Washington DC Mobility and Transportation (Q4 2018)

- Collin Smith, AEG Fellow               

Amazon’s recent announcement that it will locate part of its new headquarters in Crystal City, Arlington, Virginia will provide a significant jolt to the economy in the DC metro area. However, it has also created a new focus on the transportation infrastructure in metro DC, an area that already experiences regular traffic bottlenecks as it works to transport hundreds of thousands of commuters to and from the District each day. Amazon’s announcement was just another reminder that if DC is going to provide a sustainable living environment for its residents long into the future, it must make sure that its transit system grows and adapts to changes in demographics and technology.

Given this context, Advanced Energy Group’s Q4 Stakeholder Breakfast in Washington, DC is especially salient. This event, which will be held on December 13, will focus on the topic of Mobility & Transportation and will convene an impressive group of stakeholders who collectively touch on almost every aspect of DC’s transportation sector. The event will feature speakers from the regional transit authority WMATA, the local electric utility Pepco, the electric bus start-up Proterra, and the global delivery giant, UPS. These speakers will be joined by a host of other energy and transportation professionals to discuss the challenges of mobility and evolution of transportation in the District.

This discussion will build on several targets and initiatives that have already been developed by the city. Below is a quick snapshot of the steps DC has taken towards promoting several different components of a sustainable transit system, as well as goals the District has for future progress.

 

Electric vehicles:

Expanding use of electric vehicles (EVs) helps reduce air pollutants and emissions in urban environments, and as DC’s power system comes to use more low-carbon sources, EVs reduce the transportation system’s overall carbon footprint as well. DC has already enacted several measures to promote the use of EVs, including exempting them from the city’s vehicle license fee and restrictions on travel in HOV lanes. The recently released DC Clean Energy plan proposes a number of additional measures to improve uptake of EVs, which currently represent a below-average .23% of the District’s car market (compared to 1.2% nationally). These proposals included regulations to install EV charging infrastructure at buildings and parking lots, tax incentives to reduce costs for consumers, and the creation of an EV purchasing center to support the retail market for EVs. Pepco also recently announced plans to invest $15 billion in new charging infrastructure, helping to bring the number of public charging stations from 76 today to over 1000 by 2030.

 

Public transit:

Public transit is a key element of any city’s efforts to reduce congestion and increase the sustainability of its transportation system, and DC is no exception. The Sustainable DC plan, a forward-looking set of targets developed collaboratively by several DC government departments, aims to have 50% of commuter trips use public transit by 2032. The plan proposes a number of initiatives to achieve this, including the critical goal of increasing public transit access in underserved communities. Meanwhile, the public transit system in DC is working to become cleaner. Fourteen new electric buses were added to the District government-owned Circulator bus system this year, and last year WMATA announced that it had reduced emissions from its own transit infrastructure by 7% year-on-year through a host of energy efficiency measures. WMATA plans to continue these improvements in the future by implementing a number of additional recommendations from a recently completed efficiency audit, working toward a goal of reducing GHG emissions from its operations by 50% by 2025.

 

Non-vehicle transit:

            DC recognizes the importance of non-vehicle transportation options to the development of a sustainable transportation sector. The Sustainable DC plan wants the number of commuter trips taken by biking or walking to grow to 25% of all commuter trips by 2032. To do this, it proposes developing and maintaining 100 miles of biking trails (up from 83 miles today) and prioritizing the construction and maintenance of sidewalks around schools, parks, transit shops, and retail corridors. DC’s extensive Capital Bikeshare rental network also has a role to play in this vision, with plans being developed to expand the network so that a bikeshare station is within a half mile of every DC resident’s home.

Next-generation transit options:

            Advancements in technology and business models have also brought new opportunities to improve the transit offerings available to residents of the District. The new dockless bike and scooter systems that have arrived in DC over the past few years are an example of this, and at the end of this year, DC’s pilot period for these transport options will finish up. DC government will open 2019 with a new set of regulations governing their expansion in the city, primarily focused on the process and fees associated with receiving a license to operate within its borders. Further into the future (but perhaps not too much further) is the introduction of autonomous vehicles (AVs), which promise to radically change the way we use and interact with the transportation system on a number of different dimensions. DC is getting a jump on this technology shift as well by launching a pilot with Ford to test AVs within the District. The pilot will have an initial focus on using AVs for ride-hailing and food and package delivery, with a goal for commercial deployment of the technology by 2021.

            Progress towards these goals, as well as the challenges DC still faces in achieving them, will be a major subject of discussion on AEG’s Q4 Stakeholder Breakfast. You can check out more details about the event (and lock down your RSVP) here.

 

 

Advanced Energy Group is a stakeholder member-supported organization committed to developing and delivering advanced energy policies and solutions in key cities.  Stakeholder sessions are by invitation only.  For details of our programming please visit:

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