RD455 - How the Commonwealth is Using Transit and Transportation Demand Management to Reduce Congestion and Use of Single-Occupant Vehicles
This document is the Secretary of Transportation’s report to the General Assembly summarizing on-going and completed efforts in the Commonwealth of Virginia to leverage the state’s investments in transit and Transportation Demand Management (TDM) programs. It was prepared pursuant to § 33.2-106 of the Code of Virginia, stating:
"The Secretary, in consultation and cooperation with the Commissioner of Highways and the Director of the Department of Rail and Public Transportation, shall annually, not later than November 1, submit to the General Assembly a report on actions taken by the Commonwealth, local governments, and regional transportation authorities to (i) increase transit use and (ii) reduce highway congestion and use of single-occupant vehicles through programs and initiatives involving transportation demand management, transit use, telecommuting, carpooling, construction of commuter parking facilities, use of flexible work hours, and telecommunications technology."
This document is the ninth annual report and highlights actions to provide and promote transit and transportation demand services in Fiscal Year 2018. All data in this report is from the Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) unless otherwise noted.(*1)
Transit & Transportation Demand Management in the Commonwealth
Transit and TDM services exist throughout a majority of the Commonwealth. Transit takes on many forms including local fixed-route, demand-response, and paratransit services. Additional services exist throughout Virginia like bus rapid transit (BRT) services in Arlington, Alexandria, and most recently this year in Richmond; commuter bus services in Northern Virginia, Hampton Roads, and Richmond; state-sponsored intercity bus service along the I-81 and I-66 corridors; and light rail service in Norfolk.
TDM includes an assortment of programs and services designed to discourage the use of travel by single-occupant vehicle like: ridematching, carpooling, vanpooling, park-and-ride lots, telework, bike share, car share, guaranteed/emergency ride home, promotion of transit and TDM services, and providing travel options information to the public, employers, and employees. Information and ridematching services are provided through websites, smart phone apps, on-site displays, commuter stores, and mobile commuter stores, where the public can purchase transit passes, get matched in a carpool or vanpool, and learn about their commute options.
Benefits of Transit and TDM
In addition to reducing the number of single-occupant vehicle trips, transit has many additional benefits including: saving household money, saving time, providing economic opportunities, mitigating traffic congestion, improving access to healthcare, and providing environmental benefits. Congestion mitigation is achieved through transit and TDM services that eliminate auto trips and move trips to off-peak travel time. As a result, transit and TDM also make Virginia’s transportation system more efficient by moving more people, particularly through the most congested corridors.
Providing mobility options is another significant benefit of transit. Many Virginians prefer using transit, vanpool, or carpool rather than driving, and some Virginians do not have access to a vehicle and rely on these mobility options. Additionally, transit and TDM options increase the quality of life for many Virginians. Providing transportation options and services give Virginia a competitive edge in attracting and keeping business and workers. When making site selections, businesses increasingly consider areas served by transit in desired locations. Once they are here, businesses want services that help their employees find the best mode to commute. Just like transit, TDM plays a vital role in Virginia’s transportation system. By putting more people in buses, trains, carpools, and vanpools, and increasing the use of telework, TDM makes Virginia’s transportation system more efficient by moving more people and better utilizing existing highway infrastructure.
Transit and Transportation Demand Management Funding in the Commonwealth
Six Year Improvement Program
Virginians have been able to enjoy the benefits of transit and TDM due to the leadership of the General Assembly past and present, authorizing dedicated streams of revenue. The Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) approved the Fiscal Year 2019-2024 Six Year Improvement Program, investing over $384 million in state transit revenues. This amount included $193.5 million in operating assistance, $180.7 million for capital projects, $1.6 million for paratransit, and $8.5 million for special projects, including TDM programs. Further, as the designated pass-through agency for federal transit funding to the Commonwealth, DRPT administers approximately $72.8 million in federal funds the CTB allocates to transit agencies across Virginia. An additional $8.1 million in federal funding and state matching funds allocated by the Metropolitan Area Planning Organizations were also administered by DRPT for TDM programs.
