TrendLab+

Scenario Planning for Pandemic Recovery and Beyond

UPDATED AUG 2021

TrendLab+ is a scenario-planning tool designed by our FP Think initiative for forecasting the effects of changing transportation trends on travel demand. It allows users to quantify lasting changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, economic and land use shifts, telecommuting, transit ridership recovery programs, increases in home deliveries, and emerging transportation technologies like autonomous vehicles on vehicle miles traveled and transit use.  

TrendLab+ has been used for clients across the US in presentations, workshops, and project analyses, including transit recovery scenario testing, perspective setting for regional transportation plans, and community-level policy assessments. Users can test various factors, such as levels of telecommuting, goods and services delivery, migration patterns, and the ability of transit agencies to recover lost ridership, to see what “new normal” they may produce through a range of potential short-term, medium-term, and long-term scenarios. Doing so provides information on factors that may be beyond immediate control, in order to help guide policies and actions that may be adopted to help address the impacts.

What are the Features of TrendLab+?

The tool includes a number of key features and innovations, including the following:

  • Dynamic User Interface: A web-based interface to view outputs in real time, on both an absolute and per capita basis.
  • Driving and Transit Metrics: A focus on levels of driving and transit ridership, though it can also be customized to include other factors, such as walking, biking, and system performance.
  • Effects of 20 Key Trends: The ability to evaluate the effects of twenty different factors affecting travel behavior, both individually and in combination.
  • The Latest Research: Background information on recent developments related to 20 transportation trends and surveys, along with forecasts of their potential future trajectories.
  • Varying Time Horizons: The ability to look at travel over the next 5, 10 and 30 years to provide both short-term and medium-term time horizons.
  • Customization: Capabilities to customize tool data and layouts to reflect local conditions or different performance metrics.
  • Counter Strategies: The ability to consider proactive countermeasures in response to expected trends.
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I highly value tools like TrendLab for scenario planning, since it allows regional agencies like WRCOG to quickly and easily evaluate different scenarios in real time. With a future that is becoming increasingly uncertain, TrendLab+ lets us engage in meaningful dialogue with our decision-makers and stakeholders to discuss what might happen in a thoughtful way.

Chris Gray, Deputy Executive Director, Western Riverside Council of Governments

What Are We Learning?

As noted in a prior blog, we identified four potential scenarios for how travel demand could change over the next three years. As we’ve further advanced TrendLab+, we have discovered several important results:

Vehicle Miles Traveled

VMT continues to increase on a month-over-month basis with commute trips replaced by trips for other purposes. Availability of autonomous vehicles will further increase VMT growth.

Long-Term Reduction
Even with sustaining levels of working from home, VMT per capita is likely to increase above pre-COVID-19 levels unless countermeasures are applied through pricing and other disincentives and through investments in alternative modes.

Sustained Increase
Under some scenarios, VMT (and congestion levels) will continue to increase through 2030 as preferences for driving outweigh the convenience of other modes

Transit Ridership

Transit continues to rebound slowly from current historic lows, and the magnitude and duration of the recovery period remains uncertain. Federal and local funding will be key to transit’s ability to restore service levels and rider confidence.

Extended Ridership Reduction
It may take longer for transit to recover to previous ridership levels. Suburban migration and mode choice habits established during COVID-19 create pessimistic scenarios in which transit may not fully recover until beyond 2025.

Rapid Ridership Recovery & Growth
There is a potential for transit recovery to occur sooner if transit agencies take proactive measures to re-think service patterns, ensure safety, and attract riders.

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As the Presidio Trust plans for its transportation systems in a post-pandemic environment, we are using TrendLab+ to estimate the rate and magnitude of changing use patterns and more strategically allocate resources.

Amy Marshall, Transportation Manager, Presidio Trust

While the above results are based on national data, TrendLab+ can be customized and fine-tuned to available local factors. Please connect with us if you would like to discuss or learn more about TrendLab+ or our other custom tools.