Beyond Traffic: Trends and Choices 2045

Our purpose in producing this report was to analyze the latest data and trends shaping transportation so we could objectively frame critical policy choices that need to be made.

In the race to build world-class transportation, America once set the pace. We used to have a big lead.

In the 19th century, we built the Erie Canal and Transcontinental Railroad.

In the last century, we took over building the Panama Canal, completed the Interstate Highway System, and set the world standard in freight transport and aviation.

But our lead has slipped away. We are behind. Way behind.

The quality of our roads, for example, is no longer rated No. 1.

We’re No. 16.

And it is not just that our infrastructure is showing its age - our country, in many ways, has outgrown it. If you drive a car, you now spend, on average, the equivalent of five vacation days every year sitting in traffic. If you drive a truck, highway congestion has made you an expert at navigating bumpy side roads - and you are not alone. Every year, trucks are losing $27 billion on wasted time and fuel.

In this report, we not only analyzed the condition and performance of our transportation system today, but forecasted how it will look and perform 30 years from now if we fail to develop a new game plan.

Beyond Traffic reveals that, if we don’t change, in 2045, the transportation system that powered our rise as a nation will instead slow us down. Transit systems will be so backed up that riders will wonder not just when they will get to work, but if they will get there at all. At the airports, and on the highway, every day will be like Thanksgiving is today.

This is not a picture of our inevitable future. It is the objective truth - and one we hope inspires Americans to, in a way, launch a comeback. We encourage our readers to learn about the challenges ahead, and to think of them as opportunities.

The potential is there, Beyond Traffic tells us, to make a transportation system as amazing, frankly, as the stark scenario above is troubling - a system that is safer, more efficient, more sustainable, and more satisfying - one that successfully connects all Americans to the 21st century economy.

Beyond Traffic doesn’t prescribe a course of action or advocate for any specific solution. It doesn’t provide a blueprint.

Beyond Traffic is an invitation to the American public - including the users, developers, owners, and operators of the transportation network and the policy officials who shape it - to have a frank conversation about the shape, size, and condition of that system and how it will meet the needs and goals of our nation for decades to come.

Beyond Traffic is a draft framework for the future, it’s not prescriptive.  It does not advocate for specific policy solutions. Rather, it underscores critical decision points facing the country, by means of data driven analysis, research, expert opinions and public engagement.

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