NVTA’s Funding Formula Is Biased

Comments at Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) Meeting, May 10, 2018.

Although I’m a member of the Arlington County Transportation Commission, I am speaking only on my own behalf.

NVTA ranked 60 projects as a preliminary to awarding more than $1.2 billion under the FY 2018-2023 Six Year Program (SYP). NVTA ranked five Arlington projects as follows:

  • 1 Transportation Demand Management (TDM) project;
  • 2 Metrorail station improvement projects–one at Ballston and the other at Crystal City;
  • 2 bus system improvement projects–one to extend the Crystal City Transitway to Pentagon City and the other to construct improved ART bus facilities.

Of those five projects, the only one with a high CRRC (congestion reduction relative to cost) rank was the TDM project. All the others scored low—extremely low. In fact ART bus facility improvements ranked 56 out of 60, even though ART bus is one of only two regional bus services to realize an increase in ridership in 2017. Improvements to the Crystal City Metrorail Station scored 58 out of 60 even though it is seen as necessary to service a projected major increase in VRE ridership offloading at Crystal City.

According to NVTA planner Keith Jasper, who recently addressed the Arlington Transportation Commission, the reason Arlington projects rank so low is because of the formula employed. The CRRC model ranks projects according to person hour delay reduction relative to cost.

If an Arlington resident chose to switch from carpooling on I-66 at no cost to boarding at the Ballston Metro West Entrance, his transportation cost would go up by the amount of the fare. His/her travel time to his DC destination would also probably increase. So from a strictly economic standpoint the new West Entrance to the Ballston Metro SHOULD rank low. It delivers more passengers with a delayed time of arrival at greater cost.

But something has got to be wrong here. First, the no-cost scenario on I-66 conceals a hidden subsidy paid by SOV riders to carpoolers, as well as the parking subsidy paid by the employer at most riders’ probable destination–work. Also, the delay experienced by Metro riders commuting to/from the Metro station or transferring to another line must be balanced against the luxury of foregoing a drive to work.

What I am suggesting is that the formula employed by NVTA does not incorporate the hidden costs of driving to work. In so doing it has biased the rankings of the SYP projects now before it to the disadvantage of transit oriented projects and to the detriment of the vast majority of DC Metro area commuters.

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