Comments were due June 3 on the Draft Final Report of Fairfax County, Virginia's Countywide Transit Network Study (CTNS). Transportation is going though a revolutionary period and the Report offers Fairfax County an opportunity to lay out a creative, long-term strategy that reflects the changes underway and positions the County to serve its needs. For a number of reasons, this Report does not do that.
First and foremost, it does not support the primary regional transportation goal articulated by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG):
"Goal 1: The Washington metropolitan region's transportation system will provide reasonable access at reasonable cost to everyone in the region."
In fact, under the plan outlined by this study, significant areas of the county will be practically inaccessible by individuals using public transit. Similarly, it appears as though there will be practically no connection to many areas outside of the county. For example, there does not appear to be any transit service being planned along Route 7 running from Tysons in Fairfax County to Leesburg in Loudoun County. In fact, there does not appear to be any transit crossing the northwest Fairfax-Loudoun border between Dulles Airport and the Potomac River, a distance of approximately 7.5 miles.
Second, according to the Report, transit service growth will come nowhere close to matching growth in either jobs or residents. The Report says that by 2050 the County expects jobs to increase by 72 percent and residents to increase by 42 percent (Summary, p3), and yet transit trips are expected to increase by only 16 percent over "base conditions" (Summary, p6). (It isn't clear exactly what base conditions are -- if base conditions indicate an increase in transit ridership, the total increase in ridership should be provided in order to have a useful understanding of the figures in this Report.)
Third, while forecasts and metrics may vary significantly from actual results, they can be useful. However, the "measures of effectiveness" employed in this Report are of very little value. The measures used include a forecast of 103,000 additional households and 270,000 jobs within 1/2 mile of high quality transit stations and an estimate that the average County resident will be able to reach 90,000 more jobs within a 45 minute transit commute (Summary p6). The most important factors in transportation mode choice -- auto, transit, walking, biking -- are absolute time and cost, and time and cost of each mode in comparison to each other. It doesn't matter if every job and every household is within 1/2 half mile of a high quality transit station or if 1,000,000 jobs are accessible within a 45 minute transit commute: if alternatives to transit are faster and cheaper, transit won't be heavily utilized. Though we don't see any information comparing transit time and cost to alternatives, we assume the limited projected increase in transit ridership is due to a recognition that transit for a great many people in Fairfax County will a be poor choice relative to the alternatives.
Fourth, the revolution in transportation, driven by technology and reflected in the explosion of transportation network companies (TNCs) such as Uber, is bringing more change to this industry than has been seen in decades. This Report should address how Fairfax County will respond to those changes.
Fifth, we do not see any information about the demographics of the population that will be served by the proposed system.
The CTNS provides an opportunity for the County to develop plans for a transit system which begins to serve transit users well. This Report should be revised with a robust transit service plan whose ridership growth will, at a minimum, match and hopefully significantly exceed, the projected increase in households and jobs.