Why We’re Stuck in Traffic? Transportation Experts Say It’s Because Region

June 16, 2011
By The 2030 Group

Survey of top transportation experts from Virginia, Maryland and D.C. finds planning process needs to be more regional and performance-based, less parochial and political

Washington D.C. –Today, a joint study of transportation challenges and priorities for the Washington Metropolitan area was released by regional transportation experts. The study was commissioned by the 2030 Group and was carried out jointly by Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance’s Bob Chase and Suburban Maryland Transportation Alliance’s Richard Parsons, who interviewed over forty (40) top transportation experts in the Washington region.

“This study shows how critical it is to set clear priorities if you want to meet the infrastructure needs of our region over the next twenty years, and we’re not really doing that,” said Bob Buchanan, president of the 2030 Group. “Regional decision making should be about cost- benefit analysis, looking at where we get the most bang for the buck. This study sheds light on what the experts think should be at the top of that list and that we need more collaboration between the District, Maryland and Virginia in setting performance-based transportation priorities.”

Bob Chase, President of the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance (NVTA) noted, “Our region’s current transportation planning needs greater focus. We spend increasing amounts of time adding more and more projects and studies instead of concentrating on a smaller universe of critical major investments that really reduce congestion.” “Our region is already number one in congestion and continued job growth over the next two decades, translating into more households, more cars and more traffic. Whether it’s congested coronary arteries or traffic arteries, the smart approach is to seek answers from the best minds. That’s what we did in asking top traffic engineers and other experts to identify the best solutions,” he continued. “The result is a well-defined short-list of top-priority projects for our region, and we are hoping the Transportation Planning Board will incorporate these findings into their upcoming effort to identify transportation priorities that best serve the residents of the region.”

According to Rich Parsons, President of the Suburban Maryland Transportation Alliance (SMTA), “Traffic in our region is getting worse, whether you live in Maryland, Virginia or D.C., and we all need to get behind the most effective solutions. This study provides us with some good ideas on how to start. The interesting thing is how much agreement there is among transportation experts, across the Metro area, not only on what metrics we should be looking at, but on what projects do the most good. It turns out, it’s not just roads or just transit, but a combination of both that does the most to relieve traffic.”

Chase and Parsons spent four months between February and June of this year interviewing more than 40 transportation experts – from the public and private sector in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia – on the significant transportation issues this region will face over the next twenty years. Numbers compiled by the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board project the region will add 1.3 million people, 950,000 jobs and 675,000 households by the year 2030.

Summary of the Key Findings:

  1. The nation’s most congested region lacks a well-defined short-list of transportation investments that would have the greatest potential to reduce congestion/improve mobility over the next 20 years.
  2. Among transportation professionals, significant consensus exists as to highway and public transit investments that would be the most productive.
  3. The top-ten projects are listed in the report, including continued investment in Metro System Maintenance and Operations, New Potomac Bridges, and multi-modal projects to add capacity in several key transportation corridors.
  4. The prioritization process should focus heavily on highway and transit investments that do the most to reduce travel times/delays, reduce congestion, and improve transportation network safety and reliability.
  5. Meeting the region’s transportation challenges requires not only selecting/advancing the right priorities, but a new process that is more regional and professional and less parochial, political and ideologically driven.

This independent study was sponsored by the 2030 Group, an association of business and community leaders working towards greater regional cooperation on long-term planning and economic issues.
For a copy of the report, please visit www.The2030Group.com.


The survey involved telephone and focus group interviews conducted between late February and early June 2011. Participants were asked a series of questions regarding regional and sub-regional priorities within their areas of expertise, as well as the most important criterion upon which to best prioritize selection. Other questions involved the current planning process and how to improve upon it.

A total of 45 transportation professionals participated. All participants were highly trained and experienced traffic engineers, transportation administrators, civil engineers, designers, or urban planners. All participants had a minimum of 20 years hands-on experience in the private sector, the public sector or both, and most have worked with both highway and transit projects.

The geographical distribution/area of participants’ expertise:

  • Northern Virginia – 37.2%
  • Suburban Maryland – 32.5
  • District of Columbia – 9.3%
  • Regional – 20.9

About the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance
The Alliance is a not-for-profit business/citizen education and advocacy group founded in 1987 to advance the funding and construction of long neglected major transportation projects that will best improve travel across the region. For more information, please visit: www.nvta.org

About the Suburban Maryland Transportation Alliance (SMTA)
SMTA is a not-for-profit transportation advocacy organization founded earlier this year to educate policymakers and residents of Suburban Maryland on the real choices we face in improving transportation in the Greater Washington region, to advocate for increased funding for transportation including mass transit and roads, and to encourage leaders at the local, state and regional levels to commit those funds to cost-effective capacity improvements that do the most good in relieving traffic congestion and improving mobility. Former Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan currently serves as Chair. Visit www.mdtransportation.org for more details.

About the 2030 Group
The 2030 Group is an association of Washington metropolitan area business leaders focused on regional long-term decision-making and solutions. The mission of the 2030 Group is to initiate academic research and analysis to better understand the growth trends affecting our region today and over the next twenty years and translate those into action-oriented results for greater regional cooperation. For more information, please visit www.The2030Group.com.