The Future of U.S. Ground Transportation from 2000 to 2020

Anthony Downs
Anthony Downs Former Brookings Expert

March 22, 2001

I have been asked to take a brief look at the future of ground transportation in the United States. Given the rapid speed of social change in our world, I will focus upon the period up to about 2020, with a few comments on the longer period out to 2050.

Accomodating Future Population Growth

The first crucial consideration is the likely future growth of the U.S. population. Even before receiving results from the 2000 Census, the Census Bureau estimated that, from 2000 to 2020, the total population of the U.S. will rise by 48.2 millino persons, or by about 12 million every five years. That is a 17.6 percent increase in 20 years. And the first results of the 2000 Census indicate that future growth may be even greater than that. Somehow, U.S. ground transportation systems must expand their capacity to cope with this large increase in persons and households and goods…