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The contents of this report reflect the views of the author(s), who is responsible for the facts and the accuracy of the data presented herein. The contents do not necessarily reflect the official views or policies of the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Commonwealth Transportation Board, or the Federal Highway Administration. This report does not constitute a standard, specification, or regulation. Any inclusion of manufacturer names, trade names, or trademarks is for identification purposes only and is not to be considered an endorsement.


An Interim Update to the 2035 Socioeconomic and Travel Demand Forecasts for Virginia
John S. Miller
John S. Miller
Year: 2012
VTRC No.: 13-R4

In support of the update to Virginia’s 2035 Statewide Multimodal Plan, this report provides an update to select socioeconomic forecasts initially made in 2009 based on a review of data from national sources and the literature. Mobility needs exist for diverse Virginia subpopulations, such as persons without access to a vehicle (6.3% of statewide households or 8.8% of the state’s workforce); non-drivers (a group whose composition is changing, with recent decreases in the percentage of Virginians age 15-24 with a driver’s license contrasted with increases in the percentage of females age 65 or older [65+] with a driver’s license); persons age 65+ (e.g., in 2010, the number of Virginians age 65+ outnumbered those age 19 or younger in only 1 of Virginia’s 21 regions; by 2035, this will be the case in 8 of Virginia’s 21 regions); and persons protected by environmental justice regulations (e.g., the income of 17.3% of Virginians was below 150% of the poverty level for 2006-2010, and the minority population was 35.2% of Virginia’s population in 2010).

Subpopulations may also be defined by geography. Although a projected increase in fuel prices between 2010 and 2035 of 48% for autos and 50% for trucks is expected to reduce highway travel more than would be the case without a price increase, the increase in population that is expected based on 2010-2035 levels may offset this decrease; with a variety of assumptions including elasticity of demand, an expected congestion cost in urban areas approaches $5.7 billion based on delay and costs associated with excess fuel consumption. In non-urbanized areas, a rough order of magnitude estimate of the cost of delays, derived in this report, is $285 million at present. Geographical differences are apparent; notably, the largest group of workers by income using public transportation in the Northern Virginia region and, just to its south, the George Washington Regional Commission comprised those with an income of $75,000 or more; by contrast, in the Richmond and Hampton Roads regions, the largest group comprised workers with an income below $10,000. Another geographical difference is that the percentage of those who speak English less than “very well” varies by region, from 0.6% to 13.4%.

 Implications of these forecasts are noted. For example, because more than one-third of the population age 65+ has a disability compared with about 7% of the population under age 65, the increase in persons age 65+ suggests that the percentage of Virginians with disabilities may also increase. As another example, despite the relatively large costs of congestion in Virginia’s urbanized areas, other sources suggest that crash costs may be approximately 2.4 times as large as these congestion costs. As a third example, ways to increase motorist and transit passenger comfort may merit exploration as a means to reduce the perceived cost of travel. Because these implications transcend regional boundaries, they may offer opportunities to garner consensus on some transportation improvements and thus are appropriate to consider in future planning efforts.