Tag: transportation

RELEASE: Coalition for Smarter Growth Responds to Failure of Regional Leaders to Address WMATA’s Ridership Challenges

Press Statement
For Immediate Release
October 3, 2018

Stewart Schwartz, 703-599-6437 (c)
Aimee Custis, 202-431-7185 (c)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Sun., Sept. 30, 2018, the Washington Post ran a story detailing the failure of the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority board members to commit to increasing Metrorail service.

In Sunday’s Post story, the elected and appointed officials charged with the stewardship of our region’s rail and bus system refused to say that they would unite as a body to run more trains, more often, in order to increase ridership. Such a move would follow the demands of riders, the recommendations of consultants, and well-known industry best practices.

National Transit Database data show that Metrorail ridership is down about 25 percent from a decade ago. Five of the past 12 months have set new record lows.

“We know this is primarily due to unreliable service and unreasonable wait times for trains,” says Stewart Schwartz, executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth. Schwartz continues, “These long wait times, especially during nights and weekends, have made other modes of transportation, like biking and ride-hailing, more attractive and more realistic to use than Metrorail.”

Schwartz says, “WMATA’s own consultants, hired to study declining ridership, have made clear to WMATA what has been intuitive to its customers for years: while there is increased competition from ridesharing services, low gas prices, and telecommuting, the primary cause of Metro’s ridership slide is reduced frequency, and especially reduced off-peak frequency on evenings and weekends.”

In his comments to the Post, board member Christian Dorsey did identify the need for “more service generally,” and “less disruption in service through closings and maintenance activities,” including during off-peak hours. But advocates say that taken in total, the WMATA board’s comments to the Post show Metro’s board pursuing goals that do not align with the realities of how transit works for the people who use it. As has been shown time and again, frequent, reliable service is the most important factor in attracting and retaining people who ride transit.

Moreover, elected officials in local and state jurisdictions where WMATA operates have not committed to providing the necessary operating funding to make frequent, reliable service possible.

While the Post reported solely on Metrorail, urgent attention must also be paid to Metrobus and other area bus services. A lack of political will to install and enforce dedicated bus lanes or signals — so buses can avoid the congestion of personal cars and move more people — means that bus performance is slowing alongside Metrorail.

“We support frequent, reliable public transit that connects the region. We stand fully behind WMATA when it takes steps to realize that reality,” says Schwartz. “We have worked closely with the agency as it has taken steps toward reform, fought for dedicated bus lanes, and campaigned successfully for its first-ever dedicated capital funding as part of the MetroNow coalition. We fought hard for this with the understanding that reliable financial resources for capital spending would enable WMATA, and its board, to focus on not just restoring, but improving, Metrorail service.

“WMATA’s stewards and elected officials representing the jurisdictions it serves are falling short in protecting the freedom and accessibility that transit service is central to providing to area residents. Frequent and reliable service increases transit ridership. It provides freedom and greater access to jobs and services. We need the board and regional elected officials to commit emphatically to improving service and ridership.”


About the Coalition for Smarter Growth
The Coalition for Smarter Growth is the leading organization in the Washington DC region dedicated to making the case for smart growth. Its mission is to promote walkable, inclusive, and transit-oriented communities, and the land use and transportation policies and investments needed to make those communities flourish. Learn more at smartergrowth.net.

RELEASE: Newly-released booster group poll is subjective, simplistic, and of little value to transportation planning in the Washington DC region



April 18, 2016

Stewart Schwartz, Coalition for Smarter Growth, (703) 599-6437
Caroline Taylor, Montgomery Countryside Alliance, (301) 461-9831
Ronit Dancis, Action Committee for Transit, (240) 432-9917
Jim Durham, Alexandria Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee, (703) 508-0762
Chris Miller, Piedmont Environmental Council, (703) 507-5790

WASHINGTON, DC — A poll released today by the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance (NVTAlliance) and Suburban Maryland Transportation Alliance (SMTAlliance) is subjective, simplistic and of little value for transportation planning in the DC region, according to several transportation groups around the DC region.

“This new poll completely ignores the number one factor affecting traffic and congestion:  land use.  Furthermore, it presumes that by expanding capacity, we can reduce congestion even though a wide array of transportation studies have shown that induced traffic fills up new capacity in as little as five years in metropolitan areas,” said Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth.

“By not providing information to the respondents about the role of land use, the problem of induced traffic, and the potential financial and community costs versus benefits of various projects it’s not surprising that the NVTAlliance/SMTAlliance world is like ‘Lake Wobegon’ where all transportation projects end up rating ‘above average’,” concurred Caroline Taylor, Executive Director of the Montgomery Countryside Alliance.

Transportation and land use planners have learned that how we lay out our communities has a profound effect on transportation. The farther out we live and the more separated homes are from jobs, schools, retail and services, the more we drive. Expanding I-270 and I-66 in the absence of better land use would likely inspire more growth in rural areas and more long-distance commuting.

In contrast, compact mixed-use communities in DC, Arlington, Alexandria, and at Metro stations in Montgomery, Fairfax, and Prince George’s have much lower rates of driving and very high transit, walk and bike use. Every person who lives or works in a transit-oriented center is a person who drives much less, and has a longer lasting positive impact than road expansion.

