RD529 - How the Commonwealth Is Using Transit and Transportation Demand Management to Reduce Congestion and Use of Single-Occupant Vehicles

Executive Summary:

The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) is the state’s lead agency on providing financial assistance to promote transit and transportation demand management (TDM) throughout the Commonwealth. This document is the tenth annual report from the Office of the Secretary of Transportation highlighting key actions taken to accomplish these goals during Fiscal Year 2019.

For Fiscal Year 2019, the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) allocated approximately $603.7 million in federal and state dollars to transit and TDM initiatives; that number will grow to $706.6 million in Fiscal Year 2020. Virginia has seen a significant return on investment with the Commonwealth’s 41 transit agencies providing 171,927,129 trips, its sixteen commuter assistance programs removing 3,278,720 automobile trips, and its 937 vanpools providing 1,939,000 trips. Additionally, the Virginia Breeze intercity bus service had 24,532 riders. Without question, last fiscal year was a dynamic time for transit and TDM in the Commonwealth. Highlights include:

MERIT: Making Efficient + Responsible Investments in Transit:

The 2018 General Assembly created a number of new reforms impacting DRPT’s statewide public transportation grant programs. These reforms include prioritization of statewide transit capital funding, a 100 percent performance-based method of allocating statewide transit operating assistance, and the requirement of strategic plans for urban transit agencies. These reforms became effective in Fiscal Year 2020.

Growing Technologies and Integrated Mobility:

New technologies and alternative transportation services continue to evolve, providing travelers with greater convenience in requesting, tracking, and paying for trips. DRPT and Virginia’s Office of Innovation have advanced new technologies such as electric buses, driver assistance systems, and autonomous vehicles to give transit agencies the ability to provide cleaner, safer, and more cost-efficient service. Understanding the importance of these developments, DRPT developed a Statewide Integrated Mobility Plan to explore the evolving paradigm of integrated mobility, the relationship between transit and other shared mobility modes of travel, and how technology can enhance this relationship

Scoring in SMART SCALE:

Established by 2014 General Assembly, SMART SCALE provides transportation funding through a prioritization process that evaluates projects based on improvements to safety, congestion, accessibility, land use, economic development, and the environment. Transit projects continue to compete well through this funding program. In the latest round of scoring, eight transit projects were awarded funding.

Increasing Throughput in Northern Virginia:

The I-395 Express Lanes, I-66 Inside the Beltway HOT Lanes, and the I-66 Outside the Beltway Express Lanes projects will result in major improvements to person throughput in those corridors. Toll revenues are being used to help commuters on those highways with funding for highway and multimodal improvements. These enhanced services will provide reliable travel options to commuters, remove vehicles from congested roadways, and help to optimize the transportation network by moving more people.

Enhancing Human Service Transportation:

DRPT administers state and federal funds to support human service providers that improve mobility for seniors and individuals with disabilities by removing barriers to transportation services and expanding the transportation mobility options available. Funding is used to provide accessible vehicles within public agencies and private non-profit agencies and for operating expenditures to enhance paratransit beyond minimum requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Additionally, DRPT recently completed an update to its Coordinated Human Service Mobility Plan, which synthesizes the challenges and includes prioritized recommendations to bridge identified gaps and forge partnerships where they do not currently exist.

Providing Intercity Bus Service:

DRPT has implemented an intercity bus service using eligible federal funds to provide daily service between Blacksburg and Washington, D.C. The Virginia Breeze began service on December 1, 2017; and ridership has far exceeded projections indicating the critical need to provide transportation alternatives connecting rural communities. Due to its success, DRPT will expand the service with two additional routes in 2020: Danville to Washington, D.C. and Martinsville to Richmond.

Improving the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA):

Virginia has been a regional leader by providing dedicated funding and increased oversight reforms to WMATA, the Commonwealth’s largest transit agency. The 2018 General Assembly provided $154.5 million in annual dedicated funding for the WMATA Capital Fund, Virginia’s proportional regional share of an additional $500 million in annual capital funding for critical state of good repair needs. In addition, the legislation instituted additional oversight including caps on the growth of operating expenses, strategic planning, and the role of alternates on the WMATA Board. Virginia also was the first jurisdiction to pass legislation creating the Metrorail Safety Commission, which has since received certification from the Federal Transit Administration.

As a complement to the many transit agencies throughout Virginia, TDM also provides many benefits to Virginians by relieving congestion and lowering the number of single occupant vehicles on highways by educating and encouraging the public to change travel patterns. Data collected from the I-95 Corridor Improvement Plan shows that transit, vanpool, carpools, and slugging move more individuals than SOV travel on segments of Interstate 95. Through promotional outreach as well as the introduction of new planning tools, such as strategic plans, new technology, and increased coordination amongst agencies throughout the state, TDM is reducing congestion by promoting travel options.

TDM programs provide the following services for the public and employers:

• Personalized ridematching/commute options information/trip planning;
• Carpool and Vanpool Formation Assistance;
• Guaranteed/Emergency Ride Home Programs;
• Employer Services/Commuter Benefits and Telework Program Development;
• Incentives and Rewards Programs;
• Marketing and Promotions;
• Commuter Stores;
• Bikesharing; and
• Promotion of Carsharing Services.

To encourage the use of TDM and these benefits, DRPT promotes the following:

• Telework!VA: Promotes telework and helps businesses set up telework programs;
• Telework Week: First full week of March;
• Try Transit Week: Third week of September;
• Vanpool!VA: Developed to increase the number of vanpools and riders; and
• Bike to Work Week: Week of May 15th.

As the Commonwealth’s population continues to grow and more individuals needing transportation options, transit, vanpooling, carpooling, telework, and other TDM services will play a key role in moving people efficiently. These services will help meet the demands and needs of Virginians while reducing congestion and the number of single occupant vehicle trips as well as increase the use of transit.