U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx unveiled Beyond Traffic, a new forward-looking analysis from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) outlining the trends that are likely to shape the needs of the nation's transportation system over the next three decades. Beyond Traffic is offered to the public as a draft to ignite a national conversation about the future of the U.S. transportation system and to objectively frame critical policy choices that need to be made. A final report will be released later in 2015 based on the ideas and public feedback generated by this analysis.
“For too long, our national dialogue about transportation has been focused on recreating the past. Instead, we need to focus on the trends that are shaping our future,” Foxx said. “In Washington, in state capitals and in city halls, it is time to sound the alarm bell: the future is calling. Beyond Traffic gives us a view into 2045 and the basis to plan for it. But not having a plan is a plan.”
The questions, trends and choices identified include:
- How will we move? America’s population will grow by 70 million by 2045. How will we build a transportation system to accommodate a growing population and changing travel patterns?
- How will we move things? By 2045, freight volume will increase 45 percent. How will we reduce freight chokepoints that drive up the cost of owning a business?
- How will we move better? Technological changes and innovation may transform vehicles and infrastructure, logistics, and delivery of transportation services to promote efficiency and safety. How will we knock down barriers to new technologies that promise to make travel safer and more convenient?
- How will we adapt? Climate change will include global mean sea level rise, temperature increases, and more frequent and intense storm events, all of which will impact highways, bridges, public transportation, coastal ports and waterways. How will we make our infrastructure more resilient to extreme weather events like Hurricane Sandy?
- How will we align decisions and dollars? And invest the trillions of dollars our transportation needs in the smartest way possible?
In January 2014, the DOT began assembling a team of experts from across the agency’s modes and offices. This team established a structure, took a holistic look at the nation’s transportation system, identified key trends affecting our network, examined the potential impacts of such trends on a future transportation system, and provided a comprehensive range of policy options and potential choices. Additionally, the team met with several transportation thought leaders from around the country. As the report was coming together, the team shared key findings in six public webinar sessions that drew 1,300 participants.
Beyond Traffic is structured in three parts. The first part discusses the major trends shaping the changing transportation system. The second part discusses the implications of these trends for each mode of transportation: highways, transit, pedestrian and bicycle, aviation, intercity and freight rail, maritime and pipeline. The third part presents a description of a possible future scenario based on the trends analyzed in the previous section. It concludes with a discussion of policy options based on the implications of these trends.
As the U.S. attempts to address its growing transportation demands, it’s critical that all the data and research that exists is examined with a holistic approach to addressing the challenges ahead. This report offers a clear and honest assessment of the network’s status, deficiencies, capacity, and potential to better support our economic and social well-being. It examines not only the condition and performance of our transportation system today, but forecasts how it will look and perform in 2045 if current funding levels and policies persist.
This analysis is a framework for the future; it is 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.