An Atypical Return to the Office is Calling for Vanpools in the DMV Area to Pivot Once Again.

Posted By: Kerry McKenney General News,

Commuters working outside of the Fredericksburg, Virginia, region are not working in the office at pre-

pandemic levels, but they are experiencing pre-pandemic level traffic and congestion on their journeys to work. Our area has limited transit options in the widely suburban landscape yet as a bedroom community to the Washington DC area, there is a high demand for commuter transportation. Most of the single occupancy vehicle commuters from the GWRideConnect region, the TDM organization that covers Virginia Planning District 16, must travel through the top two worst bottlenecks in the DMV. (DMV refers to DC, Maryland, and Virginia area.) They pass through the second worst heading north to DC and then encounter the region’s very worst bottleneck on their way home.  These hot spots are on Interstate 95 and were identified by the National Capitol Region Transportation Planning Board in a twelve-year analysis.

As the number of workers returning to the office has been increasing, traffic is already back to pre-pandemic levels and trending upward. Commuters have an average drive of 50 miles between our region and the Metro Washington area, where there is a large concentration of Federal workers.  According to the 2022 State of the Commute Survey conducted by the Metro Washington Council of Governments, telework has increased fivefold, and driving-alone commutes have dropped around 20 percent since 2019. With telework increasing, it seems logical to assume that traffic would lessen; however, new telework and hybrid schedules offer flexibility that was not available pre-pandemic. The Monday- Friday 9-5 office day is no longer the standard, as workers can go in at different times, on different days, and can deviate from their in-office schedule. While having the flexibility to change in-office days is a great benefit to the commuter, it can hinder a vanpool from optimizing trips.

At GWRideConnect, we worked diligently throughout the pandemic to help the private vanpool operators in our region rightsize their operations. The program is currently focusing on strengthening our current vanpools and supporting the existing vanpool operators to navigate the changes in commuter behavior post-pandemic.  We are also focusing on reaching out to the community to encourage more commuters to consider ride-sharing or transit. Our area is within commuting distance of both the Washington, DC, area and the Richmond, VA, area which creates a high demand for commuter transportation to employers that are dispersed over a large area in both metropolitan areas. The most efficient way for us to meet that demand is vanpooling, so we are encouraging and supporting our vanpool operators to negotiate the new demand. As we hear calls for returning to the office, we are listening, learning, and innovating as the demand for transportation transforms with the workweek.