In the face of an alarming economic downturn, transportation more than ever ranks among the state's most critical problems, according to an analysis by Alan E. Pisarski, a nationally known transportation analyst and adviser. With both an aging and a fast-growing population in the state, policymakers must begin to think creatively, take real action and closely assess results, warns the author. Assuring access to work is the basis for a productive economy, Pisarski emphasizes. He cites four levels of travel needs that must all be met simultaneously. They are interstate commerce, statewide economic promotion, major metro area needs and local community needs of daily life. Adding to the critical nature of the issue, a hallmark of the coming years will be the aging of the massive baby-boomer generation. This will dramatically change travel patterns, as some older citizens continue working and others will also need access to medical and social services. At the same time, the state's work force will grow more diverse not only in terms of age, sex, race, ethnicity and skills, but in the locations and time patterns of work. In addition to improving the employment climate, uncongested transportation can help stabilize housing values by improving access to all neighborhoods, he writes. Another benefit of sound policy will be Virginia tourism, especially as the baby-boomer generation retires. But transportation policymakers face complex challenges, he says, because multi-worker households and frequent job changes will continue to generate long work trips for employees, even with more flexible hours provided. Lower-income, two-worker families, pushed to the edge of regions by housing costs, will face the hardship of traveling long distances to different work sites. In the face of these trends, Pisarski says Virginia needs to adopt a "performance-based, outcome-driven approach" to transportation programs.
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The Virginia News Letter