In accordance with Chapter 603 of the 2016 General Assembly, the Transit Capital Project Revenue Advisory Board projected an average of nearly $130 million in statewide annual transit capital needs compounded by the loss of 44 percent of existing revenues dedicated to the program due to its reliance on 30-year Commonwealth Project Revenue (CPR) bonds that fully sunset in 2020. Unless replacement revenues for the CPR bonds were identified, Virginia would face an estimated $178 million annual program deficit by 2027. However, as DRPT reviewed grant applications for Fiscal Year 2019, transit capital grant applications did not match the needs previously anticipated by the Board and public transit agencies across Virginia. Several factors have been identified to explain this gap, including the recent authorization of alternative revenue sources that temporarily relieved the projected demand and pressures on the transit capital program,. These revenues include: the availability and successful scoring of major expansion transit capital projects in the SMART SCALE program, the dedication of newly authorized toll revenues collected on I-66 and I-395 to transit, the use of statewide passenger and freight rail funds to complement Commuter Rail, dedicated local and regional funds collected in Northern Virginia, federal BUILD (formerly TIGER) grants supplementing major expansion projects, and dedicated state funding to encourage vanpooling. Additionally, the significant restructuring of the Commonwealth Mass Transit Trust Fund program enacted under Chapters 854 and 856 of the 2018 Acts of Assembly created a guaranteed set-aside of 53.5 percent of all transit revenues to WMATA, the largest capital and operating program recipient.
As DRPT completes its SYIP in future years and implements a series of transit reforms, the impact of the loss of Capital Project Revenues bonds and their possible impact on available transit capital spending will need to be monitored closely; and General Assembly action may still be needed to remedy the situation.
Federal Transit Funding
DRPT is the Commonwealth’s pass-through agency responsible for the receipt, allocation, and management of most Federal Transit Administration formula funding programs. Through an inter-agency agreement with VDOT, DRPT also administers funds from certain core federal-aid highway formula programs like the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) program and Surface Transportation Block Grant program (STBG) that are eligible for use on public transportation projects.
The Section 5307 Urbanized Area Formula Funding program makes federal resources available for transit capital and operating assistance in urbanized areas and for transportation-related planning. Virginia currently has four metropolitan areas where local transit providers are eligible for and directly receive annual Section 5307 appropriations: Washington, D.C., Virginia Beach, Richmond, and Roanoke. Section 5310 funds provide funding to human service providers. These entities provide services to senior citizens and individuals with disabilities. The Section 5311 Formula Grants for Rural Areas program provides capital, planning, and operating assistance to states to support public transportation in rural areas with populations of less than 50,000 where many residents often rely on public transit to reach jobs, workforce development, and healthcare. Additionally, DRPT must set-aside 15 percent of annual Section 5311 appropriations dedicated towards operation of intercity bus service that connects rural areas to the National Bus Network. In 2017, DRPT launched the first such service in Virginia, the Virginia Breeze.
Transit Usage and Trends in Virginia
For Fiscal Year 2018, transit agencies across the Commonwealth provided 173,582,869 unlinked passenger trips. According to the Federal Transit Administration, unlinked passenger trips are the number of people who board public transportation vehicles regardless of how many vehicles they use to travel from their origin to their destination. For example, if an individual transfers from one bus to another bus while commuting to their workplace, that individual’s trip counts as two passenger trips.
The Fiscal Year 2018 number amounts to a 1.9 percent decrease when compared to Fiscal Year 2017. While this represents a small decline in ridership year-to-year, it is significantly better than the prior year decrease of 7.6 percent between Fiscal Year 2017 and Fiscal Year 2016; and it is smaller decline when compared to the national average. With the implementation of significant statewide transit reforms that will lead to improved services, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (WMATA) continued work towards improving its services, and changing outside factors such as rising gas prices, it is anticipated that a decline in transit ridership will either slow down or stop.
