Monica Backmon, Chief Executive Officer at Northern Virginia Transportation Authority
Moving the needles in the right direction
Transportation planners find themselves in unprecedented times. Establishing local and regional priorities has always been part of the job and, for the most part, these priorities have been constant over many decades. Today, priorities continue to evolve, and in some cases are changing fast. Consequently, transportation planners must now address important core values such as sustainability (reduce greenhouse gas emissions) and equity (make transportation decisions that consider all segments of the population). Making trade-offs between different, and in some cases conflicting, priorities is now the norm for transportation planners, but there is no playbook as to how to do it. Northern Virginia has an ‘all of the above multimodal’ philosophy rather than a ‘one-size fits all’ approach. NVTA has prepared the region for emerging transportation technologies, the development of which is beyond NVTA’s control, by incorporating a transportation technology strategic plan into its long-range transportation plan. The latest edition of NVTA’s long-range plan (adopted in December 2022) flags a regional bus rapid transit (BRT) system as a new way forward if the region is to reduce its dependency on driving alone. Time (and funding) will tell how quickly regions like Northern Virginia, and regional government bodies such as NVTA, can address today’s priorities. In NVTA’s case, BRT and technologies that support the region’s vision will likely be a part of the pathway forward. What are other regions doing and can we learn from one another?
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This series is presented thanks in part to the generous support of the Louis B. Wetmore Endowment Fund, which provides resources to bring planning practitioners to our department where they interact with students and faculty.