Major roads undercut safety benefits of highly accessible places

In working with transportation agencies across the U.S., our team often faces questions about the role of safety in accessibility analysis. While we know the safety and comfort of streets clearly impacts access for people on foot or bicycle, the effects of accessibility on overall safety haven’t been clear. Fortunately, leading experts in both accessibility and traffic safety recently teamed up to answer this question.

“Spillover” effects reinforce VMT effects from transit and parking subsidies

We know that employer-provided free parking tends to increase auto-commute trips and that employer-provided transit passes tend to reduce auto-commute trips. Research is less clear about the effect on vehicle-miles traveled, however, in part because we don’t know whether or how such employment practices might affect non-work travel. A new paper using travel survey data from the Seattle area, sheds new light on the VMT question.

Teleworking’s hidden environmental costs

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent shelter-in-place orders, more Americans are teleworking. This has drastically reduced VMT and air emissions. Policymakers may be tempted to try to encourage teleworking post-COVID-19 in order to keep the traffic down and the air clean. But as we’ve reported before, telework is probably not a great strategy for emissions reduction, due to several rebound effects. Teleworkers tend to live farther from job centers, in lower-density environments, leading to longer, more auto-dependent commutes when they do go into the office, as well as higher levels of non-work VMT.

Comparing the car travel of Millennials and Generation X

A new study in the Journal of Planning Education and Research compares the 2017 VMT patterns of Millennials to the 2001 patterns of Generation X. Both groups were at a similar age at the time of the surveys. Previous commentary has proposed that Millennials’ driving patterns would approach those of the previous generation once they aged into child rearing and more fully recovered from the recession of 2008. This study concludes that Millennials are not as likely to drive, even as they reach these traditional milestones.

Planning for an uncertain future

Traffic forecasts and other projections are often presented as a single line on a graph or number in a chart. But we know—now more than ever—that these predictions are full of uncertainties. The Sacramento Council of Governments (SACOG), for a new study in JAPA, puts hard numbers to some of those uncertainties in order to plan better for them.

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.

Impact of “new age” shopping behavior on VMT and the environment

There have been a number of studies studying the relationship between in-store and online shopping behavior and its impact on retail-related travel. A broadly accepted idea is that online shopping, in more ways than one, is substituting for in-store shopping and can thereby reduce shopping related travel. However, major demographic and economic factors affect shopping behavior, and expedited delivery options may reduce the potential of e-commerce to reduce VMT and greenhouse gas emissions.

The incompatibility of Vision Zero and VMT growth

The U.S. transportation field has tried many things to reduce traffic crashes, fatalities, and injuries: drunk-driving and seatbelt laws; in-vehicle safety improvements; wide, straight roads with crash zones; graduated licensing; and more. Yet traffic crashes still kill 35,000-40,000 Americans each year and injure millions. A new online resource that helps explain the situation. Fatalities are largely a function of miles driven, so you can’t be serious about Vision Zero without also being serious about VMT management.