RD20 - Department of Rail and Public Transportation Fiscal Year 2021 Report

Executive Summary:

Pursuant to Virginia Code § 33.2-106, § 33.2-1526.3, and Chapter 552, Item 1, Subsection O of the 2021 Acts of Assembly, the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) is required to report on its actions to increase transit use and reduce highway congestion, its projects and services funded by the Transit Ridership Incentive Program, and its use of Commonwealth Rail Funds respectively. For the second consecutive year, DRPT is combining these reports to produce a DRPT annual report for Fiscal Year (FY) 2021.(*1)

DRPT’s mission is to facilitate and improve the mobility of the citizens of Virginia and to promote the efficient transport of goods and people in a safe, reliable, and cost-effective manner. The agency is the Commonwealth’s advocate for promoting transportation options to the general public, businesses, and community decision makers. As an agency entrusted with public dollars, it seeks the highest possible return on investment to maximize limited funding and strives to implement best practice management tools and techniques.

DRPT staff focuses on improving the movement of people via public transportation, transportation demand management, and rail. In addition to having backgrounds in these fields, DRPT employees have experience in communications, finance, government and legislative affairs, and public relations. DRPT staff provides support for projects and programs.

For several reasons, FY21 was an unprecedented year for DRPT. First, the continuing COVID-19 pandemic had a tremendous impact on transit agencies, Amtrak, and freight providers. Two, due to the pandemic, the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) did not adopt a Six-Year Improvement Program (SYIP) for FY21 until December 2020.(*2) Third, DRPT staff started work to establish a new state entity, the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority (VPRA), which will oversee passenger rail service in the Commonwealth moving forward.

The SYIP is the CTB’s joint annual funding allocation program for the projects and initiatives DRPT and VDOT administers. The SYIP funds public transportation facilities, commuter and public transportation programs, rail initiatives, and all interstate and primary highway projects throughout Virginia over six fiscal years. All projects in the SYIP that are eligible for federal funding will be included in the Statewide Transportation Improvement Plan, which documents how Virginia will obligate its share of federal funds.(*3)

DRPT expenditures for FY21 increased by $345.7 million due to the VPRA. Excluding this amount, FY21 expenditures decreased by $47.5 million compared to FY20. This is primarily due to the transfer of passenger rail projects to the VPRA and a reduction in transit capital spending due to COVID-19. This decrease is partly offset by an increase in pandemic-related funding granted by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) for operating assistance for rural transit agencies and an increase in Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) assistance used to support operating and capital expenses.

DRPT’s rail division administers freight and rail planning, shortline preservation, and rail industrial access programs. In prior years, DRPT oversaw passenger rail projects within the Commonwealth including state-sponsored Amtrak service. In FY21, VPRA began overseeing passenger rail projects, including intercity passenger service. DRPT also works with public transportation systems in Virginia to help manage traffic congestion and provide transportation choices while also safely transporting people to destinations across the Commonwealth. These projects and programs are funded primarily through the Commonwealth Mass Transit Fund.

As the Commonwealth’s advocate, DRPT works with rail and public transportation stakeholders to provide service to citizens throughout the entire Commonwealth. DRPT’s rail and public transportation stakeholders include 41 transit systems, 60 human service operators, a commuter rail provider, 18 transportation demand management agencies, 15 metropolitan planning organizations, nine shortline railroads, two Class I freight railroads, an intercity passenger rail operator, a DRPT-supported intercity bus operator, and the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority.
(*1) All data in this report is generated by DRPT unless otherwise noted. Additional information is available at the DRPT’s website.
(*2) The Commonwealth Transportation Board typically approves a Six-Year Improvement Program in June with an effective date of July 1. The General Assembly included language in the biennial budget allowing for a delay in FY21.
(*3) DRPT’s Six-Year Improvement Program and Statewide Transportation Improvement Plan can be found on DRPT’s website.