefer the 35 percent VDOT originally suggested, he said.

“I don’t think anybody is really happy with it (at 45 percent),” Layne said. “Which probably means we pushed it about as far as we could.”

Camelia Ravanbakht, who, as interim executive director of the Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization, is heavily involved in suggesting projects for funding, said she was surprised Tuesday to hear about the increase proposal. Her group didn’t request the change, and she said it’s too early to know how it would affect specific projects planned in the region.

“I wish I did (know),” she said. “It’s very project-specific. You cannot really generalize it.”

Nick Donohue, the deputy transportation secretary who spearheaded the lengthy process that led to these weighting formula recommendations, told board members Tuesday that there will be some trial and error in the coming years. The state will probably want to tweak the formula “at least every few rounds.”

Local officials will submit projects for funding, but the project-by-project scoring will be done by the state. Donohue said that process hasn’t been set, but will be in the coming months. It’s possible that multiple teams will score projects so that at least some of the projects scored in each round are reviewed by separate teams, he said.

Fain can be reached by phone at 757-525-1759.

Read the original article here.