I-66 Doesn’t Need More Lanes Or Expensive Infrastructure

Yes, Virginia Interstate 66 is a mess. Commuters are right to decry the congestion along this stretch of interstate, where travel times from Northern Virginia into D.C. are the longest in the region.

But reports from Dr. Gridlock in the Washington Post that the state and federal governments are considering plans to add additional lanes onto I-66 are not only maddening, but they fly in the face of everything we’ve learned about induced demand.

With years of evidence to back it up, induced demand was defined beautifully in a recent story in Wired, which explained that because “increasing the supply of something (like roads) makes people want that thing even more … the ways we traditionally go about trying to mitigate jams are essentially fruitless.”

In other words, it’s impossible to build ourselves out of congestion because the roads themselves cause traffic.

While the Virginia Department of Transportation’s (VDOT’s) plan to implement “Active Traffic Demand” along the interstate is a better plan, VDOT’s request for proposals from private corporations indicates that the agency is also considering large, engineering- and infrastructure-intensive solutions to I-66’s problems.

Instead, why not entertain these much cheaper (and probably more reliable) solutions:transportation demand management (TDM) and use of high-occupancy vehicle lanes?

VDOT has been very good at congestion management when it has done big projects. Think back to the Mixing Bowl project, the Wilson Bridge Project, and the Mega Projects. VDOT pours money into transportation management programs (TMPs) that are designed to communicate about the problem and encourage people to share the ride, use transit, or avoid the area at peak times.

Yet at the end of each project, VDOT packs up its bag of tricks and leaves thinking that the job is done. Imagine if the kind of intensive effort VDOT gives as projects unfold were also applied to a corridor day in and day out, year after year. Could results be achieved? I think so. VDOT could spend $5 million to $10 million per year – not a lot for the agency – and do some really sophisticated TDM marketing and incentives.

VDOT could work with employers in D.C., Arlington, and Fairfax. It could promote carpooling and transit. It could provide incentives. It could provide real-time vanpool and commuter bus information. This stuff works. We’ve proven it in Arlington.

One could couple these TDM programs with HOV-3 both ways during the rush and HOV-2 at all other times to ensure that road use on I-66 is maximized. Getting the best use out of the existing facility (demand management) is what VDOT should concentrate on, not continually trying to increase the supply. It doesn’t work.

HOV-3 and TDM will work, will be more cost efficient, and are better long-term solutions for everyone.

Photo by Virginia Department of Transportation

Cross posted on http://www.MobilityLab.org on July 3, 2014

“Bikeswell” Details Arlington’s Vision as Best Biking City on East Coast

Arlington County’s commitment to biking is pretty huge.

And for any other place in the country looking to enhance its bicycling infrastructure and encourage a healthier populace and more vibrant cityscape – including attendees at the upcoming 2014 National Bike Summit on March 3-5 – BikeArlington’s recent Bikeswell movie is a must-see.

Beyond the movie, Arlington’s Capital Improvement Budget is full of new bike infrastructure projects. A few of the major ones include:

We are investing in:

  • more bike lanes
  • improving multi-use trails
  • sharrows
  • bike boxes
  • hawk beacons, and
  • soon rolling out bike boulevards parallel to Columbia Pike and protected bike lanes along Army Navy Drive, Eads Street, and Crystal Drive in Crystal City as well as on Fairfax Drive in Ballston.

There are 67 Capital Bikeshare stations in Arlington and should be at 80 by the end of this June. The plan is to expand by seven to 10 stations per year for the foreseeable future. Planned stations are listed here.

Arlington also will help companies implement bicycle-friendly business plans for their employees and will help companies implement Capital Bikeshare corporate memberships for their employees.

Arlington County is committed to encouraging more people to ride bikes more often through BikeArlington, a county bike program that is second to none in the region.

Lastly, Arlington, as the Bikeswell movie points out, is committed to becoming a Gold Level Bicycle Friendly Community (it is currently Silver) and to doing everything it can to make it so.

Cross-posted on http://www.MobilityLab.org February 24, 2014

Mobility Lab’s multiple traffic congestion fixes

The Mobility Lab Transit Tech Initiative, funded through a demonstration grant by the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, is currently in the first phase of development. The initiative is on track to launch at the end of summer 2014.


