Beyond Traffic: Trends and Choices 2045

From the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Anthony Foxx and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), Beyond Traffic discusses the effects of climate change over the next 30 years, including global mean sea level rise, temperature increases, and more frequent and intense storm events, as impacts on highways, bridges, public transportation, coastal ports and waterways. Released in Draft format, the DOT is asking for feedback with the intention of producing a final version later in 2015.

Beyond Traffic looks at the latest data and predicts the progression in the U.S. transportation system, and discusses scenarios and choices for transportation over the next three decades. The first part of the report describes the major trends currently shaping the nation’s transportation system. The second part discusses the implications of these trends for each mode of transportation: highways, transit, pedestrian and bicycle, aviation, inter-city and freight rail, maritime and pipeline. The third part presents a description of a possible future scenarios based on the trends analyzed in the previous section. It concludes with a discussion of policy options based on the implications of these trends.

Setting the stage, the report provides a sobering review of transportation today: “Over the past six years, the United States government has passed 32 short-term measures to keep its surface transportation system afloat. Funding uncertainty has undermined our ability to modernize our air traffic control system. Diffuse decision-making mechanisms at the state and local level have hampered our ability to address critical freight and trade corridors. And our programs and policies have not been reformed to tackle the challenges of tomorrow. The combination of these forces - inconsistent, unreliable funding, and static policies in an era of rapid change - has left our transportation infrastructure in an increasingly deteriorated and fragile state. It has left the United States on the precipice of losing its historical advantage in moving people and things faster, safer, and more reliably than any other nation in the world.”

However, the report provides significant consideration of the opportunities for progress, with a section devoted to climate change adaptation. 

The “How We Adapt” section describes how the transportation system is contributing to, and may be impacted by, climate change. It discusses how the transportation sector is finding ways to limit greenhouse-gas emissions, as well as the challenges of developing a resilient transportation system that can withstand the projected impacts of climate change, today and in the future - including the resiliency to extreme weather events.

The accompanying “Blue Paper” highlights the key messages from the larger report - providing info graphics which present extreme scenarios for the U.S. transportation sector in dismal conditions - and the alternatives for a technologically advanced and climate resilient society - based on the potential for progressive choices from today’s government. 

Beyond Traffic: Trends and Choices 2045 was developed over the course of a year. DOT assembled a team of internal and external experts to conduct a comprehensive examination of our transportation system. This team shared key findings and solicited feedback in six public webinar sessions that drew 1,300 participants. These participants included engineers, researchers, transportation planners, pilots, truck drivers, transit operators, safety advocates and disability rights advocates, among others.

Publication Date: February 2, 2015

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