Shifting from LOS to VMT would save time, money, and better support local goals

Two recent studies suggest that California’s change in assessing the impact of development—from level of service (LOS) to vehicle miles traveled (VMT)—can reduce costs for developers and streamline the review of projects. Under the new guidelines, both studies to determine transportation impacts and any mitigation measures after review are less costly than the previous requirements. This has been confirmed not just by academic studies, but also by the City of Pasadena in a paper by recently-retired Director of Transportation, Fred Dock.

Small increases in rainfall could cause big problems for road networks

There is a lot we still don’t know about how climate change will affect transportation networks and how to make infrastructure more resilient, but new research sheds some light on these questions. A model developed to study the impacts of floods on road networks indicates that even small, localized increases in rainfall could cause widespread disruptions and road outages.

Researchers re-evaluate how we value transportation

Transportation agencies and metropolitan planning organizations often wrestle with how to properly value transportation investments, especially when it comes to things that can’t be measured in terms of vehicle delay, such as multimodal access and environmental justice. Some of these challenges are tackled in a new issue of Research in Transportation and Business Management, edited in part by SSTI. Those familiar with SSTI’s recent work in the development and implementation of accessibility metrics may be interested in a paper describing a new measure of non-work accessibility.

To meet clean energy goals, everyone will need better transportation options

The proposed Green New Deal, like many local green energy and climate action plans across the country, aspires to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions. SSTI has crunched the numbers in several cases, including for Hawaii’s Transcending Oil report, and found that ignoring the amount that people drive means even the most ambitious energy plans could fall well below their targets. But that also means focusing on those who drive the most—typically in far-flung suburbs with limited transportation options—and finding creative ways for them to reduce their impacts.

To meet clean energy goals, everyone will need better transportation options

The proposed Green New Deal, like many local green energy and climate action plans across the country, aspires to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions. SSTI has crunched the numbers in several cases, including for Hawaii’s Transcending Oil report, and found that ignoring the amount that people drive means even the most ambitious energy plans could fall well below their targets. But that also means focusing on those who drive the most—typically in far-flung suburbs with limited transportation options—and finding creative ways for them to reduce their impacts.

Estimating policy effects on reduced vehicle travel in Hawaii (SSTI, 2019)

Transcending Oil, released in April 2018, describes Hawaii’s path toward meeting its ambitious clean energy goals by 2045. The report was commissioned by Elemental Excelerator and prepared independently by Rhodium Group and Smart Growth America. It focuses mainly on transitioning the electrical grid to renewable energy while moving large numbers of vehicles to electric power but also points to the importance of managing overall travel demand through transportation policies and investments. This technical guide describes the methods and findings behind Transcending Oil’s travel demand forecasts, developed by SSTI and Smart Growth America.

Modernizing Mitigation: A Demand-Centered Approach (SSTI, September 2018)

This report proposes a new approach to assessing and responding to land use-driven transportation impacts, called “modern mitigation.” Instead of relying on auto capacity improvements as a first resort, this approach builds on practice around transportation demand management (TDM) to make traffic reduction the priority. Based on programs dating to the 1990s in several cities, a modern mitigation program requires certain new land uses to achieve TDM credits.

SSTI CEO Community of Practice meets in Boston

CEOs and other senior officials from 16 state DOTs, as well as the Massachusetts Commission on the Future of Transportation, gathered in late July for SSTI’s annual Community of Practice meeting. While the conversation was free-flowing without any formal motions or votes, and so is not readily summarized, readers may enjoy seeing the briefing materials that formed the basis for the discussion.

New research reinforces the importance of the built environment to cycling mode share

A recently published study from Montreal sheds new light on the importance of the built environment in influencing bicycle commuting and the resulting impacts on greenhouse gas emissions. The researchers also estimated the effect of bicycle infrastructure accessibility on cycling mode share. They estimated the effect of the new bicycle infrastructure as yielding a 1.7 percent reduction in transportation GHG emissions, roughly equivalent to the estimated effects of replacing the city’s buses with hybrid models and electrifying the city’s commuter trains.

Intersections of equity in transportation

Concern over equity in our transportation system was on display at three major conferences the last week in October. PolicyLink’s Equity Summit took on the transportation equity conversation directly. SSTI attended this conference as part of its ongoing work developing a tool to assess equity in transportation investments. Both RailVolution and the NACTO Designing Cities 2015 conference also occurred over the same week as the Equity Summit, and both meetings notably held meaningful sessions that discussed equity in the transportation system.