Equity, diversity, and inclusion have been of growing importance among state and federal transportation agencies, and yet there isn’t a clear consensus on how that commitment translates into tangible outcomes. A new report from the Policy Lab at Claremont McKenna College, produced in partnership with SSTI, offers some clarity through an in-depth look at state DOT responses to the USDOT’s Request for Information on transportation equity data, which was released last year.
The U.S. DOT recently released its 2015 Conditions and Performance Report to Congress, describing the current state and future needs of the country’s roads, bridges, and other transportation infrastructure. In this newest C&P report, U.S. DOT recognizes that its past forecasts were too high, adding, “states have tended to underpredict future VMT during periods when actual VMT was growing rapidly and to overpredict at times when actual VMT growth was slowing or declining.”
In a widely covered March 29 speech and interviews, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx described some of the negative effects that highway building has had on cities— particularly middle- and lower-income neighborhoods. The former Charlotte, N.C., mayor recalled his own childhood in an urban neighborhood, where highways moved through traffic but degraded local conditions.
How does the transportation system affect the health of your community? The health impacts of transportation decisions are more than crash rates and air quality, as shown by the Transportation and Health Tool from USDOT and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The tool’s web page allows easy comparisons between metropolitan areas and states and also provides resources to help improve these indicators.
Last week, the USDOT announced Beyond Traffic—a framework for thinking about the nation’s transportation needs over the next 30 years. “As population concentrates around metropolitan areas around the country,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx during an unveiling event at Google, “it has implications on how much money we need to invest but also what we’re paying for with the money.” Foxx has stressed repeatedly that this framework—released officially as a draft to encourage a national conversation—is about understanding and getting ahead of the challenges we face, rather than trying to recreate the past. Arriving roughly in conjunction with the administration’s transportation budget, this framework aims to move the discussion beyond a six-year horizon.
Long-standing FTA and USDOT policy prohibits geographic preferences in hiring for construction projects. With a shift in the percentage of funding coming from federal vs. local sources, state and local governments are asking for greater flexibility and room for policy changes that will improve options for local hiring. The tension between local hiring ordinances and federal geographic preference policy is currently playing out on the Crenshaw line in Los Angeles, which is expected to begin construction in 2014.
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?
USDOT and the Department of Housing and Urban Development have launched a new online tool to help households and policy makers better understand and reduce the costs of transportation. The Location Affordability Portal joins a family of such tools, including Walk Score and the H+T Affordability Index, which have become popular in recent years.
Flat-to-declining highway transportation demand has been with us for about a decade, and consensus is building for the position that it is not a historic aberration but rather a durable trend. A roundup of recent VMT-related news.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced that U.S. DOT will be issuing its own standards for roadway design to meet the needs of all users, but especially bicyclists and pedestrians. Reactions indicated that some felt LaHood was showing impatience with a lack of suitable standards by AASHTO to meet the needs of non-motorized users.