The metropolitan Washington region faces a similar challenge to many other areas in the United States: providing adequate transportation infrastructure for anticipated future population and employment growth while meeting environmental and other social goals. As the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for the Washington region the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB) is responsible for maintaining the Financially Constrained Long-Range Transportation Plan, or CLRP, which is required by federal planning regulations and includes all regionally significant transportation projects and programs that are planned in the region over at least the next 20 years. The CLRP only includes projects for which funding is "reasonably expected to be available", which limits the ability of the CLRP to address all of the region's transportation challenges.
Like many MPOs, the TPB uses scenario planning to study the potential impact of future development and transportation plans. The TPB's current scenario study, the CLRP Aspirations Scenario Study, looks at an alternative land use and transportation scenario for the future whose purpose is not just to explore a single regional challenge or experiment with a single strategy, but instead to take a comprehensive approach to long-range regional planning.
The TPB will expand its use of scenario planning as it works to develop a Regional Transportation Priorities Plan (RTPP) to identify transportation strategies that offer the greatest contributions toward addressing regional challenges above and beyond what is contained the CLRP.
CURRENT SCENARIO STUDY
The CLRP Aspirations Scenario Study
The TPB's CLRP Aspirations Scenario Study was developed to integrate the best components of previous TPB scenario studies into a comprehensive scenario that could offer a promising path forward for the region. Previous TPB studies have provided meaningful conclusions about effective regional strategies for improving travel conditions, but those studies focused either on issues of land use or on transportation, but not both.
The CLRP Aspirations Scenario combines an alternate land use scenario with more dense, transit-oriented development; a regional network of variably price lanes (VPLs); and high quality bus rapid transit (BRT) and circulator bus service focused on supporting the land use plan. The development of the land use and transportation plans were largely developed based on findings from the Regional Mobility and Accessibility Study (2006) and the Regional Value Pricing Study (2008).
Key Documents and Presentations
Preliminary analysis of an update to the CLRP Aspirations Scenario Study will be presented to the TPB. Links to relevant documents will be posted when available. This update includes new baseline planning assumptions (2012 CLRP, Round 8.1 Cooperative Forecast, Horizon Year 2040), modeling tools (TPB Version 2.3 Travel Forecasting Model, EPA's MOVES emissions model), and changes to the variably priced lane network to account for the recently enacted MAP-21 legislation.
The findings of the CLRP Aspirations Scenario Study were presented at the 92nd Annual Meeting of the Transportation Research Board in Washington, D.C. In addition to presenting the results, the paper compares the CLRP Aspirations Scenario Study to the recommendations outlined in the MAP-21 legislation for scenario development and analysis to evaluate how well the current TPB scenario planning process aligns with the new legislation and how the process can be improved in the future.
Analysis from an additional sensitivity test, the "Streamlined VPL Sensitivity Test" was presented to the TPB. This additional sensitivity test was conducted to response to concerns about the high cost of the VPL Network in the original CLRP Aspirations Scenario.
The "final" report on the CLRP Aspirations Scenario Study was presented to the TPB. This report contained analysis of the CLRP Aspirations Scenario as well as a sensitivity test which examined the impact of the land use changes alone.
In May 2010, the TPB completed a scenario study examining the role of regional transportation in climate change mitigation in the Washington region, called the "What Would it Take?" scenario. The scenario is a goal-oriented study that specifically asks and tries to answer the question of what it would take in the Washington region to meet aggressive greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals in transportation. The study includes the analysis of over 50 strategies from national level CAFE standards and alternative fuel mandates to regional and local level bicycle plans and congestion reduction strategies to determine their potential to reduce emissions and contribute to the environmental resilience of this region.
Since the completion of the final report, the TPB has continued to forecast carbon dioxide emissions for the CLRP. An update to the WWIT may be undertaken after the release of the next version of EPA's MOVES model in late 2013.
Key Documents and Presentations
A paper describing the development and analysis of the WWIT Scenario Study was presented at the 90th Annual Meeting of the Transportation Research Board in Washington, D.C. The paper was later published in the Transportation Research Record.
The TPB has had an active interest in variably priced highway lanes since June of 2003 when the TPB, in conjunction with the Federal Highway Administration and the Maryland, Virginia, and District Departments of Transportation, sponsored a successful one-day conference on value pricing for the Washington region. Following the conference, the TPB created a Task Force on
Value Pricing to examine how value pricing could benefit the region. The Task Force developed a set of regional goals for a system of variably priced lanes which were adopted by the TPB in April of 2005. The goals were designed to "help guide the regional development of variably-priced lanes that work together as a multi-modal system, while addressing the special policy and operational issues raised by the multi-jurisdictional nature of this region." As the framing of the regional goals proceeded at the TPB, three major variably-priced highway facilities were being developed through project planning studies for inclusion in the region's financially constrained Long Range Transportation Plan (CLRP): the Inter-County Connector in suburban Maryland, the Northern Virginia Capital Beltway HOT lanes project, and the I-95/395 HOT lanes project.
In order to place these three new projects into a regional context and to assess the potential for a more extensive network of variably priced lanes, the TPB developed and analyzed several different scenarios of variably priced lane networks. The study was conducted under a grant from the Federal Highway Administration's Value Pricing Pilot Program, and was overseen by the TPB's Task Force on Value Pricing.
The Regional Mobility and Accessibility Study (RMAS) grew out of the dissatisfaction expressed by members of the TPB in voting to approve a fiscally Constrained Long-Range Transportation Plan (CLRP) that showed congestion on the region's highway and transit networks continuing to worsen over the next 25 years. The desire of the TPB in authorizing this study was to examine additional transportation improvements beyond those that currently could be included in the region's long-range transportation plan, together with potential changes in future land use.
The concept underlying the Regional Mobility and Accessibility Study is that creative new options for improving the performance of the region's transportation system may emerge from the examination of additional transportation improvements together with potential future changes in land use. If stakeholders in the regional transportation planning process reach a consensus on these options, the region could move forward in pursuing additional funding to implement the most promising of these transportation improvements and making the necessary changes in local land use plans.