Updating the Induced Travel Calculator

Expanding roadway capacity often leads to commensurate increases vehicle miles traveled (VMT). This is the “induced travel” effect—a net increase in VMT across the roadway network due to an increase in roadway capacity. This increase in VMT erodes any initial reduction in congestion and causes increased greenhouse gas and local air pollutant emissions. Yet highway expansion projects continue to be proposed across the US, often using congestion relief—and sometimes greenhouse gas reductions— as a justification for adding lanes. The existence of these rosy projections about highway expansion projects indicates that the induced travel effect is often not fully accounted for in travel demand models or in the environmental review process for the projects, as prior research has shown.1 With these problems in mind, researchers at the University of California, Davis developed and launched an online tool in 2019—the NCST Induced Travel Calculator—to help agencies estimate the VMT induced annually by adding lanes to major roadways in California’s urbanized counties. With Calculator use increasing, the UC Davis researchers initiated a project to update the Calculator and improve its functionality based on recent data and empirical research.