The implications of California’s SB 743 (2013), which is widely if somewhat imprecisely known as the “move away from level-of-service to vehicle-miles-traveled bill,” became clearer last week, as Caltrans issued guidance on which transportation projects will require evaluation for VMT effects.
When the U.S. DOT’s most recent “Conditions and Performance Report to Congress” hit the streets in 2012, it forecast that national vehicle-miles traveled would reach 3.3 trillion that year. A few months later we learned that their estimate was almost 11 percent too high. This is troubling in a report that is widely regarded as a gauge of the “need” for funding new highway capacity. The 2012 edition is due soon. Will this be the year that shows assumptions are adapting to reality? Or will this new report again overstate the need for highway capacity, which always comes at the expense of critical preservation and multimodal investments?