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.

Using Big Data for estimating VMT and reliable travel patterns

For the longest time we’ve relied on the Highway Performance Monitoring System for understanding travel patterns and estimating vehicle miles of travel. But these estimates often have not been very accurate because of inadequacies in data collection. Big data is providing more precise and more complete information that can be used for both planning and seeing the impacts of policy. In a new report, StreetLight Data, a leader in the transportation big data field, is showing us how it’s done.

Forecasters guarded about EV share of VMT

As transportation planners and environmental researchers look at climate policies, a smooth and equitable transition to a low-carbon global economy is an essential component. In the passenger vehicle sector, how will this process be affected by oil demand and EV adoption trends? A new report examines a number of EV penetration forecasts and summarizes the 2019 trends and their changes since 2018. The report focuses on passenger vehicles, which account for about 23 percent of oil demand. While other segments of the transportation sector—trucks, and aviation and shipping—account for about 29 percent of the oil demand, electrifying cars may be easier, according to the author.

How might travelers behave with privately-owned AVs?

In many ways, we can only speculate about a future with autonomous vehicles on the road. The effects on vehicle miles traveled are expected to be very different if AVs are privately owned versus shared. A recent post on Jalopnick reviews a study published in 2018, that focuses on the question of individual ownership. The results point to a potential worst-case-scenario; a catastrophic increase in VMT that could occur with the introduction of privately-owned AVs.

More evidence that TNCs are clogging downtown streets (and what NYC is doing about it)

In August, Uber and Lyft jointly released an analysis conducted by Fehr & Peers examining how their vehicles are contributing to VMT in six major cities: Boston, Chicago, L.A., San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. The study found that Uber and Lyft vehicles account for just 1-3 percent of total VMT in the metro regions. However, they are contributing a significantly larger share in the core counties of several of these regions.

Transit-oriented development, VMT, and induced gentrification

Many cities are pursuing transit-oriented development as a strategy to decrease regional vehicle miles traveled. But as TOD has become popular with higher-income residents, low-income residents can be pushed out, complicating that goal. A recent study in California looked at travel patterns of both the new residents of transit-oriented neighborhoods, as well as the households displaced due to gentrification.