Partially automated vehicles increase VMT

Numerous studies have raised concerns that self-driving cars could flood our roads with more traffic, as commuters travel longer distances and cars drive themselves in and out of central cities to avoid parking. Fully autonomous vehicles are probably a ways off, giving policymakers time to grapple with the potential impacts, but new research suggests that even common features found in cars today like adaptive cruise control and lane guidance lead to increased vehicle miles traveled.

Agencies can help usher riders back on to transit

Even before the pandemic sent a shockwave through transit systems, ridership across the U.S. was on a slow but steady downward trajectory. A new report from Transit Cooperative Research Program points to some of the leading causes and, more importantly, ways that thoughtful planning and transit investments could help reverse the trend in the next decade.

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.

VMT ticks up again in 2019

Driving mileage in the United States climbed by just under 0.9 percent in 2019. On a per capita basis, the increase was just under 0.6 percent. The VMT figures come from FHWA’s latest Travel Volume Trends release.

VMT moderates after recession-driven swings

U.S. vehicle-miles traveled, which had declined during the recession and then spiked, returned to a more normal level in 2018. According to FHWA’s Travel Monitoring Trends data, total VMT grew by 0.4 percent in 2018. That rate was slower than population growth, resulting in a slight decline in VMT per capita.

Back to the new normal? Post-recession VMT uptick wanes

In the second half of the 20th century it was pretty easy to predict how much driving Americans would do. Vehicle-miles traveled rose steadily year-by-year, with only temporary blips around fuel shortages or recessions. In the 21st century, the pattern has been much harder to discern. The growth of VMT first slowed, then actually went into reverse during the recession. After the recovery took hold, VMT growth spiked to 20th century levels. And now, with FHWA’s VMT totals available through the first half of 2018, it appears the post-recession spike is over, and VMT is returning to a slow-growth pattern.

Travel time peaked in the 1990s, new research shows

Americans spent more than 10 hours per week traveling in the early 1990s—the highest amount in two decades—but that number has since dropped below 1975 levels to less than 8.5 hours, according to a new study published in Transportation Research Part A. The resulting travel time peak, mirrors a similar peak in average vehicle miles traveled that occurred roughly a decade later. This earlier peak, however, suggests that important shifts in travel behavior were already underway well before the recession took hold around 2007.

Cities and developers are preparing for a world with less parking

Chandler, AZ, may be the first city to recognize that apartment dwellers will need less parking in the future. In anticipation of autonomous vehicles, the city is changing its zoning code to loosen parking minimums in new buildings. Developers welcome such flexibility, as building parking can be expensive and AVs and other emerging technologies, such as ridesharing and bikesharing, are reducing the need for tenants to own personal cars.