The TPB took no formal actions at its September 21 meeting. However, it did receive informational briefings on a number of items, including the launch of a new ridematching app from Commuter Connections, new data on regional commuting trends, and local preparations for upcoming SafeTrack maintenance work on Metro.
Launch of new CarpoolNow ridematching app
Commuter Connections director Nick Ramfos announced the launch of CarpoolNow, a new ridematching app that gives commuters in the region the ability to find carpool partners in real time, by immediately connecting users who are offering a ride with those seeking one.
“This mobile app is going to allow real-time, dynamic ridesharing between those commuters who are interested in carpooling, both riders and drivers,” Ramfos said. “The app could help travelers find alternatives during major events like SafeTrack, Car Free Day, or sporting events. And it could help drivers find carpool partners in order to take advantage of HOV lanes,” he said.
The CarpoolNow interface is similar to ride-hailing services like Uber, displaying routes, estimating pick-up times, and confirming pick-up and drop-off locations, but no money is exchanged for the ride. The app is free to download and use and is another example of Commuter Connections’ use of new technologies to help area commuters form or find carpools.
Early results from the 2016 State of the Commute survey
The board was also briefed on the early results from Commuter Connections’ 2016 State of the Commute survey. The survey asked approximately 6,000 area commuters about a broad range of topics, from commute patterns and commute satisfaction to awareness of Commuter Connections outreach and access to different transportation modes and alternative commute mode services.
The survey found that drive-alone commuting continues to fall in the region, with 61% of commuters doing so on a regular basis. That’s down from 66% in 2013, and 71% in 2004. The survey also showed telework continuing to gain popularity, with 32% of workers in the region doing so “at least occasionally.” And when it comes to commute satisfaction, those who bike or walk to work are happiest with their commutes, while Metro riders and drivers are least satisfied.
SafeTrack update: Preparations for Surge 10 on the Red Line
Metro’s next SafeTrack maintenance surge will shut down the Red Line between Fort Totten and NoMa stations for a little over three weeks starting in late October. At the September 21 meeting, officials from Metro, Montgomery County, and the District of Columbia briefed the board on preparations for the shutdown.
Montgomery County’s Gary Erenrich said the county will be running frequent shuttle-bus service between the Silver Spring and Fort Totten Metro stations, where the shutdown will result in a 70% decrease in rush-hour train capacity. He said that MARC commuter rail will play a big role in absorbing displaced Red Line riders, and that the county is planning to restrict parking and limit road construction in certain areas to help the flow of buses and cars.
The District will also be restricting parking to help the flow of traffic, said Sam Zimbabwe, an associate director at the District Department of Transportation. He said that the agency will also deploy additional Capital Bikeshare corrals downtown and traffic control offers in anticipated problem areas.
In addition to these local responses, Metro itself will run free shuttle buses between closed stations and will boost service on nearby existing bus routes to handle displaced riders. Metro’s Jim Hamre, the head of bus planning and operations for Metro, said that the agency will double service levels on the 80 bus line, one of the main routes providing service in the affected corridor.
Board members Elissa Silverman and Charles Allen (District of Columbia) asked what Metro is doing to get riders to return to Metro after surges are complete. “I’m concerned that people are finding alternatives during SafeTrack and then not coming back,” Silverman said. “I don’t see a message going to riders saying, ‘We’re increasing reliability, we’re increasing safety, come on back to Metro,’” said Allen.
Metro’s Regina Sullivan acknowledged the issue and the need to encourage riders to come back, but said that the data do show that riders are returning. “It’s taking longer for riders to come back, but they are coming back,” she said.
Other items of note:
- Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) Chairman Doug Stewart reported that the committee recently brainstormed public involvement strategies for the TPB’s upcoming long-range planning work. He said that the committee will make formal recommendations at a future meeting. Listen to Stewart’s full report.
- The board was briefed on the development of the FY 2017-2022 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP), a regional document that shows anticipated spending on specific transportation projects over the next six years. In November, the TPB will be asked to approve the two-year update. Listen to the full briefing.
- In a recent letter, the TPB urged the US Department of Transportation (USDOT) to withdraw a proposed rule that would redraw the boundaries of metropolitan planning areas and metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs). Read the TPB’s letter (p. 49).
- In his remarks, TPB Chairman Tim Lovain provided a status update on the work of the TPB’s Long-Range Planning Task Force. He also announced that the TPB will host an Incident Response Conference on November 2. Listen to the Chairman’s remarks.
Meeting materials and recorded audio