The next big things for Minnesota in 2015 – Strib

Jesse Van Berkel writes in the Strib on transport in: The next big things for Minnesota in 2015

More idle cars

With new bike lanes, rapid busways and expanding light-rail lines, commuters in the Twin Cities have more options than ever.

Transit officials predict growing popularity of the Green Line, which connects downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul. In November, on average, 33,222 people rode the light rail line every day — 10,820 more than the Metropolitan Council had anticipated.

The number of trips and miles people travel in their vehicles has dropped steadily over the past decade, said Met Council planning analyst Jonathan Ehrlich. He anticipates that trend will continue as cycling, walking and other modes of transportation become more popular.

But low gas prices could mean slightly more road congestion, said David Levinson, a University of Minnesota professor who studies transportation.

Gas expenditures in 2015 are expected to be the lowest they have been in more than a decade, with the average household spending $550 less than in 2014, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

“Under $2 a gallon again is pretty significant. That could increase the amount of travel people are willing to do,” Levinson said.

Jessie Van Berkel

I agree on the long term trend with Jonathan, but gas prices have collapsed, and as long as that holds (I will not forecast energy prices, which is a fools errand, except to say the best expectation for next year’s prices is current prices). at the margins people with cars should be willing to use them a bit more, especially for longer trips, and the additional dollars in the pocket should at the margin increase non-work trips like shopping, and thus low energy prices will boost the economy (except for energy producers) which should at the margin increase employment and work trips. So like any good forecaster, I will say the results are contingent on the assumptions.

Peak travel is not over (demographics are more set than anything else, and technological substitutions proceed apace), but mountain ranges are bumpy.