May 2024

The Problem with VMT Reduction Policy

Robert W. Poole Jr., Director of Transportation Policy, Reason Foundation

Much-needed congestion-reduction projects in California are at risk of being cancelled, due to a little-noticed change that was legislated in 2013 but has taken about a decade to be fully implemented. SB 473 requires highway policy to no longer focus on its traditional goal of improving level of service (LOS), which often leads to widening when traffic flow exceeds capacity. Instead, the focus must be on reducing vehicle miles of travel (VMT). This is part of the state’s new Carbon Reduction Strategy, which assumes that making people drive less is the best way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs).

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