Long credited with fueling economic develop-ment in Northern Virginia, Metrorail and Virginia Railway Express (VRE) also provide financial benefits to the state. The additional 85,000 households and 130,500 jobs that the two rail systems make possible in Northern Virginia generate over $600 million each year in sales and income tax revenues that flow to Richmond. For every dollar the state invests in Metrorail and VRE, it receives $2.50 in return. $600 million, while just over 3 percent of general fund revenues, is significant. It covers Virginia’s annual general-fund expenditures on state colleges and universities, about $316 million, and state police, roughly $266 million.
To quantify the value that Metrorail and VRE bring to the Common-wealth of Virginia NVTC took the current traffic and development in the region, removed Metrorail and VRE from the picture, then moved development out of Northern Virginia to the District of Columbia or Maryland until traffic models showed a return to current levels of peak period congestion.
Based on the number of jobs and homes moved across the Potomac River, NVTC then estimated how much less the commonwealth would take in from income taxes and the portion of the sales tax that goes directly to the state’s general fund.
Part of what distinguishes this study from earlier ones is that it is dynamic, accounting for the level of activity that the regional transportation network can support. NVTC’s approach is unique in that it evaluates the interaction between land use and transportation demand.
The results of the first runs of the transportation model, which removed rail transit in Northern Virginia and held to the existing land use totals, demonstrate rail’s importance for commuters in Northern Virginia. With the added congestion, commuters could not travel as far in the same amount of time. Their trip length decreased by about 5 percent, which is significant.
The impacts associated with a lack of rail transit in Northern Virginia are:
- 56,500 more lane miles of congestion on arterial roadways;
- 50 percent fewer transit trips in the peak period;
- 80 percent decrease in jobs accessible by transit for Northern Virginia households; and
- 130,000 fewer transit trips each weekday.