Vehicle miles traveled (VMT) is the primary determinant of traffic congestion, vehicle crashes, greenhouse gas emissions, and other effects of transportation. Two previous studies have sought to explain VMT levels in urbanized areas. This study updates and expands on previous work with more recent data, additional metrics, and structural equation modeling (SEM) to explain VMT levels in 315 urbanized areas. According to SEM, population, income, and gasoline prices are primary exogenous drivers of VMT. Development density is a primary endogenous driver. Urbanized areas with more freeway capacity are significantly less dense and have significantly higher VMT per capita. Areas with more transit service coverage and service frequency have higher development densities and per capita transit use, which leads to lower VMT per capita. The indirect effect of transit on VMT through land use, the so-called land use multiplier, is more than three times greater than the direct effect through transit ridership.
Additional publication details
Combined effects of compact cevelopment, transportation investments, and road user pricing on vehicle miles traveled in urbanized areas