SMART SCALE: Enacted by the 2014 General Assembly, SMART SCALE is an important source of capital revenues that the Commonwealth uses for surface transportation projects. DRPT, VDOT, and the Office of Intermodal Planning and Investment are active participants in this process by providing technical and policy expertise and analysis for multimodal projects. DRPT also worked with localities and agencies to identify potential projects and provide technical assistance and project data to help round out the applications. In Round 1, eight public transportation projects received $31 million in funding; while in Round 2 2018, 17 public transportation projects were selected for $168 million in funding, a substantial growth due to the high scoring and the cost benefit ratios of public transportation projects. The process is currently underway for Round 3 of SMART SCALE. The application submission deadline was August 1, 2018; and the scoring is ongoing. DRPT received 52 total applications. Of those, 18 projects had transit as the primary component, totaling $231 million in requests; and 34 projects had transit as a secondary component.
Toll Revenues to Transit: Two of the most congested roadways in the Commonwealth, I-66 and I-395 in Northern Virginia, will witness major transformations over the next few years due to implementation of new travel choices in the form of Express Lanes that will provide more reliable travel options while improving traffic flow in the general purpose lanes. The I-395 Express Lanes, I-66 Inside the Beltway, and I-66 Outside the Beltway projects will make major improvements to those roadways while increasing person throughput with concurrent investment in transit and TDM.
Express Mobility Partners, the Commonwealth’s construction partner for the I-66 Outside the Beltway project, is providing an upfront concession payment of $500 million to the Commonwealth for use on additional projects, including transit that will benefit users of the corridor. These projects were selected by Northern Virginia Transportation Authority and included eight transit projects, including six projects along Virginia Railway Express’s (VRE) Manassas line. This is in addition to its contribution of $800 million over the next 50 years to fund new and expanded transit services along the corridor.
For the I-66 Inside the Beltway project, the Commonwealth is dedicating a portion of the new toll revenues (after operations and maintenance costs and debt service are paid) to fund multimodal improvements benefiting commuters in the corridor. Known as the Commuter Choice program, the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC) has an agreement with the CTB for management of the multimodal program. As of June 30, 2018, the CTB has provided funding for two programs of multimodal improvements recommended by NVTC. Combined, the two programs total $21.9 million and include 23 projects in seven local jurisdictions.
Lastly, for the I-395 Express Lanes project, Transurban, the operators of the express lanes, will return a portion of toll revenues back to the Commonwealth as an annual transit payment to fund multimodal improvements that will benefit toll payers. Annual transit payments to the Commonwealth will begin in 2020.
Silver Line Metro Expansion: The purpose of the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project is to provide high-quality, high-capacity transit service in the Dulles Corridor. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) is the primary funding source for this project and leads the construction of the extension, while DRPT, WMATA, Fairfax County, and Loudoun County provide technical assistance during the construction of the 23.1-mile extension into Fairfax and Loudoun counties. Service started on the Phase I of the Silver Line on July 26, 2014. The second and final phase is currently under construction with a completion planned for 2020. Since its inception, total ridership is over 4.3 million annually. Richmond’s Pulse: Bus Rapid Transit: The Greater Richmond Transit Company’s Pulse launched on June 24, 2018, and serves a 7.6-mile route along Broad Street and Main Street, from Rocketts Landing in the City of Richmond to Willow Law in Henrico County. There are 26 stations and over three miles of dedicated travel lanes. After initiating service, GRTC offered a free week of rides; and over 57,000 rides were provided that first week. Weekday ridership is averaging 6,000, far exceeding the anticipated 3,500 weekday riders.
Virginia Breeze: Blacksburg to Washington, D.C: Starting service on December 1, 2017, the Virginia Breeze is an intercity bus service connecting Blacksburg with Union Station in Washington, D.C. The daily route includes stops in Christiansburg, Lexington, Staunton, Harrisonburg, Front Royal, Dulles Airport, and Arlington. DRPT estimated first year ridership would be 7,125. As of September 30, 2018, ridership has reached over 14,000.
Transportation Demand Management Initiatives
Vanpool!VA: The 2016 General Assembly included dedicated funding in the appropriations act for vanpool services in Virginia. DRPT created the Vanpool!VA program to increase person throughput in Virginia’s most congested travel corridors. The program was developed with input from TDM agencies, transit agencies, and vanpool companies. DRPT created a competitive grant program where eligible recipients can apply for funding for programs or projects that increase vanpooling and vanpool ridership.
