What Affects US Passenger Travel? Current Trends and Future Perspectives

What Affects US Passenger Travel? Current Trends and Future Perspectives

This white paper discusses the forces affecting U.S. passenger travel, the permanence of which is often unclear. We explore travel demand’s relationship with explanatory factors such as economic activity, gas prices, urban form, socio-demographic traits and generational effects, the expanding availability of travel options (including electronic alternatives to travel) and technological innovations in the transportation sector (including the advent of emerging transportation and shared mobility services). We discuss how these factors modify the alternatives available to travelers, the characteristics of each alternative, and the way travelers perceive and evaluate these characteristics.

Key findings

If the forces driving the modifications in travel demand (e.g. changes in urban form, multimodal accessibility and individuals’ lifestyles) continue and become more dominant in the future, car use might further decline in the longer-term, despite the economic recovery and expansion of economic activities.

The impact of some factors (e.g. lifecycle and cohort effects) seem to have been better understood, to date, than others (e.g. impact of innovative technology) that remain largely uncertain.

If the goal of transportation planning processes is to reduce transportation dependence on cars, and improve the environmental effects of transportation, policy-makers and transportation planners may wish to consider policies and investments that might align well with some of the observed trends already happening in society like expanding walking and biking infrastructure.

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