Transportation in Texas is affected by a wide range of economic factors, many of which are not readily apparent. Take, for example, vehicle miles traveled. VMT affects congestion, road maintenance, and fuel tax revenue. However, VMT is largely driven by economic factors, which can include anything from economic growth in metropolitan areas to changes in the price of oil.
Altogether, these factors create a complex picture. To bring greater clarity to that picture, TTI’s Infrastructure Investment and Analysis Program has developed a set of economic indicators to help policy makers, researchers and the general public better understand the larger economic context driving how transportation is changing in our state.
Our first edition includes 21 indicators presented in three general categories: direct measures of transportation, oil industry measures and general economic measures. The direct transportation indicators illustrate transportation-related trends in Texas. These include factors such as VMT, seaport and airport activity, fuel-tax revenue, and the highway cost index. The oil industry measures look at factors such as oil price and oil production levels. These factors heavily affect transportation in regions with substantial energy activity and can indirectly affect transportation through fuel-price and fuel-tax revenue. The general economic measures show broad scale changes in the economy of Texas, such as employment measures, housing measures and GDP, all of which drive changes in transportation. | View the Indicators | Read a Story on These Key Trends
Having all of the indicators in one place will give people easy access to quickly check the information and see what has changed recently. We think that this will help people to better understand the long-term trends in transportation and to see where things might be heading. One example of this could be the highway cost index, which shows how the cost of building highways has changed over time. Since 2000, both the highway cost index and VMT have steadily increased in Texas. Taken together, this means that there is more demand for roads than ever before, and that these roads will be substantially more expensive to build than they were in the past.
We hope that these indicators will be useful for policy makers and the public, helping us all better understand these economic influences, how they affect our mobility, and how they change over time. As we receive feedback, we will refine our set of indicators, likely adding more as time goes on.
Max Steadman is an assistant transportation researcher at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute.