Department of Defense employees who commute from Prince William County have been watching gas prices rise, while traffic gets heavier, but new commuting options are available that include financial incentives to modify departure times or take alternative transportation, said Peggy Tadej, director of community and military partnerships for the Northern Virginia Regional Commission.
“We’ve been wanting to launch this pilot project for two years, but COVID froze our plans. Now, everybody’s interested in getting back to work,” Tadej said.
During the pandemic, many employees worked from home, but now two or three days a week in the office is becoming commonplace, based on congestion on Northern Virginia roads, with Wednesday morning and Thursday evening traffic being the worst.
One of the goals behind the pilot project, slated to run the rest of the year, is to suggest better departure times for those driving.
Defense commuters are encouraged to sign up with the Federal Highway Administration’s Smartphone Incentives program, which will present new travel options to and from Fort Belvoir. Using a free navigation app, participants will be given guidance to leave a little earlier or later, to avoid the most congested times, as well offer carpool options. Tadej said many will earn gift cards to their favorite stores and restaurants just for trying those suggestions.
The initiative also has the regional commission partnering with Metropia to provide Fort Belvoir commuters access to GoEzy, which helps commuters find better ways to get around by bringing all travel options into one application. As part of the pilot, Tadej said a private carpool group within the app for Fort Belvoir has been created.
The project will focus initially on the 9,000 potential commuters at the Defense Logistics Agency and Army Intelligence and Security Command, Tadej said. “There’s never been an emphasis on the defense commuter in the past, but that’s one-fourth of commuters going to Fort Belvoir, the Pentagon, and Joint Base Myer Henderson Hall. We want to help you get there.”
Tadej said the town of Quantico has expressed a willingness to help Marine Corps Base Quantico resume shuttle operations from the Quantico VRE train station to make mass transit more viable for workers there.
Although the pilot program runs through December, Tadej said the GoEzy app will continue to be available into next year to help find carpools and vanpools.
“We are going to learn a lot more about commuting needs from this pilot,” she said.