For the last century, transportation systems have largely been planned, designed and managed as purely physical infrastructure systems. But mobility in the United States is fast becoming an informatics-based activity. Modern urban transportation systems are being re-programmed by a new wave of information and communications systems developed and deployed by new technology firms directly to consumers. As a result, people in U.S. metropolitan areas increasingly depend on a growing array of services and technologies to make and manage travel choices.

And while new technological innovations are already having major demonstrable impacts on key transportation planning objectives including sustainability, livability, and accessibility – policies in these areas remain focused on infrastructure and urban form rather than the direct behavioral impacts of the new technologies. Meanwhile, these high-value, high-impact innovations in transportation are coming from the private sector with little coordination or planning. And their collective impact is not being adequately explored.

With funding from the Rockefeller Foundation, this research developed a database of over 200 signals of digital transportation innovation. These signals were used to construct a set of alternative futures scenarios for transportation, land use, and planning in metropolitan areas in the United States in 2030. This work has been widely influential in supporting a new wave of local and metropolitan planning efforts focused on dealing with new technologies.

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