Mason study reveals ways Arlington can address traffic concerns

A new study by students in George Mason University’s Transportation, Policy, Operations and Logistics master’s program identifies gaps in Arlington County’s passenger and freight delivery systems and makes recommendations designed to improve the growing Northern Virginia county’s transportation systems.

The study was performed for Mobility Lab, a nonprofit that measures the impact of transportation policy, and it has been delivered to each Arlington County board member.

Among the recommendations is a subsidy program in which the county would pay services such as Uber and Lyft to get passengers to public transit hubs.

“It solves the ‘first mile, last mile’ problem,” said Mason graduate student Chris Stockwell, the project leader for the 10-student team of researchers that worked on “Connected City: A Blueprint for Arlington County.” “How do you get residents who are a little bit too far from a train or bus station to better utilize public transportation?”

The study shows that the county could potentially save money by subsidizing door-to-door service rather than operating shuttle services.

The George Mason students also tackled the understudied problem of freight deliveries, which, in Arlington, frequently create conflict between parking policies and delivery practices.

“Freight data was not readily plentiful, so we performed our own survey,” Stockwell said. “We sent people out on the street to just watch trucks and see what they’re doing. … We found a lot of inefficiencies in freight delivery service.”

With deliveries expected to increase by nearly 30 percent in the next decade, it is an area that needs more consideration, said Paul Mackie, communications director for Mobility Lab.

The study recommends that Arlington County establish a division within the county government to better partner with freight firms. It also identifies a need to strengthen outreach regarding transportation and to better share data with the public via transit screens, apps and other methods.

As Arlington County officials ponder the proposals, Jonathan Gifford, director of Mason’s Center for Transportation Public-Private Partnership Policy at Mason’s Schar School of Policy and Government, said Mobility Lab “was highly enthusiastic about the results. … While Arlington is widely recognized as a leader in multimodal mobility, there are clearly opportunities to do even more.”

“The Mason recommendations are very practical and should be useful to Arlington, which is already pretty well-connected because of its many transportation options,” Mackie said.