TPB News

Diversifying Travel Patterns and New State Transportation Funding Signal Progress in 2013

Dec 16, 2013

A number of major developments in transportation in the Washington region in 2013, highlighted in the digital pages of TPB Weekly Report over the last year, signal progress in achieving long-term improvements to the region's transportation system.

Two of those developments have been especially featured here: evidence of a shift away from driving alone toward other travel modes and decisive action by Virginia and Maryland to raise new revenues for major transportation improvements.

Over the course of the last year, the Transportation Planning Board analyzed data from a number of sources showing a decline in solo driving, reversing a decades-long trend of ever-increasing driving and greater reliance on private automobiles for transportation.

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A June TPB analysis of travel data from Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia revealed a 6.1% decline in the average daily number of miles driven per person between 2005 and 2011. Analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau confirmed the trend, showing a decline in the share of work trips made by people driving single-occupancy vehicles.

Instead of driving alone, people are choosing other modes of travel -- like transit, bicycling, or walking -- or fulfilling their needs without traveling at all, by teleworking or taking advantage of online shopping and electronic communications.

The TPB’s Census analysis showed the share of commute trips by transit grew from 11.8% to 15.4% between 2000 and 2011. In the District, biking more than doubled, from 1.4% of all work trips to 3.5%.

Teleworking grew, too, according to the TPB's triennial State of the Commute survey. The share of the region’s workforce who reported working from home or from a remote location “at least occasionally" climbed to an all-time high, with federal employees leading the increase.

This diversification of travel patterns helps relieve demand on crowded roadways and yields environmental and economic benefits for the region.

The other major development of 2013 was decisive action by the state legislatures in Virginia and Maryland to raise new money for transportation, breaking a two-decade-old logjam on the issue.

In December 2012, the TPB sent letters to state leaders urging immediate action to increase transportation funding in the region. In its letter, the TPB cited analysis it performed late in 2012 that showed that the transportation improvements planned through 2040, given existing revenue streams, wouldn't be enough to keep up with expected population and job growth.

In April, during their respective legislative sessions, each state approved measures raising upwards of $800 million a year for transportation, by changing existing state gas taxes, establishing new wholesale taxes on fuel, or increasing general sales taxes, depending on the jurisdiction. The moves were a major step forward in funding much-needed transportation improvements in the region. By August, both states were already making progress in deciding how to spend some of the new revenue.

Beyond these major developments, TPB Weekly Report also highlighted the continuing work of the TPB to enhance the coordination of transportation and land-use planning through its Transportation/Land-Use Connections (TLC) Program, and to promote the safe use of non-motorized transportation modes through Bike to Work Day, Car Free Day, and the Street Smart bicycle and pedestrian safety campaign.

In 2013, the Washington region saw a number of important transportation developments that helped change the way local, state, and regional planners look at and think about the region's transportation future. Many of the developments signal progress in achieving long-term improvements to the region's transportation system. The work the TPB did to collect and analyze data, reach out to stakeholders and the public, provide technical assistance to local jurisdictions, and weigh in on policy issues when appropriate helped reveal or support many of these developments.

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