Tim Lovain is a City of Alexandria Council Member. He served as the 2016 Chairman of the Transportation Planning Board (TPB) staffed by COG, which coordinates future plans, provides data and analysis to decision makers, and coordinates regional programs to advance safety, land-use coordination, and more.
How did you get into public service?
I fell in love with politics first. Political conventions were fascinating to me as a little kid, but then when I moved into high school and college, two issues in particular captured my attention: the war in Vietnam and the Civil Rights movement. I’m one of those people who are interested in both politics and policy. After years of schooling and military service, I got involved in a Congressional campaign and my candidate won, so she brought me with her to Washington. I have been involved in public service one way or another ever since.
What do you think are some of the region’s biggest challenges?
One of the biggest is how are we going to accommodate the growth this region is facing. We are going to have an additional one million people by 2040 and that places challenges on our transportation system, infrastructure, and housing. It’s a happy problem because it’s a complement to our region that people want to move here and that employers want to create jobs here, but it will be a challenge that our governments will have to deal with.
As chair of the Transportation Planning Board (TPB), you’re working to improve the region’s transportation. Looking back at 2016, what sort of progress has been made?
We have made some really good progress. The TPB’s central task is the approval of the Constrained Long-range Plan (CLRP). We’ve added some really good projects to the CLRP this year. I’m very proud of the Metroway Bus Rapid Transit line in Alexandria and Arlington that was extended through the CLRP. We also had the 395 HOV/HOT lanes project, which offers a great promise of reducing the number of single occupancy vehicles and expanding transit use throughout the corridor.
How does the City of Alexandria benefit from participation at COG?
All of the jurisdictions in this region benefit from participation at COG. Primarily, because it gives them the opportunity to collaborate. Instead of trying to solve your transportation or housing issues by yourself, you have the opportunity to work with other jurisdictions to craft a real regional solution.
When you assumed the TPB chairmanship at the beginning of 2016, you laid out three priorities for the year. What were they and why are they important to you?
I laid out three priorities for my chairmanship that I really wanted to address this year. One was to do what we can to help with Metro. I testified on behalf of TPB before the House Transportation Infrastructure Committee about the importance of Metro to our region. TPB staff have been very engaged in doing research and analysis to help Metro.
The second one is on incident management. Half of all traffic congestion is caused by nonrecurring incidents like fender benders and disabled vehicles. This region has done good work on that, but there is room for improvement. Incident management has been a special interest of mine for many years. We held two conferences, one for staff and one for policy makers, to share best practices and ideas to make incident management better.
The third priority was to move towards a true regional long-range transportation plan. We have done good work on that, especially identifying all of the unfunded transportation projects out there. We collected them all and found that there was about $100 billion in unfunded projects. Then we analyzed what if we built them all. We found that we would still have worse congestion and longer travel times if all of those projects were built then we have now. That taught us all the lesson that transportation projects alone are not going to solve our transportation problems. You have to look to policy changes such as with land use, more walkable communities, transit oriented development, expanding telework, and other ways. We cannot just build our way out of our transportation problems.
Why is it important to be an active, engaged member of the TPB?
I think it is important to be an active member of the TPB because there are real benefits to regional cooperation. I think if we all just look out for ourselves, then we are in real trouble. The residents of this region, don’t stay in one jurisdiction. Most of them work, shop, visit friends, or go to entertainment venues in other jurisdictions. In many cases, you can’t tell when you have crossed the city limits. Especially, when we talk about transportation, the solutions to our problems are regional solutions. Having the opportunity to collaborate with other jurisdictions is the great benefit to being a member of the TPB.