Division of Legislative Services > Legislative Record > 2009

SJR 357: Joint Subcommittee Studying the Feasibility of Creating a Regional Rapid Transit Network

October 6, 2009

The Joint Subcommittee to Study Creating a Regional Rapid Transit Network met in Woodbridge.


Eric Marx, Dir. of Planning & Operations, Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission (PRTC)
Mr. Marx began by explaining that the PRTC is a transportation district comprised of five local governments: Prince William County, Stafford County, City of Manassas, City of Manassas Park, and City of Fredericksburg. Under state law, PRTC is authorized to plan and operate transit services for residents of the member governments. PRTC provides express bus, local bus, ride matching, and commuter rail services (the latter in cooperation with the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission). Mr. Marx looked at some of the elements needed to make bus rapid transit (BRT) a competitive transit option. Travel time advantages and reliability require lanes that allow buses to have largely unimpeded movement for the majority of the route. However, new dedicated or shared HOV lanes require a significant capital investment. Another element involves increasing the frequency and ease of use of service to make bus transit more attractive. However, with fares typically covering no more than 50% of operating costs, a significant amount of new, on-going, and consistent operating subsidies would be required. Finally, providing access is another element to consider. In the current service environment, there is a good chance commuters will only be able to access BRT by walking on one end of their trip. Where walking and/or biking is not feasible, new and expanded parking lots and/or a supplemental feeder bus system is necessary. PRTC's approach to BRT includes:

  • Using existing HOV lanes.
  • Operating as frequently as every eight minutes.
  • Using a comfortable, late model fleet.
  • Having well-trained bus operators.
  • Using systems to maintain on-time performance and keep customers informed.

Mr. Marx explained that service quality directly correlates to success, which can be achieved to varying degrees by differing levels of investment.

Mr. Marx next discussed what is needed to achieve a quality BRT service. Money is the primary hurdle, especially on the operating side. Simply maintaining existing services is a challenge. Local funding accounts for the majority of operating subsidy, but is yielding less than what is needed to sustain the service. Low and fluctuating state assistance makes multiyear planning difficult. The program needs a steady source of state funding tied to achieving the General Assembly's stated aim of covering 95% of eligible costs. Also needed are more proactive efforts to enhance BRT's travel time advantage. Incorporating technology is also needed to achieve a quality BRT service, including real-time transit information, amenities such as wi-fi, and vehicle system remote monitoring to reduce breakdowns. Mr. Marx ended his presentation with comments on the importance of parking and access.

Stephen Del Giudice, Transit Bureau Chief, County of Arlington
Mr. Del Giudice looked at the community development transportation question from the successful Arlington experience. He explained that the reduced reliance on auto travel leads to other ancillary community benefits. Part of what made the Arlington experience a success involved the integration of land use and transportation principles and the alignment of transportation investment, infrastructure, and services with development. Arlington, located at the core of the rapidly growing Washington, D.C. region, is 25.8 square miles in area, including federal lands and major federal facilities (Pentagon and Arlington Cemetery). Arlington's development concepts include:

  • Concentrating high and mid-density redevelopment around transit stations.
  • Preserving and reinvesting in residential neighborhoods.
  • Encouraging a mix of uses and services in station areas.
  • Creating high quality pedestrian and bike environments.
  • Enhancing open space.

Mr. Del Giudice also looked at various travel trends, such as average weekday ridership, arterial street travel, and commuting and other transit trends.

Mr. Del Giudice closed his presentation by talking about the lessons learned from Arlington's experience. He said that Arlington's strategies have yielded extensive transportation, environmental, economic, and quality of life benefits. Many policies contributed to enhanced performance.

He advised that achieving full benefits is not a short-term commitment and requires sustaining and enhancing programs and policies over time.

Dan Rathbone, Division Chief, Fairfax County Transportation Planning Division
Mr. Rathbone focused his presentation on what was learned from the Tysons analysis. The transit improvements included in the 2030 analysis were Dulles Rail, express bus service on I-66/I-495, I-95/I-495, improved bus service between Tysons and surrounding communities, and within Tysons. It is important to keep vehicle trips constant as Tysons grows beyond the year 2030. Mr. Rathbone presented various charts showing how to keep those vehicle trips constant. The charts can be found at: http://dls.virginia.gov/GROUPS/transit/meetings/100609/Tysons.pdf.

In looking at growth beyond 2030, one strategy involves enhanced transportation demand management (TDM). Examples include (i) in-house carpool and vanpool matching services, (ii) on-site bus pass sales and a half-time transportation coordinator, and (iii) significant employee participation in telework. Other strategies include lowering cost improvements in order to increase transit share by identifying transit corridors for improvement, increasing tolling and congestion pricing, and limiting parking and parking pricing. Mr. Rathbone concluded his remarks by explaining that the expansion of highway capacity is limited, TDM and lower cost transit improvements help but are also limited, and additional rail/high quality rapid transit corridors combined with transit-oriented development have the potential to increase the percentage of transit use over time.

Next Meeting

The next meeting dates will be posted on the joint subcommittee’s website and the General Assembly calendar as soon as the information is available.

The Hon. George L. Barker

For information, contact:
Alan Wambold, Caroline Stalker, DLS Staff

Division of Legislative Services > Legislative Record > 2009