The TPB took a few formal actions at its January 18 meeting, including appointing new members to its Citizens Advisory Committee. It also discussed the next phase of work of its Long-Range Plan Task Force. The board deferred until February a final vote to endorse a map that will aid in assessing the impacts of the region’s transportation plans on low-income and minority communities. The January 18 meeting was the first to be chaired by Rockville Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton in her role as 2017 TPB Chairman.
Actions taken by the TPB at its January 18 meeting:
- Appointed Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) members for 2017. The committee is charged with providing region-oriented citizen advice to the TPB and promoting public involvement in regional decision-making. Fifteen voting members and nine non-voting alternate members make up the committee. Jeremy Martin was appointed CAC chairman for 2017. Learn more about the CAC’s 2017 members.
- Amended the FY2017-2022 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP). The amendment included more than $430 million in funding for five major projects in Northern Virginia. The projects had previously been added to the TIP and approved by the TPB. Learn more about the five projects.
- Approved a by-laws amendment allowing remote participation by TPB board members. The by-laws change allows members to participate remotely under certain conditions and stipulations. Read the text of the bylaws change.
- Deferred action to endorse new Equity Emphasis Areas map. The board asked for minor changes to the methodology used to identify areas with high concentrations of minority and low-income populations. The TPB will use the map to assess the impacts of the region’s long-range transportation plan on these groups. Read below for more about the board’s deferment of this item.
The board deferred its endorsement of a new Equity Emphasis Areas map
The TPB voted to postpone by one month its endorsement of a map to be used for analyzing the impacts of the region’s long-range transportation plan on minority and low-income populations.
The deferral came at the request of board member Danielle Glaros (Prince George’s County), who cited concerns about the methodology used to identify the so-called Equity Emphasis Areas.
Glaros specifically noted a few Census tracts in Prince George’s County that did not meet the threshold for being considered Equity Emphasis Areas, but where high concentrations of minority and low-income groups nonetheless reside. “We have some areas that have a very high proportion on minority population but are just below the low-income threshold that are being left out,” she said. “And so I think there’s a need to just take a deeper dive into it to make sure that we are focusing on the right areas.”
Glaros made it clear that she thinks the methodology analysis is headed in the right direction, just that the methodology needs a little more refining. “I think it is really important that we get this methodology right because I think it’s exactly the right direction,” she said. “This is the right conversation to be having.”
Staff spent the better part of 2016 developing the new Equity Emphasis Areas map and methodology, reviewing the approaches of other metropolitan areas and working closely with local jurisdictions in the region to ensure that the methodology identified the right areas.
Board member Eric Shaw (DC Office of Planning), who helped initiate development of the new equity analysis approach almost two years ago, lauded staff and the latest draft methodology. “I want to thank you guys once again. This idea has turned into a methodology and a product. It’s a great conversation to be having. Even if it just moves the needle a little bit on us thinking about these things, that’s the real impact,” he said.
The board will consider the methodology and map again at its February meeting. Once it endorses the proposed map, the TPB will look at how access to jobs, educational institutions, and hospitals by both car and transit is expected to differ in Equity Emphasis Areas versus the rest of the region under the 2016 Amendment to the region’s Constrained Long-Range Transportation Plan (CLRP), approved by the TPB in November.
The future of the Long-Range Plan Task Force begins to take shape
“I am a ‘today-not-tomorrow’ person,” said TPB Chairman Bridget Donnell Newton. “I don’t like to spin my wheels. I like to see action.”
Such was the spirit of the January 18 conversation Newton led in which more than a dozen board members offered their suggestions on how the TPB’s Long-Range Plan Task Force should undertake its next phase of work. The task force was established in 2015 to identify key unfunded regional priority transportation projects.
Many of the comments during the 34-minute conversation focused on the need for clear measures of success for any new plan that the task force develops.
“If we don’t have targets, we’re not going to go anywhere,” said board member Shyam Kannan (WMATA). “One thing that this resolution calls for, which is exciting, is a facilitated dialogue to arrive at some measurable targets,” he said.
Board member Peter Schwartz (Fauquier County) also weighed in. “One of the most important aspects of this exercise and the way we characterize and ultimately formulate this resolution, is that we are directing the task force and our staff to come up with plans going forward that truly move the regional needle. We need to make sure we’re talking about plans that are actually making things better for the folks we’re representing,” he said.
Some members offered specific suggestions on what those measures might be. “I think we need to shift our focus away from ‘congestion’ and to things like ‘mobility’ and ‘access to transportation,’” said board member Charles Allen (DC).
Board members Tim Lovain (Alexandria) and Vic Weissberg (Prince George’s County) echoed Allen’s sentiments. “I’d like to second that thought,” Lovain said. “Let’s make sure that congestion is not our only measure of success.”
Some board members also highlighted their desire for the new long-range plan to identify specific projects for the region to rally around and fund. “I don’t want us to forget about identifying ‘game-changing’ projects to move the region forward,” said Jason Groth (Charles County).
Other comments that came up stressed the importance of technology, safety, reliability, and providing realistic transportation choices for travelers.
Other items of note
- During public comment, Bill Orleans recommended that the public be allowed to comment remotely at TPB meetings. The Coalition for Smarter Growth’s Stewart Schwartz urged the board to consider the role that land-use can play in addressing the region’s transportation challenges. Listen to the comments.
- Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) Chairman Douglas Stewart again urged the TPB to develop a robust plan for involving the public in its long-range planning work. He said that they can provide a “consumer viewpoint” necessary to the success of the plan. Listen to Stewart’s report.
- The final recommendations of COG’s Multi-Sector Working Group on Greenhouse Gas Emissions were delivered to the board. The recommendations include a number of strategies in the transportation sector. The group has called on the TPB to support the implementation of these strategies. Read the MSWG recommendations (pp. 11-26).
- Earlier this month, the Obama Administration finalized a federal rule calling for consolidation and reform of the nation’s metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs). Read the staff assessment of the rule’s potential implications for the TPB (pp. 29-31).