Scenes from a revolution
A few headlines from around the world … OK, mostly around my home city of Boston … on the week of the release of our new report on the implications of changing driving trends in the United States:
What do all of these stories have to do with one another? They’re each a point of data in an emerging vision of a transportation future that looks to be very different from the past.
Our new report, A New Direction: Our Changing Relationship with Driving and the Implications for America’s Future, makes the case that America has come to the end of a road, if you will – that the rapid increase in vehicle travel that took place between 1946 and 2004 in the United States is unlikely to be repeated any time soon. It suggests that, while we don’t know what the future of transportation will look like, we can reasonably guess that it will involve a lot less driving than seemed likely even a few years ago. And it calls for a thorough – and urgent – revisiting of our nation’s transportation policies to figure out how to deal with that new reality.
The stories above speak to many of the factors at work in the trends described in A New Direction – the boom in interest in urban living, particularly in neighborhoods close in to city centers and especially among young people; the rise of alternative forms of transportation both old (bicycling) and brand-new (airport car-sharing); the ways in which technology is reshaping transportation; and, in Glaeser’s piece, the strengthened rationale for small-scale solutions to transportation problems in an age of rising uncertainty about future trends.
There are many moving parts to the transportation puzzle – both in the potential causes in the changes underway and in the way they’re manifesting themselves – which means that it can sometimes be hard to step back and see the big picture. We hope that A New Direction kick-starts the discussion about America’s transportation future in a way that keeps the big picture in focus, and moves us toward a more sensible transportation policy in the years to come.