By Jacqueline Lampert  –  Social Engagement Manager, Washington Business JournalFeb 12, 2014, 5:32pm EST

Mobility Lab, a research and development arm of Arlington County Commuter Services, is on a mission to reduce D.C. area traffic congestion, decrease parking demand and help people make use of all the public transportation options the area has to offer.

Arlington Department of Transportation commuter services bureau chief Chris Hamilton says the county’s residential population is expected to increase by 20 to 30 percent in the next 30 years, despite the fact that Arlington is the smallest county in the United States and has most of its land developed. The county has no room for road expansion, Hamilton says, and must now look to building new infrastructure, like new bike and bus lanes.

Despite the population increase, Hamilton says that traffic congestion has been stagnant in the last two decades. In fact, many of Arlington’s major arterial streets are decreasing in use, according to the Arlington County Division of Transportation’s 2012 fiscal year annual report.

Mobility Lab has been trying to combat congestion and car dependency since 1989. Most recently, its working with over 800 Arlington businesses on a number of transportation initiatives, including employee commuter benefits, Capital Bikeshare accounts and carpool accounts.

Mobility Lab is also working to make data more accessible with the launch of its transit tech initiative. Many companies, including D.C.-startup app CapitolHop, have run into problems with data interruptions that have impacted operations. Not only do companies like CapitolHop aggregate API data from several places, they have to worry about interruptions.

“We have to rely on [Metro]’s data,” CapitolHop co-founder Scott Simpson said. Earlier this month, Metro’s service went out, directly impacting CapitolHop’s app.

Mobility Lab is working to create an open data-clearing house where application developers like CapitolHop can access data. Virginia has decided to open this service up for the entire D.C. area thanks to a $500,000 state-sponsored grant.

Mobility Lab is also building tools to help customers visually see what their transportation options are.

“It’s showing a typical home-to-work trip and letting the customer know what the bike options are and what the bus options are,” Hamilton said. The tool would also show the time and cost and how it might effect a persons life.

The transit tech initiative is currently in the first phase of development with the expected launch date scheduled for the end of summer. The project costs $500,000, with 80 percent of the money coming from the previously-mentioned state-sponsored grant.

In the coming year, Hamilton hopes to apply for another grant to begin the next phase of the initiative. Mobility Lab hopes to use the data coming through the API’s to help locals with their planning.

“We will use the data to micro-target our marketing efforts,” Hamilton said.

How Arlington Is Avoiding D.C.’s Traffic Nightmare

A report says that traffic is down on Wilson Boulevard in Arlington, Va., by 25 percent since 1996.

CLICK ON LINK TO LISTEN TO RADIO INTERVIEW: http://wamu.org/news/13/03/26/how_arlington_is_avoiding_dcs_traffic_nightmare

By Martin Di Caro; March 26, 2013

While the District of Columbia grapples with proposed changes to its parking and zoning policies, last updated in 1958, Arlington County seems to have triumphed in its effort to minimize traffic congestion, especially in the Rosslyn-Ballston Metro corridor.

Traffic volume has decreased on several major arterial roads in the county over the last two decades, despite significant job and population growth, according to data compiled by researchers at Mobility Lab, a project of Arlington County Commuter Services.

Multifaceted effort to curb car-dependence

Researchers and transportation officials credit three initiatives for making the county less car-dependent: offering multiple alternatives to the automobile in the form of rail, bus, bicycling, and walking; following smart land-use policies that encourage densely built, mixed-use development; and relentlessly marketing the transportation alternatives through programs that include five ‘commuter stores’ throughout the county where transit tickets, bus maps, and other information are available.

“Those three combined have brought down the percentage of people driving alone and increased the amount of transit and carpooling,” said Howard Jennings, Mobility Lab’s director of research and development.

Jennings’ research team estimates alternatives to driving alone take nearly 45,000 car trips off the county’s roads every weekday. Among those shifting modes from the automobile, 69 percent use transit, 14 percent carpool, 10 percent walk, 4 percent telework and 3 percent bike.

“Reducing traffic on key routes does make it easier for those who really need to drive. Not everybody can take an alternative,” Jennings said.

Arlington’s success in reducing car dependency is more remarkable considering it has happened as the region’s population and employment base has grown.