“This poll is permeated with the presumption that ‘congestion reduction’ can be achieved and that we just need to spend more on everything to do so. This is the worldview that the NVTAlliance and SMTAlliance have long pushed. Both remain primarily highway booster groups, but have had to adjust their campaigns and brands in acknowledgement of the strong support for transit and transit-oriented development in the DC region – so they now package both roads and transit together,” said Schwartz.

“The problem is, we can’t afford to do everything on the NVTAlliance/SMTAlliance wish lists. We need to make choices, and linking land use with transit is the most effective thing we can do. It’s also in very high demand in the real estate market, including for Marriott Corporation, whose CEO has stated that they will be moving to a Metro station from their suburban office park,” said Ronit Dancis, President of Action Committee for Transit.

Jim Durham, Chair of Alexandria Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, added, “For jurisdictions like the City of Alexandria, adding more lane miles of roadway is not an option, and when surrounding jurisdictions take that approach, it just increases congestion via induced demand. Land use and transportation alternatives are the only real long-term alternatives.”

“So, in the end,” concluded Schwartz, “we have a poll that says transportation is a top issue, which isn’t surprising in our successful metropolitan region, and that people would like to see less congestion.  But it’s not honest about how unlikely it is we will be able to reduce congestion over the long term through capacity expansion. By not discussing land use, induced traffic, or tradeoffs, costs and alternatives, the poll is more about boosting spending and getting mega-projects built, than about providing an effective, long-term approach to our transportation and land use challenges.”

The Coalition for Smarter Growth is the leading organization in the Washington DC region dedicated to making the case for smart growth. Its mission is to promote walkable, inclusive, and transit-oriented communities, and the land use and transportation policies and investments needed to make those communities flourish. Learn more at smartergrowth.net.

The Montgomery Countryside Alliance promotes sound economic, land-use and transportation policies and programs that preserve the natural environment, open spaces, and rural lands in Montgomery County’s Agricultural Reserve for the benefit of all Washington Metropolitan area residents. Learn more at mocoalliance.org.

Action Committee for Transit has a vision of a Montgomery County where it is easier to travel and more pleasant to live — a county built for people and not for automobiles. We believe fundamental changes are needed in transportation and land use policies to give the people of Montgomery County and Maryland the quality of life we deserve. Learn more at www.actfortransit.org.

Alexandria Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee is a volunteer led organization that promotes walking and biking in Alexandria. Learn more at alexandriabpac.wordpress.com.

Since 1972, The Piedmont Environmental Council has proudly promoted and protected the natural resources, rural economy, history and beauty of the Virginia Piedmont. Learn more about the Piedmont Environmental Council at pecva.org.


I-66 coalition asks Virginia to reopen its congestion-relief study

The I-66 Corridor Coalition, a new group of community, transportation and environmental groups, is calling on the Virginia government to reopen a congestion-relief study for the interstate outside the Capital Beltway so that a broad range of options can be reconsidered. That study was completed in 2013.

Here’s what people want in a new Metro GM

The Metro board’s governance committee is receiving a report Thursday on what government and community leaders, along with riders and other interested parties, had to say about the type of general manager they want the transit authority to pick. The public picked up on the split among the board members over whether Metro needs a transit expert or a management turnaround specialist. These are excerpts from some of the statements presented to the board.

Virginia to Congress: Stop approving new flights out of Reagan National Airport

Stewart Schwartz, the executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, said taxpayers already have invested billions in the Dulles Access Road, Dulles Toll Road, Routes 606 and 28, and the Silver Line.

“Now the Dulles folks are seeking billions more for another round of highways,” Schwartz said. “Before we jump into that approach let’s first recognize the challenges that Dulles faces include the fact that they have over projected growth amid the boom in the mid-2000s and they took on too much debt.”

Virginia’s economy needs Dulles Airport to soar again, boosters say

“This is an event for boosters,” said Stewart Schwartz, executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, referring to Thursday’s event. “Nobody’s asking the hard questions — like, ‘Did they overestimate demand and take on too much debt?’ ”

Meeting to address concerns on I-66 HOT lanes

In announcing the forum, the Coalition for Smarter Growth named some of the popular topics in Fairfax County: How will homes and neighborhoods be affected? Will there be enhanced opportunities for walking and biking? What transit alternatives are being developed? How will the project affect parks, streams and natural habitats? What are the likely effects on everyone during the construction period?

Transit advocates see midcounty problems

“Even more telling is that in the draft EER (Environmental Effects Report), you can see that with alternative 9, the same intersections in the southern (already built) portion of Midcounty Highway continue to fail. If you open up a new stretch of road that will attract more commuters heading north to south to the same failing intersections, what do you think is going to happen?” Blynn said.

Double deck I-66? Travelers stack up against it

In my Sunday column, a letter-writer suggested that one alternative to putting HOT lanes on Interstate 66 would be to double deck the highway, thus expanding its capacity. Readers responded with their own proposals for improving travel on one of the region’s most congested highways. While most travelers dismissed the idea of double decking as too expensive and way too ugly, many many do like the idea of expanding capacity by expanding the pavement.