Telework!VA and Telework Week: The Telework!VA program promotes telework as a method to reduce congestion and helps businesses set up telework programs. DRPT conducted its eighth annual Telework Virginia campaign in March 2018. During that week, DRPT encourages businesses across Virginia to establish telework programs and allow qualifying employees to work from home at least one day during that week.
TryTransit!VA and Try Transit Week: DRPT has led Virginia’s Try Transit week for the past nine years. Held during the third week of September, Try Transit Week promotes all forms of transit—bus, rail, ferry, and vanpool.
BiketoWork!VA and Bike to Work Week: In what has now become an annual event, DRPT promoted the second annual Bike to Work Week from May 15-19. Bike to Work Week to provides a boost to local initiatives and increases awareness of biking as a commute mode.
The Future of State Transit Oversight and Funding
In recent years, DRPT has taken steps to assist transit agencies to perform more efficiently and effectively. Additionally, the General Assembly has made significant changes to the oversight and allocation of funding in DRPT’s Six Year Improvement Program. Several of these initiatives will be challenging in implementing for not only transit agencies, but also for DRPT. However, they will create better transit agencies for the Commonwealth’s citizens and its visitors.
Transit Asset Management: TransAM is the system that DRPT uses to track the asset inventories of the transit providers across the Commonwealth as required by federal transit asset management regulations. The asset data is currently used to determine when replacement assets should be funded as well as to forecast state of good repair needs. DRPT’s recipients are responsible for updating the inventories when vehicles are received or sold or when facilities are built or rehabilitated. Beginning this year, all transit agencies receiving federal funding are required to develop and implement transit asset management plans.
Transit Development Plans: DRPT requires that any public transit operator receiving state funding prepare, adopt, and submit a transit development plan (TDP). TDPs help transit operators in the Commonwealth improve their efficiency and effectiveness by identifying the need and required resources for modifying and enhancing services provided to the general public. TDPs offer opportunities to rethink transit’s mission in a given area and define actions to help the agency achieve its mission.
Mass Transit Trust Fund Restructuring: Chapters 854 and 856 of the 2018 Acts of Assembly consolidates the revenues that are deposited into the Mass Transit Trust Fund (MTTF) with all revenues allocated using newly calculated percentages. The funds are allocated as follows: 31 percent for statewide operating assistance grants, 12.5 percent awarded for statewide capital assistance grants, and 53.5 percent for distribution to NVTC for WMATA capital purposes and operating assistance, with the balance of up to three percent awarded as special project grants subject to CTB approval.
Statewide Transit Operating Assistance: Additionally, these chapters make changes to the distribution of state transit operating assistance. For Fiscal Year 2019, the first $54.0 million of state grants for public transportation operating expenses from the MTTF revenues are rewarded on the basis of the annual operating cost of a given transit providers expressed as a percentage of the total amount of operating expenses for all providers. Starting in Fiscal Year 2020, all transit operating funding will be distributed based on performance factors.
Statewide Transit Capital Prioritization: The General Assembly also directed the CTB to develop a separate prioritization process for state of good repair/minor enhancement projects and major expansion projects. The process for state of good repair projects will be based upon transit asset management principles, including federal requirements for transit asset management pursuant to 49 U.S.C. § 5326 while the process for major expansion projects will be based on SMART SCALE factor areas (congestion mitigation, economic development, accessibility, safety, environmental quality, and land use).
Urban Transit Agencies’ Strategic Plans: The General Assembly directed all transit agencies with a bus fleet greater than 20 buses serving an urbanized area greater than 50,000 to submit a strategic plan every five years. Agencies will be required to conduct: i) an assessment of state of good repair needs; ii) a review of the performance of fixed-route bus service; iii) an evaluation of opportunities to improve operating efficiency of the transit network; iv) an examination and identification of opportunities to share services where multiple transit providers’ service overlap; and v) an examination of opportunities to improve services in underserved areas.
