At its meeting on July 20, the TPB took action on three items, including approval of an update to the regional Freight Plan and a proclamation of this year’s Car Free Day event. The main focus of the meeting was a monthly update on Metro’s intensive, yearlong SafeTrack maintenance program. The update summarized lessons learned so far by area jurisdictions and transportation agencies during the first few SafeTrack work surges.
Actions taken by the TPB at its July 20 meeting
- Approved a major update to the regional Freight Plan. The plan highlights the role of freight in the region and outlines policies and projects to improve the flow of goods in the future. The draft plan was available for public comment through July 9. Check out the executive summary of the Freight Plan.
- Proclaimed Sept. 22 as Car Free Day. The annual event, organized by the TPB’s Commuter Connections program, encourages people to take transit, bicycle, or walk instead of driving, or to go “car-lite” by carpooling or vanpooling. This year, Commuter Connections aims to get at least 10,000 people to take the car-free pledge. Read the TPB’s official Car Free Day proclamation.
- Approved funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects in Maryland. The board approved 5 bicycle and pedestrian projects in Maryland to receive $1.1 million in funding under the federal program previously known as Transportation Alternatives. The projects advance regional priorities like expanding travel options, connecting and strengthening Activity Centers, and serving disadvantaged groups. Learn more about the selected projects.
SafeTrack update: Local mitigation strategies and “lessons learned”
A total of 15 jurisdictions and transportation agencies provided updates on mitigation strategies they’ve undertaken and the lessons they’ve learned during the first four SafeTrack surges. Many highlighted the importance of communicating with travelers and getting the word out about disruptions and available alternatives. Several also stressed the importance of coordinating with neighboring jurisdictions and providing good alternatives like enhanced local and express bus services.
Metro’s Jim Hamre reported on Metro’s use of shuttle buses and supplemental bus service to handle some of the riders displaced by the SafeTrack shutdowns and single-tracking. He said that Metro has recorded at least 1.5 million additional trips by bus during the first four surges, and that the greatest shuttle ridership—about 24,000 riders a day—happened during the closure of the Blue and Yellow lines just north of Reagan National Airport during Surges 3 and 4.
When asked about shifts in other travel modes, Hamre said that in a rider survey following Surge 1, 30-40% of respondents reported making travel adjustments using a broad mix of alternatives, including teleworking and even scheduling their vacation to occur during the surges. TPB transportation engineer Eric Randall also said that staff are already working to collect more detailed information on how travelers have adapted to the surges and altered their travel behavior.
Board member Phil Mendelson (District of Columbia) said he hoped that Metro would resume providing detailed information about the work taking place during SafeTrack, like it had done during Surge 1 when it produced a video. He said he thought that was a great way for Metro to show its riders and the public the improvements it is making to safety and service reliability.
— TPB (@NatCapRegTPB) July 20, 2016
Metro’s Regina Sullivan said that the agency’s media team plans to continue developing videos and working with reporters to get the word out about the work being done. She also reminded board members that detailed progress reports from the first three surges are available to the public on Metro’s website.
Plans to upgrade the TPB’s travel demand model
TPB travel forecasters Ron Milone and Mark Moran updated the board on efforts underway to upgrade the models the TPB uses to forecast future travel patterns in the region. Moran explained that the biggest change, which is still a few years away, is a transition to an “activity-based model.”
“The model we currently use focuses on aggregate flows of travelers, while the newer paradigm of activity-based models is really looking at individual traveler behavior and household behavior and how they make trips and how those trips are chained together,” Moran explained. “It’s more disaggregate and more detailed, so we will have the ability to look at finer-grained analyses, including looking at the travel patterns of certain population sub-groups,” he said.
Moran also noted that 70% of peer metropolitan planning organizations are using or developing such models. “This is becoming state of the practice, so we really should be there.”
Board member Marc Elrich (Montgomery Co) noted his dissatisfaction with how local jurisdictions model traffic impacts of individual projects and asked whether the TPB’s planned upgrades might help jurisdictions in such efforts. Moran stressed that the TPB’s models look at longer-range travel patterns at a regional scale and are not designed to assess shorter-term operational impacts of individual projects. He noted earlier in his presentation that the planned switch to an activity-based model would provide greater detail about trips but at a regional level, not a local one.
Other items of note:
- Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) Chairman Douglas Stewart reiterated the CAC’s strong interest in members of the public being involved in the TPB’s efforts to develop an unconstrained regional long-range plan. Listen to Stewart’s report.
- The Metropolitan Area Transportation Operations Coordination (MATOC) program dedicated a plaque to honor long-time TPB staff director Ron Kirby. The plaque will hang in the MATOC operations center in College Park. Read the text of the plaque and see a photo from the dedication ceremony.
- Several area employers received recognition from the TPB’s Commuter Connections program for their efforts to promote ridesharing, teleworking, and other commute alternatives. See the list of award recipients.
- The Memorial Bridge reconstruction and I-95 Atlantic Gateway projects received funding under USDOT’s new FASTLANE program. Learn more about the projects.
PROGRAMMING NOTE: The TPB will not meet in August. The next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, September 21.