Since 1996, Arlington has added more than 6 million square feet of office space, 1 million square feet of retail, nearly 11,000 housing units and 1,100 hotel rooms in the Rosslyn-Ballston Metro corridor. Yet traffic counts on Lee Highway (-10 percent), Washington Boulevard (-14 percent), Clarendon Boulevard (-6 percent), Wilson Boulevard (-25 percent), and Glebe Road (-6 percent) have dropped, according to county figures. Traffic counts have increased on Arlington Boulevard (11 percent) and George Mason Drive (14 percent).

“Arlington zoning hasn’t changed a great deal over the last 15 years or so. It’s been much more of a result of the services and the programs and the transportation options than it has been the zoning,” said Jennings.

Arlington serving as a regional model

Across the Potomac, the D.C. Office of Planning is considering the controversial proposal of eliminating mandatory parking space minimums in new development in transit-rich corridors and in downtown Washington to reduce traffic congestion. In Arlington, transportation officials say parking minimums have not been a focus.

“When developers come to Arlington we are finding they are building the right amount of parking,” said Chris Hamilton, the bureau chief at Arlington County Commuter Services. “Developers know they need a certain amount of parking for their tenants, but they don’t want to build too much because that’s a waste.”

Hamilton says parking is available at relatively cheap rates in the Rosslyn-Ballston Metro corridor because demand for spots has been held down by mode shifting.

“In Arlington there are these great options. People can get here by bus, by rail, by Capital Bikeshare, and walking, and most people do that. That’s why Arlington is doing so well,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton credited a partnership with the county’s 700 employers for keeping their workers, 80 percent of whom live outside the county, from driving to work by themselves.

“Arlington Transportation Partners gives every one of those employers assistance in setting up commute benefit programs, parking programs, carpool programs, and bike incentives. Sixty-five percent of those 700 employers provide a transit benefit. That’s the highest in the region,” Hamilton said.

“There’s been a compact with the citizens since the 1960s and when Metro came to Arlington that when all the high-density development would occur in the rail corridors, we would protect the single family neighborhoods that hugged the rail corridors,” he added.

Technology Will Fuel Transportation Needs of the Future

TransportationCamp DC is all about providing technology tools to people so they can make the critical choices of getting from Point A to Point B and beyond.

The convergence this year of hundreds of urbanists, transportation aficionados, and people who work with technology for a living all joined together on the Saturday last month before the Transportation Research Board’s massive annual conference. Read More

Transit Tech Ready for Center Stage at TransportationCamp DC This Saturday


Commuters in Washington D.C., Virginia, and Maryland are lucky to have so many options to get around the area.

But it doesn’t happen without hard work behind the scenes. That’s where events like this Saturday’s 2nd Annual TransportationCamp Washington DC 2013 step in. There will be hundreds of really smart people joining together to generate ideas for making the region – and the country and the world – easier to navigate.

Last year, the camp was an amazing event (check out the brief video above that features one of the attendees), and this year promises to be even better. As part of the Transportation Research Board’s annual conference, there will be a healthy mix of local transportation and technology experts mingled in with folks from around the country.

Just the experience of participating in an “unconference” itself is worth attending.

And definitely take a look at the wiki that one of last year’s participants took the initiative to create. It gets the brain juices flowing ahead of time for what topics could be covered, including things like:

Some more of the event’s crucial details include:

It will take place this Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. before the start of the Transportation Research Board 92nd Annual Meeting, and will be held at Founders Hall on the Arlington campus of George Mason University, 3351 Fairfax Drive, Arlington, VA 22201.

  • Founders Hall is located two blocks east of the Virginia Square Metro Station (Orange Line).
  • Two Capital Bikeshare stations are also within two blocks, at Virginia Square Metro and at Fairfax Dr/Wilson Blvd.
  • Metro bus 38B runs from K St, NW and Georgetown.

Here’s information on parking and a map of the campus.

Please register here, as space is pretty much at capacity. Cost will be $20 for the day (with sponsorships for full-time students available upon request).

There will also be a happy hour afterwards at Spider Kelly’s, two blocks east of George Mason University in nearby Clarendon, in order to continue the creative conversations.

TranspoCamp DC 2013 is sponsored by the George Mason School of Public Policy, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, Mobility Lab, Open Plans, the Transportation Research Board, and Young Professionals in Transportation.

