This 2050 Plan explores the impacts of many of these factors by estimating a “mostly likely to occur” (MLTO) scenario. Scenarios were created for benchmark years (2020, 2030, 2040 and 2050) that correspond to Air Quality Conformity requirements, and using the professional judgment of OKI Staff.
This approach delivers a fiscally and air quality constrained plan that meets all federal requirements for metropolitan transportation plans. This plan represents an effective and vibrant blend of programs and projects for the region. It also fulfills OKI’s metropolitan planning process, which serves more than two million residents, who work at about one million jobs.
However, the technological revolution sweeping through all transportation modes requires OKI to put forth a vison of how those changes may affect our region. While the above approach serves as the official OKI 2050 MTP Plan, this vision goes outside the bounds of tradition and tests the impacts of rapid change in automation, mobility across society and shared mobility as a service. In this chapter, we explore what’s possible in our Vision for 2050. Here we postulate the extent of connected and autonomous vehicles, the amount of shared-use trips and turn the vehicle ownership model upside down.
The OKI Vision 2050 Approach
This is a time of rapid change in transportation planning. Methods for estimating future travel demand is a changing paradigm. The traditional approach was to develop models and calibrate them to observed data, validate to existing conditions, and finally apply growth to produce a single future. Transportation options have not changed much for a very long time, so this approach was reasonable and data was available. Now, we stand at the edge of historic changes that will greatly alter transportation and its impact on society. It is difficult to estimate these changes in the next five to ten years; beyond 2030 is, at best, a time for enlightened conjecture.
Because there is no data on travel characteristics with Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs), or shared autonomous vehicles as part of the mix, OKI has developed experimental models to better understand what a transportation future may look like. The base year was modeled using a validated, state of the practice activity-based model. Future scenarios, with the exception of the 2050 E+C, are tested with non-calibrated assumptions of vehicle ownership, the number of connected and autonomous (self-driving) vehicles, vehicle occupancy rate (ridesharing) and trip making (trip generation rates).
Ten scenarios were constructed and tested. The 2020, 2030 and 2050 E+C scenarios uses the existing calibrated parameters, all others use various combinations of experimental model changes.
The (Fiscally Constrained) Plan
Several scenarios for benchmark years 2020, 2030, 2040 and 2050 were originally explored. Using the OKI Travel Demand Model, the impacts on congestion, travel time reliability, vehicle miles of travel (VMT) and crash rates were estimated. This was done by first estimating the saturation of Level 5 fully autonomous (driverless) vehicles.
The percentage of CAV saturation for a range of possibilities is shown in figure below. The solid pink curve represents the plan. The top dotted pink line represents the Vision for 2050. 2020 is considered the “existing conditions” scenario.
After estimating the percentage of CAV penetration, staff estimated the impacts in a rising VMT scenario and a declining VMT scenario. Adjustments were also made within each scenario to the levels of crash rates, vehicle occupancy and person trip rates.
After careful evaluation, one scenario for each benchmark year was selected as the official plan to satisfy traditional conventions and requirements of fiscal and air quality constraint.
The MLTO scenario in 2030 shows human transportation behavior hasn’t changed much. The number of plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) has grown significantly (about 25 percent of new vehicle sales), but still considerably less than internal combustion engines (ICE). This has contributed to improve mobile source emissions. Adoption of fully autonomous vehicles (level 5) is low at about 6 percent, as travelers are reluctant to cede control of their cars. Safety has improved steadily, as automated emergency braking and lane departure is prevalent on about a quarter of all vehicles. Crash rates are down 10 percent from 2020 rates because of safety improvements to traditional vehicles and from a growing share of CAVs in the traffic stream.
Further, vehicle cost, quality and reliability have slowed the fleet turnover. VMT (per person), vehicle occupancy and trip generation rates remain at or near 2020 levels because single occupancy vehicles dominate mobility choice. Automation in the OKI region is available in limited locations within controlled environments, such as CVG and university campuses across the region, in the form of autonomous shuttles. Transportation System Management and Operations (TSMO) recommendations of the plan have been implemented in some key interstate corridors. The most effective option is the use of freeway shoulders during peak periods, increasing the effective capacity.
Predicting the future is impossible and doing so 20-30 years out may appear to be folly. However, as long as projections strive to incorporate salient data, there is a real purpose to projections. And, such projections need to be made by OKI because it is the region’s surface transportation planner. OKI believes it important to make these projections, if for no other reason than to stimulate comment from the public and professional experts, to drive and incorporate new data sets and to continuously monitor them against reality.
These estimates have two protections imbedded in them. First, these projections do not affect any of the current projects listed in the 2050 Plan nor any projects for the near term. The plan’s mandated planning role is intact. Second, these projections will be updated every four years and will be altered by the reality that new and evolving data will bring.
It is a daunting task to not only determine the advance of transportation technology, but, also its adoption rate by the region. New technology will have different values depending on society’s wide or narrow agreement to use the technology. In this regard, there is no doubt that transportation technology will progress at a rapid pace. However, the public must adopt it in large degree or the technology will have little impact.
