Saturday, March 22, 2014

New approach to transportation project planning from McAuliffe administration

The new Virginia deputy secretary of transportation, Nick Donohue, recently told to the Commonwealth Transportation Board that the McAuliffe administration will use a different approach to transportation planning. In the past planners have overestimated how many miles people will travel by car and underestimated the demand for alternative modes of transportation.

This is good news for bicyclists and supporters of smart growth. It's hopeful that the new approach will rely less on planning major road projects and have a better understanding the importance of encouraging growth around transit. Below is an extract from an article that appears on Bacon's Rebellion, Virginia’s Behind-the-Scenes Transportation Planning Revolution:
Yesterday, Donohue calmly dismantled core assumptions that have long underpinned transportation planning in Virginia. Under the aegis of VTrans, previous governors have forecast long-term travel demand and estimated the transportation funding needs based on that forecast. Traditionally, the VTrans product has emphasized vast funding shortfalls, in the tens of billions of dollars, over the following 20 years. One thing the McAuliffe administration wants to do, said Donohue, is to ask, “What did we say before, and did it happen?”

As it turns out, federal forecasts were pretty bad, he said, showing the following chart showing how they consistently overshot the mark:

Virginia’s forecasts suffered from similar biases in the past, he said. Now VTrans will begin considering non-traditional indicators of travel demand. For example, Donohue said, the number of 20- to 34-year-olds not getting their licenses has edged up from about 10% in 2000 to 15% today. A National Association of Realtors (NAR) survey found that a majority of respondents indicated a preference to live in walkable communities with mixed-use development. More families are moving into multifamily housing. And a NAR analysis found that the sales prices of houses located near transit out-performed other housing by 41% over the last five years.

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