And finally, start talking about it now. The Twitter hashtag is #transpo

Video by Kaiman Bros. Media

Cross-posted on http://www.MobilityLab.org January 8, 2013

The Personal Benefits of Mobility Management (Active Transport)

Cross posted on http://www.MobilityLab.org December 17, 2012

“Mobility management” (Active Transport) is, from a personal perspective, about accessibility. It’s about having travel options that are superior to driving alone.

For an individual, mobility management has a lot of benefits.

You can save a lot of money. Often, you can also save time. You might save on the stress of getting caught in traffic.

There’s a certain amount of interaction with your environment, your neighbors, and your social space that you don’t get when you close yourself into a car every day.

When gas prices spike, The Commuter Store® sees more people visiting, crying “uncle, I’m ready to stop spending so much money on my car commutes.”

Incorporating walking into commuting can make you healthier, and can make everybody else around you healthier who isn’t breathing in the toxic fumes from your car. And you get to know your community better.

Biking or walking to work incorporates exercise into the daily routine rather than having to make room for an hour outside of work or playtime to go to the gym.

Taking work on the train becomes a good use of time while traveling. Read a book. Catch up on the newspaper. Plan the day on the way in. Make notes from the day on the way out.

All these things will make commutes more relaxed when they get home at night, leading to a better quality of life.

Census Figures Show Transit Use Up in Washington Region – PlanItMetro

Transit commuters in the Washington D.C. region are growing in rapid numbers.

According to new figures recently posted at PlanItMetro, the blog of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), transit’s share of commuters rose from 14.6 percent of commuters in 2000 to 19.4 percent in 2011.

In Arlington County, Virginia – just across the river from downtown D.C. – that share grew from 23.3 percent to 28.4 percent. That’s second in the region only to D.C.’s 39.6 percent share and much higher than the next best jurisdiction, Prince George’s County at 19.5 percent.

Upon further examining the numbers, I noticed that the interesting thing is that the rate of growth over these 11 years was best right here in Arlington. That’s very cool news. And it feels great to know that what we’re doing here works.

Some of those things can be found throughout the Mobility Lab website, and include, to name a few:

  • Building the nation’s first bikeshare plan that embeds itself into the overall transit plan
  • Holding Hack Days for enthusiastic local technologists to help us build the best real-time transit information possible, and
  • One of my favorites: this video that briefly explains how the work Arlington County Commuter Services does takes 45,000 car trips off Arlington’s roads every work day and puts those people into other forms of transportation – forms that keep people traveling in and around Arlington healthier and happier.

While the share of commuters who use transit in the region grew by 13.3 percent over the last 11 years, it grew by 20.4 percent here in Arlington.

Why did transit’s share of commuters grow faster in Arlington than elsewhere? Over the last decade, most of Arlington’s new housing has been located in its transit corridors. And Arlington has invested in new transit capacity (the localART bus service was just a baby in 2000 and is now closing in on 3 million passengers annually) and supporting infrastructure, including a commitment to put map and schedule information at all of ART’s 500 bus stops. But even in the District, new housing is primarily located in transit-friendly neighborhoods and it started the local Circulator bus service in the last decade.

The biggest difference I see between Arlington and its surrounding jurisdictions is in the commitment to outreach and market our options to driving. Outreach programs like:

  • The Commuter Store® in five locations
  • Services provided to employers like Arlington Transportation Partners that help implement transit benefit programs
  • 350-plus retail partners who display neighborhood transit schedules, and
  • Direct mail pieces – to every resident – that include transit system maps, how-to-ride-the-bus, and how-to-read-a-schedule information as part of marketing campaigns like Arlington’s Car-Free Diet.

All these programs try to make it easy for people to use transit. All these programs educate people about the options and encourage them to choose transit. They all make a difference. And the numbers showing the rate of growth over the past 11 years prove it.

  • Arlington 20.4
  • DC 17.6
  • Alexandria 16.4
  • Montgomery 13.4
  • PG 12.4
  • Fairfax 10

Cross posted on http://www.MobilityLab.org November 26, 2012

Graphic by WMATA

Featured photo by Elvert Barnes

Arlington transit official wants business on board

The car-free diet: Chris Hamilton, who heads Arlington’s commuter services operation, hopes his programs will steer people away from cars and toward bikes, buses and trains.