SSTI research highlights built environment policies to reduce VMT

As part of a larger 2015 project for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, SSTI investigated the influence of six built environment variables on passenger vehicle miles traveled. Using data on average daily household VMT at the Census block group level from the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles, along with detailed land use data and transportation system information, we were able to determine how VMT varied according to a number of variables.

U.S. DOT: States overestimating VMT growth

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.”

Maybe urban truck traffic isn’t rising after all

One of our posts from last year, which raised the possibility that we may be in the midst of a major increase in urban truck traffic—and the analysis by the Brookings Institution on which it was based—was recently called out as flawed in a blog post by Joe Cortright of City Observatory. Cortright’s criticism is rooted in what he believes is a faulty analysis of FHWA data.

Crash fatalities climbing faster than VMT

Recent data indicate that the total number of traffic deaths in the U.S. in 2016 will be significantly higher than in 2015. The growth in fatalities represents an increasing death rate relative to population and miles traveled. The most striking increase occurred in the South Gulf region. Pedestrian and bicyclist deaths have been increasing even more rapidly. Untangling the causes behind the increasing number of road deaths overall, as well as bicycle and pedestrian deaths specifically, is difficult. Whatever the cause, traffic safety, particularly for vulnerable road users, is an increasingly pressing issue.

Study: One-way car-sharing reduces VMT, GHG emissions, and vehicle ownership

A recent study done by researchers at University of California-Berkeley has answered several questions many have had since car-sharing began by showing that car2go members in five North American cities reduced both their annual vehicle miles traveled and also their greenhouse gas emissions. Members also sold or delayed purchasing vehicles, resulting in each car-sharing vehicle removing seven to 11 private vehicles from the road.

Traffic deaths rose 8% in 2015, more than 10% among non-motorized road users

Traffic deaths rose in 2015, a 7.7 percent increase from the previous year, according to preliminary estimates from NHTSA, marking the highest number of deaths since 2008. Cyclist deaths increased by the largest amount, followed by pedestrians, and motorcyclists, highlighting a critical need to focus on the safety of vulnerable road users. The National Safety Council noted the significant number of traffic deaths midway through 2015, attributing it primarily to the increase in driving nationwide. The newly released numbers seem to validate a strong link between the two.

Economy, gas prices pushed driving upward in 2015, but less than in past years

The number of vehicle miles traveled in the U.S. increased by 4.4 percent in 2015, according to numbers released by FHWA last week, setting a new record of 3.1 trillion miles. After testing several variables and model variations, we developed a model of VMT per capita based on GDP per capita and average annual gas prices. This model tracks actual VMT per capita very closely, including the recent increase, but only after we adjust for new trends observed over the past 20 years.

Growing a Culture of Transportation Sustainability in Massachusetts (McCahill, Ebeling and Codd, 2014)

MassDOT is among a growing number of state agencies tackling sustainability efforts in the transportaiton section and its approach offers valuable lessons for others. number of state agencies tackling this issue and its approach offers valuable lessons for others. This paper traces the evolution of MassDOT’s sustainability efforts, beginning with its revised Project Development and Design Guide, published in 2006, and ultimately encapsulated in its ongoing GreenDOT program, launched in 2010. These efforts represent the combined actions of state legislators, agency leaders, and personnel at all levels of MassDOT.

Effects of Parking Provision on Automobile Use in Cities: Inferring Causality (McCahill, Garrick, Atkinson-Palombo and Polinski, 2015)

Automobile use has been on the rise in cities for nearly a century and so has the supply of parking. Because driving often seems unavoidable, policymakers, developers and the public push endlessly for more parking to meet demand. That push, however, might only be making matters worse. SSTI Senior Associate Chris McCahill’s research suggests that abundant parking in cities causes people to drive more, shedding important light on the question of cause and effect.