Number of Vehicle Miles Traveled Continues Decline

There are a variety of roadway expansions being planned or under construction in Cincinnati including the widening of Interstate 75 and the Eastern Corridor road project. The FHWA recently released data showing that for the eighth year in a row the number of miles the nation traveled on roadways in 2012 was once again less than in the previous year. With clear trends showing the nation with an older population less willing to drive and a younger population that desire walkable neighborhoods with transportation options should transportation departments rethink their calculations for future road widening projects? More from State Smart Transportation Initiative:

A variety of factors have been cited for the decline, including retiring Baby Boomers; less enthusiasm for cars among Millennials; a move in many places toward more compact and mixed-use development; and demand-side policy efforts, including TDM, tolling and market-pricing of parking. In addition, some trends that fueled VMT growth in the last century have eased: The transition toward women working outside the home is essentially complete, car-ownership has gone from rare to common, and people’s time budgets for car travel may have reached their maximum.

The numbers suggest that, with a stable total VMT, we will still rely on highways for a long time. However, capacity projects that assume increasing VMT may be good places for cash-strapped DOTs to look for savings. And the per capita declines suggest that conventional trip generation assumptions, which drive Transportation Impact Analyses for mitigation and parking requirements, ought to be revisited. SSTI is working on a TIA project and will report out later this year. In the meantime, one source for improved trip generation estimation is Fehr & Peers Mixed Use Trip Generation Model 4.0.

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