Multimodal transportation refers to the network of airports, seaports, roads, rails, transit systems, and walkways that are integrated to form a seamless system for moving people and freight from point to point. Typically, the more viable options there are for movement -- and the better these modes support and interconnect with each other -- the less congestion and stress there will be on all systems.
Why is Multimodal Important?
Virginia has numerous transportation assets, including a major seaport; three international airports (Dulles, National, and Richmond); 74,378 miles of public roadway; 3,214 miles of railroad for freight transportation; 670 miles of inland waterway; four light rail and commuter rail systems; and many bicycle and pedestrian trails and walkways.
When properly planned, maintained, and managed, such assets can be integrated to provide a safe, reliable, rapid, cost-effective, energy-conserving, and environmentally friendly means of moving goods and passengers. Multimodal transport can minimize the amount of freight and people that travel by roadway, help ease congestion, improve passenger safety, reduce travel times, and increase consumer and producer mobility options. An efficient, low-cost multimodal transportation system also contributes to economic growth and development and improves residents' quality of life.
How is Virginia Doing?
Getting to Work
Since 2006 Virginia has remained fairly steady in the percentage of workers reporting they commuted to work by means that place a lower burden on roads: public transit, car pool, walking, bicycling, or avoiding travel altogether by working at home. Alternative travel in Virginia ranged from a high of 22.2% in 2008 to a low of 20.9 in 2011. In 2015 that rate was 21.2%, lower than the national average (22.2%) and ranking the state 19th best in the nation. Maryland ranked highest among peer states with 25.2 percent, while New York again led the country with 46.1 percent of workers using alternative means to get to work.
Among Virginia's regions, the Northern region had the highest percentage (27.8 %) of alternative commuting methods for the 5-year period 2010-2014. The lowest percentages were found in the more rural Southwest (14.7%), Southside (15.9%), West Central (17.4%) and Valley (17.6%) regions.
Freight originating in Virginia is shipped by a variety of modes, including truck, rail, water, air, pipeline, and combinations of the above. Freight activity can be measured in two ways: tonnage and value. Value provides a good indicator of the economic activity associated with freight, while tonnage better captures the demand placed on the state's transportation infrastructure.Freight Transported by Single-mode Truck
|% of VALUE||% of TONNAGE||% of VALUE||% of TONNAGE|
|Louisiana - Leading State||37.2%||36.6%||32.8%||26.9%|
In 2012 (latest year national-level data is available), the percentage of Virginia-originated freight shipped by single-mode truck transport was 85.5 percent of economic value, while tonnage was 87.1 percent. These figures are similar to peer states North Carolina (87.1% and 93.1% respectively), Maryland (85.0% and 93.7%), and Tennessee (78.1% and 87.6%),but higher than the national average (73.1% and 71.3%).
The Port of Virginia generates a significant amount of Virginia freight movement. Most cargo going in and out of the port travels by truck. The Virginia Port Authority hopes to increase transportation by alternative modes like rail and barge to reduce roadway congestion. In 2015, 36 percent of freight through the Port of Virginia was transported by rail and barge, down for the second year from 2013's record high of 38 percent.
Vehicle miles traveled on Virginia's heavily used interstate highways remained fairly steady from 2005 to 2014. The mix of traffic changed slightly during this time, with 2-axle passenger cars, buses, and trucks (as well as motorcycles) accounting for an increasing share of volume: 89.2 percent of Daily Vehicle Miles Travelled (DVMT) compared to 87.3 percent in 2005. At the same time, the DVMT for multiple-axle trucks decreased from 8.3 million in 2005 to 7.3 million in 2014.
In keeping with trends nationwide, per capita annual vehicle miles of travel (VMT) has decreased steadily in Virginia since the onset of the recession -- from 10,643 miles per capita in 2007 to 9,778 miles in 2013. Virginia's average VMT was higher than the national average (9,309) and ranked 22nd lowest in the country. Maryland's 2013 VMT per capita (9,561) was lower than Virginia, while Tennessee (10,940) and North Carolina (10,684) were higher. Leading state Alaska had the lowest average VMT at 6,595.
What Influences Transportation Mode Use?
Cost, accessibility, safety, speed, reliability, comfort, and privacy are among the most important considerations when commuters choose specific travel modes. Although automobiles make up approximately 84 percent of vehicle miles travelled, many travelers choose other transportation modes such as public transit, bicycling, and walking because of personal preferences, economic constraints, or disabilities. When fuel prices are high, commuters are more likely to opt for public transit or carpooling to reduce costs.
