The incompatibility of Vision Zero and VMT growth

The U.S. transportation field has tried many things to reduce traffic crashes, fatalities, and injuries: drunk-driving and seatbelt laws; in-vehicle safety improvements; wide, straight roads with crash zones; graduated licensing; and more. Yet traffic crashes still kill 35,000-40,000 Americans each year and injure millions. A new online resource that helps explain the situation. Fatalities are largely a function of miles driven, so you can’t be serious about Vision Zero without also being serious about VMT management.

Using Big Data for estimating VMT and reliable travel patterns

For the longest time we’ve relied on the Highway Performance Monitoring System for understanding travel patterns and estimating vehicle miles of travel. But these estimates often have not been very accurate because of inadequacies in data collection. Big data is providing more precise and more complete information that can be used for both planning and seeing the impacts of policy. In a new report, StreetLight Data, a leader in the transportation big data field, is showing us how it’s done.

Milwaukee sees new investment where freeway once stood

Just as more U.S. cities are beginning to see urban highways and parking lots as opportunities for development, Milwaukee is reaping the benefits of its freeway removal efforts, which date back two decades. The 24-acre downtown corridor where the Park East Freeway stood until 2003 has generated $886 million in new investment, and more development is planned.

Setting speed limits based on safety, not driver behavior

The 85th percentile rule in speed limit setting—an arbitrary but longstanding convention—has begun to weaken in recent years, with new guidance now allowing for lower speeds. FHWA’s USLIMITS2, for example, allows for speeds down to the 50th percentile in certain cases. Now there’s a growing push to take observed vehicle speed out of the speed limit equation entirely.

New resource offers guidance and tools for right-sizing transportation investments

NCHRP has released a new guidebook to help state DOTs systematically integrate a right-sizing approach into their decision-making. The practice of “right-sizing” involves modifying the size, extent, function, and composition of existing or planned infrastructure and services to better reflect current needs, goals, and economic realities. While right-sizing has gained popularity, few agencies are doing right-sizing routinely. NCHRP’s new guidebook may help bridge that gap.

Framing resilience for state DOTs

The mission of many state DOTs has evolved beyond the traditional “highway department” to include protecting the quality of life of the people of a given state, and the integration of all travel modes to safely move people and goods. Resilience has come to mean more than the quick and cost-effective restoration of roads after a disaster. Acknowledging this, a new paper in Transportation Research Part D focuses on resilience in theory and practice, and explores a framework for the discussion of resilience within state DOTs and the development of resilience strategies.

Researchers say investment in infrastructure has the potential to move short trips out of cars

Can the rise of new personal mobility options lure drivers out of their cars for short trips? Several recent reports say, “yes,” but only if cities resolve both infrastructure and legal issues surrounding their use. At the same time, examination of walking and biking rates from 2001 to 2017 show that better infrastructure and policies are needed to help them supplant driving for short trips. However, cities that have invested in infrastructure have seen a dramatic rise in active transportation.

How reliable are traffic forecasts?

As reliant on traffic forecasts as transportation agencies are to plan and design road projects, those forecasts are rarely evaluated to see how well they held up after project implementation. A massive new study, outlined in a recent NCHRP report, fills that gap. It compares traffic forecasts from 1,291 projects that opened since 1970 to actual traffic counts. Only 10 percent of the projects opened before 2003.