How Will Autonomous Vehicles and New Mobility Services Affect Land Use?

The energy around the introduction of autonomous vehicles (AVs) has noticeably transitioned from excited discussion in previous years to more reasoned thinking about how, when, and under what circumstances they’ll be deployed. Our FP Think group recognized this transition point as an excellent time to initiate a self-funded research effort to help our clients begin understanding the possible effects on land use, in addition to how they may influence travel behavior. Our research includes two phases: 1) survey a group of land use experts on likely future trends, and 2) model the respondents’ projected land use trends using regional travel demand models from around the country to gauge the effects on travel behavior.

For Phase 1, we posed a series of questions to an esteemed group of over two dozen land use experts from around the country, which included representatives from public agencies, consulting firms, and academia. While we saw some variation in the responses to certain questions, we were able to draw out the following trend-level opinions based on the majority of responses: 


As the percentage of AVs in the fleet mix increases, more population will shift to suburban areas, while more job growth will occur in urban areas. The prevalence of AVs will be a primary contributing factor to this condition, whereas the prevalence of drones and other non-traditional delivery methods will be less of a factor.


Increases in the amount and types of services offered by AVs and other forms of new mobility will result in:
contribution to further reductions in the amount of retail space needed per capita
moderate to substantial decrease in the percentage of central business district (CBD) land area devoted to parking
similar or slightly higher amount of CBD land area devoted to moving people and goods
contribution to increased property values within ½-1 mile of transit-oriented developments


There are mixed opinions regarding the degree to which increased amounts of centralized delivery locations (via ground or air) will affect curbspace demand.


Rooftop deliveries via drones will comprise only a small portion of all deliveries.
Many thanks to the land use experts who participated in our survey, including representatives from ZGF, Raimi Associates, Leland Consulting, ECONorthwest, Urban Economics, Cascadia Partners, HDR, University of San Francisco, University of Utah, Arizona State University, and many others. We now begin Phase 2: modeling the effects on traffic, vehicle miles of travel, and transit use. The results are planned to be published later this year.

Looking for more insights? Check out our Emerging Technologies expertise page and start the conversation with us for your community’s project!

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