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.

UK scientists warn of resource costs in transitioning to net-zero emissions by 2050

The necessary transition away from burning fossil fuels for transportation could be quite resource intensive. So say leading UK scientists in a recent letter in response to a recommended target of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The letter lays out the difficulty of producing enough raw materials, and energy, to fulfill the needs of this transition, using known technologies.

Shifting from LOS to VMT would save time, money, and better support local goals

Two recent studies suggest that California’s change in assessing the impact of development—from level of service (LOS) to vehicle miles traveled (VMT)—can reduce costs for developers and streamline the review of projects. Under the new guidelines, both studies to determine transportation impacts and any mitigation measures after review are less costly than the previous requirements. This has been confirmed not just by academic studies, but also by the City of Pasadena in a paper by recently-retired Director of Transportation, Fred Dock.

VMT moderates after recession-driven swings

U.S. vehicle-miles traveled, which had declined during the recession and then spiked, returned to a more normal level in 2018. According to FHWA’s Travel Monitoring Trends data, total VMT grew by 0.4 percent in 2018. That rate was slower than population growth, resulting in a slight decline in VMT per capita.

A tool to estimate the added VMT from highway expansions

Since passage of S.B. 743 in 2013, California agencies have wrestled with questions around the added travel and emissions resulting from land use and transportation projects. On the land use side, see SSTI’s recent webinars about land-use review reforms in San Jose and Pasadena. On the transportation side, the National Center for Sustainable Transportation has developed an induced travel demand calculator designed to calculate the percentage of additional annual VMT when highways are widened.