Autonomous Vehicles and their Potential to Shift Transit Ridership in Urban Areas

This project seeks to model the potential shifts (both increases and decreases) in transit ridership due to the adoption and use of autonomous vehicles (both personal and in a shared capacity) and their environmental impacts. The introduction of autonomous vehicles is expected to change the demand for transit, along with safety, congestion, and other travel behaviors. Multiple studies have found that increased transit use reduces the environmental impact of transportation and that the use of shared autonomous vehicles is expected to reduce the environmental impact of driving (compared to conventional vehicle ownership). However, the environmental trade-offs due to a potential decrease in transit usage induced by the introduction of autonomous vehicles has yet to be studied. This relates to multiple facets of the C-TEDD objectives regarding transportation policy research. First, the proposed work will investigate potential shifts in current infrastructure usage (transit ridership) as a function of autonomous vehicle usage. Second, the environmental impacts of shifting modes of transportation will be modeled, utilizing criteria air pollutants and energy consumption. Third, policy scenarios will be employed in the model to evaluate their impact on transit ridership and autonomous vehicle usage. This research seeks to assist in preparing infrastructure for the future, and in particular the potential widespread adoption and usage of autonomous vehicles. And at the same time, it seeks to provide a better understanding of what policies may be effective in mitigating the potential increase in overall demand (number of trips) with autonomous vehicles due to their convenience and flexibility and the resulting environmental impact.