David Levinson wrote a book that was recently published that had a chapter tied to “what happened to traffic” and predicting what could be during the 100th anniversary of the Interstate Highway Act in the United States, dateline: June 2056.

Go back to the year 2018, and in the previous five years, it has been quoted that autonomous driving went from:

  • “May be possible”
  • “Definitely possible”
  • “Inevitable”
  • “How did anyone think this wasn’t inevitable?”

David Levinson indicates that 40 years into the future, largely unnoticed by the naked eye, new transport patterns are taking route. Some of my 2018-2019 presentations are started by the fact that we had entered a new transportation revolution. Many transport agencies are currently in denial or acting reactively in the year 2018 and 2019. There clearly have been predictions that Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) are actually avatars for the future of autonomous vehicles (AVs). As a result, AVs could play a role in improving capacity on freeways and interstates, but TNCs and AVs could have a disastrous effect on central business districts in the future.

The Work Week of the Future—but looking back

Levinson pointed out that great-grandparents of the WWII era worked six days a week, only taking off on Sunday from the time they were teenagers. Around the turn into the 21st century, some companies started granting every other Friday off, known as the 5/4 schedule. The 3-day weekend was celebrated as the norm. As time went on, many firms went to a 9 or 10 hour day, allowing personnel to work at home or to spend extra time with their family. The internet and laptop computers put a wedge between the strict separation of home and work. Over the next 50 years, it became easier and easier to spend more time working at home than in the office. Collaboration started to become the only reason why workers may need to spend time in the office with other employees.

At one point in time, the office buildings and skyscrapers in the central business district were the breathing heart and soul of a city. It has been discovered that it is no longer necessary to have central office space, and many office buildings may be torn down or adapted into living space, and others remain see-through. As a result, if working at home becomes much more common, traffic in and of itself may be reduced dramatically during peak commuting hours. In fact, there could be situations whereby odd number license plates enter the city on a Tuesday, and even number license plates enter the city on a Wednesday, etc.

The American Dream. Is it still alive?

 If indeed the central business district “crashes,” will the crash undercut residential construction in the suburbs, and will people move back to the center city and colonize vacant and reconfigured office buildings? In the suburbs, the traditional two and three-car garage could be transformed into a workshop, living space, or even a small store.

Your Career in the Year 2050

 In the 1950s through the first 25 years of the 21st century, parents and grandparents stayed in the same industry, maybe even the same firm, from high school or college until retirement age. It is possible that, by the year 2050, much of the population doesn’t enter the regular workforce until they are in their late 20s and many retire in their 50s or 60s. Many employees fail to stay with a single company throughout their working career, but it continues to become very expensive for a company to hire or train a new employee. Fortunately, in the year 2018, in the United States, there were 7 million vacant jobs that couldn’t be filled because there were more jobs than employees.

Shopping, buying stuff offline, remember that?

As you may recall, it was in the late 20th century when physically traveling to a store used to be the norm for everything. The Sears catalog morphed into the internet with Amazon.com. Acquiring things now is a combination of the occasional, physical trip to the store, and now, most goods get delivered. Cash strapped road agencies look favorably on sponsored roads as a way to find maintenance dollars. Sponsoring roads started around the time of Y2K. Decentralized manufacturing, including 3D on-demand printing of goods, will begin to replace long-distance shipping, which can now be made locally. The Teamsters union, which used to have a physical person inside a truck, are now controlling the trucks remotely, much like drones that are flying in the war-torn Middle East are controlled by a pilot in Central Texas.

Owning an Automobile, who me?

 In the next 40 years, it will likely be possible for most city dwellers to sell their cars and not replace them. The taxi, the ultimate ridesharing vehicle, was transformed from a niche-mode to mainstream. Instead of having the high cost of owning a car, but a high cost per trip, now there is a lower cost per trip, making people think twice and use cars less. However, because TNCs have become so popular and transit use continues to decline, it is unclear whether fewer cars mean less traffic. It is predicted that by 2040, even with lower car ownership, traffic will become dramatically worse and more congested.

Driving in Downtown, will you be able to do such a thing?

 In the early 2030s, government and cities will begin to ban cars in the core areas or will put congestion-management programs into play. It is possible that connected vehicles and connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) will result in traffic being controlled and conducted invisibly through a radio spectrum rather than with colored lights designed for the human driver’s eyes. Discreet in-ground sensors may detect and guide pedestrians safely across busy intersections.

Gas Stations and Waiting for the Bus

 It really does not matter whether you believe in global warming, climate change, or greenhouse gases. Liquid petroleum and cars that burn gasoline for energy result in unwanted byproducts. By 2050, gasoline-powered vehicles have largely been removed from the road. Autonomous buses that are powered by renewable energy have lower costs, and because the cities have eliminated single-occupant vehicles from the downtown areas, transit organizations now potentially see ridership levels they have not seen in decades. Buses in the suburbs, however, are canceled and are not at all profitable, even with autonomous vehicles.

Toll Roads and Congestion Pricing

 It is clear that congestion pricing will be mandatory as a way to reduce the amount of traffic. In the year 2018, the average speed in downtown New York City business district is less than 5 MPH. The cost of congestion and delays is enormous, and there needs to be a solution. That solution will be mileage fees (VMT taxes) instead of gasoline taxes, and it has become apparent that looking for a parking place in a central business district is one of the major items that causes congestion in the city. If we eliminate a substantial amount of parking and impose congestion fees, it is hoped that congestion in the Central Business Districts can be controlled.

Congestion is not going to go away anytime soon, but there is hope within the next 30 to 40 years that it can be managed as a result of new technology and changes in the way we work and shop.

Learn more by visiting TrafficGroup.com.

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