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Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments
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DC-Area Transportation Officials Release Plan for 2045’s Commuters

This is an expanded excerpt from our twice-weekly newsletter, Capital Shortcut. The collection of traffic and commuting information comes out Monday morning before your first commute of the week and on Friday morning, before you that hopefully multi-modal AM journey one more time before the weekend. Sign up for the newsletter here!

This week, the National Capital Region’s Transportation Planning Board (TPB) unveiled Visualize 2045, its roadmap for transit in the region.

The document consisted of two parts:

  • An outline of possible projects — more than 600 highway and transit proposals for which the TPB believes there’s enough money.
  • Aspirational projects for which there is a shortage of funding. They include a second Metro station at Rosslyn that would be part of a new inner loop on the Metro system connecting Virginia with Georgetown and Union Station.

Possible Projects in TPB’s 2045 Plan

Check out the changes or additions to their plan on this interactive map. Some highlights:

  • In Maryland, managed toll lanes on I-495 and I-270 and widening of US 301, MD 201, and MD 97.
  • In Montgomery County, five additional segments to its Bus Rapid Transit network.
  • In Virginia, widening of US 15, and changing the completion date and the number of HOT lanes in each direction on the northern portion of I-495.
  • In the District of Columbia, six additional segments to its bicycle lane network.
  • For WMATA, improvements to add capacity to the Metrorail system, such as running 100 percent 8-car trains during peak periods.

TPB’s Aspirational Guidelines for 2045

There are more than 3 million more commutes forecast in 2045 than 2018, many of which would be by automobile. Most of the projects mentioned above are intended to encourage (threaten?) people to use other modes, including mass transit, biking and walking. Those nudges, like pairing toll lanes with widening, align with these aspirational goals:

  • Bring jobs and housing closer together
  • Expand bus rapid transit and transitways
  • Move more people on Metrorail
  • Increase telecommuting and other options for commuting
  • Expand the express highway network
  • Improve walk and bike access to transit
  • Complete the National Capital Trail

Experts Skeptical on TPB’s Long-Term Transporation Plan

Transportation policy expert Yonah Freemark was skeptical of the plan’s ambition. He wrote on Twitter: “Washington region’s just-approved transportation plan—designed to plan for 2045—is rather sad. In a region expected to add 1.2 million people (to 6.9 m), no metro expansions are proposed beyond the currently under construction Silver Line extension. ”

Freemark continued: “In Washington DC itself, which according to the plan is supposed to gain 270,000 residents + 210,000 jobs by 2045, the grand total of transit improvements funded are the streetcar extension to Georgetown and improvements to 16th street buses. hat’s right: The long-term plan for the Washington region literally proposes spending a total of $364 million on transit expansion in the nation’s capital—a city with 700,000 people today—over the next 27 years (that’s $13 m/year).” Transit researcher Matt Dickens replied to Freemark, “Isn’t it *absolutely insane*?”

Economist Lyman Stone registered an important caveat: “For what it’s worth, that is a pretty optimistic population growth assumption. It’s not absurd, but… it’s probably *actually not prudent* to make spending decisions on the assumption of 270k more DC residents by 2045.”

It is true that error terms for long-term projections get larger the farther one looks into the future. Ask me about the Congressional Budget Office’s 10- and 20-Year budget windows to hear more about that. However, this document isn’t a budget or proposed budget outline. This is a set of abstract descriptions of goals agreed to on a committee of local governments that highlights projects almost entirely set in stone, or placed in quick-drying cement.

Stone continues with good notes about caveats for assumptions on long-term forecasts. However, points out something we frequently cover at DC Commute Times: “That doesn’t mean the current plan adequately funds WMATA; it doesn’t adequately fund WMATA for *current* population, let alone a growing one!”

Here’s more reporting on Visualize 2045 by Lori Aratani of The Washington Post.

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