One of the early rites of passage for me and those of my generation was to get a driver’s license. I was pleased to run errands for the family, and my parents were generous in allowing me to use the family car for school and social events.
Now I understand that about a fourth of millennials are not even bothering to get a driver’s license. And when you consider how many communities are developing by transit oriented development (TOD) principles, there is less of a need to own or lease an automobile. These shifts in living patterns have significant public policy implications.
With the opening of the Silver Line to Wiehle-Reston East, I have another alternative for my travels. Within a year residents in the new apartments under construction by Comstock at Reston Station will be able to take the elevator down to the plaza to the bus to Dulles on the Silver Line to points east as well as Maryland.
For weekend travel, a Zipcar or other hourly rentals are available, and a bicycle provides good healthy exercise. A new hourly car rental system allows you to leave the car at your destination without the need to return it to where you picked it up. Some suggest that the driverless vehicle is not that far in the distant future, and with the rapid advances I have seen in recent times, I believe them.
The traditional taxi system got a jolt with the introduction of Uber and other companies that use drivers and their own automobiles to transport passengers. The Virginia General Assembly passed legislation this year to establish a legal framework under which the companies can provide service to consumers in a safe and legal way. I would guess that there is likely to be a melding of these two businesses in the future to provide more convenient car ridesharing.
In the short run, I understand the interests of persons dependent upon automobile travel that our roadway surfaces be repaired and that traffic congestion be reduced.
We suffer from more than a decade of refusal on the part of the legislature to provide adequate funding for highway construction and repair. During that time I co-sponsored and voted for many bills only to see them defeated. Technological advances are helping to reduce congestion with better traffic light systems and with regulated traffic systems as has just been introduced on I-66.
These improvements must take into account the bigger picture of transportation. Road improvements must include bicycle travel lanes. Mass transit will need subsidy just as our roads are subsidized. Public and private incentives need to be offered for car-pooling, and the use of transit. TOD must be given priority.
Our public policy on transportation must recognize that there are many different ways to go.