Transportation Reform in Virginia

Promoting Major Changes to VDOT: Record traffic congestion & ever-longer commutes are a result of decades of poor planning.


Photo © Doug Riddel

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SELC helps shape major improvements to Richmond transit More »

UPDATE (2/14/17): Richmond City Council voted unanimously to support the Richmond Transit Network Plan and its simultaneous implementation with the autumn roll out of the Pulse bus rapid transit line.

It has been decades since the last major update to the Richmond transit network, and it shows. There are often lengthy waits for infrequent buses along key routes, and important city locations take a long time to reach or aren’t connected to service at all.

Starting in October that will change. First, Richmond will launch the Pulse, a new Bus Rapid Transit system along Broad and Main Streets, one of the city’s main east/west corridors. The Pulse will offer more frequent service, with pick-ups scheduled every 15 minutes to connect popular destinations across the city and downtown.

Simultaneous to the Pulse roll out, the state, the city, and the regional transit provider are working to implement the Richmond Transit Network Plan. The plan re-envisions the city’s existing bus routes to drastically cut ride times and increase access to more parts of the city without increasing spending. SELC has worked with developers of the plan since its early stages.

SELC is also working to encourage transit-oriented development along the new routes, expanding the benefits of the plan well beyond those riding the bus. Changes such as zoning updates to focus mixed-use development near transit centers will allow retail and residents to take advantage of the easy access to public transportation.

Richmond City Council is scheduled to vote at its meeting Monday, February 13 on a resolution supporting the route updates and the plan to roll them out in conjunction with the launch of the Pulse.

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Transportation and land use patterns in Virginia exact a tremendous toll on our environment, health, and economy. While growth provides numerous benefits, the heavy costs of decades of poor planning and policies focused on pouring asphalt are catching up with us, with more highways and sprawling development causing air and water pollution, traffic congestion, ever-longer commutes, and the loss of farmland, open space, and historic resources. Transportation is also Virginia’s leading source of carbon pollution, a primary factor in climate change.

To the Sun and Back

People in Virginia drive over 200 million miles each day – farther than the distance to the sun and back. As new and expanded highways encourage development on the fringes of existing communities and the lion’s share of transportation funding continues to go to roads, most of us have no practical alternative to driving.

However, growing demand for new approaches has helped fuel record levels of rail and transit ridership and begun to slow the increase in the number of miles we drive.   

A Plan for Action

SELC is working to fundamentally alter transportation policies and practices in the Commonwealth. We have helped achieve some significant reforms in recent years, such as establishing dedicated funding for passenger rail and developing a more open and objective way to determine which transportation proposals get funded, but much more needs to be done.

Our goals include the following:

  • Prevent wasteful and destructive highway projects such as the proposed Northern Virginia Outer Beltway Projects, the Coalfields Expressway, extensive I-81 widening, and a new U.S. 460 in the Tidewater region—costly projects that would destroy natural and historic resources, spur sprawl, and increase air and water pollution while doing little to solve traffic congestion problems. Instead, we are promoting more effective, less damaging options such as the Charlottesville U.S. Route 29 Solutions package of improvements;
  • Reorient transportation spending to increase funding for cleaner transportation alternatives such as transit, rail and bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, and advance key projects;
  • Reform Virginia's flawed Public Private Transportation Act, and ensure major public-private proposals such as the Interstate 66 toll lane projects in Northern Virginia include a major transit component and protect the public interest;
  • Increase funding to maintain existing roads and bridges as part of a "fix it first" strategy, improve the efficiency of existing roads, and build effective local street networks that accommodate all modes of travel;
  • Provide incentives for more efficient, cleaner vehicles and cleaner fuels;
  • Improve the link between transportation and land use planning, and provide greater incentives for smarter growth.

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