COVID Recovery? Changing Travel Behaviors? Insights From the 2022 ACS, ATUS, and CE Data Sets
by Steven Polzin, Irfan Batur, and Ram Pendyala | December 10, 2023
The U.S. Census conducts three different annual surveys that provide insight into transportation analysts regarding travel behaviors and travel trends. Each of these surveys has a multi-decade history enabling analysts to discern changes over time. Survey data for the calendar year 2022 is now available with transportation-relevant information presented below. The dramatic transportation impact of the COVID-19 pandemic coupled with ongoing changes in demographics, transportation technologies, and culture and values make it particularly important to review the available data to discern emerging new normal behaviors. This brief reviews the American Community Survey (ACS), the Consumer Expenditure (CE) Survey, and the American Time Use Survey (ATUS), with respect to questions that give insight into travel behaviors. The survey data for 2022 provides information about behaviors during a time period when the country was still adjusting to COVID recovery conditions but was also dealing with inflation, ongoing demographic shifts, enhanced concerns regarding climate change, troubling urban crime, polarized values, and shifting economic conditions – factors all of which can influence travel. Read full brief here.
Keywords: Transportation trends, Travel behavior, New normal, American Community Survey (ACS), Consumer Expenditure (CE) Survey, American Time Use Survey (ATUS)
Full citation: Polzin, S., Batur, I., and Pendyala, R.M. COVID Recovery? Changing Travel Behaviors? Insights From the 2022 ACS, ATUS, and CE Data Sets. Policy Brief, TOMNET-TBD University Transportation Centers. December 2023.
Leveraging the Choice Not to Travel
by Steven Polzin | August 28, 2023
This opinion piece points to the potential of utilizing remote services and telecommuting, accelerated by the pandemic, as a means to substantially reduce vehicle miles traveled and associated negative impacts. It discusses the historically limited success of encouraging alternative transportation modes and highlights the benefits of substituting digital communication for physical travel. The piece emphasizes the substantial impact of this shift on curbing travel-related externalities and advocates for urban planners and transportation stakeholders to prioritize and facilitate such communication alternatives, while still recognizing the value of essential travel experiences. Read full piece here.
Full citation: Polzin, S. Leveraging the Choice Not to Travel . Planetizen, August, 2023.
Changing Travel Behavior Insights From the 2021 ACS, ATUS, and CE Surveys
by Steven Polzin, Irfan Batur, and Ram Pendyala | March 7, 2023
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, transportation work trips comprised a significant share of transportation spending and policy decisions. The pandemic has resulted in significant changes in transportation, with the increase in individuals working from home being one of the most obvious impacts. The policy brief highlights the importance of understanding people’s activity patterns and their travel needs to make informed decisions about transportation investments, policies, and operations. The brief reviews the American Community Survey (ACS), the American Time Use Survey (ATUS), and the Consumer Expenditure Survey (CES) to gain insights into changing travel behaviors in 2021, a time when the country was adapting to the pandemic conditions. The surveys provide a sound basis for comparison with 2019 and prior year data and offer substantial data to enhance our understanding of changes occurring in commuting. Read full brief here.
Full citation: Polzin, S., Batur, I., and Pendyala, R.M. Changing Travel Behavior Insights from the 2021 ACS, ATUS, and CE Surveys. Policy Brief, TOMNET University Transportation Center. March 2023.
Opinion: Induced Travel Demand Induces Media Attention
by Steven Polzin | February 22, 2023
The January 6, 2023 New York Times story, “Widening Highways Doesn’t Fix Traffic. So Why Do We Keep Doing It?” continues a series of recent media stories that don’t tell the whole story regarding induced roadway traffic. While the theory of induced demand is sound, leaving the impression that induced demand will fully absorb the capacity of new roadway investments or that new demand is somehow bad is very misleading…
This commentary discussess the notion of induced demand and its populairty among urbanists, questioning whether its pervasiveness obscures the true costs of mobility. Read full piece here.
Full citation: Polzin, S. Opinion: Induced Travel Demand Induces Media Attention. Planetizen, February, 2022.
Commuting in America in 2020 and Beyond
by Steven Polzin | April 17, 2022
The Census Bureau released the 2020 American Community Survey (ACS) “Experimental Estimates” on November 30, 2021. This survey has been an important source for annual information on the state of commuting in America as it includes questions asking respondents about their usual commute mode in the prior week. The COVID pandemic has impacted the 2020 data, and perhaps more importantly, it has impacted the ACS commuting data and its role in transportation planning going forward.
This policy brief comments on both the 2020 results and the role of the ACS in supporting transportation planning going forward. Read full brief here.
Full citation: Polzin, S. Commuting in America in 2020 and Beyond: Observations, Planning Challenges, and Implications for the American Community Survey Transportation Questions. Policy Brief, TOMNET University Transportation Center. April 2022.
The Long View: COVID-19 Impacts on Human Activity-Travel Patterns
Part 2: Will We See a Future of Less Traffic and Reduced Physical Participation in Activities — Don’t Count on It
by Ram M. Pendyala | April 20, 2020
The pictures that are being shared online and through social media are breathtaking. The fear of the coronavirus coupled with massive lockdowns in city after city and country after country have dramatically reduced the volumes of fossil fuel burning cars on roadways and the number of travelers in planes, trains, and cruises. Pictures of clean air, clear streams and lakes, and barren roadways with light or no traffic are giving some hope that a brighter, cleaner, and more sustainable future may be ahead. Because people have experienced a new and different way of life, one that is characterized by low degrees of physical movement and activity engagement outside the home (which almost always entails physical travel since we haven’t figured out teleportation yet), will we see a significant shift in lifestyles and activity-travel patterns in the future after the virus has been vanquished? Read more…
Full citation: Pendyala, R. The Long View: COVID-19 Impacts on Human Activity-Travel Patterns Part 2: Will We See a Future of Less Traffic and Reduced Physical Participation in Activities — Don’t Count on It. Policy Brief, TOMNET University Transportation Center. April 2020.
The Long View: COVID-19 Impacts on Human Activity-Travel Patterns
Part 1: Will We See a Massive Shift to Remote Working and Learning — Don’t Count on It
by Ram M. Pendyala | April 19, 2020
The coronavirus is taking a dramatic toll on human lives in more ways than one. Contributing to tens of thousands of lives lost and hundreds of thousands of people sick and hospitalized, the virus has ravaged communities and led to hundreds of millions of people worldwide being locked down in their homes with various levels of enforcement and business closures. Universities and schools have closed down and moved instruction online. Stores and service providers have closed, others have restricted their opening hours, and many have dramatically changed their operating procedures and protocols in an effort to promote social distancing. Store shelves continue to be half-empty, toilet paper remains hard to find, and a number of essential commodities are being rationed in an effort to mitigate against panic buying and hoarding. Read more…
Full citation: Pendyala, R. The Long View: COVID-19 Impacts on Human Activity-Travel Patterns Part 1: Will We See a Massive Shift to Remote Working and Learning — Don’t Count on It . Policy Brief, TOMNET University Transportation Center. April 2020.