Between now and August 23, stakeholders, advocacy groups, and interested members of the general public are invited to review and comment on the Transportation Planning Board's draft Regional Transportation Priorities Plan, the culmination of a multi-year effort to identify the best strategies for addressing the region's most pressing transportation challenges.
The draft plan, which was released for public comment on July 24, outlines six broad transportation goals for the region, the most significant challenges standing in the way of achieving those goals, and 15 near-term, ongoing, and long-term strategies that, in the view of transportation planners at the TPB and a group of randomly-selected members of the general public, offer the greatest potential contributions to addressing those challenges.
Maintenance of the region's highways and transit has so far emerged as the top priority in the plan.
According to the plan, the agencies that own and operate the different roadways and public transit systems in the region should prioritize the upkeep of existing facilities when deciding how to spend limited funding. In some cases, the draft plan says, transportation agencies should seek to secure new, dedicated funding sources to address the backlog of deferred maintenance that has developed in recent years and to ensure that they are able to address future maintenance needs as they arise.
Maintaining Metrorail cars is an essential component of maintaining the region's transit systems. Image courtesy: Limbach, Inc.
The other main priority in the plan is a package of strategies aimed at addressing congestion on the region's roadways and crowding of its transit systems -- both by increasing capacity of the existing system and by alleviating demand on it.
Targeted roadway improvements that address key bottlenecks, and other ways to smooth traffic flow -- like providing travelers with more real-time traffic information and responding to and clearing traffic accidents more quickly -- can squeeze more capacity out of the existing road network in the short-term, the plan says.
Longer-term efforts to implement a network of express toll lanes would give drivers ways to avoid congestion and provide for the operation of high-quality bus rapid transit in congestion-free travel lanes. Running more trains and buses on the existing Metro system would provide breathing room to accommodate forecast ridership growth.
To alleviate demand, the plan calls for more efforts in the short-term to encourage travelers, especially commuters at peak hours, to take alternative travel modes like carpooling, transit, bicycling, walking, or teleworking. Long-term steps to concentrate more housing and job development in mixed-use activity centers, especially near transit, would make it possible for more people to walk, bike, and take transit -- rather than drive -- to meet their daily needs.
Development of the Regional Transportation Priorities Plan got its start in 2010 following a recommendation by the TPB's Citizens Advisory Committee to develop a more transparent and strategic process for determining which projects and programs in the region should be built or implemented.
Since July 2011, when the main part of the priority-setting effort kicked off, the TPB has engaged business leaders, transportation experts, smart growth advocates, and the general public in several rounds of discussion about the challenges the region faces and ways to address them.
Recently, the TPB surveyed 660 randomly selected residents of the region to help identify the challenges that matter most to the general public and the strategies that have the greatest likelihood of winning their support.
Over the next few weeks, the TPB is encouraging stakeholders, advocacy groups, and interested members of the public to review the draft plan online at www.mwcog.org/tpbpubliccomment and submit feedback by Friday, August 23. Of particular interest are comments on the specific strategies and priorities in the plan, especially whether they address the region's most pressing transportation challenges, and how the identified strategies and priorities can or should inform decision-making in the region.