Teleworking’s hidden environmental costs

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent shelter-in-place orders, more Americans are teleworking. This has drastically reduced VMT and air emissions. Policymakers may be tempted to try to encourage teleworking post-COVID-19 in order to keep the traffic down and the air clean. But as we’ve reported before, telework is probably not a great strategy for emissions reduction, due to several rebound effects. Teleworkers tend to live farther from job centers, in lower-density environments, leading to longer, more auto-dependent commutes when they do go into the office, as well as higher levels of non-work VMT.

Comparing the car travel of Millennials and Generation X

A new study in the Journal of Planning Education and Research compares the 2017 VMT patterns of Millennials to the 2001 patterns of Generation X. Both groups were at a similar age at the time of the surveys. Previous commentary has proposed that Millennials’ driving patterns would approach those of the previous generation once they aged into child rearing and more fully recovered from the recession of 2008. This study concludes that Millennials are not as likely to drive, even as they reach these traditional milestones.

What states and cities can do to mitigate speeding during the pandemic

Traffic volumes have plummeted since the pandemic. While that has led to fewer crashes overall in some states and cities, a growing number report large increases in speeding citations. In California, the number of tickets issued for driving above 100 miles per hour is 87 percent higher than this time last year. Similar reports have emerged across the country. Besides enforcement, what can states and cities do to reduce dangerous driving?

In the midst of nationwide transit service cuts, more than one million rural households do not have a car

Many transit agencies have been forced to drastically scale back services due to rapidly declining revenues, and rural providers are no exception. Many were already operating on incredibly tight budgets, serving large geographic areas with a small staff of part-time drivers. While it is easy to see how pandemic-related service cuts will impact people in urban areas who rely on transit, the impacts will likely be just as devastating for many rural communities, especially the pockets of rural America with disproportionately low car ownership.

In the midst of nationwide transit service cuts, more than one million rural households do not have a car

Many transit agencies have been forced to drastically scale back services due to rapidly declining revenues, and rural providers are no exception. Many were already operating on incredibly tight budgets, serving large geographic areas with a small staff of part-time drivers. While it is easy to see how pandemic-related service cuts will impact people in urban areas who rely on transit, the impacts will likely be just as devastating for many rural communities, especially the pockets of rural America with disproportionately low car ownership.

Active travel: A mental health solution

A recent study from the Netherlands found that while active travel might not affect body weight, it does have a significant positive impact on a traveler’s mental health. The results from this study suggest that while active travel does not predict BMI, the decrease in BMI levels as a result of healthy eating habits and physical exercise does result in the uptake of active travel. Conversely, an increase in BMI was associated with decreased affinity toward active travel. On the other hand, the researchers observed a strong relationship between active travel and the traveler experiencing positive emotions.

With traffic down, Oregon DOT can move more vehicles at twice the speed

With overall traffic down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, one highway in Oregon is now moving higher traffic volumes at twice the typical speed, according to an analysis by Joe Cortright at City Observatory. This might seem counterintuitive, but it perfectly illustrates the benefits of managing traffic demand, based on simple traffic engineering principles.

Oregon moves toward a safer speed-limit approach

The Oregon Transportation Commission last month approved a revised speed-limit guidance that abandons the long-standing-but-arbitrary 85th percentile rule in many cases. Instead of relying on drivers to set speeds by their behavior, the new guidance provides context-based safe speed ranges for urban and suburban roadways, ranging from 20-25 mph in urban cores to 25-35 mph in more suburban areas. The rule gives leeway for setting limits outside of those ranges. Rationales for exceptions do include observed motorist speeds, but they are based on the slower 50th percentile rather than the 85th.

The risk of premature death from transportation noise

The health risks of exposure to transportation noise may not command the same attention as those of exposure to particulate matter or motor vehicle crashes. But it turns out that prolonged exposure to noise is a serious matter, with numerous deleterious health effects—from sleep disruption and behavioral changes, to hearing loss, hypertension, and heart disease. New research focusing on Houston, Texas, attributes nearly as many premature deaths to transportation noise as to motor vehicle crashes, and shows that low-income households are at heightened risk of death from transportation noise exposure.