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Need for Transportation Improvements

The Baltimore/Washington region is comprised of two metropolitan planning organizations, the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board and the Baltimore Regional Transportation Board. Both are staffed and coordinated through the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments and the Baltimore Metropolitan Council.


By the year 2040, the population in the Baltimore/Washington region is expected to increase from 8.1 million to 9.7 million people. An increase of approximately 20% over the year 2015 estimates.


The population in the Metropolitan Washington region is expected to grow by approximately 24% between the year 2015 and the year 2040. In the Baltimore region, between the year 2015 and 2040, population is expected to grow approximately 10%.


Employment workforce in the Baltimore/Washington region is expected to increase by approximately 25%, from 4.7 million jobs in 2015 to 5.9 million jobs by the year 2040. 1.2 million more jobs resulting in the likelihood of over 800,000 more vehicles needing to be serviced by the current transportation system. These projections are based upon the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, the Baltimore Metropolitan Council and the Round 8A Forecast and Round 9.0 Cooperative Forecast.


Even though these statistics are daunting, in my opinion, neither of the regions have sufficient residential or business density that would result in the demand for increased rail transit at a cost of $150 to $200 million per mile, so we must continue to pursue a realistic balanced approach that also adds capacity to our road network. All of our planning agencies’ forecasts show the vast majority of trips now, in 2040, and beyond will continue to be made by auto. Not dealing with this reality will only worsen congestion.


Traffic congestion is not going to get better all by itself. There are a number of things that have been proposed in our region to reduce traffic delays and traffic congestion, in addition to providing new capacity, but none have ever been found to be sufficient by themselves.


  1. Provide dedicated transit from where people live to where people work- not just in limited corridors.
  2. Encourage ridesharing.
  3. Change mode share to maximize non-auto trips.
  4. Encourage more employees to live in walking distance to where they work.
  5. Promote utilization of small mobility devices such as scooters and ebikes.

None of these things will by themselves, fix and substantially reduce existing traffic congestion. Commuters want to go from Baltimore to Washington or from one side of the Beltway to the other side of the Beltway or from bedroom communities to high employment corridors and, as a result, projects such as the Maglev project, the Governor’s P3 Managed Lane project, along with dedicated bus rapid transit systems in dedicated lanes are the types of things that can help to improve travel time in heavy transportation corridors. Along with the new capacity these major projects deliver, the more modest steps listed above can help provide a more balanced, comprehensive approach that could significantly ease congestion, but nothing will work without some added capacity to our highway network as part of the mix. We need an all-of-the-above strategy, not one or the other.


The State of Maryland is ranked first in the nation in terms of longest commuting times of 32 ½ minutes each way, according to the 2016 US Census American Community Survey. Washington DC, which includes many of the Maryland commuters is 4th in the nation with commuting times on the average of 29.9 minutes each way.


In 2014, the Washington DC area was ranked as the most congested metropolitan area in the country for yearly delay per auto commuter according to the Texas Transportation Institutes 2015 Urban Mobility Scorecard. The Baltimore metropolitan area was ranked among the 25 most congested areas. On the average, an automobile commuter in the Washington DC metropolitan area spent 63 hours per year in traffic incurring over $1400 in additional annual expenses, including the cost of 35 gallons in wasted fuel. This statistic, all by itself, translates to 4.5 billion of annual of annual costs due to congestion, more than 100 million gallons of excess fuel and associated emissions and resulting air quality degradation.


In the Baltimore region, the annual cost due to congestion is estimated to be more than $2 billion.


Maryland roadways in the Baltimore/Washington region have some of the highest traffic volumes in the State and these volumes, along with crashes, have increased in the last 25 years according to the Urban Mobility Scorecard. The growth in vehicle miles travelled (VMT) in the area is surpassing the ability of state agencies to handle with the existing roadway network.


In my opinion, there is not just one thing to assist with congestion and to reduce delay, it is a series of things, but do not think for one minute that TRANSIT ALONE is the solution. It clearly is not.


About the Author:  Wes Guckert is President & CEO of the Traffic Group, Inc., one of the nation’s leading traffic engineering and transportation planning firms, and an Advisory Board member of the Suburban Maryland Transportation Alliance. 


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