At the final meeting of the TPB’s Long Range Plan Task Force, the group recommended that five of 10 transportation initiatives, analyzed for their ability to improve the performance of the region’s transportation system, be sent to the TPB for endorsement on December 20.
The task force worked hard to come to consensus around these five initiatives; the group met 10 times over 9 months and participated in hours of discussion.
Their work began less than a year ago, and started with first identifying the region’s biggest transportation challenges.
The analysis indicated that each of the ten initiatives had some potential to improve the regional transportation system’s performance and to address one or more of the region’s major transportation challenges. The analysis also demonstrated that none of the 10 initiatives would address all the region’s transportation challenges.
Armed with this information, the task force next identified which of the 10 initiatives to recommend to the TPB for endorsement. As it selected initiatives for its recommendation, the task force considered several factors in addition to the technical results of the analysis. These included public support and implementation feasibility, ability to address mobility and accessibility disparities between the eastern and western parts of the region, and implementation costs.
The final meeting began with a straw poll to see which initiatives rose to the top for the group. Five initiatives clearly had the most support.
The five initiatives
Regional Express Travel Network: The region would have an extensive network of express toll lanes on existing highways. These lanes would use dynamic tolls to maintain desired travel speeds and be free to carpoolers and transit vehicles. New express bus service connecting Activity Centers would also travel on the network.
Regionwide Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and Transitways: BRT, transitway, and streetcar routes that are in jurisdictions’ plans but not yet in the TPB’s long-range plan would be added at various locations throughout the region. This initiative would also improve pedestrian access to transit stations and increase the amount of jobs and housing around the transit stations.
Metrorail Core Capacity Improvements: This initiative includes running eight-car trains exclusively on all Metrorail lines—replacing six-car trains entirely. It would also add a second Rosslyn station, and a new rail line across the Potomac River connecting the District and Virginia through Georgetown to Union Station towards Waterfront. It also would add better bicycle and pedestrian access to rail stations.
Optimize Regional Land-Use Balance: This initiative would optimize the balance of jobs and housing region-wide. The idea is to increase jobs and housing around underused rail stations and Activity Centers with high-capacity transit. Plus, it would encourage building additional housing in the region to match employment projections.
Employer-Based Travel Demand Management Policies: New policies would increase teleworking regionwide and increase the number of employees receiving transit and carpool subsidies. This initiative would also increase the price for most of the parking for work-trips in Activity Centers.
A TPB endorsement of any of the initiatives will allow the TPB to include these initiatives as the aspirational element of TPB’s long-range transportation plan, Visualize 2045. An endorsement would also move the ideas forward so TPB member agencies could study them in more depth. However, a TPB endorsement would not mandate member jurisdictions to alter their own local plans, programs, or policies or to design, fund, and implement these initiatives without further study.
The five recommended initiatives are all broad concepts. With more detailed collaborative study, TPB member agencies could implement these ideas themselves or collectively.
Task force members discussed the five initiatives
To come to consensus and better understand their decisions, task force members discussed the five initiatives. They talked through their lingering concerns and asked questions of each other to understand different opinions.
The task force discussed the challenges in securing the funding and broad support to implement some of the strongest ideas. The regional land-use optimization initiative was one.
Task force and TPB member Ron Meyer, noting that land-use planning is within the authority of the local governments, wondered how a regional body could do that. “My question is the how? What can we do about it as the TPB?”
Meyer also asked how much of a shift in jobs and housing between jurisdictions would have to happen to implement such an initiative and what it would mean for local jurisdictions.
TPB staff director Kanti Srikanth explained that one of the significant elements of this initiative is adding additional housing in the region to accommodate the workers needed to fill the jobs being forecast. “More people are coming and we need to plan for them,” he said. “Jurisdictions will need to add more households around existing and planned transit stations.”
Srikanth also noted that the initiative’s overall objective is balancing jobs and housing in the best way this can be achieved.
Task force and TPB member Neil Harris noted that some of the concepts have been examined and pursued to some degree in the past. He talked about earlier regional planning strategies, like the 1964 Wedges and Corridors plan, that focused on anticipated growth to the year 2000. “I think it’s time for this region to look at the next 50 years,” he said. “We need to have that discussion. To me, it’s a big set of questions and a discussion to start having over the next 10 years.”
By the end of the discussion, with no dissent, the task force agreed to recommend the five initiatives to the TPB for endorsement.
“The task force’s work in reaching broad agreement on a set of recommendations is a significant example of regional collaboration,” said task force chairman and TPB vice-chairman Jay Fisette. “Our work indicates that we must move past our focus on projects alone, and include more strategic and sustained work on policy changes, particularly on land-use and travel demand management, to truly reduce congestion and enhance regional mobility. The recommended initiatives rose to the top for having the most potential to improve the performance of the region’s transportation system and deserve to be comprehensively examined for implementation.”
The TPB will consider endorsing these five initiatives at its December 20 meeting.