Remote work could increase driving and transportation emissions

The impacts of telecommuting often come up in SSTI’s work around travel demand management and climate action plans, so our team makes a point of staying on top of the latest relevant research. Although the pandemic showed us that remote work helped cut traffic considerably, especially in major job centers, the verdict is still out on whether widespread telecommuting could really help lower travel demand. A growing number of studies suggest it could have the opposite effect.

If the future of cars is electric, what does that mean for transportation funding?

The adoption of electric vehicles is growing in the United States, with all-electric vehicle sales increasing by 85% from 2020 to 2021 and plug-in hybrid sales rising 138%. This is a welcome trend for many, but the increased popularity of EVs combined with better fuel efficiency, and a gas tax that hasn’t been raised in thirty years, is posing a major challenge to policy makers; how to make up for lost gas tax revenue, which currently pays for 29% of state highway funds and 84% at the federal level.

Transportation agencies are facing the consequences of induced demand

Induced demand. It’s a concept that used to be popular only among the wonkiest transportation experts, and now gets covered by outlets ranging from the Washington Post to the Wall Street Journal. Governing calls it “the almost universally accepted concept” that almost no one understands, while Strong Towns calls ignorance of the concept “professional malpractice.” With new tools and a better understanding emerging, some transportation agencies are now beginning to wrestle with the implications.

Resource scarcity may slow EV transition

Numerous factors may scuttle an anticipated fuel-price driven boost to electric vehicle adoption. Due to shortages, manufacturers may not be able to ramp up production to meet demand, and the cost and availability of materials may raise the sticker price, along with the environmental sacrifice. EV manufacturers are also not immune to the resistance faced by industrial development in general.

Gas prices can have ripple effects on development patterns and travel options

Gasoline prices have clear impacts on development patterns, according to recent research that adds new evidence for the long-term impacts of transportation pricing signals. The new study shows that wage growth and low gas prices contributed to high rates of suburban growth in the 1980s and 1990s, measured in terms of deforestation. Those trends have reversed as gas prices have risen.

Millennials aren’t driving as much as previous generations

The consumption choices and lifestyle preferences of Millennials—those born between 1981 and 1996—and their differences from those of the previous generations have repeatedly piqued academic and policy makers’ interests. Although some suggest they might just be slower in adopting previous trends, a recent study from the University of Texas at Austin suggests that they are a generation that prefers to drive about 8-9 percent less than Generation X and Baby Boomers, and that they might continue to drive less as they get older.

Surging demand for goods increases pollution risks to vulnerable communities

Low-income neighborhoods and communities of color are burdened disproportionately with pollution from the transportation sector, say researchers and journalists. Often these neighborhoods, sometimes clustered in proximity to high traffic or industrial areas, show elevated disease levels when compared to majority white communities located in areas of lower emissions.

Add Virginia to the list of states testing out “plastic roads”

Engineers at the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) are studying a new type of asphalt mixture, called recycled plastic modified asphalt mixture (RPM), that could replace traditional asphalt mix. While limited research on the technology says it is a win-win for both improving longevity of roads and redirecting plastic waste from landfills, VDOT wants to confirm that the new mixture does not result in microplastic entering the environment through water runoff.