NCHRP report shows high variation, but general decline, in VMT forecasts

A new tool, called Impacts 2050, provides important insight into the uncertainty associated with conventional travel demand forecasts by allowing users to model different future scenarios while taking socio-demographic trends into account. In a report for the National Highway Research Program, the tool’s developers describe the outcomes for a wide range of possible scenarios and suggest that demand for automobile travel will likely stay at its current level or drop markedly in the coming decades.

Bicycle data: Filling the gaps

A decade’s worth of data now shows bicycle commuting and trip-making continuing to rise around the nation. And yet, by most measures, funding and infrastructure for bicycles have not kept pace. Neither have data collection and analysis. Recognizing the problems associated with missing data, transportation, researchers, and independent enthusiasts are all stepping up to fill that gap.

Recent VMT trends changing DOT investments

Oregon is set to save an estimated $6.2 million by scaling back part of a Eugene area interchange expansion project on Interstate 5. The first three phases of the I-5/Randy Papé Beltline Interchange project have proceeded as planned but the final phase is being scaled back based on the recommendations of two government advisory boards and a 2011 traffic study that forecast 20 percent lower traffic on the facility than was estimated in its environmental study.

Fitch urges policymakers to plan for changing travel demands

Fitch Rating—the third largest credit rating agency in the U.S.—acknowledged earlier this month that we may be entering a new era in travel demand, which will likely have a major impact on transportation infrastructure spending. In a recent commentary article, they point to record transit use and multi-family home construction as two key trends affecting this change.

California travel surveys show big shift away from driving

Last year the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) released the findings from its decennial household travel survey. The 2012 survey shows that the average California household made about 25 percent fewer trips by automobile than it did in 2001, and 65 to 75 percent more trips by walking, biking, and public transit. Those changes mean the shares of the three non-auto modes doubled. While the new survey better accounted for non-auto trips that may contribute to the increase in those modes, the major factor in the mode shift seems to be a decline in driving, a mode that was measured with GPS in both surveys.

Per capita VMT drops for ninth straight year; DOTs taking notice

Estimates released by FHWA on Friday suggest that per capita vehicle miles of travel dropped again in 2013, making it the ninth consecutive year of decline. Total VMT in the United States increased by 0.6 percent from 2012, hovering just below 3 trillion, and per capita VMT dropped to 9,402. Unlike other past dips in driving, this recent downward shift has had no clear, lasting connection to economic trends or gas prices. Evidence suggests that the decline is likely due to changing demographics, saturated highways, and a rising preference for compact, mixed-use neighborhoods, which reduce the need for driving. Several state recently updated long-range transportation plans reflect this shift.