The latest rankings by the Texas Transportation Institute place the Washington DC region at the top of the list, among all major metropolitan areas in the United States, in average travel delays. Last year, we were tied with Chicago for first place, with an average of 70 hours wasted by each of us from sitting in traffic delays. This year, the amount of time we waste in traffic has grown to a whopping 74 hours a year, nearly two full work weeks.
When you add up all the lost productivity, tons of wasted fuel, and other costs, each of us is wasting more than $1,400 per year, simply due to congestion. Just for comparision, each of us would pay about $50 extra per year from a 10-cent increase in the gas tax, which could be used to fund a long list of projects that we know will cut travel times and congestion costs as much as 25%. I would rather spend $50 to save $350, not to mention all that lost time.
It is hard to see why state and local leaders are not making transportation investments a more urgent priority. Voters in our region continue to rank traffic congestion as their number-one priority, yet elected officials continue to ignore transportation almost entirely.
This has to change. The Maryland legislature needs to act and it needs to act this year. At least $800 million per year in new transportation funding has been recommended by the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission, along with new protections against diverting scarce transportation dollars for other uses.
We know exactly what we need to do to reduce congestion in our region. It starts with building the new transit and road capacity we need to reduce delays and get people back to work. All that’s missing is the political will among our elected representatives to make this a priority. Maryland will not be able to sustain any level of economic recovery unless we take on this issue and invest in our infrastructure now.
One of our key goals at SMTA is to raise the level of the debate over transportation policy in our region, to focus more on the factual issues, less on politics or ideology.
This is why we were pleased to participate in the recent survey of regional transportation experts released by the 2030 Group. A recent article in Patch.com reported on this effort.
NewsChannel 8′s “News Talk with Bruce DePuyt“ also did a follow-up piece today, with both SMTA and anti-road activists represented, in what turned out to be a lively debate. The show illustrated areas of agreement and stark differences of opinion between those of us who seek to have multi-billion-dollar investments in transportation guided by solid planning, engineering and factual analysis, and those who prefer to rely upon blind ideology and wishful thinking.
Facts are stubborn things, however, and by focussing on the facts we hope to help bring the entire commnity together around a set of solutions that are realistic and can work, regardless of whether they are roads or transit, or something else entirely. We welcome your continued input on this topic as we move forward.
Click here for more on the key findings of the 2030 Group’s survey of regional transportation experts on regional transportation priorities.
We will also continue to press for increased investement in all modes of transportation, as no amount of discussion about priorities will accomplish anything without investing the necessary resources to get any of them built. Maryland legislators, are you listening?
Today the 2030 Group released a new study that was conducted jointly by SMTA and the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance, to explore how the region sets transportation priorities and what leading experts in the field feel those priorities should be. The survey was conducted over the past several months through telephone surveys and focus groups with over 40 top transportation professionals from Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia.
1. The nation’s most congested region lacks a well-defined short-list of transportation investments that would have the greatest potential to reduce congestion/improve mobility over the next 20 years.
2. Among transportation professionals, significant consensus exists as to highway and public transit investments that would be the most productive.
3. The top-ten projects are listed in the report, including continued investment in Metro System Maintenance and Operations, New Potomac Bridges, and multi-modal projects to add capacity in several key transportation corridors.
4. The prioritization process should focus heavily on highway and transit investments that do the most to reduce travel times/delays, reduce congestion, and improve transportation network safety and reliability.
5. Meeting the region’s transportation challenges requires not only selecting/advancing the right priorities, but a new process that is more regional and professional and less parochial, political and ideologically driven.
The number-one priority identified by regional experts: Invest in current Metro system operations, core capacity and maintenance. Multi-modal investments to area highways, bridges and new transit lines to better connect regional activity centers and key economic corridors together throughout the region rounded out most of the remaining top-10 priorities, along with better land-use policies to encourage more transit-oriented development.
This independent study was sponsored by the 2030 Group, an association of business and community leaders working towards greater regional cooperation on long-term planning and economic issues.
The National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB) will meet tomorrow to take up their plan to develop a list of transportation priorities, in what looks to be a two-year process that should produce a final report by July of 2013.
For those of us in Maryland who are stuck in traffic every day, or wondering when we might ever see major new transit projects like the Corridor Cities Transitway and the Purple Line move forward, or any serious effort to reduce the crippling congestion on the Beltway and I-270, 2013 might seem like an awefully long time to wait. The first question for the TPB is, why should it take so long to identify what our priorities should be? Aren’t they pretty clear?
What seems to be lacking is a clearcut set of regional performance metrics (reducing average peak-hour travel times between major activity centers, or reducing congestion at major choke-points, or reducing the region’s Travel Time Index by some target figure, for example). From the documents released as part of this initial scoping excercise, it is not at all clear that the focus really will be on reducing congestion or improving access for our region’s 5.5 million residents. Right now the effort seems a bit fuzzier than perhaps it ought to be. After all, the need for congestion relief and better transit connections in our region is crystal clear.
Here is a link to the report for tomorrow’s meeting.