Even if the public embraces new transportation technologies, the impact on all measures of mobility will be subject mostly to a grand governor — one based on human behavior and not algorithms. This arbiter (a question, really) that will determine the impact on VMT, congestion, air quality, fuel consumption, density, residential and commercial development and more, is this: How willing will the public be to share a ride with a stranger? If all the technological advancement adopted by the public remains dominated by single occupancy vehicles, its positive impacts on the transportation system and the environment will be significantly muted.*
It may be difficult to envision such great importance solely to widespread ridesharing. However, if travelers use the new technologies simply to take more trips alone, the results are obvious and the positive impacts are greatly subdued.
*Staff believes the substitution of PEVs for ICEs will affect air quality on its own
As staff makes post-2030 projections, we believe the fusion of technology and the public’s changed view of mobility will yield very positive impacts on the region. We, therefore, adopt an optimistic outlook for our region transportation future.
The 2040 MLTO scenario shows a dramatic increase in plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs), as they now outnumber internal combustion engines (ICE). This is due to advancements in battery technology, its associated increase in trip range and a wide range of affordable electric vehicle options. This leads to significantly improved mobile source emissions. Adoption of level 5 autonomous vehicles is nearly a third of all vehicles on the road (33 percent). An aging population has found vehicle autonomy essential to their desire for mobility. Retirement of non-autonomous vehicles has accelerated and subscription to a Mobility as a Service solution (MaaS) is increasing. Safety has improved considerably, as automated emergency braking and lane departure correction features are prevalent on most vehicles. In addition, vehicle autonomy and connectivity has significantly improved crash avoidance. Crash rates are down 25 percent from 2020 levels because of safety improvements to traditional vehicles and an ever-growing share of CAVs on roadways. Even with only about one-third of the vehicle fleet being autonomous, capacity and flow rates on freeways improve.
The 2040 estimates are dominated by a decline in VMT. Although there is continued strong desire for travel, more ridesharing is occurring as a way to reduce per-trip cost, as well as, an increased social conscience to reduce energy use and environmental impacts. More employees are working from home and virtual business meetings are increasingly more common. In addition, in a MAAS environment, the true cost per trip is “pay as you go” (compared to 2020 where much of the cost is in sunk costs), so people forgo some non-essential trips. Software improvements have reduced “dead head” miles traveled by AV’s. More trips are satisfied by MaaS products. Urbanization continues to increase and the market responds by increasing density and quality of mobility options in highly populated areas. Home delivery has continued to grow while an increasing share of small packages are delivered by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). Transit operations recede to only high volume, high quality trunk line service (transportation system — such as airline, railroad or highway — handling long-distance through traffic).
The 2050 MLTO shows an acceleration of the decline of VMT. Most vehicles on the road (and in the air) are electric or other non-ICE. Vertical takeoff shuttles are beginning to make a foothold in very large urban areas but remain rare in the OKI region. Mobile source emissions are no longer a concern beyond recreation or sport vehicles. Adoption of level 5 (full) autonomous vehicles is up to about (70%), and safety has improved considerably due to the prevalence of these vehicles. Safety is also enhanced because ICEs have far more advanced safety features. Vehicle autonomy and connectivity has significantly improved crash avoidance. Crash rates are down 75 percent from 2020 levels. With nearly three quarters of the vehicle fleet being autonomous, capacity and flow rates on all roadways improve substantially.
The same forces that led to a decline in 2040 VMT continue and their impact grows by 2050. AVs are prevalent across the country, particularly in urban, suburban and exurban areas. Driven by the new economics of mobility and environmental concerns, ridesharing is ubiquitous. Car ownership becomes obsolete as MAAS dominates commuter and shopper travel. Technology advancements greatly reduce time in pursuing travel-on-demand options, thereby accelerating the increase in both MAAS and ridesharing. Trip generation declines by 15 percent due to greater public understanding of the “pay as you go” cost of marginal trips, increase of virtual work and pronounced increase in UAVs for not only package delivery, but, movement of humans in dense urban areas. Transit is greatly limited to trunk line service only on the highest volume routes.
In this 2050 Vision we see the possibility of accelerating positive impacts of CAVs on travel, congestion and safety. CAVs represent 89 percent of the vehicles on the roads. Crash rates are down 85 percent from 2020. VMT and trips decline as shared trips increase substantially. See the following summary:
Resources To Better Understand, Prepare for the New Mobility Age
The driverless car is no longer the exclusive realm of futurists and sci-fi authors. It has gone beyond the blueprints and pilot programs to the city streets and the nation’s highways.
OKI is optimistic about the future of transportation. And you should be, too.
Every day, OKI prepares for the future of transportation technology. And we are relentlessly invested in driving a smart region that works for everyone. Our vision is a better tomorrow, one transformed by intelligent mobility and intelligent infrastructure.
In that spirit, we encourage you to explore the resources below to better understand autonomous technology, and how it will alter our world — in many ways, for the better, and far sooner than later: