Live More, Commute LessLive More, Commute Less

Jan
4

New Passenger Focus at Reagan and Dulles Airports

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The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) has initiated a concerted campaign to better understand and focus new programs on passenger satisfaction and needs.  In tandem with this new focus, MWAA is also re-branding the airports to reflect this new emphasis on passenger satisfaction.

According to an MWAA press release:

“During the past several years, the Airports Authority has undergone numerous changes to enhance the customer experience, including a major redevelopment of its food and retail concessions, additional parking options, online customer satisfaction surveys and new website. Now the Airports Authority is reinforcing these improvements with a new brand centered around a recommitment to its customers. The new tagline Your Journey Begins with Us recognizes that an enjoyable travel experience begins when a passenger arrives at the airport.

“This new logo incorporates every part of our organization into one symbol,” said Jack Potter, president and CEO. “The new brand embodies our choice to embrace change, to innovate and to lead. We want this logo to represent our resolve to serve the needs of the traveling public.”

The Airports Authority developed the new brand and customer focused initiative after considerable research “which included employee and passenger interviews, focus groups, competitive brand studies and data analysis of traveler habits across more than 15 U.S. and international airports. The comprehensive study has resulted in a deeper understanding of passengers and allows the Airports Authority to better target its services to meet their needs.”

Jan
4

Be One of the Best!

You bike to work almost every day, shower at the office and use the secure storage to keep your wheels safe until it’s time to call it a day.  When the weather’s bad, you ride the rails and save money with your transit benefits.  You work for a company that’s concerned about its employees and the environment – it’s one of the reasons you took this job – and you wish there was a way your employer could be recognized for promoting commuting choices.BWC Larger

Since 2010, fifty-seven businesses in Fairfax County – more than anywhere else in the country – have been designated “Best Workplaces for Commuters” by the National Center for Transit Research at the University of South Florida.  Best Workplaces for Commuters (BWC) is an innovative membership program that provides qualified employers with national recognition and an elite designation for implementing green commuter programs like ridesharing, transit benefits, biking and walking, teleworking and alternate work schedules.

Other advantages include: web conferences and training to help your company implement commuter benefits; research and benchmarking; web-based tools to help calculate the overall financial, environmental, and traffic improvements associated with commuter benefits; and networking opportunities with peers and experts in the field to exchange ideas and learn new strategies.

Next year, your progressive employer could be among those recently recognized at a special ceremony at the Fairfax County Government Center hosted by Fairfax County Department of Transportation Director Thomas Biesiadny.  Your Employer Outreach Specialist can provide technical assistance to help your organization meet Best Workplaces for Commuters’ National Standard of Excellence, assist in the completion of the application, and even underwrite the annual fee for employers that qualify.

“Promoting alternate ways to work, and policies such as teleworking and flex time, help make Fairfax County a better place to live and work by reducing congestion on our roadways,” commented Biesiadny in congratulating the ‘Fairfax First 50.’ We are pleased that Fairfax County is leading the nation in ‘Best Workplace’ designations and are committed to continuing to expand this program in years to come.”

This year, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors also issued a proclamation in support of the “Fairfax First 50,” with special mention being given to the 2015 recipients:  Horizon Industries Limited, Prosperity Metro Plaza, FUTREND, U.S. Geological Survey, Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc., Freddie Mac, Synaptek Corporation, National Student Clearinghouse. FOX Architects LLC, and Pyramid Systems, Inc.

 

For more information on Best Workplaces for Commuters, visit www.bestworkplaces.org, call the Fairfax County Department of Transportation at 703.877.5600 or contact Ciara Williams:  703.877.5605, ciara.williams@fairfaxcounty.gov.

The Best Workplaces for Commuters program is available nationwide.  For information on how to participate in your jurisdiction, contact your Loudoun County Commuter Services Employer Outreach Specialist Judy Galen:  703.737.8044, judy.galen@loudoun.gov or visit (https://www.loudoun.gov/commute).  Your Prince William County Transportation Demand Management Specialist is Holly Morello:  703.580.6130, hmorello@omniride.com or visit (http://www.prtctransit.org).

Jan
4

Senate and House Agree on Transportation Funding

The U.S. House and Senate have announced an agreement on a 5-year roughly $300 billion surface transportation bill!  This is the first transportation agreement to come out of Congress in 10 years.  Below are some highlights of the aptly-named “Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act” or FAST Act:

Fully funds all public transportation programs for five years at growing levels;

Increases overall public transportation funding by 18 percent and dedicated funding for buses and bus facilities by 89 percent over the life of the bill;

Continues current formula funding and creates new, discretionary competitive grants under the bus and bus facilities program;

Provides funding stability for the Transit Cooperative Research Program;

Authorizes increased funding for Amtrak and competitive grants for intercity passenger rail; and

Provides funds for implementation of positive train control (PTC) systems on commuter railroads.

This is an important achievement for our transportation infrastructure, and represents a slight shift in federal priorities towards better funding transit and alternatives to single occupant vehicle oriented projects.

 

Jan
4

Train, Train, Take Me On Out of Here

Seems as if every time someone mentions train travel, and the ease of use it provides, Europe is brought up as the shining example of rail accessibility.  A recent study conducted by a Ph.D. student at the University of Vienna, Austria, illustrates just how accessible Western Europe really is.  Eastern Europe?  Not so much.

The data that Peter Kerpedjiev analyzed for 28 cities is quite telling how car independent a tourist or citizen travelling  in Western Europe can actually be.  Mr. Kerpedjiev’s table of train travel time distances from London illustrates that a person can reach almost all of Western European cities within 24 hours.

In the United States, the network of rail lines is far less extensive. However a resident, business travler, or tourist can reach many of the major eastern and western seaboard cities via train as well.  A quick review of Amtrak’s schedules for trains leaving Washington, D.C. indicates that a train traveller has a lot of options to reach some pretty far away destinations within a 24-hour timeframe.

With the opening of the Acela, D.C. train travelers can reach Boston, MA under 7 hours.  New York, NY under 4 hours.  Destinations along the eastern seaboard as far south as Tampa, FL can be reached within 24 hours, and with the Auto Train option, a traveler can even bring their car along for the ride.

If you are interested in more Western destinations, a D.C. train traveler can reach Pittsburgh, PA in 8 hours; Chicago under 18; Charlotte, NC in 8 hours and Atlanta in 14.  Closer cities such as Philadelphia, PA, Charleston, WV and Richmond, VA are all reachable under 2 hours.

Obviously European train travel is far more extensive, less expensive and allows travelers to cover greater distances in less time than that in the U.S.  But with that said, it is not impossible to reach many U.S. destinations via train should one choose to do so.  With the current state of our roadways, leaving the car behind can be a much more relaxing way to travel these days.

Jan
4

Multi-Modal Improvements Advance on I-66 Outside the Beltway

By Tom Biesiadny

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is undertaking a significant expansion of I-66 from the Beltway (I-495) to Route 15 in Haymarket.  Phase 1 of the project includes two Express Lanes in each direction from the Beltway to Gainesville; significant increases in bus service along the corridor; additional park-and-ride lots; transportation demand management; a parallel trail; and numerous interchanges improvements.   In addition, VDOT is also reserving the median in most places for the future expansion of high-quality transit.   VDOT has been closely coordinating this project with Fairfax County, Prince William County, the City of Fairfax, the Towns of Haymarket and Vienna and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (Metro).

Express Lanes

Just like the Express Lanes on the Beltway and I-495, the I-66 Express Lanes will allow vehicles with three or more people to travel for free.  Vehicles with fewer than three people can also use the lanes, but they will pay a toll.  Toll rates will be managed dynamically to ensure that the speeds are maintained at 55 miles per hour.  The new lanes will be separated from the existing travel lanes by flexible posts, similar to the ones on the Beltway.  Users can enter and exit the lanes at specific places.  Several new ramps will also be constructed to provide access.  Three regular, or general purpose, lanes will be maintained in each direction for those traveling with fewer than three people who don’t want to pay a toll.  There will also be an auxiliary lane between some interchanges in Fairfax County.

Bus Service, Park-and-Ride Lots and Transportation Demand Management

The project will fund significant increases in bus service in the corridor that will take advantage of the new Express Lanes.  The new service will be implemented as “point-to-point” service, such as Haymarket to Tysons and the Stringfellow Park-and-Ride Lot to downtown.  The new bus service will be operated by existing providers, such as the Fairfax Connector and OmniRide; however, the service will likely be branded to provide a consistent image for riders.  To facilitate this new transit service and also support ridesharing, four new park-and-ride lots (three in Prince William County and one in Fairfax County) will be constructed.  Also, an existing park-and-ride lot in Gainesville will be expanded.  In total, approximately 4,000 new parking spaces will be added when the Express Lanes open.  VDOT and the Department of Rail and Public Transportation will also be implementing a number of demand management strategies, such as ridesharing and transit fare incentives, during the construction of the project and beyond.

Parallel Trail

VDOT and Fairfax County have worked closely to develop a trail that will be constructed along I-66 with the project.  The trail will extend from Gallows Road to Bull Run Regional Park.  In general, the trail will be located between the shoulder of the roadway and the soundwalls.  It will be similar to Custis Trail that parallels I-66 inside the Beltway.   In some places, the facility will become bike lanes on existing roadways.  In other cases, the trail will traverse parks.  In places where the trail is within the I-66 right-of-way, there will be periodic breaks in the soundwalls to allow access from adjacent neighborhoods.  The width of the trail will vary, but in most cases, it will be eight to ten feet wide.

Roadways Across I-66

As part of the Express Lanes Project, VDOT will be replacing a number of bridges across I-66.  Other bridges will be upgraded.  Each of the new bridges will contain new pedestrian and bicycle facilities  connected to the networks adjacent to I-66.

Implementation

VDOT will be implementing this project with a private partner.  There are three different project delivery options: design-build; design-build-operate-maintain; and design-build-finance-operate-maintain.  The procurement method is expected to be announced in December 2015.  The project will be constructed in phases.   Construction of the first phase of the project will begin in 2017 and is expected to be completed in 2021.

Tom Biesiadny serves as the Director of the Fairfax County Department of Transportation.