Tag: traffic reduction

Arlington is Booming, And Traffic Fantastically Remains at 1970s Levels

Science fiction fans will recognize this plot line. A woman travels into the past, telling her ancestors about her reality in the future, only to be called a lunatic because of the incredible nature of what she is saying.

Anyone who lives and works in 2013 Arlington, Virginia might be met with the same reaction if she were to go back to 1979 and tell someone about the county’s population, employment, and transportation trends.

Arlington’s population and employment have jumped nearly 40 percent over the past three decades. Meanwhile, traffic on major arterials like Wilson and Arlington Boulevards has increased at a much lower rate or even declined.

Nevertheless, according to our latest research (also embedded below), most executives and business managers based in Arlington County think it’s a fantastical notion that the county will meet its goal of capping rush-hour traffic at 2005 levels over the next two decades.

Of course, first these leaders had to learn that Arlington even has this target. Only 11 percent surveyed knew that the county actually intends to keep rush-hour trips and rush-hour vehicle-miles-traveled (VMT) at or below 5 percent growth of their respective 2005 levels by 2030 (PDF; 1 MB). This goal is in place even though Arlington County planners expect that the population will rise by 19 percent and jobs will increase by 42 percent over that same period.

Once business leaders heard about the cap, a majority (61 percent) agreed that keeping traffic near 2005 levels is important to achieve. However, given the growth projections, it’s not surprising that so many in our business community do not think that we can get to our goal. It may be worth reminding them that other jurisdictions have more aggressive targets. San José, California, for one, wants to reduce the VMT within its borders by 40 percent from its 2009 level by 2040.

Arlington County Commuter Services continues to refine the way in which the county government keeps a lid on traffic with the infrastructure already in place. In 2012, ACCS’s outreach work throughout the county shifted 45,000 car trips each work day from a solo-driven car to some other form of transportation. The Silver Line’s opening at the end of the year will give new options for the large numbers of Fairfax County residents who travel into Arlington or through it to Washington D.C.

Yet now is also a time in which many of our region’s transportation visionaries and transit providers are thinking big about the future. The Coalition for Smarter Growth just released a report that catalogues the many existing plans to improve transit across the region in order to get us Thinking Big, Planning Smart, and Metro’s Momentum plan for improvements by 2040 is a expression of what the heart of our region’s transportation success could look like for the next generation.

Clearly, the billions of dollars needed to make these and other investments possible will not appear out of thin air and, as a community, the D.C. region will need to make bold decisions (just as Arlington has by strictly following its transportation vision set out in the 1970s).

Luckily, Arlington’s business community seems to be on board. Seventy-nine percent think that improving the transit system is important. And Arlington’s track record of success and the attitudes found in our survey of business leaders indicate that meeting the county’s traffic goal is realistic after all.

Does your community have an explicit goal to cap traffic? If so, we would like to hear about it, because seeing the state of practice helps us all make the case that taming traffic is, in fact, possible. Just like in science fiction, it only seems crazy because we have not done it yet.

Photo courtesy of Mobility Lab

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Congestion Pricing Draws Skepticism From Area Commuters

Commuters are skeptical that congestion pricing will reduce traffic congestion in the metropolitan Washington area, according to a study released Wednesday by the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board. Instead, they prefer alternatives to driving, in the form of commuter rail, express bus service, or bicycling and walking, the study found.

“They really want to make sure that there are clear benefits,” says TPB planner John Swanson. “That it’s going to fund new transportation alternatives, better transit, bikes, peds, all those new improvements, but particularly transit and high quality bus.”

The 65-page report (pdf) weighed the attitudes of 300 area residents from Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia. Study participants were asked to consider three scenarios: 1) placing tolls on all major roadways including interstate highways; 2) charging a per-mile fee measured by GPS systems installed in cars; and 3) creating priced zones similar to London that would charge motorists to enter a designated area. The scenarios received tepid support.

For many, driving not a choice

The study participants spoke of congestion in personal terms: in family time robbed, or the stress of dealing with incessant traffic. To most commuters, driving is not a choice.

“The availability of other options besides driving — such as transit, walking and biking — increased receptiveness to pricing,” the report states. “Participants also spoke favorably of proposals that would maintain non-tolled lanes or routes for those who cannot or do not want to pay.”

Transit advocates see the report as validation.

“What’s most interesting about this report is that it was an effort to seek public support for congestion pricing, but what it documented was the much stronger support for transit and improvements in how we plan land use in order to give people more choices to get around,” said Stewart Schwartz, the executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth.

Changing attitudes on gas tax

The study’s authors — the TPB partnered with the Brookings Institution — found that respondents favored raising the gas tax as an easier, fairer alternative to implementing a congestion pricing program.

The gas tax “is a hidden fee,” said Swanson. “We learned that people actually like that. There is a general sense of the invisibility of the gas tax being a problem and potentially a benefit, something that’s strangely attractive to people.”

Participants by-and-large identified transportation funding shortfalls as a critical problem, yet expressed doubts the government would make the right choices if additional revenues were made available through congestion pricing.

“I think people get that there is a lack of funding. They also get the fact there are a number of other problems. There aren’t alternatives,” says TPB board member Chris Zimmerman.

Zimmerman, whose background is in economics, is unsure congestion pricing would even work.

“Even if you are paying a gas tax, it’s not related to your use of any particular road,” Zimmerman said. “An economist looks at that and says of course you are going to get inefficiency and congestion.”

The Washington region saw two major highways shift to congestion pricing in 2012. The ICC in Maryland charges variably priced tolls; the 495 Express Lanes charge dynamically priced tolls and offer free rides to HOV-3 vehicles.

In the case of the Express Lanes, the state of Virginia will not receive toll revenues for 75 years per its contract with its private sector partner, Transurban.It remains to be seen if the new toll lanes will ultimately reduce congestion in the heavily traveled corridor. The ICC also has its critics more than one year after the first tolls were charged, with critics noting the road is underused.

Read the original article on WAMU.

 

Photo courtesy of Michael Galvosky.

Testimony Regarding Residential On-Street Parking Management Issues Before the Committee on the Environment, Public Works, and Transportation

With more effective management of the District’s on-street vehicle parking space we can foster quality neighborhoods, reduce congestion and air pollution, and enhance housing affordability. As a participant in the 2003 Mayor Williams’ Parking Task Force, I continue to support many of the reforms that were proposed in Task Force Report, including the recommendation “that parking is market priced for all users.” We still need to move forward in this direction – price parking so that supply equals demand. Where supply is ample, prices will be low. Where demand is high, price should reflect that scarcity.