For many years, regional planners have aspired to reduce the number of people who commute to work by driving alone. That would reduce traffic congestion, improve air quality, reduce parking demand and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Albemarle’s Comprehensive Plan says the county will “continue to implement travel demand management strategies” including “biking and walking, carpooling and vanpooling, using Park and Ride Lots, and riding transit.” Charlottesville’s plan calls for the pursuit of “the goal of decreasing the share of single occupancy vehicle travel from 61 percent to 50 percent by 2030.”
However, there are aspirational goals and then there is reality. In Albemarle, 76.9 percent of commuters drive to work alone according to the 2017 American Community Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau. Charlottesville fares better at 59.8 percent, but still has a long way to meet its goal. The figures are similar in Greene (80.2 percent), Fluvanna (76.9 percent), Louisa (80.4 percent), and Nelson (77.5 percent).
If we can assume that many people who live outside the area commute to Charlottesville, the roads will become more congested and demand for parking will increase. Every week there is at least one major crash on a major roadway that can keep all those commuters in their cars, away from their families.
The Virginia Department of Transportation is unlikely to fund new roadways given scarce resources. Population projections from the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia show our region will continue to grow in size. If we don’t change this trend, our collective quality of life will deteriorate.
Alternatives to driving are increasing, such as additional commuter routes offered by Jaunt, increases use of vanpools, and efforts to build more shared-use paths for people who live close enough to walk or bike. But these efforts will be of no use if transportation planners do not understand the individual stories behind each person’s decision to drive alone.
On January 22, a group of stakeholders will put residents front and center to help regional stakeholders better address reducing single occupancy vehicle trips in the region. Alternatives to driving are increasing, such as additional commuter routes offered by Jaunt, increases use of vanpools, and efforts to build more shared-use paths for people who live close enough to walk or bike. But these efforts will be of no use if transportation planners do not understand the individual stories behind each person’s decision to drive alone. This event is a chance for you to be heard. Sign up today.
Sean Tubbs is a field representative at Piedmont Environmental Council. Tubbs joined PEC in June 2018 following a long stint covering land use and transportation for Charlottesville Tomorrow. His interests include transportation systems, monitoring water quality and the intricate details of zoning. At PEC Sean uses his knowledge to help promote smart growth principles that will strengthen our communities.