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Future Isn't What It Used To Be: Changing Trends And Their Implications For Transport Planning
New report indicates increasing importance of transportation system diversity (Todd Litman, Victoria Transport Policy Institute)


This report examines demographic, economic and market trends that affect travel demand, and their implications for transport planning. Motorized mobility grew tremendously during the Twentieth Century due to favorable demographic and economic conditions. But the factors that caused this growth are unlikely to continue. Per capita vehicle ownership and mileage have started to decline, while demand for alternatives such as walking, cycling, public transit and telework is increasing. This indicates that future transport demand will be increasingly diverse. Transport planning can reflect these shifts by increasing support for alternative modes.

Study Conclusions

Between 1900 and 2000 per capita vehicle travel increased by an order of magnitude due to favorable technical, demographic and economic trends. However, this study indicates that these trends are beginning to change. Toward the end of the Century per capita automobile travel stopped growing in the U.S., and started to decline after 2000. This decline is likely to continue due to factors discussed in this report.

An increasing portion of the population will need or prefer to rely on alternative modes such as walking, cycling, ridesharing, public transit, telework and delivery services. Automobile transport will continue to be important, but the role of other modes will increase.

Transportation professionals should take these trends into account when making strategic decisions. We should plan for a mature transport system, with less emphasis on roadway system expansion and more emphasis on improving transport system efficiency and diversity.

For example, if we start developing a new suburban highway now, it will be completed about the time that most Baby Boomers retire, fuel prices rise significantly, and consumers increasingly value walkable neighborhoods. It may be better to anticipate these trends by investing resources in alternative modes and creating less automobile-dependent communities.

Although this paper investigates transport patterns in wealthier, developed countries, the analysis has important implications for lower-income, developing countries.

Full paper:

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Governance and sustainable transport in general > Sustainable transport policy
Litman, Todd

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