The National Academies

NCHRP 20-83(06) [Completed]

Effects of Socio-Demographics on Travel Demand
[ NCHRP 20-83 (Long-Range Strategic Issues Facing the Transportation Industry) ]

  Project Data
Funds: $1,000,000
Research Agency: NuStats LLC
Principal Investigator: Johanna Zmud
Effective Date: 6/2/2010
Completion Date: 6/1/2014

Long-Range Strategic Issues
For fiscal years 2009 and 2010, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) allocated $7,000,000 to examine long-range strategic issues, both global and domestic, that will likely affect state departments of transportation (DOTs) and directed $1,000,000 to each of seven projects. These projects were selected based on the 2008 report, Long-Range Strategic Issues Facing the Transportation Industry,funded by the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP). This request for proposals is for one of those projects.
Major trends affecting the future of our nation and the world will dramatically reshape transportation priorities and needs. The transportation industry must be ready for the challenges or benefits created by these trends and resulting scenarios. AASHTO recognizes that research can help and wants to ensure that transportation practitioners are equipped to deal with possible futures that may emerge 30 to 50 years out.
The objective of this series is to provide guidance to state DOTs that will prepare them for possible futures so DOTs can act, rather than react. This is in contrast to current research in similar subject areas that focuses primarily on improving and building on existing conditions to make advances. Each project panel will be looking for that long-range vision in evaluating the submitted proposals. In addition, these requests for proposals have been prepared as more outcome-oriented, allowing proposers flexibility in the design of a research plan.
Many socio-demographic issues over the next 30 to 50 years will change the population’s transportation needs, travel patterns, and expectations regarding mobility. These include changes in demographics (e.g., population size, affluence, birth rates, ethnicity, and age) and technologies that substitute or alter travel behaviors (e.g., telecommuting opportunities or mode shifts). Human factors may play an important role in which of these technologies are accepted and adopted. The interplay between factors is important as well. For example, the effects of some trends, such as population growth, may mitigate or amplify the effects of others, such as the aging population or migration. Some of these trends suggest a dramatic increase in mobility needs -- the addition of over 130 million more Americans in the next 40 years, medical advances that enable older Americans to live longer and have increasingly active lifestyles, and shifts in the growth areas within the U.S. suggest surging travel demands. However, it is plausible that travel demands will not increase substantially due to enhancements in information and communication technologies, changes in land use patterns (e.g., movement to urban, pedestrian-oriented areas that minimize vehicle travel demands), increases in fuel prices, and changes in attitudes toward transit and alternatives to driving. The patterns of travel also could change substantially, with travel increasing for different types of trips, in different locations, and at different times than currently seen.
The objective of this research was to determine how socio-demographic factors are likely to affect travel demand over the next 30 to 50 years and to identify strategies and actions that can be used by policymakers in state and local transportation and planning agencies to plan and prepare for alternative future scenarios.
The focus of the research was on understanding the fundamental relationships between social and demographic factors and travel demand, and how these relationships might change over time. These factors may include diversity, gender, birth rates, aging population, wealth and income, immigration, regional migration and employment patterns, rural versus urban populations, and the size and structure of households and families. The research also examined the relationships between human factors and other variables affecting travel demand such as new technology, alternative fuels, economics and the economy, climate change, land use, and development patterns. In addition, it should identify opportunities for incorporating the results into the planning and decision-making process.

The final report is now published as NCHRP Report 750 Volume 6. 

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