MOUNTAIN VIEW, California — A new study from the U.S. Department of Transportation takes a 30-year view of the future of traffic congestion in the U.S. and says that unless changes are made, we're going to be spending a lot more time in our cars.
Department Secretary Anthony Foxx unveiled the study, Beyond Traffic, on Monday at Google headquarters in Silicon Valley.
DOT describes the study as a Blue Paper and notes in a statement that "it's not prescriptive. It does not advocate for specific policy solutions. Rather, it underscores critical decision points facing the country, by means of data-driven analysis, research, expert opinions and public engagement."
A major factor influencing those decisions, according to the study, is that the U.S. population is expected to increase by 70 million during the next 30 years, from today's 320 million to 390 million in 2045.
Another issue is that most of those people will live in traffic-heavy "megaregions," like Los Angeles. But by that time these giant population centers will be found even in the center of the country. As the study puts it, "In 2045, Omaha is the new L.A."
And, according to Beyond Traffic, we're falling behind in our ability to meet the traffic challenges presented by such dramatic population increases and regional shifts in density. If we keep going as we are, it states, America's transportation system will be "a fossil" in 30 years.
At that time, technological solutions, like autonomous vehicles, connected cars and high-tech infrastructure, will continue to be "novelties" because "the government did not encourage them or put a plan in place to regulate them."
As promised, the study provides no concrete solutions. Instead it begins the process of asking questions: How can we build a transportation system that is not only more efficient but also safer? How do we knock down barriers to new technology? How do we update the infrastructure? Where do we invest budget dollars?
The answers, according to DOT, will come not just from scientists, engineers and the government but from everyone who relies on transportation. Accordingly, the Department has created a site, dot.gov/BeyondTraffic, where the public is invited to share their ideas about trends, policies and solutions to the country's traffic challenges.
Edmunds says: This study is something for car shoppers to think about, especially since vehicles will become second homes if we're going to be spending that much time going nowhere.