Con­ges­tion tops list of North­ern Va. is­sues

Transportation sur­vey also high­lights con­cerns on hous­ing, jobs, crime

The Washington Post Sunday - - OBITUARIES - BY LORI ARATANI lori.aratani@wash­post.com

About a third of re­spon­dents to a new sur­vey by the North­ern Vir­ginia Transportation Au­thor­ity listed re­duc­ing traf­fic con­ges­tion and of­fer­ing more transportation op­tions as their top con­cern, fol­lowed by af­ford­able hous­ing, job cre­ation and crime.

Re­spon­dents said pol­i­cy­mak­ers should fo­cus on fund­ing for roads, fol­lowed by rail and tran­sit, and, lastly, find­ing ways to en­cour­age less driv­ing dur­ing peak com­mut­ing times.

The most im­por­tant transportation project in the North­ern Vir­ginia re­gion? The Sil­ver Line.

The sur­vey polled res­i­dents on a va­ri­ety of transportation-re­lated is­sues, ask­ing about is­sues such as the length of their com­mute and their thoughts on self-driv­ing cars. It was re­leased as part of NVTA’s Trans­Ac­tion, the re­write of the long-range transportation plan for North­ern Vir­ginia that ap­pears ev­ery five years.

De­spite res­i­dents’ con­cerns about con­ges­tion, the sur­vey found that 68 per­cent of re­spon­dents in North­ern Vir­ginia think the re­gion is do­ing a “good job” with the maintenance and qual­ity of transportation in­fra­struc­ture — up sig­nif­i­cantly from the 43 per­cent who had pos­i­tive feel­ings about the per­for­mance in an Oc­to­ber 2015 sur­vey.

Res­i­dents know that traf­fic jams come with the ter­ri­tory and are will­ing to put up with some con­ges­tion, but many say the level on the re­gion’s road­ways is close to un­ac­cept­able. But com­muters are for­tu­nate to have many op­tions. In ad­di­tion to tran­sit, the sur­vey found, some are turn­ing to app­based ser­vices, such as Lyft and Uber, to help get them around. In fact, of those who re­sponded to the sur­vey, nearly half ex­pected to use those types of ser­vices more in the next year.

Martin E. Nohe, a mem­ber of the Prince Wil­liam Board of County Su­per­vi­sors and chair­man of the NVTA, said he was im­pressed by how knowl­edge­able North­ern Vir­ginia com­muters were about var­i­ous as­pects of the transportation sys­tem. He also said that Metro’s woes have raised aware­ness of the im­por­tance of in­vest­ing in in­fra­struc­ture.

“Shut­ting down en­tire lines has made peo­ple very acutely aware of what hap­pens when you don’t make these in­vest­ments in transportation,” he said. How­ever, one sil­ver lin­ing, Nohe added, is that it has forced com­muters to find oth­ers way to get around. Hu­mans are crea­tures of habit, he said, and “peo­ple may not ex­per­i­ment with other modes un­til they’re forced to.”

The sur­vey found that most com­muters get their traf­fic in­for­ma­tion from tra­di­tional news out­lets such as TV, ra­dio and news­pa­pers. Even so, a grow­ing num­ber are turn­ing to so­cial net­works such as Twit­ter for real-time traf­fic in­for­ma­tion. About 31 per­cent said that they found traf­fic in­for­ma­tion on so­cial me­dia vs. 24 per­cent in 2015.

One other in­ter­est­ing tid­bit: More than half of the women sur­veyed ranked re­duc­ing travel times as a top con­cern.

Re­spon­dents were more likely to re­mem­ber neg­a­tive news about transportation in the re­gion vs. pos­i­tive news. Of that neg­a­tive news, most in­volved the Metro sys­tem. There also were mis­giv­ings among North­ern Vir­ginia com­muters about self-driv­ing cars. While some thought the technology was a good idea, many oth­ers found the con­cept “scary” or “dan­ger­ous.”

Among the top projects on re­spon­dents’ minds: Up­grades to Route 7 (Lees­burg Pike) and Route 1 (Rich­mond High­way), fol­lowed by the Sil­ver Line to Dulles Air­port and the VRE Gainesville-Hay­mar­ket ex­ten­sion. Re­spon­dents also said they would like to see a new or im­proved high­way and/or tran­sit cross­ing of the Po­tomac River.

The most im­por­tant transportation project in the North­ern Vir­ginia re­gion? The Sil­ver Line.

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