WMATA Funding and Reforms: Chapters 854 and 856 of the 2018 Acts of Assembly also provide $154 million in additional dedicated capital funding for WMATA, Virginia’s proportional share of the additional $500 million in capital needs identified by WMATA and validated by the 2017 General Assembly’s mandated study led by former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. Both the Maryland General Assembly and the District of Columbia City Council have passed legislation to increase or dedicate additional revenues to meet their proportional share of the $500 million. As a condition of its receiving this new funding, WMATA is required to implement reforms necessary to ensure accountability and the viability of the system. These reforms require:
• Maryland and the District of Columbia providing proportional shares annually towards the $500 million;
• The Northern Virginia Transportation Commission certifying receipt of the WMATA annual budget, independent financial audit, National Transit Data annual profile, and other singleaudit reports;
• NVTC reporting annually, by November 1st, to the General Assembly and the Governor on WMATA’S performance and condition.
The CTB is also empowered with enforcing specific WMATA accountability measures. There are four areas where the General Assembly has directed the CTB to withhold funding for WMATA for non-compliance. The CTB shall withhold:
• 20 percent of dedicated state funds if WMATA does not limit the role of its alternate directors in official meetings to participation in the absence of a principal director only.
• 35 percent of dedicated state funds if WMATA’s operating subsidies for Virginia increase more than three percent from the prior year.
• 20 percent of dedicated state funds if WMATA does not adopt or update a strategic plan within 36 months and hold a public hearing on the strategic plan in Northern Virginia.
• 20 percent of dedicated state funding if WMATA fails to annually adopt a capital improvement program that covers a six-year period and hosts a public hearing on it by July 1 of each year in an NVTC jurisdiction.
Additional Funding for Transit in Northern Virginia: The 2018 General Assembly also allocated additional funding to the VRE and the Potomac Rappahannock Transportation Commission (PRTC) to meet their growing needs. The Commuter Rail Operating and Capital Fund will allocate $15 million annually through a regional gas tax floor to be used by VRE; and an additional $7.85 million in new regional gas tax floor revenues collected in PRTC jurisdictions will be dedicated to the localities for use by PRTC.
The Future of Transportation Demand Management
TDM Prioritization: Part of DRPT’s effort to improve the TDM program includes the setting of clear goals and priorities for funding. Goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-framed. DRPT is developing programs and projects that: i) increase the number of riders in carpools; ii) increase the number of riders in vanpools; iii) increase the number of businesses with telework programs and increase the number of teleworkers; iv) increase the number of employers with transit and vanpool commuter benefits; v) increase transit ridership; and vi) allow for guaranteed/emergency ride home programs that support users of transit, vanpool, and carpool.
TDM Strategic Plans: DRPT requires that any TDM program operator receiving state funding prepare, adopt, and submit a TDM plan. These plans show the need for TDM, how TDM will address the need, the TDM elements that will be implemented, and the resources needed to implement the plan. The plans also provide the basis for funding requests and provide DRPT with information during the grant programming process.
Emergence of Bike Share Programs: With the launch of five new local government sponsored bike share programs in just the past two years, Virginia has experienced a rapid growth of bike sharing. In 2017, the City of Richmond launched RVA Bike Share, Roanoke started BIKEShare by RIDESolutions, and Danville began Danville Rides. In 2018, Pace Bike Share started in Norfolk; and ROAM New River Valley also launched 2018, providing bike share in Christiansburg, Blacksburg, and Montgomery County. ROAM was the first bikeshare project supported with DRPT demonstration funding, in recognition of bikeshare as a first/last mile connection to transit.
Express Lanes and Park-and-Ride Lots: DRPT is encouraging TDM programs in Express Lane corridors to support market and conduct ridematching for carpools and vanpools. Transit, vanpools, carpools, and slugging work best when there is a good network of park-and-ride lots along the corridor.
Technology and Innovation: DRPT has been leading the way in assisting transit and TDM operating agencies find the right technological solutions and funding. Mobile applications have made it easier for the public to access transit and TDM information, see when the next bus or train is arriving, pay their fare or purchase tickets, unlock a bicycle from bike share service, and get matched with a carpool or vanpool.
(*1) Additional information is available at the websites of both DRPT and Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT).