James Davenport Transportion (Past, Present and Future)

21Jan/20Off

Did you Hear the News?

Shout it from the Roof Top. Tell all your friends. Spread the news….Have I used enough clichés? The new Commuter Connections’ 2019 State of the Commute Survey Report, that was released last month, revealed some important findings.

The report found that “Drive-alone commuting continues to decrease, while alternative modes of transportation, including transit and telework, are on the rise among commuters in the D.C. region.” Before we get too excited, it also mentions that driving alone still continues to be the primary mode in the region. But the percentage of Single Occupied Vehicles (SOV) has dropped from 71 percent in 2004 to 58 percent in 2019.

Over the same period, transit use increased from 17 percent in 2004 to 24 percent in 2019. The major portion of the new percentage increase was Metrorail. The remainder was Commuter Rail at just over 1.5% and bus at just under 6%. Not surprisingly, telework almost tripled over the period and other modes such as carpooling, vanpooling and Bike/Pedestrian remained the same.

But this isn’t the only good news I recently heard. Yes, there is more news about commuter options.

First of all, I know what you’ll say next in response to this development. You will shrug and say, “of course SOV usage is declining in the NOVA region. There are so many more commuting options available in metropolitan areas such as the DC region. But in suburban or more rural areas, the only option that is available to commuters is the SOV. People in rural areas don’t have access to anything like Metrorail or a robust bus service.”

Well, you would be wrong melon head. Sorry, I slipped into my Johnny Carson persona for a moment. Am I dating myself? I recently read an article that was more encouraging to me, in some ways, than the Commuter Connections draft report. A new vanpool program is being introduced in the Lynchburg area in Central Virginia. The program is set to launch sometime next year with the goal of providing an alternative transit method for employees who live 20 or more miles from their job.

What got this going? Well, in September, the Central Virginia Planning District Commission (CVPDC) received a $72,000 mobility grant from the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) for a vanpool program for employees in the region who live farther than 20 miles from their work. DRPT provided 80% of the grant while CVPDC provides the other 20% — $18,000 over the next two years. The commission represents the city of Lynchburg and the counties of Amherst, Appomattox, Bedford and Campbell, VA. The grant helps to pay for fees associated with rental of the vans rather than the actual purchase.

From this article, it is clear that community and business leaders saw vanpools as a valuable commuter option for a region like Central Virginia because it can reduce employee costs while cutting down on congestion. They are especially helpful to a workforce that may have limited public transit options and to a region that has a number of companies that use shift work in its operation. In essence, decision makers determined that vanpools provide access to employment in the absence of other viable options, other than driving alone.

I commend the Central Virginia region for moving forward in this initiative. It goes to show that alternative commuting options aren’t unique to just urban areas. With a little innovative thinking and a little bit of funding, you can go a long way in addressing a transportation need in your community. You can rest assured that transportation challenges will continue to be an issue for decision makers and planners in both rural and urban areas, especially as populations get older and driving alone simply is not an option anymore.

 

Written by nspiregreen on December 12.

Did you hear the news?

 

 

31Aug/18Off

Could a Van Pool Work For You?

Written by nspiregreen on . Posted in BlogSustainabilityTranspo

Find out a little history and how successful some vanpool programs have been throughout the years.

19Feb/18Off

Didn’t see This Coming – Dulles and National Airports up for Sale?

I just read earlier this week from the Washington Business Journal that a part of President Trump’s Transportation Infrastructure Plan calls for the possible sale from the federal government of both Dulles and National Airports to a public and/or private entity. Sorry, I still refer to the airport in Arlington as National Airport. I’m used to the older name and never felt it necessary to change it. I was quite taken by surprise from this proposal. I understand that the current administration would like to divest itself from major funding responsibilities that the federal government had taken on for many, many years, but I didn’t think the administration would specifically identify these key facilities in the Washington DC area.

As the article stated, the administration’s justification for the sale is that local agencies and/or the private sector may be better at managing these facilities. The administration is looking for the federal government to off-load the infrastructure, thinking that the taxpayers will benefit from the sale since more funds will then be available in the federal coffers. The future costs for capital improvements, operations and maintenance would be covered more by the users of the facilities and/or the local entities, whether private or public. To me, it looks like a Federal Government fire sale.

National Airport
Credit - NBC News

Local officials are saying it is difficult to say what the impacts would be at this point. Dulles and National Airports are the only two federally owned airports in the country. I would presume members from the US Congress would not favor such a sale as it may inhibit members being able to push the airports to include flights that best meet their schedules. Maybe this would provide more local autonomy in the management of the two airports.

The first question would be - is this even possible? In listening to Kojo Nnamdi’s show this afternoon, there is doubt that this will even happen. And it is impossible to determine at this point what the impacts would be. It seems to me, on the surface, it’s just another way the federal government is looking to divest itself of past responsibilities and put more of the burden on local and state government.

Many living in the region probably thought the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority (MWAA) owned the airports anyway, since they operate them. MWAA operates both the airports under a long-term contract with the feds. MWAA is governed by a 17-member Board of Directors which establishes policy and provides direction to management. Members of the Board are appointed by the Governors of Virginia and Maryland, the Mayor of Washington, D.C., and the President of the United States. Would MWAA be the logical choice to take this on? Do they have the resources to do so? What would be the impacts on local governments within the region and its citizenry?

Again, there are just too many unknowns here. It seems like it would make sense for MWAA to take on ownership, but do they have the capacity to do so? Surely state and local governments cannot purchase the airports. Private ownership of the airports would have its issues as well. Cost of using the facilities, such as airline tickets and long-term parking, would probably increase.

This proposed sale concerns me because it appears to be a part of an overall effort for the federal government to de-invest in our nation’s infrastructure. We all were encouraged by the president identifying transportation infrastructure being a priority, but funding amounts he is proposing just don’t add up. In the announcement of his infrastructure plan, The White House says its plan will “create $1.5 trillion for repairing and upgrading America’s infrastructure. However, only $200 billion of that would come from direct federal spending, the rest is supposed to come from state and local governments, which are expected to match any federal allocation by at least a four-to-one ratio.”

Dulles Airport
Credit - Huffington Post

States have gradually assumed more of the responsibility for funding infrastructure in recent years, and the White House says it wants to accelerate that trend. Yes public/private partnerships have worked in some areas, and the Commonwealth of Virginia has led the charge. But there are examples where they have not worked. Route 460 comes to mind.

If the President was truly serious and committed to improving our nation’s infrastructure, especially our highways and transit systems, he would seriously consider a gas tax increase in addition to leveraging funding from other sources. In fact, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has proposed “hiking the federal gas tax, which hasn’t gone up since 1993, to raise $394 billion over 10 years. The White House is open to that idea, but hasn’t ruled anything out.” I would like to have seen a more enthusiastic endorsement of gas tax increase, than “the White House is open to that idea.”  Relying more on state and local governments to fund more of these transportation improvement projects may become impractical since most state and local governments are already cash strapped.

Please let me know how you think the sale of the airports will play out. Is it good for the DC metropolitan region?