Urban truck traffic growing far faster than urban population growth

Urban truck traffic has boomed alongside the rise in e-commerce. As shown in a recent Brookings Institution blog post, while both urban truck and passenger VMT have been growing faster than urban populations since the 1960s, urban truck traffic diverged from urban car travel in the early 1990s and exploded between 2006 and 2008 before a slight dip during the recession. Thanks to this growth, total single unit (box) truck VMT became majority urban in the early 2000s, and combination (tractor-trailer) truck VMT is likely to become majority urban in the coming years.

For the first time in a decade, U.S. per capita highway travel ticks up

After declining every year since 2004, vehicle-miles traveled (VMT) per capita in the U.S. ticked up by 0.9 percent in 2014 compared to 2013, according to figures released on Thursday, March 12, by FHWA. Accounting for the effect of population growth, total miles driven increased by 1.7 percent.
Both per capita and total VMT remain below their peaks, in 2004 and 2007, respectively. From World War II until the 1990s, highway travel grew year after year, but more recently that trend slowed and—in the case of per capita travel—actually reversed.

New study provides insight into the permanence of changing driving trends

A recent study, presented at the TRB 2015 Annual Meeting looked at state-level driving and economic patterns from 1980 to 2011 and determined that in many states VMT peaked much earlier than the national trends have shown. The study contends that the downward trend in VMT in the U.S. is more permanent than previously thought. Additionally, the study finds a significant change in the traditional positive correlation between GDP per capita and VMT per capita in the majority of states between the 1980s and the 2000s.

FHWA twice revised VMT forecasts downward in 2014

Last year, after nearly a decade of declining automobile use, several key agencies revised their forecasts of future travel demand. FHWA’s annual Conditions & Performance report to Congress has grossly overestimated future growth in vehicle travel demand since as early as 1999. However, in its 2013 report released last February, FHWA included a low-end scenario in which the annual growth rate was reduced. Then in May the agency released a separate report containing even lower predicted annual growth rates.

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.