Metro moving forward with plan to use Uber; Lyft for paratransit services
This fall Metro will officially open the bidding process for contractors to provide paratransit services, providing an alternative to MetroAccess, its door-to-door service for the elderly and people with disabilities. The popular ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft top the list of prospective contractors for the new service, which officials say could help the transit agency save millions on its heavily subsidized paratransit program. It also would answer customers’ growing demand for same-day, app-based transportation services. Metro plans to issue an RFP in September with the intent to have the service in place by spring 2017, according to Christian Kent, assistant general manager for Metro’s Access Services department. The pilot program will be for users in the Maryland suburbs, where two-thirds of MetroAccess customers live.
Major changes could be coming to Richmond Highway. Fairfax County wants to extend Metro’s Yellow Line and build a Bus Rapid Transit system that will run from the Beltway to Woodbridge. The improvements, discussed as part of a study that focuses on increasing and diversifying transit options along the busy commuter route, would support long-term growth and economic development, county officials say. “It will bring Richmond Highway into the 21st Century,” Supervisor Daniel G. Storck (D-Mount Vernon) said. “It is about bringing mass transit and Metro down Richmond Highway so that we have the same amenities and same opportunities as other parts of the county.”
Virginia’s top policymaking panel on transportation gave unanimous approval Thursday to 10 programs supporters say will make travel easier when the rush-hour toll lanes open on Interstate 66 inside the Capital Beltway next summer. State officials want these services — basically, programs that help people leave their cars behind for trips in the I-66 corridor — to be ready to go when the high-occupancy toll lanes are ready to launch. While Virginia already has an extensive network of HOT lanes on the Capital Beltway and I-95/395, the traffic-easing programs are a unique feature of the “Transform 66″ project. Early on in the I-66 planning, Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne said the state would commit to using some of the toll revenue to programs that would enhance carpooling and commuter bus-riding, as well as others that would offer alternatives to solo driving at rush hours in one of the D.C. region’s most congested highway corridors.
During a time of year when ridership typically drops due to summer vacations and flexible schedules, the Virginia Railway Express is instead carrying more passengers than ever –with the highest single-day ridership of 23,309 individual trips on July 12. The uptick in single-day trips continued through the week, with 21,935 trips on July 13 and 21,196 trips on July 14. The weekly ridership record was broken, as VRE topped 100,000 trips last week, according to a news release. This ridership surge can be linked to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s SafeTrack program. Beginning July 5, WMATA’s SafeTrack Surges #3 and #4 closed sections of Metrorail’s Blue and Yellow lines in Northern Virginia. Those Metrorail lines generally parallel VRE’s rail lines and serve many of the same destinations, allowing Metro riders to easily transition to VRE.
The Commonwealth Transportation Board, which oversees billions of dollars worth of road, rail, bridge and other projects across the state, approved a series of revisions Thursday to the scoring system adopted in 2014 to prioritize and depoliticize transportation spending. The changes, which Chairman Aubrey L. Layne Jr., Virginia’s transportation secretary, called “fairly perfunctory,” come as the Virginia Department of Transportation opens the two-month window on Monday for counties, cities and transportation planning organizations and transit agencies to submit projects to be scored under the process, itself undergoing a rebranding. Originally named HB2 for the bill that created it in 2014, VDOT has rechristened the program “SMART SCALE.” There was always the intent to rename the scoring system, which earned Virginia an award from the Southern Legislative Conference of the Council of State Governments earlier this month, but the need grew more urgent as debate raged earlier this year over a North Carolina law, also called HB2, dealing with gender identity and bathrooms, Layne said.
A private consultant hired to assess Prince William County’s homeless services praised local strategies for families and children but found “a critical lack” of services for adult men, many of whom live in area homeless camps. At the same time, the report was critical of efforts to help tent-city residents, calling regular deliveries of water, propane and camping supplies “a service culture” that is “more often enabling than engaging.” “While many efforts within the Prince William area are good-natured and well-intended by good-hearted individuals, many efforts like ‘street feeding’ [are] very enabling and do little to engage individuals that are experiencing homelessness into recovery programs,” says the report, which was written by Texas-based consultant Robert G. Marbut, Jr.
Stafford County leaders recently bemoaned passing a resolution that they say will constrict the county’s ability to ensure that future development pays for itself. But supervisors felt compelled to approve the measure that throws out their proffer guidelines because of a controversial state law. “It hurts my heart,” Supervisor Wendy Maurer said before casting her vote. Proffers are voluntary contributions by developers to the county to offset the impact of the development on county services. Supervisors typically negotiate proffers with home builders throughout the process to rezone a property.
Hillary Clinton has picked Sen. Tim Kaine as her running mate, adding to the Democratic ticket a genial and seasoned former Richmond mayor and Virginia governor who is fluent in Spanish and hails from a key swing state. Kaine, who was Barack Obama’s runner-up in 2008, would be the first vice president from Virginia since John Tyler — another former Virginia governor — held the office for a month in 1841. Kaine, Virginia’s governor from 2006 to 2010, gives Clinton a steady governing partner whose even temperament overshadows a strong competitive streak. He has never lost an election.
Government Affairs Coordinator