Two recent studies demonstrate two approaches to reducing driving. A Swedish study looked at what types of messages influence the choice to drive, while a report from Virginia shows that tolls on the I-66 corridor outside Washington have made a difference in both mode choice and when drivers travel.
Two states that are changing how transportation investments are prioritized were featured recently on an SSTI webinar. Virginia just funded a third round of projects under its Smart Scale program, while Hawaii piloted its own SmartTRAC program with help from SSTI and Smart Growth America. SSTI will soon be launching a new project to learn from these past experiences and guide future programs, and we invite interested agencies to reach out.
In an era of falling transit ridership and utopian sustainability goals, Richmond, Virginia, seems to have hit the nail on the head. With the introduction of a bus rapid transit line and an overall bus system redesign, the Greater Richmond Transit Company has increased transit ridership in the region by 17 percent. GRTC’s distinctive carpooling and vanpooling system has grown extensively in the past decade. A recent article by Mobility Lab explains in detail the reasons and strengths behind GRTC’s continued success.
Fog can create deadly driving conditions, particularly in mountainous areas. Fog along the 12-mile stretch of highway in Virginia has led to hundreds of crashed vehicles and several deaths over the last couple of decades. In 2016, VDOT launched a system of weather sensors, variable speed limits (VSLs), and dynamic message signs (DMS) meant to slow down drivers during unsafe conditions. This system lowered speeds by an additional 2 to 5 mph, on average, and the number of fog-related crashes seems to have dropped by more than 50 percent. VDOT will continue to monitor the corridor, but the Virginia Transportation Research Council says similar systems should be effective for more widespread use.
Congestion pricing is gaining a foothold in the management of highway vehicular travel, and with good reason. Congestion pricing, sometimes called demand-based pricing or dynamic tolling, is in the early stages of adoption by state DOTs as a congestion-management practice. But evidence from Virginia, Washington, and Utah’s dynamically-tolled lanes show that DOTs need to be careful how they set their toll rates to manage traffic flow.
The Virginia Office of Intermodal Planning and Investment recently released its new report, Accessibility in practice: A guide for transportation and land use decision making, developed by SSTI with several partners. The guide describes ways of measuring accessibility and, more importantly, how to use those metrics in planning, project evaluation, and other transportation and land use decisions. The information is useful for any state or local agency interested or already involved in making these kinds of decisions.
The Virginia Department of Transportation has launched a public cloud-based data portal that contains a vast array of state transportation data. The portal is named “SmarterRoads” and will be available to anyone who creates a free account. Information contained in the portal includes average daily traffic, crashes, signal data, vehicle miles traveled, and speed limits.
Real-time travel information on digital screens placed in popular gathering areas allows for more efficient time management by transportation users of all modes. Tysons Corner Center, a shopping center in northern Virginia, uses Traveler Information Displays that provide traffic conditions and transit schedules to help customers plan their departures from the mall. Virginia DOT recently surveyed customers to evaluate the success of the TIDs with the goal of improving the system.
The December 12 edition of the Daily Press features an editorial by Virginia DOT Secretary Aubrey Layne explaining how the state’s new project selection process, dubbed SMART SCALE, improved the way transportation projects are planned and developed. The editorial points out that regional leaders in the Hampton Roads area needed to be strategic about which projects were the most important and would score the best under SMART SCALE. This process lead to better, more thoughtful projects being submitted for the limited available state funds.
Commercially available GPS data offers valuable new insight about trip origins, destinations, and routes, including short trips that travel demand models often cannot capture. Using this data, SSTI worked with Michael Baker International, the Virginia DOT, and local stakeholders to identify opportunities for managing travel demand and improving connectivity throughout Northern Virginia. This final report describes the full data set and 17 selected case studies, along with recommended projects and policies, estimated costs, and benefits for each.