The availability of alternative transportation and patterns of land development can also influence choice. Not surprisingly, research indicates that residents of communities with better alternative modes of transportation in neighborhoods with a mixture of commercial and residential development are less likely to travel by automobile. Demand management strategies such as tolling and congestion pricing can also alter modal choices.
To produce reliable profits, commercial freight carriers choose travel paths and modes that provide the best combinations of cost, speed, reliability and service. Modal choice can be influenced by travel distance, shipment size, value, weight, packaging requirements, product perishability, and hazardous material content. Transportation network characteristics such as infrastructure availability, congestion levels, and transportation mode regulations are also important. Carrier market characteristics such as availability and competition can also affect freight flows. Freight with higher value-to-weight ratios and haul distances less than 500 miles typically use short-haul modes like trucks. Shipments with lower value-to-weight ratios and longer travel distances are more likely to choose long-haul modes such as rail and water. Shipping often involves multiple modes to combine the cost or speed advantages of one mode (e.g., rail, water, air) with the pickup and delivery convenience of truck transportation.
Virginia experiences large freight volumes, due largely to the presence of a major East Coast seaport in Hampton Roads and numerous military installations. Approximately 41 percent of Virginia's freight tonnage passes through the state on the way to or from other states. Consequently, Virginia hosts a relatively large logistics and supply chain management industry which provides state-of-the-art services for the storage, movement, and distribution of freight that in turn supports a robust multimodal transportation system.
Roadway usage levels are sensitive to many variables, including transportation mode choices, economic activity levels, energy prices, and demographics. During the recession, reduced flows of both freight and commuters helped to ease congestion in many busy travel corridors. Recent decreases in VMT have also been linked to changing demographics and tastes, such as increasing retirement rates among Baby Boomers and the declining appetite for car ownership among Millennials.
What is the State's Role?
The Office of Intermodal Planning and Investment administers multimodal transportation policy in the Commonwealth, under the guidance of Virginia's long-range statewide plan, VTrans2035. Plan goals include:
- Mobility, Connectivity, and Accessibility – Facilitate the easy movement of people and goods, improve interconnectivity of regions and activity centers, and provide access to different modes of transportation.
- Coordination of Transportation and Land Use – Promote livable communities and reduce transportation costs by facilitating the coordination of transportation and land use.
The plan coordinates and integrates the strategies of several agencies within the Secretariat of Transportation (Department of Rail and Public Transportation, Department of Motor Vehicles, Department of Aviation, Virginia Port Authority, Virginia Commercial Spaceflight Authority).
With passage of the Virginia's Road to the Future transportation funding and reform package in 2013, over $3 billion in new monies is being directed to the Commonwealth's multimodal transportation network over the next five years, including highway maintenance and construction, public transit, intercity passenger rail, freight rail, airports, seaports, and regional transportation priorities.
State rankings are ordered so that #1 is understood to be the best.
Data Definitions and Sources
Means of Transportation to Work, Workers 16 year and over
U.S. Bureau of the Census, American Community Survey
NOTE: State figures are based on ACS 1-year estimates. Regional figures are based on the ACS's rolling 5-year estimates between January 2005-December 2014.
U.S. Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Commodity Flow Survey
Freight Moved by Rail or Barge
Virginia Port Authority, Port Stats
Virginia Department of Transportation
DVMT by Federal Vehicle Class
Vehicle Miles of Travel (VMT) Per Capita or Average VMT
U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, Office of Highway Policy Information, Highway Statistics Series
Vehicles Miles of Travel (VMT) is defined as the mileage traveled by all vehicles on a road system during a year. Daily Vehicle Miles Traveled (DVMT) is VMT divided by the number of days in a year.
Office of Intermodal Planning and Investment
D. Salon, MG Boarnet, S. Handy, S. Spears, G. Tal. 2012. How do local actions affect VMT? A critical review of the empirical evidence. Transportation Research Part D 17: 495-508.
MA McGinnis. 1989. A comparative evaluation of freight transportation choice models. Transportation Journal 29, 2: 36-46.
See the Data Sources and Updates Calendar for a detailed list of the data resources used for indicator measures on Virginia Performs.