Sunday, April 04, 2010

Everything You Wanted to Know About VMT

Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) reduction has been the holy grail of transportation planners and greenhouse gas reduction programs for years.  And, no wonder, for decades VMT has been growing as we continue to build streets, highways and freeways to accommodate a suburban lifestyle.  Now, it's no secret that designing and transportation "system" around a single mode - automobiles - isn't the answer.  And you wouldn't be reading this post if you didn't understand that carsharing is a way to provide "automobility" without overuse.

In February, the 9th annual New Partners for Smart Growth sponsored a conference I wish I'd atttended about the many aspects of trying to get our land use and transportation system back into "whack".  One presentation that particularly caught my attention was a very comprehensive and informative presentation about VMT by Steven Polzin of the Center for Urban Transporation Research at the University of South Florida in Tampa. (It's from the Thursday morning Navigating the VMT Curve session.)

The 37 slides in his presentation answered many of my questions about the factors affecting VMT (age location, economy) as well as some surprising trends, such as this one about VMT and automobile ownership.  Take a look at the full set.

Since land use is the key to a long-term solution of our transportation problems, I also appreciated two land use presentations about density - one with a nice overview of how planners got to suburbia with the best of intentions Retrofitting the Suburban Landscape (18 mb file) by Nir Buras of Buras Architectdure. And I found Getting to Small Footprint Density: Responding to the Market Demand for Walkable Urban Living by Daniel Parolek of Opticos Design, Inc. a helpful introduction, as well.  The main page of conference sessions is here.

And while we're on the subject of VMT, at the recent TRB a major session was devoted to whether VMT reduction goals are a good way to measure the performance of our transportation system. Todd Litmann of the Victoria Transportation Policy Institute provides this excellent summary of the discussion from a post at Planetizen.  Thanks.