With a short timeline and after only six meetings, the TPB’s Long-Range Plan Task Force has completed its work of narrowing down a long list of potential projects, programs, or policies to recommend to the TPB for further analysis as that body looks to identify initiatives that could help the region make significantly better progress toward achieving its long-term transportation goals.
The task force began its work in April by reviewing the region’s goals and identifying challenges it faces in achieving them. In subsequent meetings, the group brainstormed potential projects, programs, or policies that might address those challenges. The initial brainstorms yielded a list of more than 80 ideas, and in subsequent meetings, the group considered some 70-80 other ideas or combinations of ideas as well.
Given that its charge was to identify approximately 6-10 such ideas to recommend for further analysis, the group set about narrowing the list, working through their own local views and those of others around the table to see the region from different perspectives. The task force’s final recommendations, to be presented to the TPB on July 19, includes a total of 10 ideas, some with wide consensus and some that are more controversial. Task force members agreed that it was important to offer up a diversity of ideas for analysis to allow the conversation to continue.
Another round of voting led to some consensus and more discussion
The task force finished its work at a meeting on July 5. At that meeting, task force members completed another round of voting to move the group toward its goal of identifying no more than 10 initiatives to recommend for analysis. This time, they voted on a smaller and more refined list of initiatives. Members placed paper ballots in plastic buckets to cast their votes.
Once the votes were tallied, five initiatives stood out as having wide support. These included a regional express travel network consisting of express toll lanes and new express bus service on major highways, regionwide bus rapid transit and dedicated transitways, regional commuter rail enhancements, Metrorail regional core capacity improvements, including 8-car trains and improvements at high-volume stations, and, lastly, transit fare policy changes to reduce Metrorail fares for reverse commuting and free transit for low-income residents. Those first five were easily agreed upon by the task force. Yet, it still needed five more for its recommendations to the TPB.
To decide on the rest of the ideas to recommend, members discussed the next tier of initiatives that had garnered fewer votes. To fill the last five slots, task force members had to better understand some of the initiatives that they disliked to agree upon what should be analyzed. The task force members revised some of the initiatives and combined others to create a list of ten for analysis.
Members had to work toward understanding different perspectives
Throughout the discussions, task force members had to work through their different perspectives from different parts of a diverse region. Members had to think about the region as a whole and work through its variety of needs and solutions.
One initiative, focused on land-use, called for shifting some of the region’s anticipated growth in jobs and housing over the next 25 years toward the eastern side of the region, to make up for an imbalance that exists today and is forecast to get worse. Task force and TPB member Ron Meyer questioned that redistribution. “For us I would say that’s a non-starter. If anything, shift jobs and housing westward,” he said.
Task force member and TPB Vice Chairman Charles Allen asked to hear more of Meyer’s perspective. “With my regional hat on and as chair of the Access for All Committee, we talk a lot about the east-west divide. We need to think about how our region can grow in a more equitable way,” Allen said. He proposed a revision, changing the wording to “achieve jobs and housing balance regionwide,” a change that Meyer accepted.
TPB Vice Chairman and task force chairman Jay Fisette also reminded the group that there is value in adding controversial projects or policies to the recommendation for further analysis. Referring to a proposal to build a new bridge crossing over the Potomac River north of the Capital Beltway, he said, “It’s controversial enough, it’s big enough, it’s been out there and deserves the analysis that people are looking for. People feel very passionate both for and against it. We need more analysis to better inform ourselves.”
Initiatives recommended by the Long-Range Plan Task Force for further analysis:
- Regional Express Travel Network including express tolling and express bus service.
- Regional Roadway Congestion Hotspot Relief combined with Technological and Operational improvements.
- Additional Northern Bridge Crossing/Corridor
- Regionwide Bus Rapid Transit and Transitways with the DC Streetcar added
- Regional Commuter Rail Enhancements
- Metrorail regional Core Capacity Improvements
- Metrorail Extensions combined with Regional Light Rail System
- Optimize Regional Land-Use Balance
- Transit Fare Policy Changes
- Travel Demand Management for commute trips
The task force’s list of recommendations kicks off the next step in a deliberative process to identify what projects, policies, and programs should ultimately be included in the region’s long-range transportation plan. Pending the TPB’s acceptance of the recommendations at its meeting on July 19, a high-level analysis of the initiatives will seek to identify those with the greatest potential to address regional challenges and move the region closer to achieving its transportation goals.
The results of the analysis will be only one factor that the board will consider in its deliberations. It will also consider political viability and funding availability. If the board is able to identify a few top priority initiatives for the region, it will then undertake efforts to rally support for those projects, secure funding, and include the projects in the region’s long-range plan.