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Washington, D.C. – At its January meeting, the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB) approved a new plan of transportation strategies to inform area decision-makers as they set budgets and consider projects for 2014 and beyond.
The Regional Transportation Priorities Plan stresses the need for a pragmatic approach to future transportation planning in an era of limited financial resources and continued population and job growth. The multi-year effort was informed by the TPB’s technical work as well as extensive public outreach and stakeholder feedback. The plan groups strategies in three priority areas:
- Priority 1: Meet our existing obligations. Maintaining the region’s existing transportation system, for example, bringing the Metro system fully into a state of good repair.
- Priority 2: Strengthen public confidence and ensure fairness. Pursuing greater accountability, efficiency and access to transportation for all people, especially traditionally disadvantaged groups.
- Priority 3: Move more people, more efficiently. Making strategic decisions to lessen crowding and congestion on the region’s roadways and transit system, such as concentrating development in mixed-use Activity Centers to accommodate future growth and reduce demand on the transportation network.
“We view these priorities like building blocks—they are all essential in advancing our shared goals for the future,” said Bowie City Council Member Todd M. Turner, who led the TPB Priorities Plan Task Force. “It is also important to understand that maintaining the transportation system we already have is the foundation for any improvement we make in the future.”
The plan urges local, state and regional leaders to give highest priority to Metro and highway maintenance as they plan for this year’s update to the region’s Constrained Long-Range Plan, the federally-mandated list of all projects and programs the region can afford to build, maintain and operate. It notes that Metro’s 2025 Plan—which would maintain the system in a state of good repair and include improvements like all eight-car trains at rush hour—could be added to the region’s long-range plan as early as 2014 if area governments agree on its cost and make funding commitments.
The TPB found that the public is highly supportive of the first priority—maintenance—which was approved of by about 90 percent of people who participated in an online survey of over 600 area residents in 2013. Transit maintenance and highway maintenance were rated as the top strategies by people throughout the region, regardless of whether they drive, take transit, walk and bike. In addition, the new federal transportation reauthorization, Moving Ahead of Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), requires a greater focus on maintenance.
The plan’s second priority focuses on ways to strengthen public confidence and ensure fairness by promoting greater public participation in the planning process, expanding transit choices, improving paratransit, and using technology to improve efficiency and communication. This priority would address skepticism by the public that transportation agencies currently make good use of the resources available to them. In the online survey, only 44 percent of area residents expressed confidence in these agencies.
A variety of strategies were combined for the plan’s third priority to move people more efficiently, from focused transportation enhancements to strategies to reduce demand on the network. While this priority includes strategies like alleviating highway bottlenecks and expanding pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, it also stresses the need for more concentrated development in the region’s business and residential hubs—known as Activity Centers—which will make better use of the existing transportation system. The plan notes that “these strategies represent a shift in focus away from large-scale supply-side investments of the past to smarter, more strategic approaches to alleviating congestion and crowding, and to accommodating future growth.”
The plan was initiated after a 2010 TPB forum that brought together elected officials, transportation planners, and engaged citizens. Since then, the TPB has convened focus groups of stakeholders, a citizen forum, and the online survey in the spring of 2013.
The plan is dedicated to the memory of COG Director of Transportation Planning Ron Kirby, who guided the effort and served as its project manager.
Click here to download the plan.